- Wasps are top of Premiership with lead of six points
- Saracens and Exeter level in second/Bristol are six adrift at foot of table
- This week's Premiership Hero is Leicester Tigers' Sam Harrison
Hat tricks, Falcons soar, Sarries stunned, Max power and more. Here are the key stories and stats from the weekend's Aviva Premiership action.
Solomona hat-trick stuns Wasps
Denny Solomona was in record-breaking form for Sale Sharks as they sprung a surprise win on Aviva Premiership leaders Wasps 34-28 at the AJ Bell Stadium.
Denny Solomona has just broken Nnamdi Ezulike's @premrugby record by scoring a try in each of his first five appearances in the competition.— Stuart Farmer (@Stu_Farmer) February 19, 2017
Dai Young’s side could have gone 10 points clear at the league summit with victory over Steve Diamond’s men, but Solomona struck three times in the first half to take his tally to eight in just five league games this season.
First the 23-year-old darted over from a ruck, then collecting his chip ahead before crossing on the blindside on 39 minutes to complete a remarkable first half.
Mark Jennings’ try wrapped up the bonus point just after half-time and though Young’s side hit back through Josh Bassett, Ashley Johnson and Kurtley Beale, the immaculate boot of centre Will Addison ensured it was Sale’s day.
Falcons complete double over Saints thanks to Takalua triple
Sonatane Takulua racked up a hat-trick of tries in a 24-point haul that ensured Newcastle Falcons completed a home-and-away league double over Northampton Saints with a 46-31 triumph.
Surprisingly, it was Saints who started with real purpose, crossing twice within the first six minutes thanks to Ken Pisi and Jamie Gibson.
A huge thank you to the 7,600 who turned up to watch another Kingston Park classic. Gather your breath back and head to the bars!— Newcastle Falcons (@FalconsRugby) February 19, 2017
Harry Mallinder touched down for Saints’ third within half an hour while Stephen Myler’s penalty meant the visitors were 24-16 ahead at the turn.
In addition to Sean Robinson’s score, Takulua already had a penalty, try and conversion from the first period and when Rob Vickers crossed following superb work from Alex Tait and Mark Wilson in the build up, Falcons were right back in contention.
Takulua scampered over moments after the kick-off for a bonus-point try before putting clean air between the two sides with his hat-trick try – Wilson again influential in the build-up.
Mikey Haywood’s 67th-minute try ensured Jim Mallinder’s side would not leave empty handed, but after Kyle Cooper and the indefatigable Wilson grabbed tries, it was Dean Richards’ men who took five points.
Cherry & Whites bounce back against champions Saracens
Billy Twelvetrees and Richard Hibbard provided the match-winning touches for Gloucester at Kingsholm as they beat Saracens 31-23 in a game that also saw England prop Mako Vunipola make his comeback from injury for the champions.
Mark McCall’s side had not lost back-to-back Aviva Premiership games since May 2015, but tries from Tom Marshall, Jeremy Thrush and then Hibbard were enough for Gloucester as they rebounded from a 34-9 defeat to Leicester Tigers in round 14.
Billy Burns, who had to depart injured late on, kicked eight first-half points to go with New Zealander Marshall’s powerful finish after Saracens had taken an early lead through hooker Schalk Brits.
Gloucester led 16-13 at the break and Thrush’s opportunist’s try took them 23-13 in front, but Saracens battled back to 23-23, with Will Fraser touching down and Alex Lozowski kicking five points.
Yet David Humphreys’ side had a sting in the tail – first Twelvetrees gave them a lead from the tee before Ben Morgan’s burst up field from the kick-off led to Hibbard’s match-clinching try.
Exeter draw level with Saracens after Short’s hat-trick
James Short ran in three tries as Exeter Chiefs pulled level on points with Saracens in the Aviva Premiership Rugby standings with a 48-32 win over Worcester Warriors at Sixways.
Francois Hougaard and Bryce Heem had set Josh Adams away for Worcester’s first early on, before Gareth Steenson and Perry Humphreys traded scores.
Great result yesterday away at Worcester. Body is feeling it today after first 80 in a while https://t.co/jRufuU99AK— Henry Slade (@Sladey_10) February 19, 2017
Ryan Mills, so influential with the boot in Worcester’s victory over Saracens last time out, kicked another penalty before half-time, but a Chiefs attacking blitz had the try bonus-point wrapped up by the 50 minute mark.
Short and Olly Woodburn shared three tries in just under 20 minutes either side of half-time before Carl Rimmer and Michele Campagnaro pitched in.
Heem and Jackson Willison crossed to ensure Gary Gold’s team secured a potentially vital try bonus point, but Short stole the show on 73 minutes after collecting a perfect pass from England international Henry Slade.
Tigers resurgence continues against Bristol
Aaron Mauger’s Leicester Tigers turned in a scintillating attacking performance at Welford Road to blow away Bristol 50-17 and close the gap on fourth-place Bath in the Premiership table.
JP Pietersen and Telusa Veainu returned for Tigers in spectacular fashion, Springbok Pietersen crossing either side of half-time, with Tongan Veainu scoring a first-half try in a menacing attacking performance.
Pat Cilliers and Owen Williams both crossed before the break as Leicester wrapped up an early try bonus point.
Former Tiger Rob Hawkins and replacement prop Jamal Ford-Robinson got over the line for Bristol, but Brendon O’Connor, Adam Thompstone and Greg Bateman ensured it was a red-letter day for Mauger’s men.
Rec fortress comes good for Bath
Former England Under-20 centre Max Clark scored Bath’s only try as they held off Harlequins 22-12 at the Rec to maintain fourth-place in the Aviva Premiership.
Welsh international Rhys Priestland kicked a perfect 17 points from the tee as Tim Visser and Marland Yarde both grabbed tries for John Kingston’s visitors.
Quins led 12-10 with less than half an hour to go thanks to the efforts of England winger Yarde and Scotland’s Visser, but Todd Blackadder’s side showed huge grit to pull through.
Clark burst over after a fine pass from influential scrum-half Kahn Fotuali’i on 63 minutes before two late Priestland penalties denied Harlequins a losing bonus point.