Premiership: six stories from round 17

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Round 17 of the Aviva Premiership was action packed as Exeter opened up a seven-point lead at the top of the table, Newcastle produced more brilliance on the road and Leicester’s late-season resurgence continued.

Here’s everything you might have missed from another dramatic round of action.

Simmonds leads the way

Sam Simmonds made his return from injury to boost Eddie Jones, but it was his younger brother Joe who pulled the strings in Exeter Chiefs’ victory over Saracens.

The defending champions are now seven points clear at the top of the standings after 12 points from the tee for Simmonds and a try in each half from the hosts.

Henry Slade – also back from injury to give England a timely reminder of his talents – combined with Simmonds to create their first-half try for Phil Dollman.

And while England U20s skipper Ben Earl went over for a try on his first league start for Sarries and Schalk Brits also rumbled over at the back of a rolling maul, the second half was all Exeter.

A late penalty try denied Sarries even a losing bonus point as they slip to third in the standings, and without a win over the Chiefs in their last four meetings.

Manu leaves it late

A late score from England centre Manu Tuilagi gave Leicester Tigers the bonus-point and a vital victory over Worcester Warriors.

The visitors opened the scoring on 14 minutes, Telusa Veainu’s fine break creating a score for Jonah Holmes in the left corner.

Seconds after academy product Will Butler came off the bench for his senior Warriors debut, Alafoti Faosiliva was heaved over the line after a well-executed rolling maul.

But Greg Bateman crossed from 10 metres for a crucial score to claim a 10-5 interval lead for the visitors.

After the break Matt Toomua created a try with a clever chip, Veainu winning the chase to dot down, before Tuilagi crossed two minutes from time and Veainu made it five with the last play of the game as the Tigers sit fifth, three points off the play-off positions.

Cruse to the double

A superb brace from Tom Cruse helped hoist Wasps into second place as they downed London Irish 24-16.

Cruse thundered over from close-range after just 10 minutes as Wasps went into half-time with a 7-0 advantage.

A try from man of the match Dan Robson then helped Wasps stretch their lead further at the Ricoh Arena.

The Exiles rallied thanks to scores by Dave Porecki and Petrus Du Plessis to bring Irish to within a point of their hosts.

But Cruse had the final word, crashing over to seal the points for Dai Young’s men and move Wasps above Newcastle and Saracens into second in the standings.

Quins back to winning ways

England prop Kyle Sinckler was among the try scorers as Harlequins claimed their first league victory of 2018 with a hard-fought 20-5 success over Bath Rugby.

Bath opened the scoring when No 8 Zach Mercer broke from a scrum before passing to Kahn Fotuali'i, who went clear before giving Matt Banahan a walk-in for his ninth try of the season.

Minutes later, James Wilson’s pass intended for Tom Homer was intercepted by Tim Visser, just outside his own 22, and there was no catching the wing from there.

Harlequins piled on the pressure in the second half and got their reward when Sinckler crashed over from close range, with Marcus Smith adding a late penalty to put the result beyond doubt.

Falcons flying high

Michael Young scored one try and set up another to hand Gloucester their first defeat at home in the Premiership this season and solidify Newcastle’s play-off position.

The visitors went ahead through Ally Hogg, who was set up for an easy run in after Young slipped through a gap in Gloucester’s defence.

The hosts desperately battled back with a great solo effort from Jason Woodward, a powerful touch down from David Halaifonua, a well-worked try from Mark Atkinson and a forwards driving maul score awarded to Lewis Ludlow in the 77th minute.

But Billy Twelvetrees couldn’t convert the final try – his namesake Billy Burns had missed the three other conversions – and Young’s second-half score proved enough to see Falcons record their sixth away win this season and sit fourth in the table.

Denny does it again

England wing Denny Solomona scored a first-half hat-trick as Sale Sharks claimed victory at Northampton Saints for the first time in 12 years with a 34-25 win.

The Sharks had lost on their past nine visits to Franklin's Gardens, with their losing streak stretching back to May 2006.

But a superb first-half showing that saw Solomona run riot and fellow England wing Marland Yarde also register a try, left the Saints shell-shocked.

Northampton did eventually respond after the break with Michael Paterson, Rob Horne and Heinrich Brüssow scoring, but it was too little, too late, despite two Sharks sin-bins.