Sarries march on
Ben Ransom's early try proved the difference as Saracens beat Exeter Chiefs 16-9.
Ben Ransom's early try proved the difference as Saracens beat Exeter Chiefs 16-9.
The victory ensure the Tigers maintain their impressive start to the Premiership, despite having to weather a strong late charge by the Chiefs.
* In other action on Saturday Toby Flood passed 1000 Premiership points, as Leicester Tigers avoided their worst league run for a decade by beating London Irish at Welford Road.
* Harlequins stormed to a third successive Premiership win as England internationals past, present and possibly future ensured Conor O'Shea's men continued their march up the table, writes Kojo Amofa.
* James Wilson and Luther Burrell both went over for tries in the second half that finally ended Newcastle Falcons' brave resistance and extended Northampton Saints' winning streak to six.
We look at all Saturday's games!
Exeter Chiefs 9-16 Saracens
Ben Ransom's early try proved the difference as Saracens won 16-9 to maintain their impressive start to the Premiership - but they were forced to weather a strong late charge by Exeter Chiefs.
Ransom, on the pitch from the second minute after a head injury to Charlie Hodgson, touched down almost immediately, with eight points from the boot of Alex Goode handing Saracens a 13-3 half-time lead.
But Chiefs, who had scored through Phil Dolman's penalty in the first-half, hit back after the break as Gareth Steenson found his range with two penalties - the second taking him past 100 Premiership points for the season.
Despite Marcelo Bosch adding another penalty for Saracens, the hosts almost completed the comeback late on but the TMO ruled Tom Johnson's effort had come up short, leaving Chiefs having to settle for the losing bonus point.
It was the Chiefs who had the first chance to get points on the board inside the first minutes but Steenson pulled his kick wide in what was his first miss in the last 17 attempts in the Premiership.
Saracens were struck a blow when Hodgson was forced off but Ransom made sure to leave his mark immediately with the game's first try.
Much of it was owed to the work of Chris Ashton - the England winger, back in the Sarries squad after returning from international duty, stepping in off the wing to run through the middle and feed Ransom for a simple score -Goode converting.
The Chiefs almost got themselves level when Ian Whitten, who had been out for nearly a month out with a hamstring injury, collected a ball from Johnson, but the TMO ruled the centre had grounded the ball short in the corner.
Exeter were letting a few errors creep into their game, with Dean Mumm stealing possession from a Sarries line out, only for Matt Jess to drop the ball behind his own try line and hand the visitors a five metre attacking scrum.
Despite seeing off the initial play, the Chiefs came unstuck once again with Steenson handed time in the sin bin for a deliberate knock on and Goode knocked over the subsequent penalty for a 10-0 lead.
Despite being a man down, Exeter secured themselves a penalty when the visitors collapsed the scrum on 31 minutes, Dolman stepping up in the place of the absent Steenson to reduce the score to 10-3.
But Goode made it three kicks from three to re-establish his side's ten point lead heading into the break thanks to a 30-metre penalty.
The home side came out with more purpose after the break, and their early pressure paid off as Steenson slotted over a long range penalty to take the scores to 13-6.
The second-half was proving to be a trade off in penalties, with Bosch then launching a 51 metre kick on 50 minutes that bounced over off the cross bar, but Steenson missed his second of the afternoon to leave the score at 16-6.
Bosch then had a chance to notch up his second penalty of the afternoon after Saracens again overpowered their opponents at the scrum just short of the hour but his kick went off target.
Exeter were continuing to enjoy plenty of possession as the second-half progressed, Johnson bursting through but being held up by a resolute Saracens defence just two metres out.
But despite being camped on their opposition's try line for several minutes, they were unable to find the elusive try, although Steenson did manage to notch up his second penalty of the afternoon to reduce the difference to seven points.
The home side continued to press though, with Matt Jess just losing out to Ashton in a foot race to the line before winger Jack Nowell, on his first league appearance this season, also made a late break.
And with time almost up, the home fans thought they had scored with the ball recycled out to Johnson, the decision was refereed to the TMO but it went against them as Sarries held on for the win.
For Exeter Chiefs:
Pens: Dollman, Steenson 2
Pens: Goode 2, Bosch
Yellow card: Gareth Steenson (Exeter Chiefs, 27)
Exeter Chiefs: 15 Phil Dollman, 14 Jack Nowell, 13 Ian Whitten, 12 Sam Hill, 11 Matt Jess, 10 Gareth Steenson, 9 Dave Lewis, 8 Dave Ewers, 7 Ben White, 6 Tom Johnson, 5 Damian Welch, 4 Dean Mumm (captain), 3 Hoani Tui, 2 Jack Yeandle, 1 Brett Sturgess.
Replacements: 16 Chris Whitehead, 17 Ben Moon, 18 Alex Brown, 19 Don Armand, 20 Kai Horstmann, 21 Haydn Thomas, 22 Henry Slade, 23 Luke Arscott.
Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Tim Streather, 12 Marcelo Bosch, 11 David Strettle, 10 Charlie Hodgson, 9 Richard Wigglesworth, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Jacques Burger, 6 Jackson Wray, 5 Alistair Hargreaves, 4 Steve Borthwick (captain), 3 Matt Stevens, 2 Jamie George, 1 Richard Barrington.
Replacements: 16 Schalk Brits, 17 Jared Saunders, 18 Petrus Du Plessis, 19 George Kruis, 20 Will Fraser, 21 Ben Spencer, 22 Michael Tagicakibau, 23 Ben Ransom.
Referee: Tim Wigglesworth
Assistant referees: Roger Baileff, Andrew Pearce
TMO: David Sainsbury
Harlequins 27-19 Gloucester
Harlequins stormed to a third successive Premiership win as England internationals past, present and possibly future ensured Conor O'Shea's men continued their march up the table, writes Kojo Amofa.
After a disastrous start to the new campaign; number eight Nick Easter and scrum-half Danny Care, who both touched down, dragged Quins to a much-needed win at the Stoop after a shaky start saw Billy Twelvetrees score early for Gloucester against the run of play in the corner.
Luke Wallace also went over for Harlequins after the break, with Jonny May and Twelvetrees touching down for struggling Gloucester.
Gloucester have slipped to three successive Premiership defeats since their victory against Newcastle at Kingston Park in September, and that statistic showed little sign of changing as Kiwi Nick Evans knocked over a first minute penalty for Harlequins.
Gloucester's win at Newcastle two months ago remains their only away victory in any competition since February - but England centre Billy Twelvetrees - fresh from starting all three autumn internationals for Stuart Lancaster's men - touched down after nine minutes to turn the tide the way of the Cherry and Whites.
Unfortunately fly-half Freddie Burns - another man involved with the England squad in the autumn - missed his conversion to put Gloucester 5-3 ahead.
Buoyed by the home crowd the complexion of the first half changed following a yellow card shown to Jimmy Cowan for a cynical challenge.
The departure of prop Nick Wood due to a blood injury after 11 minutes disrupted the Gloucester set piece and handed the momentum back to Harlequins - who have climbed the table in recent weeks with wins over Sale and champions Leicester Tigers - as Evans slotted over his second penalty of the afternoon on 15 minutes.
Celebrating their 50th anniversary at the Stoop; Nick Easter ensured it was party time in Twickenham ahead of the break as he went over for a Harlequins' try on the half hour, with Evans adding the extras to make it 13-5.
And it got worse for Gloucester six minutes later as Danny Care - eager to demonstrate to England boss Lancaster he's not the third ranked No.9 in the country - went over for a score on 36 minutes.
Evans added the extras as Quins stormed into a 20-5 lead and with just three minutes to the break the home side looked out of sight.
On the stroke of half-time Burns had the opportunity to reduce the deficit for Gloucester but the fly-half fluffed his kick at goal.
Gloucester's Tom Savage was needlessly yellow carded two minutes into the second-half, handing Quins the numerical advantage - and they took full advantage.
Just a minute later Luke Wallace went over for Harlequins' third score of the game - again Evans added the extras to extend the home side's advantage to 27-5.
Martyn Thomas was the third Gloucester player to be sin-binned on 48 minutes but rather than see the Cherry and Whites press the self destruct button, it seemed to galvanise them.
Jonny May scored a try for Gloucester on 50 minutes and Burns reduced the deficit further for the visitors by kicking the conversion.
George Robson was the next to go into the sin bin and his disappearance left the door open for a Gloucester comeback in the final stages.
Twelvetrees scored his second of the game six minutes from time to give the Cherry and Whites late hope - Burns added the conversion to make the score 27-19.
Tries: Easter, Care, Wallace
Cons: Evans 3
Pens: Evans 2
Tries: Twelvetrees 2, May
Cons: Burns 2
Yellow cards: Jimmy Cowan (Gloucester, 28), Tom Savage (Gloucester, 42), Martyn Thomas (Gloucester, 48), George Robson (Harlequins, 55)
Harlequins: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Tom Williams, 13 Matt Hopper, 12 Tom Casson, 11 Ugo Monye, 10 Nick Evans, 9 Danny Care, 8 Tom Guest, 7 Chris Robshaw (captain), 6 Maurie Fa'asavalu, 5 George Robson, 4 Nick Easter (captain), 3 Will Collier, 2 Dave Ward, 1 Joe Marler.
Replacements: 16 Harry Allen, 17 Mark Lambert, 18 Nic Mayhew, 19 Charlie Matthews, 20 George Merrick, 21 Sam Stuart, 22 Ben Botica, 23 Charlie Walker.
Gloucester: 15 Rob Cook, 14 Charlie Sharples, 13 Mike Tindall, 12 Billy Twelvetrees, 11 Jonny May, 10 Freddie Burns, 9 Jimmy Cowan, 8 Ben Morgan, 7 Matt Kvesic, 6 Tom Savage (captain), 5 James Hudson, 4 Elliott Stooke, 3 Shaun Knight, 2 Huia Edmonds, 1 Nick Wood.
Replacements: 16 Darren Dawidiuk, 17 Yann Thomas, 18 Rupert Harden, 19 Will James, 20 Matt Cox, 21 Dan Robson, 22 Billy Burns, 23 Martyn Thomas.
Referee: Matthew Carley
Assistant referees: Andy Watson, Gareth Copsey
TMO: Roy Maybank
Leicester Tigers 20-11 London Irish
Toby Flood passed 1000 Premiership points as Leicester Tigers avoided their worst league run for a decade by beating London Irish at Welford Road.
The hosts were awarded two penalty tries, in a clash largely dominated by poor scrummaging, while Fergus Mulchrone scored a late consolation try for Irish.
James O'Connor struck two first-half penalties but Flood's ten points from the tee condemned the Exiles to their fifth consecutive defeat in all competitions.
Flood missed the opportunity to put Leicester ahead inside three minutes, sending a 40-metre penalty left of the posts, but the hosts continued their early dominance.
Tigers won a string of penalties inside the Irish half and after ten minutes one infringement too many saw referee Martin Fox award a penalty try, which Flood converted.
Irish began to put some encouraging phases together, as Tomás O'Leary drove the visitors ever closer to the line, but they settled for a penalty and James O'Connor kicked them onto the board after 22 minutes.
The Australian full-back was soon involved again, as the Exiles continued to probe forward, and a collapsed scrum handed him another kickable penalty on the half-hour mark, which he sent over the posts to double his tally.
However, the visitors undid a lot of their good work three minutes later by handing Flood a simple chance to restore a four-point lead from the tee.
The penalty see-saw continued but O'Connor missed his first of the afternoon three minutes before the break and, despite sustained Exiles pressure in the dying seconds, Tigers held on to take a 10-6 lead into half-time.
Jamie Gibson, who joined Leicester from London Irish this summer, began the second half as he ended the first by dominating the line-out but the visitors continued to frustrate the Tigers' pack on the ground.
Flood brought up the milestone eight minutes after the break, striking his second penalty of the afternoon between the posts to give the hosts some breathing space.
O'Connor had a clearance kick charged down after 55 minutes and Niall Morris collected the ball to touch down but the decision was sent to the Television Match Official, who ruled that the winger had failed to touch down.
London Irish were reduced to 14 men when, after a string of collapsed scrums, former Wales prop John Yapp was sent to the sin bin on the hour mark.
And a second penalty try followed for the Tigers, after more than five minutes of unsuccessful scrums left Mr Fox no choice - Flood once again converted.
With O'Connor and Yarde, who picked up another injury, replaced in the second half the Irish back line lost some of its bite but a yellow card for Tigers lock Graham Kitchener five minutes from time offered some hope.
And they did produce a fine try late on, when Topsy Ojo avoided a series of Tigers tackles before off-loading to Mulchrone to score in the corner, but Myles Dorrian's conversion missed before Shane Geraghty's last-gasp drop goal missed the target.
For Leicester Tigers:
Tries: Penalty tries 2
Cons: Flood 2
Pens: Flood 2
For London Irish:
Pens: O'Connor 2
Yellow cards: John Yapp (London Irish, 60), Graham Kitchener (Leicester Tigers, 74)
Leicester Tigers: 15 Scott Hamilton, 14 Niall Morris, 13 Matt Smith, 12 Dan Bowden, 11 Miles Benjamin, 10 Toby Flood (captain), 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Jordan Crane, 7 Julian Salvi, 6 Jamie Gibson, 5 Graham Kitchener, 4 Louis Deacon, 3 Fraser Balmain, 2 Tom Youngs, 1 Boris Stankovich.
Replacements: 16 Neil Briggs, 17 Tom Bristow, 18 Dan Cole, 19 Sebastian De Chaves, 20 Thomas Waldrom, 21 David Mélé, 22 Owen Williams, 23 Adam Thompstone.
London Irish: 15 James O'Connor, 14 Topsy Ojo, 13 Fergus Mulchrone, 12 Eamonn Sheridan, 11 Marland Yarde, 10 Shane Geraghty, 9 Tomás O'Leary, 8 Chris Hala'ufia, 7 Blair Cowan, 6 Jebb Sinclair, 5 George Skivington (captain), 4 Ian Gough, 3 Leo Halavatau, 2 David Paice, 1 John Yapp.
Replacements: 16 Jimmy Stevens, 17 Matt Parr, 18 Jamie Hagan, 19 Nic Rouse, 20 Danny Kenny, 21 Guy Armitage, 22 Myles Dorrian, 23 Darren Allinson.
Referee: Martin Fox
Assistant referees: Peter Huckle, Nigel Carrick
TMO: Trevor Fisher
Northampton Saints 18-0 Newcastle Falcons
James Wilson and Luther Burrell both went over for tries in the second half that finally ended Newcastle Falcons' brave resistance and extended Northampton Saints' winning streak to six.
Dean Richards' troops came to Franklin's Gardens with many tipping them for a heavy defeat against an in-form Saints side that remained second in the Premiership table with this victory.
But the Falcons' sturdy efforts in defence saw them only trail their high-flying opponents by two penalties at the interval - the first time that Saints have failed to score a try in the first half this season.
After the break Saints' dominance finally took its toll as Wilson powered his way over down the right and Burrell added a second soon after with a fine piece of quick-thinking.
The defeat, Falcons' seventh in a row against the Saints, leaves Richards' side ninth in the table while Saints stay second.
When Tom Collins went racing clear down the left for Saints in only the second minute, the game's first try looked a certainty but Ryan Shortland appeared out of nowhere to drag him into touch agonisingly short of the tryline.
The first ten minutes were spent almost entirely in the Falcons' 22 as the game entered a predictable pattern.
Skipper Will Welch and co were warned about their consistent infringements as Saints turned the screw in a five-metre scrum .
But the Falcons held firm and finally cleared their lines and could establish some territory after England hopeful Luther Burrell was pinged for hanging on.
And when Noah Cato went dancing clear against his former club suddenly the Falcons were within touching distance of the tryline, and the game's first points.
That move came to nothing in the end but while many had predicted a Saints runaway win, the Falcons refused to buckle as they continued to disrupt the breakdown at every opportunity.
Just before the half hour the Saints came close again, Burrell's clever dink to the corner collected by Jamie Elliott but when the ball was fed back inside it was Burrell who could not collect the ball by his shoelaces with the try line begging.
The Falcons job was then made that much harder when Carlo del Fava was sin-binned and from that subsequent penalty Saints were finally off the mark, Myler making no mistake with the routine conversion.
A clever break from Mike Blair then had the 14-men of Newcastle on the front foot again but Alex Tait was caught accidentally offside and the chance was lost.
A second comfortable penalty from Myler then doubled the Saints' lead and they went in at the break only 6-0 to the good, a Phil Godman drop-goal attempt that would have halved the lead falling short on the stroke of the interval.
After the break Elliott and Mike Haywood both came close to scores but the Falcons defence refused to wilt before Wilson wriggled and rolled his way over down the right.
Myler was off target with the conversion but Saints did not have to wait long for the next score as Burrell showed great awareness to rip the ball and touch down while rolling over the try-line mid tackle.
This time Myler was on target with the extras for an 18-0 lead and despite some late chances for both sides that was how it finished.
Tries: Wilson, Burrell
Pens: Myler 2
Yellow card: Carlo Del Fava (Newcastle Falcons, 29)
Northampton Saints: 15 Ben Foden, 14 Jamie Elliott, 13 James Wilson, 12 Luther Burrell, 11 Tom Collins, 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Lee Dickson, 8 Sam Dickinson, 7 Phil Dowson, 6 Calum Clark, 5 Christian Day, 4 Courtney Lawes, 3 Salesi Ma'afu, 2 Mikey Haywood, 1 Alex Waller.
Replacements: 16 Ross McMillan, 17 Ethan Waller, 18 Tom Mercey, 19 GJ van Velze, 20 Ben Nutley, 21 Alex Day, 22 Glenn Dickson, 23 Dom Waldouck.
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Alex Tait, 14 Noah Cato, 13 Danny Barnes, 12 Adam Powell, 11 Ryan Shortland, 10 Phil Godman, 9 Mike Blair, 8 Ally Hogg (captain), 7 Will Welch, 6 Richard Mayhew, 5 Fraser McKenzie, 4 Carlo del Fava, 3 Oliver Tomaszczyk, 2 Scott Lawson, 1 Rob Vickers.
Replacements: 16 George McGuigan, 17 Grant Shiells, 18 Scott Wilson, 19 Scott MacLeod, 20 Chris York, 21 Warren Fury, 22 Rory Clegg, 23 James Fitzpatrick.
Referee: Dean Richards
Assistant referees: Kevin Stewart, Ashley Rowden
TMO: Rowan Kitt