Premiership: Six stories from round seven

It was normal service resumed in the Aviva Premiership this weekend as champions Exeter, European conquerers Saracens, and last year’s beaten finalists Wasps all picked up wins.

But despite a defeat, Worcester Warriors also showed signs of life against Harlequins, and it was Gloucester who claimed the West Country bragging rights at the Rec in dramatic circumstances.

Here’s what you might have missed…

West Country battle goes down to the wire

Gloucester won their first away game of the season at local rivals Bath, but that doesn’t tell half the story after the Cherry & Whites snatched a 22-21 win at the death.

Ed Slater grabbed the all-important try in the 86th minute, stretching over the whitewash before Owen Williams nervelessly smashed the conversion straight through the uprights.

Bath fans thought their side had won it five minutes from time when Semesa Rokoduguni cut inside to score his second try of the contest, cancelling out Willi Heinz’ effort for the second time that afternoon.

England centre Jonathan Joseph was on sublime form for Bath, combining beautifully with Anthony Watson to set up the hosts’ first try, and Gloucester’s second was also one for the highlight reel with World Cup winner John Afoa finding Heinz with a sensational offload out the back.

Flood can’t stop former side Leicester

Kingston Park was sold out for the first time in nine years on Sunday as Newcastle Falcons hosted the in-form Leicester Tigers, but Toby Flood could not haunt his former side on Halloween.

The fly-half started his first Premiership clash since rejoining the club, although it was the Leicester Tigers’ English core that spurred the Midlands club to a hard-fought victory.

England scrum-half Ben Youngs dotted down in the first half after good work from Telusa Veainu as the Tigers raced into a 14-10 half-time lead.

And it was the unerring boot of George Ford that really impressed in the second half as he landed a penalty from the halfway line to put breathing space between the sides.

Ford was at it again with seven minutes to go – beautifully kicking across field to find Jonny May, who was able to race home for his tenth try of the season so far.

Care brings up half-century in style

England scrum-half Danny Care may have chosen rugby over football as a career, but the 30-year-old clearly has not lost any talent with his feet.

Care, who played alongside Leicester and England striker Jamie Vardy while he was on the books at Sheffield Wednesday as a youngster, scored his 50th Premiership try in Harlequins’ win over Worcester Warriors at the Stoop courtesy of some fancy footwork.

The No.9 poached the ball from the back of a Worcester scrum on the 22 and controlled it three times with his boots, holding off Tom Heathcote and Perry Humphreys to score, before setting up Jamie Roberts for Quins’ fourth try which secured their bonus point.

John Kingston’s side were made to sweat in an 11-try thriller by bottom-side Worcester, who picked up two bonus points in a 41-35 defeat, but it could have been so much better with scores from David Denton, Humphreys, Josh Adams, Dean Hammond (2), and Jack Singleton.

Milestone galore for Saracens

The 44-13 scoreline was perhaps a little flattering as Mark McCall’s Saracens were forced to work hard for the victory over London Irish that sent them back to the top of the Premiership pile.

It was 13-6 at the break as the Exiles showed plenty of endeavour – England prop Mako Vunipola’s burst through from 20 metres the difference – but Owen Farrell, Liam Williams and Chris Wyles brought up the bonus point as the European champions clicked through the gears in the second half.

Nathan Earle, who was called into the England squad for the first time in the summer, also crossed twice late on to put the gloss on the win as Brad Barritt celebrated his 150th Premiership appearance and Richard Wigglesworth his 250th.

There is also a massive landmark now within touching distance for Farrell, whose 19-point haul took him to 996 league points.

Saints’ home run comes to an end

Dai Young’s Wasps proved their comeback is well and truly on as they maintained their superb record against midlands rivals Northampton Saints in front of a sell-out Franklin’s Gardens.

Saints had not lost an Aviva Premiership Rugby game at home since March, but tries from Christian Wade, Ashley Johnson, Josh Bassett and Juan de Jongh handed Wasps a fifth successive victory over Jim Mallinder’s men.

Wade’s score was particularly spectacular, finishing off a remarkable passage of play where at points both sides looked certain to score. 

The flying winger even converted himself, with Gopperth catching his breath down the other end of the field, quickly drop-kicking the conversion from in front of the posts – unsurprisingly his first ever points from the boot in the Premiership. 

Exeter edge out Sharks in Sale

Premiership champions Exeter Chiefs made it five wins from their last six league games with a nip-and-tuck 10-6 triumph at Sale Sharks on Friday evening.

With Faf de Klerk and Gareth Steenson – who led the Chiefs out on his 200th Premiership appearance – trading first-half penalties, the decisive moment came just four minutes into the second period as Lachie Turner scored the game’s only try.

The wing forced his way over from a ruck, picking the ball up and racing untroubled through the Sale defence.

Henry Slade, called up to the England squad this week by Eddie Jones, continued his excellent run of form in the Exeter midfield and pulled the strings well – but the Chiefs had to defend doggedly for the final ten minutes after substitute Stuart Townsend was sin-binned.