- Bristol continue recent fine form but remain bottom
- Exeter stage comeback at the Rec as Wasps lead table
Late comebacks, fine performances, resilient victories, personal milestones and more. It has been another eventful round of Premiership rugby.
Bristol make history as Varndell matches record
Tom Varndell equalled the Premiership try-scoring record as an inspired Bristol Rugby continued their resurgence with a second win of the season.
Having beaten Worcester Warriors on Boxing Day, history continued to be made by Mark Tainton’s side, picking up their first top-flight away win since 2008, with Sale Sharks on the receiving end.
MT: "We're delighted with four wins in a row. We've gained momentum. I'm immensely proud of the team."— Bristol Rugby (@Bristol_RFC) January 1, 2017
That was despite a penalty score and Denny Solomona’s effort helping the hosts ease ahead, 12-0 up ahead after 20 minutes of the game.
But with Varndell crossing for his 90th Premiership try – matching the tally of Sharks-own Mark Cueto – Bristol fought back, with replacements Rhodri Williams and Max Crumpton helping them to a dramatic 24-23 win.
Quins’ away day troubles continue at resurgent Warriors
After last week’s defeat at Bristol Rugby, talk in the Worcester Warriors camp had been focused on returning to winning ways at Sixways.
And they did that in some style against Harlequins on New Year’s Day, holding off a late fightback to win 24-17, ensuring John Kingston’s side remain winless on the road.
FULL-TIME | Warriors 24-17 Harlequins. Happy New Year! pic.twitter.com/UKl4FHoo2m— Worcester Warriors (@WorcsWarriors) January 1, 2017
Dean Hammond personified an electric Warriors start, scoring within 10 minutes, while it was to quickly get better when Ben Te’o crossed to make it 21-0.
But the visitors fought back, Charlie Matthews and Alofa Alofa crossing, but it was not enough to prevent just a second ever defeat at Sixways.
Myler 300 caps off Saints celebration
Stephen Myler celebrated his 300th game for Northampton Saints, but there was plenty more to cheer as his side defeated Gloucester Rugby 13-12 at Kingsholm.
A one-club man since 2006, it was only fitting that the stand-off would shine on a landmark day, his late conversion of a penalty try sealing the win four minutes from time – the first time they had led in the match.
That saw Saints leapfrog the Cherry & Whites in their opening clash of 2017, with Myler also kicking two penalties despite the hosts having much of the ball.
Billy Burns’ quartet of efforts from the tee had looked to have been enough at Kingsholm, with Gloucester eventually falling to a seventh defeat of the season.
Farrell-inspired Saracens remain in touching distance
A moment of magic from England star Owen Farrell ensured Saracens started the year with victory after a scrappy 16-12 victory over Leicester Tigers at Welford Road.
Try-scoring opportunities were at a premium for both sides, but a brilliant, 55th-minute dummy from Farrell saw him race to the line for the game’s only score.
55' TRY!!!!!!! @owen_faz with the show and go and Sarries are back in the lead! Get in!!— Saracens Rugby Club (@Saracens) January 1, 2017
Indeed it was the England fly-half who was instrumental for the champions, scoring all of their 16 points in a game which was better than the scoreline suggests.
Owen Williams’ four penalties kept Tigers in the hunt but they missed their opportunity to return to the top four while Manu Tuilagi also left the field through injury - a day after being named in England's 33-man training squad.
Short straw for Bath as Chiefs end on a high
Drama was in ample supply on the Premiership weekend, with James Short’s superb double ensuring Exeter Chiefs didn’t miss out on the action at the Rec.
The visitors had been trailing 11-0 to Bath Rugby, with Semesa Rokoduguni once again at his emphatic best to give Todd Blackadder’s side the upper hand.
But with wing Short coming to the fore, Rob Baxter’s charges roared back in magnificent style, crossing twice in the last 10 minutes which, coupled with three Gareth Steenson kicks, saw them take the spoils 17-11.
It was a victory vital in more ways than one for Chiefs, consolidating their place in the top four after their indifferent start to the season.
Wasps take top spot in Kingston Park classic
Entertainment has been aplenty in recent Kingston Park meetings between Newcastle Falcons and Wasps, so it was no surprise the two locked horns in an eight-try thriller.
And while it was Wasps who prevailed, they were given an almighty scare as Sonatane Takulua and Marcus Watson touched down – putting Falcons two tries up within five minutes.
Thank you very much for having us! Brilliant spectacle for the neutral no doubt and a great atmosphere at Kingston Park tonight! https://t.co/NCsyDOiwz8— Wasps (@WaspsRugby) December 30, 2016
But Dai Young’s side showed why they are a feared Premiership outfit, with Christian Wade following up last week’s hat-trick with another score, while Danny Cipriani, Thomas Young and Jimmy Gopperth also scored in a 25-minute blitz to go top of the Premiership.
Rob Vickers and Mark Wilson scored under the Friday night lights, but it was not enough to stop Falcons slipping to a sixth defeat of the season, losing 34-30.