Saracens and Chiefs seal top spots with big victories

Sat, 05 May 2018 20:19
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PREMIERSHIP WRAP: The semifinals were finalised on Saturday, as three of the qualifiers boosted wins and one advanced despite losing.

Saracens will hosts Wasps and defending champions Exeter Chiefs at home to Newcastle Falcons on May 19.

Exeter Chiefs continued their fine-tuning for the Premiership semifinals in perfect style as Joe Simmonds inspired them to down Harlequins at a sun-kissed Stoop.

Saracens showed no mercy to Gloucester at Allianz Park as the visitors suffered a comprehensive 62-12 defeat and missed out on the top six to West Country rivals Bath.

Wasps booked a Premiership semifinal clash at Saracens by beating Newcastle Falcons in a thrilling contest at Kingston Park.

We look at Saturday' final round of league action!

Bath 63-19 London Irish

Matt Banahan brought the curtain down on his Bath career with a hat-trick that helped fire his team to a sixth-placed finish in Premiership.

The 31-year-old, who departs to join Gloucester at the end of the season, signed off at the Rec by going over three times against relegated London Irish, with results elsewhere helping Todd Blackadder’s troops clinch the final Champions Cup qualification berth.

It took just three minutes for Bath to open their account and Banahan was at the centre of the action, linking up with Cooper Vuna to tee up Taulupe Faletau for the first try of the game, Rhys Priestland converting.

Six minutes later, Vuna grabbed his second score in as many games, scooping up the ball and crashing over after Faletau, Francois Louw and Tom Ellis had combined, Priestland again adding the extras.

The visitors immediately set about clawing away at the early deficit, winning a succession of penalties as they piled the pressure on Bath but failed to fashion a breakthrough.

And with 22 minutes on the clock, Banahan, playing at centre, enjoyed his moment in the sun as he bundled over to mark his final appearance in blue, black and white with a try, Priestland booting the conversion to make it 21-0.

Just past the half-hour mark, James Wilson darted over from close range to secure the hosts’ bonus point, Priestland adding the extras for a fourth time, and on the stroke of half-time, Elliott Stooke got in on the act after a blistering run from Tom Dunn, Priestland again converting.

The second period took a while to catch fire but 13 minutes after the restart, Banahan raised the roof as he crashed over from a driving maul.

Shortly afterwards, Wilson collected a chipped kick from Freddie Burns before racing away to grab his second of the game, the latter adding the extras.

With almost an hour gone, though, Irish finally got themselves on the scoreboard through Josh McNally, who held off a raft of opponents to stretch an arm over the line.

But Banahan was the undisputed star of the show and shortly afterwards, he bided his time from behind a maul before bursting over the line to bag his hat-trick - his 99th for Bath - Burns converting.

There was still time for Will Vaughan to bag his first score for the club with less than 10 minutes to go, Burns kicking two more points for a third time, while at the other end, Greig Tonks booted the ball forward before racing away and teeing up Ben Loader for a debut Exiles try, Tonks converting.

Banahan nearly made it to 100 Bath tries in the final minute but the score was ruled out for a double movement, with McAnally successful in scoring late on for Irish, David Paice kicking the extras in his final game before retirement.

The scorers:

For Bath:
Tries:
Faletau, Vuna, Banahan 3, Wilson 2, Stooke, Vaughan
Cons: Priestland 5, Burns 4

For London Irish:
Tries:
McNally 2, Loader
Cons: Tonks, Paice

Teams:

Bath: 15 Tom Homer, 14 Cooper Vuna, 13 Matt Banahan, 12 James Wilson, 11 Aled Brew, 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Khan Fotuali’i, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Francois Louw, 6 Tom Ellis, 5 Elliott Stooke, 4 Matt Garvey (captain), 3 Anthony Perenise, 2 Tom Dunn, 1 Lucas Noguera.
Replacements: 16 Jack Walker, 17 Beno Obano, 18 Victor Delmas, 19 James Phillips, 20 Zach Mercer, 21 Max Green, 22 Freddie Burns, 23 Max Clark.

London Irish: 15 Greig Tonks, 14 Joe Cokanasigsa, 13 Tom Fowlie, 12 Fergus Mulchrone, 11 Ben Loader, 10 Theo Brophy Clews, 9 Scott Steele, 8 Ofisa Treviranus, 7 Blair Cowan, 6 Josh McNally, 5 Sebastian De Chaves, 4 Franco van der Merwe (captain), 3 Ollie Hoskins, 2 Dave Porecki, 1 Harry Elrington.
Replacements: 16 David Paice, 17 Ben Franks, 18 Petrus Du Plessis, 19 Jack Cooke, 20 Josh Basham, 21 Piet van Zyl, 22 Johnny Williams, 23 Alex Lewington.

Referee: Matthew Carley
Assistant referees: Greg Macdonald, Paul Dix
TMO: Keith Lewis

Harlequins 17-41 Exeter Chiefs

Exeter Chiefs continued their fine-tuning for the Premiership semifinals in perfect style as Joe Simmonds inspired them to down Harlequins at a sun-kissed Stoop.

The defending champions have now won their last eight in a row against Quins and they wrapped up a bonus point before the break in a breathless first-half.

Simmonds’ opposite man Marcus Smith opened the scoring with a jinking run but that proved a false dawn for the home side.

Dave Ewers scored the Chiefs’ first from close range, then swatted defenders aside and offloaded to set up Dave Dennis for their  second.

Simmonds’ break then created territory for a second Dennis score from close range and the fly-half then rounded off a deadly first half with the fourth score and the bonus point.

Mike Brown did manage to pull one back for the home side on the stroke of half time and with Smith’s conversion Quins only trailed 24-17 at the break.

The second half was still full of attacking rugby but the tries were not as forthcoming - Simmonds’ replacement Gareth Steenson slotting a penalty near the end to make the game sure for the visitors.

But in the final ten minutes replacements Tom Hendrickson and Alec Hepburn were both driven over form short range to put some gloss on the scoreline for the visitors.

Rob Baxter’s in-form side have now won nine in a row in all competitions and will face Newcastle Falcons at Sandy Park in a fortnight’s time as they bid to return to Twickenham for a third season in a row.

While the regular season ends for Harlequins on a sour note as departing director of rugby John Kingston failed to oversee one last win in front of their own fans.

The scorers:

For Harlequins:
Tries:
Smith, Brown
Cons: Smith 2
Pen: Smith

For Exeter:
Tries:
Ewers, Dennis 2, Simmonds, Hendrickson, Hepburn
Cons: Simmonds 2, Steenson 2
Pen: Steenson

Teams:

Harlequins: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Charlie Walker, 13 Alofa Alofa, 12 James Lang, 11 Tim Visser, 10 Marcus Smith, 9 Danny Care, 8 Mat Luamanu, 7 Luke Wallace, 6 Chris Robshaw, 5 Charlie Matthews, 4 George Merrick, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 2 Dave Ward (captain), 1 Joe Marler.
Replacements: 16 Elia Elia, 17 Mark Lambert, 18 Phil Swainston, 19 Stan South, 20 Archie White, 21 Dave Lewis, 22 Henry Cheeseman, 23 Ross Chisholm.

Exeter: 15 Phil Dollman, 14 Santiago Cordero, 13 Jack Nowell, 12 Sam Hill, 11 Olly Woodburn, 10 Joe Simmonds, 9 Nic White, 8 Thomas Waldrom, 7 Dave Dennis (captain), 6 Dave Ewers, 5 Jonny Hill, 4 Mitch Lees, 3 Tomas Francis, 2 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 1 Ben Moon.
Replacements: 16 Jack Yeandle, 17 Alec Hepburn, 18 Greg Holmes, 19 Sam Skinner, 20 Matt Kvesic, 21 Stu Townsend, 22 Gareth Steenson, 23 Tom Hendrickson.

Referee: Christophe Ridley
Assistant referees: Nigel Carrick, Robert Warburton
TMO: Graham Hughes

Newcastle Falcons 22-39 Wasps

Wasps booked an Premiership semifinal clash at Saracens by beating Newcastle Falcons in a thrilling contest at Kingston Park.

Tries from Tom Cruse, Elliot Daly, Danny Cipriani, Josh Bassett, Jimmy Gopperth and Willie Le Roux put the game beyond Newcastle - who will face Exeter Chiefs in their semifinal clash.

The Falcons scored tries through Josh Matavesi, Zach Kibirige and Evan Olmstead after Wasps took control of the match but Le Roux’s late effort secured victory for Dai Young’s men, who finish third in the table - one spot ahead of their hosts.

The semifinals take place in two weeks time, with the winners destined for Twickenham and the Premiership Final.

With third up for grabs, Newcastle got on the board first through a Sonatane Takulua penalty but Wasps quickly took control, and scored their first try of the match through hooker Cruse from close range.

The Falcons kept Wasps at bay again until five minutes before the break but they conceded two tries before the whistle to hand the away side the initiative.

Daly crossed in the corner after the forwards sucked in Falcons defenders, leaving space out wide, before Cipriani dotted down on the stroke of half time.

And they carried on after the break, with winger Bassett getting a well-deserved try before star player Le Roux burst through and supplied replacement Gopperth to score against his former club.

Matavesi pulled a try back for Newcastle and that woke them up, with Kibirige and  Olmstead following soon after.

But Wasps finished it, with Le Roux finishing neatly to round the match off.

The scorers:

For Newcastle:
Tries:
Matavesi, Kibirige, Olmstead
Cons: Willis 2
Pen: Takulua

For Wasps:
Tries:
Cruse, Daly, Cipriani, Bassett, Gopperth, Le Roux
Cons: Cipriani, Daly, Gopperth
Pen: Gopperth

Teams:

Newcastle: 15 Simon Hammersley, 14 Alex Tait, 13 Chris Harris, 12 Juan Pablo Socino, 11 Zach Kibirige, 10 Josh Matavesi, 9 Sonatane Takulua, 8 Ally Hogg, 7 Gary Graham, 6 Mark Wilson (captain), 5 Will Witty, 4 Evan Olmstead, 3 Trevor Davison, 2 Scott Lawson, 1 Rob Vickers.
Replacements: 16 Santiago Socino, 17 Sam Lockwood, 18 David Wilson, 19 Glen Young, 20 Nili Latu, 21 Sam Stuart, 22 Craig Willis, 23 Tom Penny.

Wasps: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Josh Bassett, 13 Gaby Lovobalavu, 12 Kyle Eastmond, 11 Elliot Daly, 10 Danny Cipriani, 9 Joe Simpson, 8 Jack Willis, 7 Thomas Young, 6 James Haskell, 5 Kearnan Myall, 4 Joe Launchbury (captain), 3 Marty Moore, 2 Tom Cruse, 1 Ben Harris.
Replacements: 16 Tommy Taylor, 17 Matt Mullan, 18 Will Stuart, 19 Will Rowlands, 20 Guy Thompson, 21 Dan Robson, 22 Jimmy Gopperth, 23 Juan de Jongh.

Referee: Ian Tempest
Assistant referees: Andrew Jackson, Paul Burton
TMO: Geoffrey Warren

Northampton Saints 32-24 Worcester Warriors

Ben Foden capped his final game for Northampton Saints with a try, an assist and a yellow card as they saw off Worcester Warriors 32-24 at Franklin’s Gardens in their final game of the Premiership season.

Foden was captaining Northampton in his 250th and final game but got off to a disastrous start, sin-binned after barely two minutes for an intentional knock-on.

Worcester took full advantage of their extra man as Will Butler scored a try just X minutes into his Premiership debut. Perry Humphreys made the break off a clever inside ball before feeding Butler on his shoulder for the try.

And he was in again soon after, reacting quickest to Dorian Jones’ grubber through as Worcester opened up a 14-0 lead.

Back up to a full complement, Saints responded, with Foden very involved as Mitch Eadie eventually dotted down.

The Warriors then lost Butler and Francois Hougaard to injury, while Saints also lost their scrum-half, Cobus Reinach, in the same collision.

And when the visitors strayed offside, James Grayson slotted the three points to make it 14-10 at the break.

As they had in the first half, Worcester started the second with a quickfire score, Ben Te’o crossing after Josh Adams’ kick through.

But Saints hit straight back with two tries in quick succession, first from Nafi Tuitavake before Foden ran a great line to scythe through the Worcester defence to make it 22-21.

Jones put Worcester back in front with a penalty but that was quickly cancelled out as Foden turned provider, putting in Tom Collins for the bonus-point try.

There was still time for one final score, the departing Stephen Myler slotting a penalty in the final stages after Adams had been yellow-carded for offside.

That sealed a bonus-point success and ninth place in the table for Saints, while Worcester finish in 11th.

The scorers:

For Northampton:
Tries:
Eadie, Tuitavake, Foden, Collins
Cons: Grayson 3
Pens: Grayson, Myler

For Worcester:
Tries:
Butler 2, Te’o
Cons: Jones 3
Pen: Jones

Teams:

Northampton: 15 Ben Foden (captain), 14 Tom Collins, 13 Nafi Tuitavake, 12 Piers Francis, 11 George North, 10 James Grayson, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Mitch Eadie, 7 Teimana Harrison, 6 Jamie Gibson, 5 James Craig, 4 Api Ratuniyarawa, 3 Kieran Brookes, 2 Mikey Haywood, 1 Alex Waller.
Replacements: 16 Charlie Clare, 17 Campese Ma’afu, 18 Paul Hill, 19 David Ribbans, 20 Lewis Ludlam, 21 Alex Mitchell, 22 Stephen Myler, 23 Ahsee Tuala.

Worcester: 15 Chris Pennell, 14 Perry Humphreys, 13 Ben Te’o, 12 Will Butler, 11 Josh Adams, 10 Dorian Jones, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 GJ van Velze (captain), 7 Sam Lewis, 6 Marco Mama, 5 Darren Barry, 4 Anton Bresler, 3 Nick Schonert, 2 Jack Singleton, 1 Ryan Bower.
Replacements: 16 Joe Taufete’e, 17 Ethan Waller, 18 Gareth Milasinovich, 19 Andrew Kitchener, 20 David Denton, 21 Jonny Arr, 22 Jamie Shillcock, 23 Tom Howe.

Referee: Luke Pearce
Assistant referees: Simon McConnell, Peter Allan
TMO: Claire Hodnett

Sale Sharks 13-35 Leicester Tigers

George Ford scored 20 points as Leicester Tigers beat Sale Sharks to secure a fifth-place finish in the Premiership and secure Champions Cup rugby next season.

Jonah Holmes scored a try in each half with Ford and Mike Williams both going over after the break to seal the victory.

AJ MacGinty’s penalties had kept Sale in touch with Marland Yarde offering them hope when he went over in the corner.

Holmes opened the scoring on nine minutes after neat interplay between Telusa Veainu and Jonny May created space out wide for the winger to dot down.

Ford added the extras but two MacGinty penalties reduced the deficit to a point with the Tigers fly-half hitting the post twice late on in the opening half.

Tigers broke clear with their second try with England international Ben Youngs darting through a gap and feeding Ford to race underneath the posts to make it 14-6.

Two Ford penalties extended the Tigers’ advantage before Yarde pulled a score back for the hosts by completing a fine counter-attacking move.

Williams got the crucial score on 64 minutes, his first in Tigers colours.

After a turnover from Brendan O’Connor, Ford gave a neat inside ball to May whose offload to Williams allowed him to dive over.

The Tigers fly-half took his tally to 20 when he dropped into the pocket and received a lovely pass from Sam Harrison enabling him to knock over a drop goal on 76 minutes.

And there was still time for Tigers to secure the bonus point.

A sweeping play from the visitors was finished in the corner by Holmes though Logovi'i Mulipola - in his last appearance for Tigers - missed the extras.

The scorers:

For Sale:
Try:
Yarde
Con: MacGinty
Pens: MacGinty 2

For Leicester:
Tries:
Holmes 2, Ford, Williams
Cons: Ford 3
Pens: Ford 2
DG: Ford

Teams:

Sale: 15 Mike Haley, 14 Byron McGuigan, 13 Sam James, 12 Will Addison, 11 Marland Yarde, 10 AJ MacGinty, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Josh Strauss, 7 Tom Curry, 6 Jono Ross (captain), 5 Andrei Ostrikov, 4 Bryn Evans, 3 WillGriff John, 2 Rob Webber, 1 Ross Harrison.
Replacements: 16 Marc Jones, 17 Alexandru Taxus, 18 Halani Aulika, 19 Josh Beaumont, 20 Ben Curry, 21 Will Cliff, 22 Johnny Leota, 23 Luke James.

Leicester: 15 Telusa Veainu, 14 Jonah Holmes, 13 Manu Tuilagi, 12 Mathew Tait, 11 Jonny May, 10 George Ford (captain), 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Sione Kalamafoni, 7 Brendon O’Connor, 6 Mike Williams, 5 Graham Kitchener, 4 Mike Fitzgerald, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Ellis Genge.
Replacements: 16 George McGuigan, 17 Greg Bateman, 18 Logovi’i Mulipola, 19 Harry Wells, 20 Valentino Mapapalangi, 21 Sam Harrison, 22 Joe Ford, 23 George Worth.

Referee: Wayne Barnes
Assistant referees: JP Doyle, Tom Foley
TMO: Sean Davey

Saracens 62-12 Gloucester

Saracens showed no mercy to Gloucester at Allianz Park as the visitors suffered a comprehensive 62-12 defeat and missed out on the top six to West Country rivals Bath.

The hosts ran in eight tries - and a penalty score - despite making six changes for their final game of the regular season, with an eye on their upcoming Premiership semifinal.

Gloucester started the game in the Champions Cup places, but their defeat coupled with Bath’s bonus-point win against London Irish saw them slip down to seventh.

It had all started so well for the Cherry and Whites after England Under-20 winger Tom Seabrook dotted down in the first minute of his debut for the senior team.

The hosts were then forced into an early change as Ben Earl replaced Schalk Burger, before Marcelo Bosch had a try disallowed for Saracens by the TMO.

Mark McCall’s men did get on the scoreboard moments later, though. Schalk Brits started the move with a break down the middle before offloading to Richard Wigglesworth, who was brought down short of the line.

The ball was recycled and Alex Goode found Sean Maitland on the wing to score in the corner, with Owen Farrell adding the extras as Saracens took to the front for the first time.

But Gloucester bounced back almost immediately when Jason Woodward burst down the left, ghosting past two men and offloading inside to put David Halaifonua in under the posts.

A frantic opening 20 minutes continued as Saracens added a second try through Liam Williams, who received the ball after the Men in Black turned the ball over in the visitors’ 22.

Farrell was unable to convert this time around, but he did give the home side the lead on the half-hour mark from the tee after Gloucester were penalised for a line-out infringement.

The England fly-half then scored a try on the stroke of half-time to extend Saracens’ advantage to 22-12, before they ran riot once again in the second half.

Juan Figallo secured the try bonus point just 48 seconds into the second half, before Maro Itoje and Chris Wyles added further scores to pile on the misery.

Hooker Richard Hibbard came on for his 100th appearance for Gloucester but he could not stem the tide as Saracens were awarded a penalty try after Jeremy Thrush was sin-binned.

Ben Spencer added a late brace and converted both efforts to conclude the scoring, with the north London side looking in good shape for their semifinal against Wasps.

The scorers:

For Saracens:
Tries:
Maitland, Williams, Farrell, Figallo, Itoje, Wyles, Penalty try, Spencer 2
Cons: Farrell 4, Spencer 2
Pen: Farrell

For Gloucester:
Tries:
Seabrook, Halaifonua
Con: Twelvetrees

Teams:

Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Liam Williams, 13 Marcelo Bosch, 12 Brad Barritt (captain), 11 Sean Maitland, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Richard Wigglesworth, 8 Jackson Wray, 7 Schalk Burger, 6 Michael Rhodes, 5 Nick Isiekwe, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Juan Figallo, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 Richard Barrington.
Replacements: 16 Jamie George, 17 Mako Vunipola, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 George Kruis, 20 Ben Earl, 21 Ben Spencer, 22 Alex Lozowski, 23 Chris Wyles.

Gloucester: 15 Jason Woodward, 14 Tom Seabrook, 13 Henry Trinder, 12 Andy Symons, 11 David Halaifonua, 10 Billy Twelvetrees, 9 Ben Vellacott, 8 Freddie Clarke, 7 Lewis Ludlow (captain), 6 Ross Moriarty, 5 Jeremy Thrush, 4 Tom Savage, 3 Fraser Balmain, 2 Motu Matu’u, 1 Paddy McAllister.
Replacements: 16 Richard Hibbard, 17 Val Rapava Ruskin, 18 Gareth Denman, 19 Ben Morgan, 20 Jake Polledri, 21 Callum Braley, 22 Billy Burns, 23 Tom Hudson.

Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys
Assistant referees: Anthony Woodthorpe, Roy Maybank
TMO: Trevor Fisher

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PREMIERSHIP
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Team P W D L Pts
Exeter Chiefs 22 17 0 5 85
Saracens 22 16 0 6 77
Wasps 22 14 1 7 71
Newcastle Falcons 22 14 0 8 63
Leicester Tigers 22 13 0 9 63
Bath 22 11 0 11 56
Gloucester 22 11 1 10 56
Sale Sharks 22 10 0 12 54
Northampton Saints 22 8 0 14 43
Harlequins 22 7 0 15 36
Worcester Warriors 22 7 0 15 36
London Irish 22 3 0 19 22