Chiefs survive Sharks scare
PREMIERSHIP WRAP: High-flying Exeter Chiefs survived a scare from Sale Sharks on Saturday.
The result means they maintained second place in the Premiership table with a bonus point win.
* In other Saturday action Harlequins kept their hopes of a top-four Premiership finish alive as they surged clear in the second half to beat Newcastle Falcons 53-17 at Twickenham Stoop.
* Owen Williams kicked two penalties in the last three minutes to give Leicester Tigers victory in an East Midlands thriller at Franklin's Gardens and send off head coach Aaron Mauger in style.
We look at all the Saturday matches!
Harlequins 53-17 Newcastle Falcons
Harlequins kept their hopes of a top-four Premiership finish alive as they surged clear in the second half to beat Newcastle Falcons 53-17 at Twickenham Stoop.
The visitors initially went ahead through Sonatane Takulua's converted try, but the hosts responded in style through Rob Buchanan, the returning Mike Brown, and Joe Marchant to lead 27-10 at the break.
And things looked ominous for Newcastle when Quins sealed the bonus point just two minutes into the second period - Marland Yarde taking advantage of Brown's searing break - before Mathew Luamanu, Danny Care, and Tim Swiel helped the Londoners stretch their advantage.
Flyhalf Nick Evans was impressive from the tee, landing eight place kicks from eight before being replaced on the hour mark, while Mark Wilson's second-half try was no more than a consolation for Falcons whose top-six ambitions took a blow.
Newcastle had started brightly and grabbed the first score when Takulua flew onto an offload to touch down under the posts in the fourth minute, which he then converted.
Harlequins responded quickly through an offside penalty kicked by flyhalf Nick Evans, and when a break down Quins' left almost saw the returning Chris Robshaw over in the corner, Rob Buchanan was given a clear run-in under the posts two phases later.
The home side were soon on the scoreboard again; Tim Visser finding space on the left and passing back inside for Brown to cross the whitewash after 22 minutes.
A series of penalties saw Newcastle enter Quins' half and eventually Takulua's kick made it 17-10, but that was cancelled out when Juan Pablo Socino saw yellow and Evans converted the resulting penalty.
And when Marchant picked a loose pass and charged 50 metres for an interception try with the last play of the half, Quins had a commanding lead at the break.
The home side raced out of the blocks after the restart, Brown making a break and then offloading to wing Yarde who went in under the posts to secure the bonus point.
Quins were looking to keep the tempo high and Newcastle replacement Evan Olmstead was shown yellow for a challenge on Danny Care - returning from RBS 6 Nations duty.
Unable to get out of their 22 the pressure remained on the Falcons, and they conceded fifth and sixth scores when Luamanu crossed from a driving maul and Care snuck over from close range.
Dean Richards rang the changes and Newcastle began to dominate possession, getting a consolation score through Mark Wilson after a series of close-range rucks.
But Quins went past the 50-point mark with five minutes remaining when Swiel added their seventh after good work from Marchant.
Tries:Buchanan, Brown, Marchant, Yarde, Luamanu, Care, Swiel
Cons: Evans 6
Pen: Evans 2
For Newcastle Falcons:
Cons: Takulua, Delany
Yellow cards: Juan Pablo Socino (Newcastle Falcons, 33), Evan Olmstead (Newcastle Falcons, 48)
Harlequins: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Marland Yarde, 13 Joe Marchant, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Tim Visser, 10 Nick Evans, 9 Danny Care, 8 Mat Luamanu, 7 Dave Ward (captain), 6 Chris Robshaw, 5 James Horwill, 4 George Merrick, 3 Will Collier, 2 Rob Buchanan, 1 Joe Marler.
Replacements: 16 Joe Gray, 17 Mark Lambert, 18 Kyle Sinckler, 19 Charlie Matthews, 20 Jack Clifford, 21 Charlie Mulchrone, 22 Tim Swiel, 23 Alofa Alofa.
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Alex Tait, 14 Vereniki Goneva, 13 Dominic Waldouck, 12 Juan Pablo Socino, 11 Sinoti Sinoti, 10 Joel Hodgson, 9 Sonatane Takulua, 8 Nili Latu, 7 Will Welch (captain), 6 Callum Chick, 5 Mark Wilson, 4 Calum Green, 3 Jon Welsh, 2 Scott Lawson, 1 Rob Vickers.
Replacements: 16 Ben Sowrey, 17 Ben Harris, 18 David Wilson, 19 Evan Olmstead, 20 Ally Hogg, 21 Michael Young, 22 Mike Delany, 23 Chris Harris.
Referee: Tom Foley
Assistant Referees: Hamish Smales, Adam Leal
TMO: Keith Lewis
Northampton Saints 31-36 Leicester Tigers
Owen Williams kicked two penalties in the last three minutes to give Leicester Tigers victory in an East Midlands thriller at Franklin's Gardens and send off head coach Aaron Mauger in style.
Saints crossed for three tries in the first half, Nafi Tuitavake, Ahsee Tuala and Louis Picamoles all going over but the Tigers stayed in the fight, the boot of Freddie Burns and Adam Thompstone's score making it only 22-16 to the hosts at the break.
And after the break Ben Youngs and Lachlan McCaffrey went over for Mauger's side - who also saw Mike Williams sin binned after coming on as a replacement - but in the end it came down to the kickers.
Stephen Myler and Owen Williams - the latter on for Burns at half time - traded late penalties but it was Williams who had the final say to lift the Tigers to fourth in the Premiership standings although Bath Rugby could reclaim that spot on Sunday against Saracens.
Defeat for Saints puts a real dent in their own top-four ambitions but it was an enthralling topsy turvy clash that ended with a victory for Mauger in his final game in charge.
Tuitavake pounced inside the opening three minutes as Leicester full-back Telusa Veainu misjudged a high ball and Saints' Tongan centre picked up the pieces to score.
Stephen Myler converted to give the home side an early 7-0 advantage, but Leicester responded almost immediately.
Northampton's defence was wide open and winger Adam Thompstone burst through to grab his team's first try.
Burns had the simple task of levelling things up with the easy conversion, but Leicester weren't even for long.
France No.8 Picamoles produced one of his trademark bursts and offloads to set up Northampton full-back Tuala for a try.
Myler again added the extras, but Leicester were straight back at the Saints door, winning a scrum penalty that Burns landed to cut the gap to four points.
Burns was at it again soon after, slotting another kick after another scrum call went against Saints.
However, in open play, the home side boasted the game's stand-out player, with Picamoles calling the shots.
And the Frenchman soon used his power to score Northampton's third try, charging over the line after a spell of pressure.
Myler missed the conversion and Burns soon landed a lovely drop goal, making the most of his team's advantage to continue the back and forth nature of the game.
Saints tried to turn up the heat once more before the break, with a tidy Tom Wood offload starting a move that ended with a penalty, which Myler kicked to make it 22-16.
Northampton thought they had racked up the bonus-point before the break, but Christian Day's foot was deemed to be in touch as he dived over in the corner.
Leicester were forced to replace Burns and Brendon O'Connor with Owen Williams and Lachlan McCaffrey at half-time, but it was they who came out firing.
Ben Youngs grabbed a score, racing down the left before dotting down, with Owen Williams converting to give the away side a one-point lead.
But Myler was quickly on the mark with a penalty to put Northampton back in front, and the flyhalf was at it again with another three points soon after.
Leicester were then reduced to 14 men for 10 of the final 12 minutes as Mike Williams was sin-binned for a no arms hit on Teimana Harrison.
Myler was to miss the penalty chance that would have put Saints eight points up, and Mallinder's men were made to pay.
Tigers roared back and McCaffrey scored, with Owen Williams converting to put his team 30-28 up with nine minutes remaining.
Myler again restored Saints' advantage with a fine penalty attempt, but Tigers were to have the final say as Owen Williams landed two kicks that won the match and sent off departing head coach Mauger in style.\\
For Northampton Saints:
Tries: Tuitavake, Tuala, Picamoles
Cons: Myler 2
Pens: Myler 4
For Leicester Tigers:
Tries: Thompstone, B Youngs, McCaffrey
Cons: Burns, Williams 2
Pens: Burns 2, Williams 2
Yellow card: Mike Williams (Leicester Tigers, 67)
Northampton Saints: 15 Ahsee Tuala, 14 Ben Foden, 13 Nafi Tuitavake, 12 Harry Mallinder, 11 George North, 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Louis Picamoles, 7 Calum Clark, 6 Tom Wood (captain), 5 Christian Day, 4 Courtney Lawes, 3 Kieran Brookes, 2 Dylan Hartley, 1 Alex Waller.
Replacements: 16 Mikey Haywood, 17 Ethan Waller, 18 Paul Hill, 19 Jamie Gibson, 20 Teimana Harrison, 21 Lee Dickson, 22 Luther Burrell, 23 Ken Pisi.
Leicester Tigers: 15 Telusa Veainu, 14 Adam Thompstone, 13 Mathew Tait, 12 Maxime Mermoz, 11 J P Pietersen, 10 Freddie Burns, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Luke Hamilton, 7 Brendon O’Connor, 6 Mike Fitzgerald, 5 Graham Kitchener, 4 Dom Barrow, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Tom Youngs (captain), 1 Ellis Genge.
Replacements: 16 George McGuigan, 17 Michele Rizzo, 18 Pat Cilliers, 19 Mike Williams, 20 Lachlan McCaffrey, 21 Ben White, 22 Owen Williams, 23 Jack Roberts.
Referee: Greg Garner
Assistant Referees: Andrew P Jackson, Roy Maybank
TMO: Stuart Terheege
Exeter Chiefs 30-25 Sale Sharks
High-flying Exeter Chiefs survived a scare from Sale Sharks to maintain second place in the Premiership table with a bonus point win.
Two AJ MacGinty penalties and a Denny Solomona try gave Sale an early lead but Kai Horstmann replied for Chiefs, only for another double from the Sharks flyhalf to further stretch their lead.
Luke Cowan-Dickie kept Chiefs in touching distance before Ollie Woodburn further closed the gap and a Henry Slade penalty put Exeter ahead.
MacGinty kicked two more penalties but a Don Armand try was enough for Exeter to claim the win and the bonus point.
Sale applied the early pressure with Solomona looking to have made a telling break, but the Chiefs stood firm in front of the Sandy Park faithful and turned the ball over to allow them to clear their lines.
But Sharks did take the lead on the ten minute mark as MacGinty easily kicked a long-distance penalty after Chiefs were penalised at the scrum.
And the American flyhalf doubled the Sharks lead five minutes later, this time from just outside the Chiefs 22, after the home side illegally put hands in the ruck.
Sharks then turned penalties into a try with Solomona scoring a ninth of the season with an interception on his own 22 to run nearly the length of the pitch and, with MacGinty's conversion, extend Sale's lead to 13 before the 25 minute mark.
Horstmann replied almost immediately, though, finishing off a fine move sparked by Cowan-Dickie's break to dive over in the left corner - Slade unable to convert from touchline.
However Sharks were not going to roll over and MacGinty quickly stretched their lead out to 11 with a well-struck penalty in tricky kicking conditions.
And he made it five from five with six first-half minutes to play as the blustery conditions helped another long-distance effort soar through the posts.
But Chiefs hit back just before the break, with Cowan-Dickie going over from the line-out drive after Slade kicked for the corner with pinpoint accuracy - the flyhalf also adding the conversion to bring Exeter within seven at the break.
And the deficit was all but wiped out in the early stages of the second half with Woodburn going over in the left corner after an extended period of Chiefs pressure - Slade dragging the conversion just wide from out on the left.
He was on target from the tee just minutes later, though, as Sharks were penalised for holding on and by 50 minutes Chiefs held a one point lead.
It was short-lived, though, after Jack Nowell collected a chip over the Chiefs back line only for those supporting him to infringe at the ruck and MacGinty to kick the resulting penalty.
Chiefs spent much of the next ten minutes in Sharks territory with the Sale penalty count racking up and Slade repeatedly kicking to the left corner in the hope of a repeat of Cowan-Dickie's earlier score.
And eventually it paid off with Armand going in under the posts with 15 minutes to play, sealing the bonus point and Slade adding the extras to put his side five in front.
The all-important kick then came with four minutes to go as Sale were penalised at the breakdown and Slade knocked over a long-distance effort of his own to leave Sharks trailing by more than a converted score.
MacGinty kicked his sixth penalty of the match with the clock in the red to earn Sharks a losing bonus point, but it was not enough as Chiefs applied pressure to Wasps atop the Premiership table.
For Exeter Chiefs:
Tries: Horstmann, Cowan-Dickie, Woodburn, Armand
Cons: Slade 2
Pens: Slade 2
For Sale Sharks:
Pens: MacGinty 6
Exeter Chiefs: 15 Phil Dollman, 14 Jack Nowell, 13 Ian Whitten, 12 Ollie Devoto, 11 Olly Woodburn, 10 Henry Slade, 9 Stuart Townsend, 8 Thomas Waldrom, 7 Don Armand (captain), 6 Kai Horstmann, 5 Geoff Parling, 4 Mitch Lees, 3 Harry Williams, 2 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 1 Ben Moon.
Replacements: 16 Jack Yeandle, 17 Carl Rimmer, 18 Tomas Francis, 19 Jonny Hill, 20 Sam Simmonds, 21 Jack Maunder, 22 Joe Simmonds, 23 James Short.
Sale Sharks: 15 Mike Haley, 14 Denny Solomona, 13 Sam James, 12 Mark Jennings, 11 Byron McGuigan, 10 AJ MacGinty, 9 Mike Phillips, 8 Josh Beaumont (captain), 7 Tom Curry, 6 Cameron Neild, 5 Andrei Ostrikov, 4 Bryn Evans, 3 Halani Aulika, 2 Rob Webber, 1 Ross Harrison.
Replacements: 16 Ben Curry, 17 James Flynn, 18 Kieran Longbottom, 19 George Nott, 20 Laurence Pearce, 21 Peter Stringer, 22 Sam Bedlow, 23 Josh Charnley.
Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys
Assistant referees: Anthony Woodthorpe, Paul Burton
TMO: Geoff Warren