Fez Heads march on at the top
Fez Heads march on at the topSHARE
Saracens left it late, but a George Kruis try five minutes from time secured the Fez Heads a fifth straight Premiership home win 24-19 at the expense of Sale Sharks.
Saracens remained entrenched at the top of the table.
* In other action on Saturday London Irish couldn't mark Topsy Ojo's 200th appearance for the club with victory as they fell to a 19-12 defeat to London Wasps at the Madejski Stadium.
* Tom Collins scored his first senior try as Northampton Saints came from behind to claim their seventh successive win at the expense of Worcester Warriors.
* George Ford ruled the roost at The Rec as the flyhalf knocked over all of Bath Rugby's points to secure a 21-16 win over Exeter Chiefs in a thrilling West Country derby.
We look at all Saturday's drama!
London Irish 12-19 London Wasps
London Irish couldn't mark Topsy Ojo's 200th appearance for the club with victory as they fell to a 19-12 defeat to London Wasps at the Madejski Stadium.
At half-time Wasps held a slender 13-9 lead as a penalty try and the boot of veteran Andy Goode cancelled out a trio of three pointers for James O'Connor.
And although Goode and O'Connor traded kicks after the interval it was experience that won over youth as the visitors held on, condemning the Exiles to their sixth-straight loss in all competitions.
Meanwhile Wasps ended a run of three consecutive defeats by winning a first Premiership match in Reading since March 2008.
London Irish started well, claiming the kick-off and opening the scoring inside three minutes through an O'Connor penalty.
However Wasps responded immediately as they won a line-out just inside the Exiles' 22 and put pressure on the Irish defence through a rolling maul leading to a penalty which Goode converted.
With both sides in the midst of losing runs, the opening 20 minutes saw both teams struggling to find a passing rhythm, with further penalties from Goode and O'Connor leaving the score at 6-6.
Wasps had the majority of possession and territory in this period but handling errors and strong defence by the hosts prevented any real scoring opportunities emerging.
However Wasps began to stretch the Irish defence and they were awarded a penalty try on 35 minutes. Goode chipped a cross-field kick which bounced awkwardly for O'Connor who deliberately knocked-on with Elliot Daly waiting to pounce. O'Connor was sin-binned and Goode converted to give the visitors a 13-6 lead.
Shane Geraghty converted a penalty on 38 minutes to reduce the gap to four points heading into half-time.
But Goode restored Wasps' seven point lead three minutes into the second half.
O'Connor's return on 44 minutes coincided with some good pressure from the Exiles. Ojo, making his 200th appearance for London Irish, almost managed to break through the Wasps defence and a few phases later O'Connor was brought down just short of the visitors' try-line.
The ball was recycled but a knock-on ten metres out prevented an opportunity emerging.
This gave the hosts confidence, with Geraghty breaking from his own half up to the Wasps' ten metre line but his kick ahead was claimed by Daly before the chasing runners could reach it.
With 15 minutes to go O'Connor converted a penalty to reduce the gap to four.
A minute later Christian Wade, in his first game since November 2, was penalised for holding on and O'Connor attempted another kick from 35 metres near the touchline but saw it drift slightly to the right.
The momentum was now with London Irish and they found themselves camped inside the Wasps half but the visitors' defence were holding firm.
And they were given some breathing space by the trusted boot of flyhalf Goode as he sent a drop goal over with just three minutes of time remaining.
The kick helped put a smile back on Dai Young's face as just before the London Wasps director of rugby saw Wade limp off the pitch with an ankle injury.
To their credit London Irish didn't give up and Irish spent the last two minutes camped on the Wasps try line. With time up Wasps' Charlie Hayter was sent to the sin bin after a number of penalties but Will Helu got his hands on the ball and cleared to touch to secure the win.
For London Irish:
Pens: O'Connor 3, Geraghty
For London Wasps:
Pens: Goode 3
Yellow cards: James O'Connor (London Irish, 34), Charlie Hayter (London Wasps, 80)
London Irish: 15 James O'Connor, 14 Topsy Ojo, 13 Fergus Mulchrone, 12 Eamonn Sheridan, 11 Alex Lewington, 10 Shane Geraghty, 9 Tomás O'Leary, 8 Chris Hala'ufia, 7 Blair Cowan, 6 Jebb Sinclair, 5 George Skivington (captain), 4 Ian Gough, 3 Leo Halavatau, 2 Jimmy Stevens, 1 John Yapp.
Replacements: 16 Mike Mayhew, 17 Matt Parr, 18 Jamie Hagan, 19 Nic Rouse, 20 Ofisa Treviranus, 21 Guy Armitage, 22 Myles Dorrian, 23 Darren Allinson.
London Wasps: 15 Elliot Daly, 14 Christian Wade, 13 Chris Bell, 12 Charlie Hayter, 11 Will Helu, 10 Andy Goode, 9 Charlie Davies, 8 Sam Jones, 7 Guy Thompson, 6 James Haskell, 5 Kearnan Myall, 4 Joe Launchbury, 3 Jake Cooper-Woolley, 2 Carlo Festuccia, 1 Matt Mullan.
Replacements: 16 Neil Cochrane, 17 Simon McIntyre, 18 Taione Vea, 19 Tom Palmer, 20 Ed Jackson, 21 Joe Simpson, 22 Joe Carlisle, 23 Ben Jacobs.
Referee: Dean Richards
Assistant referees: Kevin Stewart, Andrew Pearce
TMO: Rowan Kitt
Saracens 24-19 Sale Sharks
Saracens left it late but a George Kruis try five minutes from time secured the Fez Heads a fifth straight Premiership home win 24-19 at the expense of Sale Sharks.
The visitors had led 13-6 at the interval thanks to an impressive 40 minutes from Danny Cipriani, who converted his own try and notched a drop goal late in the half to add to a long range penalty from full-back Rob Miller.
But a maiden Jack Wilson try, 14 points from the boot of Charlie Hodgson and Kruis' late intervention ensured Saracens ended the day on top of the table, Sale mustering just six points after the break with penalties for Cipriani and replacement Nick Macleod.
With just a minute gone Sale conceded a penalty that Hodgson slotted from 25 yards to give Saracens an early lead.
Good pressure from Sale then forced Alex Goode to fumble inside his own 22 and Cipriani swiftly collected the loose ball to cruise under the posts for a converted score.
There was a long stoppage while Will Fraser was treated for a suspected broken foot and possible knee ligament damage, the back rower eventually stretchered off to be replaced by Kelly Brown, while Hodgson and Miller exchanged penalties.
On the stroke of half-time Cipriani nailed a superb drop goal to give Sale hopes of staging an unlikely upset, some superb defending added to opportunistic finishing giving them the lead.
Saracens came flying out of the traps at the start of the second period and Wilson soon found a gap in the Sale defence to slide over for a try on his Premiership debut.
Hodgson failed to add the two points and Sale went straight up the other end to earn a penalty of their own, which Cipriani slotted confidently.
Sale winger Charlie Ingall then had a try disallowed by the video referee for a knock-on in the build-up before Hodgson notched a penalty from close range.
Wave after wave of attack from the Londoners was finally rewarded when George Kruis was bundled over in the left hand corner despite some desperate Sale defending. Hodgson arrowed the conversion between the posts to give Saracens a decisive 21-16 lead.
With the clock ticking down Hodgson stepped up to knock over his fourth successful penalty effort of the afternoon, and there was still time for substitute Macleod to reply in kind and get Sale within five points with the final kick of the game.
Tries: Wilson, Kruis
Pens: Hodgson 4
For Sale Sharks:
Pens: Cipriani, Miller, Macleod
Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Jack Wilson, 13 Chris Wyles, 12 Owen Farrell, 11 David Strettle, 10 Charlie Hodgson, 9 Neil de Kock, 8 Ernst Joubert, 7 Will Fraser, 6 Jackson Wray, 5 George Kruis, 4 Steve Borthwick (captain), 3 Matt Stevens, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 Richard Barrington.
Replacements: 16 Jamie George, 17 Jared Saunders, 18 James Johnston, 19 Eoin Sheriff, 20 Kelly Brown, 21 Richard Wigglesworth, 22 Duncan Taylor, 23 Marcelo Bosch.
Sale Sharks: 15 Rob Miller, 14 Charlie Ingall, 13 Mark Jennings, 12 Jonny Leota, 11 Will Addison, 10 Danny Cipriani, 9 Dwayne Peel, 8 James Gaskell, 7 David Seymour, 6 Dan Braid, 5 Michael Paterson, 4 Andrei Ostrikov, 3 Vadim Cobilas, 2 Tommy Taylor, 1 Ross Harrison.
Replacements: 16 Marc Jones, 17 James Flynn, 18 Tony Buckley, 19 Jonathan Mills, 20 Mark Easter, 21 Will Cliff, 22 Nick Macleod, 23 Tom Brady.
Referee: JP Doyle
Assistant referees: Andy Watson, Nigel Carrick
TMO: Sean Davey
Worcester Warriors 10-33 Northampton Saints
Tom Collins scored his first senior try as Northampton Saints came from behind to claim their seventh successive win at the expense of Worcester Warriors.
Jim Mallinder's men secured the victory at Sixways thanks to second-half tries from Samu Manoa, Collins and former Warriors flanker Tom Wood.
Worcester, who have now lost all nine of their Premiership games this season, had been ahead at the break as Ignacio Mieres' try and conversion made it 7-6.
But the hat-trick of scores from Northampton allied with 18 points from the boot of Stephen Myler maintained Saints' charge at the top of the table.
Myler had put Saints 6-0 up early on as his team looked to assert their authority from the off.
It was taking time for the second-placed side to break the Worcester line, but when they did Ken Pisi was denied a try by the TMO, who ruled there had been a forward pass in the build-up.
It was the only time in the first half an hour that the Warriors had looked likely to be breached with the game being fought out in the middle third of the pitch.
But there was to be some action in the Saints 22 before half-time and it was costly for the away side as Glenn Dickson had his kick charged down and Mieres scored.
The Warriors No.10 kicked the conversion to the delight of the home fans, giving them reason to believe their team's fortunes could be about to turn.
They nearly had a second try before the break as Mieres' penalty attempt rebounded off the bar and Chris Pennell just failed to find Dean Hammond from the resulting move.
And Worcester were ahead for just six minutes at the start of the second period as Myler landed a penalty to make it 9-7.
Hammond's clever play put Saints back on the back foot, though, and they conceded another penalty, which Pennell slotted to make it 10-9 to the home side.
James Stephenson then covered well to stop Collins touching down, but the Warriors couldn't keep Northampton out as pressure built from the line-out.
Second row forward Manoa was the man to stretch an arm out to score after his fellow forwards pushed their way towards the line.
Myler made it 16-10 to Saints before adding a penalty to extend the lead to nine points.
Worcester had been in the game for so long, but they were starting to struggle and Collins took the game out of sight as he dived over in the corner for his first senior score.
Myler made the conversion and Wood stormed over soon after to leave Saints with six minutes to get the bonus-point fourth try.
But Worcester put a stop to that possibility as Northampton were forced to settle for the four points.
For Worcester Warriors:
For Northampton Saints:
Tries: Manoa, Collins, Wood
Cons: Myler 3
Pens: Myler 4
Worcester Warriors: 15 Chris Pennell, 14 James Stephenson, 13 Alex Grove, 12 Josh Matavesi, 11 Dean Hammond, 10 Ignacio Mieres, 9 Paul Hodgson, 8 Jonathan Thomas (captain), 7 Sam Betty, 6 Richard de Carpentier, 5 Mariano Galarza, 4 James Percival, 3 Rob O'Donnell, 2 Chris Brooker, 1 Ofa Fainga'anuku.
Replacements: 16 Ed Shervington, 17 George Porter, 18 John Andress, 19 Mike Williams, 20 Chris Jones, 21 Jeremy Su'a, 22 Paul Warwick, 23 Max Stelling.
Northampton Saints: 15 Glenn Dickson, 14 Ken Pisi, 13 Dom Waldouck, 12 Luther Burrell, 11 Tom Collins, 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Lee Dickson, 8 Sam Dickinson, 7 Tom Wood, 6 Calum Clark, 5 Christian Day, 4 Samu Manoa, 3 Salesi Ma'afu, 2 Dylan Hartley (captain), 1 Alex Waller.
Replacements: 16 Mike Haywood, 17 Ethan Waller, 18 Tom Mercey, 19 Courtney Lawes, 20 Phil Dowson, 21 Alex Day, 22 Vasily Artemyev, 23 Tom Stephenson.
Referee: Tim Wigglesworth
Assistant referees: Paul Dix , Stuart Terheege
TMO: David Sainsbury
Bath 21-16 Exeter Chiefs
George Ford ruled the roost at The Rec as the flyhalf knocked over all of Bath Rugby's points to secure a 21-16 win over Exeter Chiefs in a thrilling West Country derby.
Chiefs forward Damian Welch ran over for a try of the season contender in the first half while Dean Mumm scored another fine effort after the break.
However, the display at No.10 proved pivotal as Ford knocked over six penalties and a conversion to clinch victory for the hosts, as Gareth Steenson missed a slew of kicks for Exeter.
South Africa flanker Francois Louw and Argentina back Horacio Agulla returned to reinforce Bath's starting line-up after international duty, while club captain Stuart Hooper was left out of the matchday squad altogether.
For the Chiefs, full-back Luke Arscott – who impressed at The Rec two weeks ago in his side's losing LV= Cup effort – slotted in at full-back for his first Premiership start of the season.
Exeter have never beaten Bath in the Premiership since promotion three years ago but Steenson knocked the first penalty between the posts after a fantastic break from wing Jack Nowell.
The hosts nearly came roaring back immediately but teenager Anthony Watson – starting ahead of Nick Abendanon at full-back – could not quite collect Louw's underthrown pass.
It did eventually lead to a penalty however as Ford drilled over an impressive 40-metre effort to tie the scores.
Both sides were going full-pelt, Louw a key man in stemming Exeter's relentless attacks as Arscott enjoyed a break of his own.
The Chiefs continued to knock on the door but were getting nowhere recycling the ball just outside Bath's 22 – the home side's defensive line holding firm.
And it would take a sensational piece of play to tear Bath apart as Matt Jess, seemingly running down a blind alley, popped up on the left to put Welch through.
But the lock had it all to do, throwing off Matt Garvey, Peter Stringer and a desperate last-ditch tackle from Watson before lunging full-stretch to plant the ball on the whitewash.
Exeter's magic could not be followed up with a Steenson conversion as Ford clocked up another penalty to cut their opponents' advantage down to two points on the half-hour mark.
It was then the Chiefs turn to play backs to the wall and were unlucky to go in behind at the break after Ford knocked over another supreme penalty from long range.
Bath's momentum was not lost in the second half and their rolling maul from a line-out was held up inches away from the try-line.
It was advantage Bath but another maul was foiled as after five intense minutes, the Chiefs received a penalty of their own to rid themselves of pressure.
However Exeter continued to rack up the penalty count – and, following a scything Matt Banahan run, Ford needed no invitation to boot over his fourth of the day after the visitors were penalised at the breakdown.
Moments later the Chiefs hit back when Mumm showed an extraordinary turn of pace to beat Bath's backs to the ball and dot down, dragging his side back in front.
As much as Exeter's locks were having fun, Steenson was having an unhappy time with his conversions – missing his second of the day – and their lead was short-lived when flyhalf Ford stepped up for another Bath penalty.
Confidence was coursing through Ford's veins and a perfectly-delivered drop goal added to his tally, though Steenson turned around his own fortunes with a penalty – the Chiefs deficit reduced to two with nine minutes to go.
But Steenson could not double up with a 40-metre effort moments later and to complete a near-perfect performance by Ford, the 20-year-old collected yet another penalty as Bath made sure of the win.
Pens: Ford 6
For Exeter Chiefs:
Tries: Welch, Mumm
Pens: Steenson 2
Bath: 15 Anthony Watson, 14 Horacio Agulla, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Ollie Devoto, 11 Matt Banahan, 10 George Ford, 9 Peter Stringer, 8 Leroy Houston, 7 Francois Louw (captain), 6 Matt Garvey, 5 Dave Attwood, 4 Dominic Day, 3 David Wilson, 2 Rob Webber, 1 Nathan Catt.
Replacements: 16 Ross Batty, 17 Paul James, 18 Anthony Perenise, 19 Ryan Caldwell, 20 Carl Fearns, 21 Martin Roberts, 22 Tom Heathcote, 23 Nick Abendanon
Exeter Chiefs: 15 Luke Arscott, 14 Jack Nowell, 13 Phil Dollman, 12 Jason Shoemark, 11 Matt Jess, 10 Gareth Steenson, 9 Dave Lewis, 8 Dave Ewers, 7 Ben White, 6 Tom Johnson, 5 Damian Welch, 4 Dean Mumm (captain), 3 Hoani Tui 2 Jack Yeandle, 1 Ben Moon.
Replacements: 16 Chris Whitehead, 17 Brett Sturgess, 18 Alex Brown, 19 Don Armand, 20 Kai Horstmann, 21 Haydn Thomas, 22 Henry Slade, 23 Ian Whitten.
Referee: Matthew Carley
Assistant referees: Robin Goodliffe, Peter Huckle
TMO: Keith Lewis