Returning stars, landmark appearances, thrilling performances, dominant displays and vital victories. Round 13 of the Premiership did not fail to deliver.
Saracens show ominous sign of strength
Saracens’ sealed a superb 38-15 win at Wasps with their squad edging back to full heath and all their main men delivering.
Alex Goode has been back to his best with ball in hand today. On a pretty dicey pitch he's scampered around at a fair old lick #WASvSAR— Rhys Knott (@buck_mitchell) January 7, 2018
Maro Itoje was busy as ever and Billy Vunipola terrorised Wasps every time he got the ball but Alex Goode stole the show with two superb tries.
Wasps battled on and when Saracens had two men in the bin they threatened to take control but Saracens were far more clinical.
Flashy Falcons take flight
Newcastle Falcons are in fine form and they enjoyed the crowning moment of their current winning run, stretching that sequence to six matches in all competitions, by defeating Premiership leaders Exeter Chiefs.
Reigning champions Exeter, who were missing England stars Jack Nowell and Luke Cowan-Dickie, were powerless to prevent a good first-half display from Newcastle with the hosts eventually running out 28-20 winners.
We’ve had worse days at the office. Tremendous performance to beat the best team in the country. Support from the Stands was just unreal!! https://t.co/8yBhe3f3Lm— Mick Hogan (@MickHogan2) January 7, 2018
Scores from Soniti Soniti and Vereniki Goneva got them on their way, with Kyle Cooper going over on the stroke of half-time, while in the second period, the hosts produced a cast-iron defensive effort.
Sam Simmonds forced his way over for the Chiefs along with Olly Woodburn and Toby Salmon but Newcastle ran out deserved winners at Kingston Park.
De Klerk has the final say for Sale
A late Sale Sharks penalty denied Harlequins a first away league win since September as they were edged out 30-29 in a seven-try thriller.
Marcus Smith kicked seven first-half points for Quins as the visitors rallied from conceding two early tries to go in 22-17 ahead at the break.
But a Joe Marler red card left the visitors playing with 14-men for more than 20 minutes at the AJ Bell Stadium.
Smith converted Jamie Roberts’ try with 15 minutes to go but a late dot down from Rohan Janse van Rensburg and a 75th minute penalty from Faf de Klerk gave the Sharks the narrowest of victories.
Harrison shines as Saints rediscover winning feeling
England flanker Teimana Harrison produced a man of the match display as Northampton Saints finally ended their losing run in the Aviva Premiership in dramatic style.
A last-gasp penalty try proved enough to down Gloucester Rugby at Franklin’s Gardens and end Saints’ seven-match losing streak in the league.
Thank you everyone for the messages, truly humbled by them all! Loved the atmosphere at the gardens last night! On to the next one— Teimana Harrison (@rasta_dreadlock) January 7, 2018
With interim head coach Alan Gaffney now at the helm in the East Midlands and Dylan Hartley and Courtney Lawes in the starting XV, Saints started quickly as Ken Pisi went over.
Harry Mallinder also kicked a penalty for the Saints but it was Gloucester who came roaring back with a penalty try and a James Hanson score.
And when John Afoa went over in the second half, the Cherry & Whites looked to have sealed the win.
But Saints, led by Harrison who finished with 12 carries for 50m, with four defenders beaten and 14 tackles, refused to lie down and Nic Groom’s score set up their grandstand finish.
Centurion Tuilagi helps Tigers rally
England centre Manu Tuilagi marked his 100th appearance in a Leicester Tigers shirt with a try in a winning cause at Welford Road.
Winger Jonny May also got himself on the scoresheet with a neat finish in the corner with Australian Matt Toomua’s try helping Tigers earn a 19-15 win.
It was far from easy for the East Midlands side though after Joe Cokanasiga opened the scoring with his first Premiership try after 20 minutes.
Tigers replied with three tries either side of half-time but Alex Lewington’s 73rd-minute score ensured Nick Kennedy’s side secured a losing bonus point.
Bath hit Worcester for six under the lights
Bath were another team to bring an end to their recent losing run as they saw off Worcester Warriors in a high-scoring affair at Sixways Stadium on Friday night.
The visitors picked up their first win in four games with England’s Anthony Watson one of five different try scorers.
Flankers Paul Grant and Matt Garvey had put them in charge either side of half time before Watson raced in. James Phillips and two tries for Kahn Fotuali’I then secured the winning bonus point as Bath scored 33 points after the break.
David Denton, Joe Taufet’ee and Perry Humphreys all crossed for Worcester meanwhile in the second half while Chris Pennell kicked ten points.