Premiership: Six stories from round 20

As selection for the British & Irish Lions, as well as for England's tour to Argentina reaches a conclusion, the battle for the Premiership also nears completion. Here are six stories from the weekend's action.

Kruis returns as Saracens make huge statement of intent

They left it late, but a much-changed Saracens side kept their hopes of a top-two finish in the Aviva Premiership alive, thanks to a come-from-behind 27-25 win over Northampton Saints at Stadium:mk.

Mark McCall rang the changes for the defending English and European champions ahead of their crucial Champions Cup semi-final against Munster next week, with England internationals Owen Farrell, Maro Itoje and Mako Vunipola all rested.

George Kruis made his first start since December and England U20 lock Nick Isiekwe made his first Premiership start, while England hookers Dylan Hartley and Jamie George went head-to-head in the scrum.

Northampton had the lead for almost the entire game, with Harry Mallinder crossing early on before Hartley and Ken Pisi tries stretched their lead, despite the boot of Alex Lozowski keeping the visitors in the contest.

But Sarries showed why they were champions, and late scores from replacement Chris Ashton and centre Marcelo Bosch saw them somehow emerge on top and put a huge dent in Saints’ hopes for a top-six finish.

Bristol condemned to 12th-place finish after big Wasps win

Wasps moved one step closer to a home semi-final with victory over Bristol at Ashton Gate, with Christian Wade marking his 100th Premiership appearance with a try in the 36-21 victory.

Jason Woodward got the hosts – needing a victory or at least two bonus points to escape a guaranteed bottom-of-the-table finish this term – off to the perfect start with the opening try.

But four unanswered scores from Wasps, with Josh Bassett, Tommy Taylor, Joe Simpson and Wade all crossing the whitewash, saw them surge clear.

Jack O’Connell and Nick Fenton-Wells crossed for late Bristol consolations, but Guy Thompson added a fifth for Wasps, who are now within touching distance of guaranteeing themselves a top-two finish.

Tigers put Falcons to the sword

Ben Youngs scored a fine individual try and made a try-saving tackle as Leicester Tigers continued their hunt for a place in the Premiership's top four with 30-3 win over Newcastle Falcons.  

Ellis Genge went over twice, the first Tigers prop to do that since Derek Jelley against the Barbarians in 1997, while Freddie Burns knocked over 10 points from the tee. 

Telusa Veainu also got his name on the scoresheet as Tigers moved four points ahead of Bath, who lost to Worcester Warriors and nine clear of sixth-placed Northampton.  

Burns kicked two first-half penalties before Genge burrowed over ahead of half-time, and two more tries in eight second-half minutes put the Tigers in control. Youngs’ solo effort then secured the bonus point.  

Worcester come from behind to guarantee safety

England fly-half George Ford kicked 14 points but it was not enough for Bath Rugby who conceded three second-half tries as they fell to a 25-19 defeat at Worcester Warriors.  

Matt Banahan's try, his 51st in Bath colours, helped his side to a 10-6 lead at half-time but scores from Josh Adams, Wynand Olivier and Will Spencer earned the Warriors a valuable win.  

Adams went over in the corner after Ben Te'o's initial break in midfield before Olivier ran onto Ryan Mills' well-timed pass for the second try.  

And Spencer crossed in the 73rd-minute to secure the win as Mills knocked over his second conversion to go alongside his earlier two penalties.

Cherry & Whites cling on in the hunt for the top six

A late try for centre Billy Twelvetrees saw Gloucester Rugby edge a thriller 39-30 against Sale Sharks, with Tom Marshall also bagging a brace of scores.  

Marshall got his first after 10 minutes but Sam James and Mike Phillips put the Sharks ahead, before Richard Hibbard restored the Cherry & Whites advantage at half-time.  

But two further quick-fire scores from the Sharks, through Kieran Longbottom and Byron McGuigan, earned them a try-bonus point and swung momentum back in their favour. 

Henry Trinder and Marshall were on hand to get Gloucester back on track at Kingsholm before Twelvetrees went over with six minutes remaining to keep their hopes of a top-six finish alive.  

Chiefs notch up record-breaking win to stay second

Exeter Chiefs scored a record seventh successive try-bonus point as they beat Harlequins 39-26 at the Twickenham Stoop to maintain their push for a home semi-final.  

Mat Luamanu scored for Harlequins after just two minutes, before a Henry Slade penalty and Dave Ewers' try put the Chiefs ahead, but Nick Evans made it 8-8 from the tee.  

Michele Campagnaro then exchanged tries with Evans before two scores from Lachie Turner and another from Slade put the Chiefs in control before Tim Visser's consolation effort. 

That completed a perfect run of six games for Chiefs, becoming just the second side to take 30 points from a possible 30 in a row.

 

 


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