The premiership season is drawing to a close. Teams are fighting to make it into the playoffs and then a home final. Here is the round up from week 20.
Harlequins 26-39 Exeter
Exeter edged closer to a playoff spot with a bonus point victory over Harlequins at the Stoop. Three tries in the final 15 minutes, two from Lachie Turner and one from Henry Slade, put the game beyond Quins, for whom Tim Visser scored in the 80th minute. Mat Luamanu gave the hosts the lead with a third-minute try, but Dave Ewers and Michele Campagnaro soon put Exeter in front with Slade converting one and adding a penalty. Nick Evans added two penalties to have the scoreline 15-11 to Exeter at the break. Two minutes into the second half Evans intercepted a Slade pass and just made the line with Slade trying to atone for his error. Slade and Evans then exchanged penalties before Exeter found another gear at the end to leave Quins playoff hopes fading fast.
Gloucester 39-30 Sale
Gloucester’s bonus point win keeps their playoff hopes alive with a Tom Marshall double, Richard Hibbard, Henry Trinder and Billy Twelvetrees scoring with Billy Burns adding 14 points from the tee. Sale themselves scored four tries with Sam James, Mike Phillips, Kieran Longbottom and Byron McGuigan ensuring the game was closer than it should have been. Five minutes after Marshall had opened the scoring, Sale had turned the game on its head with two quickfire tries. They went into the break in front though after Hibbard finished off a drive from a lineout. That lead again only lasted 90 seconds into the second half when Longbottom crossed and it got worse for the Cherry and Whites as McGuigan got Sale their bonus point. Trinder’s score then gave them the lead again which they never lost.
Leicester 30-3 Newcastle
Leicester recorded a much-needed win after their loss to Bath the week before. Ben Youngs was supreme in the week leading up to the Lions being named. This was Matt O’Connor’s first win back in the Welford Road hot seat and keeps the Tigers in the top four. The Tigers had all the pressure but couldn’t convert until Ellis Genge scored in the dying seconds of the half to give them an 11-3 lead. The second half was a different story, though, as Leicester converted the chances they created. Telusa Veainu, Genge again and Ben Youngs rounded off the scoring with Freddie Burns converting two tries and two penalties.
Worcester 25-19 Bath
A result which ultimately proved vital, the Warriors were good value for their win, which in turn has severely dented Bath’s playoff chances. After a magnificent comeback win over Leicester the week before, confidence was high in the Bath camp and a win would have kept them in the top four. Instead they were unable to go on from Matt Banahan’s score. The powerful winger bulldozed his way over from about 25 yards out with George Ford adding the conversion to the penalty he scored earlier. Ryan Mills’ two penalties were all Worcester could offer prior to the break. The second half was completely different, though. The Warriors came out knowing what a win would do and scored three tries through Josh Adams, Wynand Olivier and Will Spencer. The win meant Bristol had to beat Wasps the following day to avoid the seemingly inevitable relegation.
Bristol 21-36 Wasps
Bristol’s time in the premiership is up. Wasps scored six tries to three and didn’t really get above third gear and switched off for the final 15 minutes when Bristol scored two of their tries. Jason Woodward capitalised on a knock-on on half way to spring home and give the Bristol fans early optimism. Bristol had all the ball but had no penetration, Wasps had three attacks in the first half and scored three tries from Josh Bassett, Tommy Taylor and Joe Simpson. Kurtley Beale was at the heart of everything good Wasps did as they comfortably kept Bristol at arm’s length. Christian Wade got his 68th try on his 100th premiership appearance in the 52nd minute with Guy Thompson, and Bassett got his second – all Wasps seemed to want to score. Jack O’Connell and Nick Fenton-Wells scored consolation tries late on to ensure their fans had something to cheer about, but there will be some big-name players playing in the championship next season. For Wasps, they will be worried about the tries they conceded – teams do not win championships with a leaky defence.
Northampton 25-27 Saracens
For the second week in a row Northampton suffered a late heartbreak with Marcelo Bosch scoring two minutes from time and Alex Lozowski kicking the winning conversion. Northampton are playing their best rugby of the season and find themselves in the final playoff place, so they will be feeling confident about making the finals and challenging the top teams. They outscored the Sarries three tries to two, with Harry Mallinder, Dylan Hartley and Ken Pisi being the scorers, but one missed conversion proved costly. Like last week at Wasps, where Stephen Myler missed five kicks, they will be rueing their discipline and kicking. Lozowksi kicked five penalties to keep Saracens in touch with Northampton before Chris Ashton scored in the 69th minute to bring them within eight points before Bosch’s late show broke Saints hearts.