Tigers extend East Midlands streak
Leicester Tigers extend their unbeaten run over East Midlands rivals Northampton Saints to ten matches with a 22-16 victory at Franklin's Gardens.
Leicester Tigers extend their unbeaten run over East Midlands rivals Northampton Saints to ten matches with a 22-16 victory at Franklin's Gardens.
Saracens maintained their position on top of the Premiership log with a 32-20 victory over London Wasps whilst there were also victories for Harlequins and Gloucester on Saturday.
Saracens secured the bonus point in their convincing win against Wasps, but it was a different story for Harlequins who came up short of a bonus point in their win against London Irish.
A late push from Exeter Chiefs was not enough to avoid heartbreak as they lost to Gloucester by a single point.
We take a look at all of Saturday's matches:
Northampton Saints 16-22 Leicester Tigers
A flawless kicking performance from flyhalf Owen Williams saw Leicester Tigers extend their unbeaten run over East Midlands rivals Northampton Saints to ten matches with a 22-16 victory at Franklin's Gardens.
Williams kicked 17 points with a 100 per cent record from the tee and while Ethan Waller's 76th-minute try earned Saints a losing bonus point and set up a grandstand finish with the Tigers down to 13 men, the visitors held on.
Anthony Allen had scored the first try of the match but Saints trailed just 13-8 at the break after Kahn Fotuali'i's first Premiership score just before the interval.
Saints indiscipline cost them dear in the second half with Williams in fine form while his opposite number Will Hooley - on just his second Premiership start - endured a torrid day from the tee.
With both Ben Youngs and Niki Goneva in the sin bin - both penalised for trying to stop George North - the Saints laid siege late on but Ethan Waller's score was their only breakthrough, ensuring a third defeat on the bounce.
Northampton took the lead on five minutes through a Hooley penalty but the Tigers enjoyed the better of the early possession, going through the phases well and pinning Northampton in their own half.
Manu Tuilagi's first involvement was to steamroller Luther Burrell but his rival for England's No.13 shirt exacted revenge minutes later, snaring the Tigers' centre with a ferocious tackle.
On 16 minutes the Tigers had their breakthrough when Youngs fizzed a fine long pass off his left hand to Allen, who went over in the right corner - Williams on target with an excellent conversion.
And Williams stretched the visitors' lead on 20 minutes after Burrell was pinged for not releasing.
Williams had his third penalty on 28 minutes to give Leicester a 13-3 lead and things got worse for the Saints when Hooley missed a simple penalty and captain Dylan Hartley limped off.
The hosts finally got in behind the Tigers in the closing stages of the half however - Jamie Elliott gathering his own grubber and while Phil Dowson was stopped on the left, referee Wayne Barnes had already awarded a penalty.
Saints kicked for the corner and Fotuali'i sniped over, although Hooley missed the conversion, giving Tigers a 13-8 lead at the break.
Hooley's troubles from the tee continued after the break on 52 minutes, after a high tackle from Tuilagi on Alex Waller, he missed another penalty.
Williams was having no such trouble and notched his third penalty on 58 minutes but James Wilson, on for Hooley, responded in kind soon after for 16-11.
More indiscipline from Saints saw Williams convert penalty number four however and after Northampton were offside, it was number five on 65 minutes.
Both Youngs and Goneva were sent to the sin bin in the closing minutes - both in trying to stop North - and replacement Ethan Waller went over in the left corner to step up nail-biting last four minutes.
Wilson missed the conversion however and Leicester held firm for a sixth straight Premiership win, leaving them in third, just seven points behind second-placed Saints.
For Northampton Saints:
Tries: Fotuali'i, Ethan Waller
Pens: Hooley, Wilson
For Leicester Tigers:
Pens: Williams 5
Northampton Saints: 15 Ben Foden, 14 Jamie Elliott, 13 George Pisi, 12 Luther Burrell, 11 George North, 10 Will Hooley, 9 Kahn Fotuali'i, 8 Tom Wood, 7 Phil Dowson, 6 Calm Clark, 5 Christian Day, 4 Courtney Lawes, 3 Salesi Ma'afu, 2 Dylan Hartley (captain), 1 Alex Waller.
Replacements: 16 Mike Haywood, 17 Ethan Waller, 18 Tom Mercey, 19 James Craig, 20 GJ Van Velze, 21 Lee Dickson, 22 James Wilson, 23 Ken Pisi.
Leicester Tigers: 15 Scott Hamilton, 14 Vereniki Goneva, 13 Manu Tuilagi, 12 Anthony Allen, 11 Adam Thompstone, 10 Owen Williams, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Jordan Crane, 7 Julian Salvi, 6 Jamie Gibson, 5 Ed Slater (captain), 4 Louis Deacon, 3 Logovii Mulipola, 2 Tom Youngs, 1 Marco Ayerza.
Replacements: 16 Rob Hawkins, 17 Boris Stankovich, 18 Fraser Balmain, 19 Graham Kitchener, 20 Pablo Matera, 22 Toby Flood, 23 Matt Smith.
Referee: Wayne Barnes
Saracens 32-20 London Wasps
Hooker Jamie George scored two tries as Saracens defeated London Wasps 32-20 to claim a bonus point win and extend their lead at the top of the Premiership.
Saracens led 17-8 at the break after Jackson Wray and George crossed either side of Mouritz Botha's yellow card with Jonah Holmes going over for Wasps.
Wasps' hopes were raised after the break when Tom Howe went over for a try on his debut but Alex Goode's converted try and a penalty restored Saracens' hold over the contest.
And after Sam Jones' yellow card saw Wasps reduced to 14 men, George plundered his second score with Carlo Festuccia's converted reply too little, too late.
Saracens started brightly against a Wasps side who had won only one of their last five Premiership fixtures at Adams Park and when the hosts were penalised for straying offside, flyhalf Charlie Hodgson duly gave the visitors an early 3-0 lead.
With the wind starting to pick up, both Hodgson and his Wasps counterpart Andy Goode saw penalties sail wide before Saracens scored the game's first try.
Duncan Taylor combined power and finesse as he burst through the Wasps back line and offloaded to Wray who touched down under the posts. Hodgson added the conversion to give Saracens a 10-0 lead after 13 minutes.
Andy Goode then missed another penalty but it was third time lucky when he cut Saracens' lead to seven points after 21 minutes as the visitors' lock Botha was also sent to the sin-bin for killing the ball.
Wasps took advantage of their extra man when an innocuous-looking long kick was allowed to bounce by Chris Ashton after 27 minutes. Ashton then slipped, allowing Wasps winger Jonah Holmes to nip in and touch down in the corner.
Andy Goode's conversion attempt hit the post but Wasps were now within two points of their opponents.
However, on 35 minutes Saracens claimed a 17-8 lead going into half-time when hooker George went over following an unstoppable driving maul and Hodgson added the extras.
The second half began with Wasps enjoying a long spell of possession which they turned into points after 48 minutes.
Scrumhalf Joe Simpson's sliced through Saracens' backline and one phase later Andy Goode's long pass to Howe enabled the winger to go over in the corner for a debut try.
Andy Goode put the conversion wide and Saracens opened up a 24-13 lead not long afterwards.
Saracens fullback Alex Goode jinked past three static Wasps defenders in their own 22 to score and Farrell added the extra two points.
Farrell extended the advantage with a 60th minute penalty but a daring Simpson gave Wasps a chance to close the gap.
Following Simpson's run, Wasps worked the ball wide and Holmes dived over in the corner. However, the TMO ruled the winger had been held up so Wasps failed to lessen their 14 point deficit.
Saracens were desperately seeking a fourth try that would give them the bonus point and with less than four minutes remaining they succeeded.
A powerful drive from their forwards saw George cross for his second try. Farrell's missed conversion was immaterial as was Festuccia's 80th minute try for the home side as Saracens triumphed 32-20 to move further clear at the top.
For London Wasps:
Tries: Holmes, Howe, Festuccia
Tries: Wray, George 2, Goode
Cons: Hodgson 2, Farrell
Pens: Hodgson, Farrell
London Wasps: 15 Andrea Masi, 14 Jonah Holmes, 13 Elliot Daly, 12 Chris Bell, 11 Tom Howe, 10 Andy Goode, 9 Joe Simpson, 8 Nathan Hughes, 7 Guy Thompson, 6 James Haskell, 5 Kearnan Myall, 4 Tom Palmer, 3 Jake Cooper-Woolley, 2 Tom Lindsay, 1 Simon McIntyre.
Replacements: 16 Carlo Festuccia, 17 Ricky Reeves, 18 Phil Swainston, 19 James Cannon, 20 Sam Jones, 21 Brett Sheehan, 22 Joe Carlisle, 23 Charlie Hayter.
Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Duncan Taylor, 12 Brad Barritt, 11 David Strettle, 10 Charlie Hodgson, 9 Neil de Kock, 8 Ernst Joubert, 7 Kelly Brown, 6 Jackson Wray, 5 Mouritz Botha, 4 Steve Borthwick (captain), 3 Matt Stevens, 2 Jamie George, 1 Mako Vunipola.
Replacements: 16 Schalk Brits, 17 Richard Barrington, 18 James Johnston, 19 George Kruis, 20 Jacques Burger, 21 Richard Wigglesworth, 22 Owen Farrell, 23 Marcelo Bosch.
Referee: Luke Pearce
Harlequins 23-9 London Irish
A late flurry helped Harlequins to victory over London Irish but they fell agonisingly short of a bonus point at the Stoop as the race for the Premiership play-off places intensifies.
Nick Evans crossed in the first half before late efforts from Sam Smith and Mike Brown had the home crowd screaming for that all-important fourth try but despite their best efforts the Exiles held firm to deny Conor O'Shea's troops.
Evans' collected his own chip to score the game's opening try but the boot of James O'Connor kept the Exiles in the clash until Smith went over late on to seal victory.
O'Shea's side spent the closing stages desperately in search of two more scores to claim the bonus point that would boost their play-off chances and when Brown went over with three minutes left there was a chance.
But Irish held out in the end and victory means Quins stay sixth in the table, two points behind Sale Sharks and six points behind Bath who sit fourth.
Brown, Danny Care and Chris Robshaw were given a rapturous applause by the home crowd as they returned from international duty to strengthen their side.
Conversely Irish were forced into three late changes with captain George Skivington, Kieran Low and Eamonn Sheridan all out and Tom Fowlie making his first Premiership start in the centre.
With only two minutes gone, Irish worked an overlap in the Quins' 22, only for winger Topsy Ojo to spill the ball as he was bundled into touch.
A great chase by Fowlie from Shane Geraghty's kick ahead lead to a charge down and put the visitors into the Quins 22, only for them to knock on several phases later.
Quins began to exert their dominance in the scrum and got themselves back up to the Irish 22 with a penalty following an impressive shove on the half-way line.
The hosts won the line out and soon opened the scoring after patient approach play gave Evans the space to chip through and collect his kick to score under the posts.
The flyhalf easily added the extras to give Quins a seven point lead after 12 minutes.
The Irish finally cut the into Quins' lead after 25 minutes with the hosts offside in midfield and fullback O'Connor landing a penalty from long distance.
The momentum shifted again to the hosts and Evans made a simple penalty in front of the posts to restore his side's seven-point lead after 32 minutes.
A thunderous hit by the impressive Fowlie on Quins centre Matt Hopper gave Irish their second penalty of the half and O'Connor converted to cut the home side's lead once more with five minutes left of the half.
On the stroke of half-time Irish won another penalty 10m into the Quins half and O'Connor landed another imposing kick to reduce the deficit to one point.
The hosts, desperate to win to keep their play-off chances alive, attacked Irish from the outset of the second half, with Ojo doing well to secure the ball in his own 22 under the close attention of Quins full-back Brown.
The tempo shift initially caught the Irish defence unaware, as Quins No.8 Nick Easter broke clear only to find Irish hands with his attempted offload.
An error-strewn performance by both sides continued as Evans' cross-kick went straight out on the full and Irish secured the line-out before winning a penalty in front of the upright.
Yet this time O'Connor's accuracy deserted him as pushed he attempt right of the posts.
Irish winger Marland Yarde seemed poised to score as he burst through Quins' attempts to bring him down.
Yet the future Quins player was in the sin-bin moments later when he was shown a yellow card on 51 minutes for illegally slowing down the hosts and Evans kicked the resulting penalty to extend Quins' lead.
Quins failed to exploit their man advantage despite a number of promising chances, notably when Evans broke through the Irish line only for centre Hopper to be tackled as he collected the flyhalf's offload.
Despite being restored to 15, Irish remained on the defensive as Quins repeatedly burst through the gain line, with Quins hooker Dave Ward eventually taken down just 5m from the tryline.
The hosts kept Irish penned into their own 22 but failed to convert pressure and penalties into more points until a driving maul gave Quins an overlap on the left and Care's pass put winger Smith over in the corner with only 10 minutes to play.
Evans missed the tough conversion from the left-hand sideline as Quins' lead remained at nine points.
The hosts were not prepared to settle for only two tries and finally scored a third as they successfully recycled numerous phases to bring Brown into the line and he duly finished in the corner.
Evans missed another difficult conversion from the opposite flank but Quins' late surge for the bonus point fell just short in the end.
Tries: Evans, Smith, Brown
Pens: Evans 2
For London Irish:
Pens: O'Connor 3
Harlequins: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Ollie Lindsay-Hague, 13 Matt Hopper, 12 Jordan Turner-Hall, 11 Sam Smith, 10 Nick Evans, 9 Danny Care, 8 Nick Easter, 7 Chris Robshaw (captain), 6 Luke Wallace, 5 George Robson, 4 Nick Kennedy, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 2 Dave Ward, 1 Joe Marler.
Replacements: 16 Max Crumpton, 17 Mark Lambert, 18 Paul Doran Jones, 19 Charlie Matthews, 20 Tom Guest, 21 Karl Dickson, 22 Ben Botica, 23 Tim Molenaar.
London Irish: 15 James O'Connor, 14 Topsy Ojo, 13 Fergus Mulchrone, 12 Eamonn Sheridan, 11 Marland Yarde, 10 Shane Geraghty, 9 Tomás O'Leary, 8 Ofisa Treviranus, 7 Blair Cowan, 6 Kieran Low, 5 Nic Rouse, 4 George Skivington (captain), 3 Jamie Hagan, 2 Jimmy Stevens, 1 Matt Parr.
Replacements: 16 Mike Mayhew, 17 John Yapp, 18 Leo Halavatau, 19 Jebb Sinclair, 20 Gerard Ellis, 21 Alex Lewington, 22 Myles Dorrian, 23 Darren Allinson.
Referee: Andrew Small
Assistant referees: Gareth Copsey, Andy Watson
TMO: Keith Lewis
Exeter Chiefs 13-14 Gloucester
In a dramatic finale Gareth Steenson sent a match-winning conversion attempt wide of the posts as Exeter Chiefs lost by a point to 13-man Gloucester.
In a game of few chances Exeter had led at the break following Matt Jess' first-half try, only for Charlie Sharples to cross shortly after the interval for the visitors.
Three Rob Cook conversions kept Gloucester's noses in front until the final minutes when Sila Puafisi and Sione Kalamafoni were sin-binned given Don Armand space to cross in the final minute.
But Steenson, on as a replacement for Henry Slade, missed with the extras to hand Gloucester a 14-13 win, their first on the road since victory over London Irish on December 29.
After only two minutes Gloucester were celebrating after an Exeter move broke down in midfield and the visitors capitalised, moving the ball through the hands with fullback Cook diving over the line.
But their joy was cut short when the try was referred up to the TMO who ruled the score out for a forward pass earlier in the move.
Exeter took full advantage of the reprieve, moving slowly upfield and winning a penalty at the breakdown to give flyhalf Slade a simple kick at the posts, which he converted to make it 3-0.
It stayed that way until 17 minutes, with neither side able to threaten the opposing try line, until Gloucester managed to squeeze a penalty at the scrum.
Cook lined up the posts from 28 metres out and bisected the uprights to level the scores with nearly a quarter of the game played.
A blustery wind seemed to be effecting both sides' ability to pass the ball with a series of plays ending with the ball going to ground, but it didn't stop Cook collecting his second three-pointer of the day on the half hour after Exeter coughed up a penalty at the scrum.
Five minutes before the interval, having picked up an injury earlier in the half, Exeter lost prop Jack Yeandle with Luke Cowan-Dickie coming on to replace him.
And a minute later Exeter retook the lead, Dave Ewers punching a hole in the middle of the Gloucester defence before Luke Arscott floated a pass out to winger Jess in space who beat the defence to cross out wide. Slade's conversion missed the target and it remained 8-6 as the sides trotted off at the interval.
Gloucester started the second period the brighter of the two sides, another scrum penalty giving Cook the chance to make it 9-8 off the kicking tee, which he did with aplomb.
Freddie Burns replaced flyhalf Ryan Mills for Gloucester five minutes into the half, and they continued to attack with Jonny May kicking one ball through only for it narrowly run out of play.
And then the Cherry and Whites scored their first try of the afternoon, Cook beating his marker to set up Sharples for an easy run in. Cook couldn't find the posts with the extras however, and it remained 14-8 to the visitors.
There was little tryline action of note thereafter until the 60th minute, when Exeter were pinged by referee Matthew Carley for holding on in the tackle but Cook sent his penalty wide of the uprights.
Exeter brought on Steenson for Slade in a bid to find the breakthrough and the home side pressed forward. With 12 minutes to play Steenson and Sam Hill looked to have made the breakthrough only for desperate Gloucester defending to keep them out, the visitors eventually turning the ball over under their own posts.
With two minutes left on the clock Exeter had Gloucester penned in their own 22 and Puafisi saw yellow, paying the price for a number of Cherry and Whites infringements.
Steenson kicked to touch to keep the pressure on the visitors, and with just seconds left Kalamafoni joined Puafisi in the sin bin after Exeter were illegally held up on the try line.
With the final play of the game Exeter pushed for a final time and Armand crossed from close range.
The home side looked to have snatched victory from the jaws of defeat but Steenson failed his audition as hero for the day sending his conversion, which would have won the game, wide of the posts, denying Exeter a first-ever Premiership double over Gloucester.
For Exeter Chiefs:
Tries: Jess, Armand
Pens: Cook 3
Exeter Chiefs: 15 Luke Arscott, 14 Tom James, 13 Ian Whitten, 12 Phil Dollman, 11 Matt Jess, 10 Henry Slade, 9 Dave Lewis, 8 Kai Horstmann, 7 Tom Johnson, 6 Dave Ewers, 5 Damian Welch, 4 Dean Mumm (captain), 3 Hoani Tui, 2 Jack Yeandle, 1 Ben Moon.
Replacements: 16 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 17 Carl Rimmer, 18 Alex Brown, 19 Don Armand, 20 James Scaysbrook, 21 Haydn Thomas, 22 Gareth Steenson, 23 Sam Hill.
Gloucester: 15 Rob Cook, 14 Charlie Sharples, 13 Mike Tindall, 12 Billy Twelvetrees (captain) 11 Jonny May, 10 Ryan Mills, 9 Jimmy Cowan, 8 Ben Morgan, 7 Matt Kvesic, 6 Sione Kalamafoni, 5 Will James, 4 Elliott Stooke, 3 Shaun Knight, 2 Darren Dawidiuk, 1 Nick Wood.
Replacements: 16 Koree Britton, 17 Yann Thomas, 18 Sila Puafisi, 19 Lua Lokotui, 20 Gareth Evans, 21 Tavis Knoyle, 22 Freddie Burns, 23 Henry Trinder.