Chiefs reclaim top spot with come-from-behind win
PREMIERSHIP WRAP: Exeter Chiefs reclaimed first place on the standings with a come-from-behind win over Northampton Saints on Saturday.
With Saracens only playing ion Sunday, when they host Leicester Tigers, Chiefs have a chance to remain top when Round 16 is completed.
In other Saturday fixtures Bath squeaked past Sale Sharks (33-32), while Newcastle Falcons moved past Gloucester on the standings after a 28-10 win over Harlequins. Gloucester and Wasps played to a 25-all draw.
We look at all the Saturday matches!
Exeter Chiefs 31-30 Northampton Saints
Late tries from Don Armand and Thomas Waldrom gave Exeter Chiefs a rousing comeback win over Northampton Saints.
The defending champions fought back from 13 points behind with 10 minutes to play to avoid a fourth successive Premiership defeat, but were made to work by Saints who put on an excellent attacking display.
Tries from Rob Horne, Ben Foden and Harry Mallinder looked to have been enough for the visitors before Exeter capitalised on Teimana Harrison being sin-binned and struck in added time.
Northampton made an encouraging start to the game, with Jamie Gibson showing good hands to allow Horne to cross for his fifth Premiership try of the season.
Exeter won a penalty within range a few minutes later, but Gareth Steenson opted to kick for the corner rather than at goal as the Chiefs looked to hit back with a try.
It proved to be a good decision, as referee Christophe Ridley awarded the home side a penalty try after Campese Ma’afu had collapsed the rolling maul, earning a yellow card for his troubles.
Exeter then looked to push on and apart from a promising break from Nic Groom and a Piers Francis penalty, the home side enjoyed much of the territory.
They took the lead through Alec Hepburn, but it did not last long as Foden showed good speed to finish in the corner after a great break from inside his own half by Luther Burrell.
The Saints continued their display of excellent attacking rugby after the break as Mallinder latched on to Horne’s pass to take Northampton’s lead to 10 points.
Steenson and Francis traded penalties to keep the scoreboard ticking over, but a series of handling errors thwarted the defending champions from making the most of their attacking opportunities.
Armand showed the finishing skills of a seasoned winger with a brilliant sidestep to beat his man after Olly Woodburn’s break on 71 minutes.
With the clock ticking past 80 minutes, Exeter went through the phases after a succession of line-outs and Waldrom muscled his way over to score, with Joe Simmonds adding the winning conversion.
For Exeter Chiefs:
Tries:Penalty try, Hepburn, Armand, Waldrom
Cons: Steenson, Simmonds 2; a penalty try does not require a conversion
For Northampton Saints:
Tries:Horne, Foden, Mallinder
Cons: Francis 3
Pens: Francis 2, Myler
Exeter Chiefs: 15 Lachie Turner, 14 Ian Whitten, 13 Ollie Devoto, 12 Sam Hill, 11 Olly Woodburn, 10 Gareth Steenson (captain), 9 Will Chudley, 8 Thomas Waldrom, 7 Julian Salvi, 6 Don Armand, 5 Jonny Hill, 4 Sam Skinner, 3 Greg Holmes, 2 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 1 Alec Hepburn.
Replacements: 16 Jack Innard, 17 Ben Moon, 18 Marcus Street, 19 Mitch Lees, 20 Matt Kvesic, 21 Stu Townsend, 22 Joe Simmonds, 23 Phil Dollman.
Northampton Saints: 15 Harry Mallinder, 14 Ahsee Tuala, 13 Rob Horne, 12 Luther Burrell, 11 Ben Foden, 10 Piers Francis, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Teimana Harrison, 7 Heinrich Brüssow, 6 Jamie Gibson, 5 Christian Day (captain), 4 David Ribbans, 3 Kieran Brookes, 2 Mikey Haywood, 1 Campese Ma’afu.
Replacements: 16 Reece Marshall, 17 Francois van Wyk, 18 Jamal Ford-Robinson, 19 Michael Paterson, 20 Tom Wood, 21 Cobus Reinach, 22 Stephen Myler, 23 Nafi Tuitavake.
Referee: Christophe Ridley
Assistant referees: Referees: Matthew O’Grady, Greg Macdonald
TMO: Keith Lewis
Gloucester 25 Wasps 25
Christian Wade’s dramatic score seconds from time rescued a draw for Wasps at Gloucester in a pulsating encounter at Kingsholm.
Tries from Richard Hibbard, Charlie Sharples and Henry Trinder looked to have given the hosts victory but Dai Young’s refused to throw in the towel and salvage a stalemate.
The home side enjoyed the better of the opening period and went ahead within the first five minutes through a Billy Twelvetrees penalty.
It was one of two the centre would kick during the match, with the first three-pointer taking him past 500 Premiership points.
Hibbard crashed over for Gloucester shortly afterwards, Twelvetrees adding the extras, as David Humphreys’ side opened up a ten-point gap.
That became 13-0 on 26 minutes after Twelvetrees sent another kick sailing through the posts, before Jimmy Gopperth kicked three in reply to get the visitors on the board.
Gopperth added three more to close the gap further, but the hosts dealt a blow moments before the break – Sharples racing over the whitewash after being set up by a terrific break from Jason Woodward.
Gloucester kept Wasps at bay as the visitors looked for a way back into the match, but Young’s side hauled themselves back into the contest on 58 minutes.
Wade’s tremendous break saw the speedster through the defence to set up Dan Robson, who provided the finishing touch with the ever-reliable Gopperth sending the conversion safely through the posts.
Wasps had the bit between their teeth and Thomas Young crashed over 12 minutes from time to level the scores. But Gopperth dramatically sent his kick wide of the target to set up a grandstand final period of an enthralling match.
The hosts sparked into life after that blow and drew clear once more, with Trinder flying over the line after excellent hands in the build-up, Twelvetrees making no mistake from the tee.
Wasps threw everything at the Cherry and Whites in the finals stages and got their rewards when Wade raced over, Gopperth keeping his composure to add the extras and bring an end to a thrilling encounter.
Tries:Hibbard, Sharples, Trinder
Cons: Twelvetrees 2
Pens: Twelvetrees 2
Tries:Robson, Young, Wade
Cons: Gopperth 2
Pens: Gopperth 2
Gloucester: 15 Jason Woodward, 14, Charlie Sharples, 13 Billy Twelvetrees, 12 Mark Atkinson, 11 Henry Trinder, 10 Billy Burns, 9 Callum Braley, 8 Ruan Ackermann, 7 Lewis Ludlow, 6 Jake Polledri, 5 Mariano Galarza, 4 Ed Slater (captain), 3 John Afoa, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Josh Hohneck.
Replacements: 16 Motu Matu’u, 17 Paddy McAllister, 18 Fraser Balmain, 19 Tom Savage, 20 Freddie Clarke, 21 Ben Vellacott, 22 Matt Scott, 23 David Halaifonua.
Wasps: 15 Willie Le Roux, 14 Christian Wade, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Jimmy Gopperth, 11 Josh Bassett, 10 Rob Miller, 9 Dan Robson, 8 Guy Thompson, 7 Thomas Young, 6 Ashley Johnson, 5 Will Rowlands, 4 James Gaskell (captain), 3 Jake Cooper-Woolley, 2 Tom Cruse, 1 Matt Mullan.
Replacements: 16 Thomas Harris, 17 Simon McIntyre, 18 Marty Moore, 19 Kearnan Myall, 20 Ben Harris, 21 Joe Simpson, 22 Brendan Macken, 23 Owain James.
Referee: Karl Dickson
Assistant referees: Tim Wigglesworth, Wayne Falla
TMO: David Rose
Harlequins 10 Newcastle Falcons 28
Sinoti Sinoti toasted his new Newcastle Falcons contract dotting down in his team’s win over Harlequins, their first Premiership victory at the Stoop in almost 18 years.
There was nothing to separate the sides at half-time as an early James Horwill try was cancelled out by Callum Chick at the other end.
But shortly after the restart, Kyle Cooper and Chris Harris went over in quick succession for the visitors before Sinoti followed them over the whitewash.
It meant Newcastle tasted victory at the Stoop in the league for the first time since September 2000.
An excellent touch-finder from Marcus Smith led to the game’s first try on seven minutes, Horwill barging over at the second time of asking following a good offload by Dave Ward, Smith converting.
The visitors were fortunate not to fall further behind on 22 minutes when Smith sent a 30 metres penalty in front of the posts wide.
But after Harlequins hooker Joe Gray was sin-binned for collapsing a maul, Newcastle were level as Chick inched over the line following a sixth Falcons line-out, Flood converting.
The hosts started the second half on the front foot and Smith put the hosts back ahead with a penalty from 30 metres in front of the posts.
But Falcons weren’t behind for long and after Simon Hammersley was held up over the line following a fine Josh Matavesi break, Cooper barrelled his way over.
Flood converted to put Newcastle 14-10 ahead with 30 minutes remaining and moments later, the visitors were further ahead as Harris brushed off Luke Wallace to dot down.
Veteran flyhalf Flood once again added the extras before being replaced by Joel Hodgson, who made no mistake with his conversion on 66 minutes after Sinoti beat Chisholm one-on-one on the left wing to wrap up Falcons’ bonus point.
For Newcastle Falcons:
Tries:Chick, Cooper, Harris, Sinoti
Cons: Flood 3, Hodgson
Harlequins: 15 Aaron Morris, 14 Charlie Walker, 13 Joe Marchant, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Alofa Alofa, 10 Marcus Smith, 9 Jono Kitto, 8 James Chisholm, 7 Dave Ward, 6 Luke Wallace, 5 James Horwill (captain), 4 Ben Glynn, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 2 Joe Gray, 1 Mark Lambert.
Replacements: 16 Charlie Piper, 17 Cameron Holenstein, 18 Will Collier, 19 Charlie Matthews, 20 Archie White, 21 Dave Lewis, 22 Demetri Catrakilis, 23 Tim Visser.
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Simon Hammersley, 14 Vereniki Goneva, 13 Chris Harris, 12 Josh Matavesi, 11 Sinoti Sinoti, 10 Toby Flood, 9 Michael Young, 8 Nili Latu, 7 Will Welch (captain), 6 Mark Wilson, 5 Will Witty, 4 Calum Green, 3 Jon Welsh, 2 Kyle Cooper, 1 Rob Vickers.
Replacements: 16 Santiago Socino, 17 Sam Lockwood, 18 Trevor Davison, 19 Sean Robinson, 20 Callum Chick, 21 Sonatane Takulua, 22 Joel Hodgson, 23 Maxime Mermoz.
Referee: Tom Foley
Assistant referees: Philip Watters, Jonathan Healy
TMO: Trevor Fisher
Bath 33 Sale Sharks 32
Zach Mercer’s late try and James Wilson’s nerveless conversion snatched a dramatic victory for Bath against Sale Sharks.
The hosts had trailed for much of the topsy-turvy contest and were six points down in the final minutes before the blindside flanker struck for his brace.
After more than 20 phases of attack and quick hands from Ben Tapuai, Mercer dummied over in the 78th minute to make it 32-31 to the visitors.
Versatile Kiwi Wilson was starting his first match at fly-half for Bath and his crucial conversion was by no means simple, but he held his nerve to slot his seventh goal of the game.
The visitors quickly repelled Bath’s early attacks and when Will Addison stepped his way past Matt Garvey there was no stemming the tide of Sharks attacks which followed.
Deadly Denny Solomona popped up and had too much speed and agility for Josh Bayliss and Henry Thomas as he scored the opening try of the game in the 14th minute.
Sharks’ second was slick but simple. Attacking off a line-out, Ben Curry found de Klerk, who got on the outside of Wilson to create an overlap, with quick hands sending Marland Yarde through.
Penalties were exchanged before Mercer gave the home fans something to cheer. Lurking on the left shoulder of Taulupe Faletau – making his first appearance since suffering knee ligament damage in December – he latched onto a cute pass and cantered under the posts.
The hosts began to rally and, after Will Hurrell and Ross Batty went close, Josh Bayliss made no mistake as he stepped inside Sam James following a tip on.
One point separated the teams when Sharks had a scrum on their 22-metre line not much looked on, but de Klerk went blind at pace before sending Solomona away.
He didn’t break stride as he took the pass, outpaced Aled Brew, chipped and gathered to score.
It meant Bath needed to strike late for victory and, having twice lost by a point at home this season, this time they were on the winning end.
Tries:Mercer 2, Bayliss
Cons: Wilson 3
Pens: Wilson 4
For Sale Sharks:
Tries:Solomona 2, Yarde
Con: De Klerk
Pens: De Klerk 5
Bath: 15 Darren Atkins, 14 Aled Brew, 13 Will Hurrell, 12 Ben Tapuai, 11 Cooper Vuna, 10 James Wilson, 9 Kahn Fotuali’i, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Josh Bayliss, 6 Zach Mercer, 5 Elliott Stooke, 4 Matt Garvey (captain), 3 Henry Thomas, 2 Ross Batty, 1 Beno Obano.
Replacements: 16 Michael van Vuuren, 17 Lucas Noguera, 18 Max Lahiff, 19 Luke Charteris, 20 James Phillips, 21 Chris Cook, 22 Jack Wilson, 23 Tom Homer.
Sale Sharks: 15 Mike Haley, 14 Denny Solomona, 13 Will Addison (captain), 12 Luke James, 11 Marland Yarde, 10 Sam James, 9 Faf De Klerk, 8 Josh Strauss, 7 Ben Curry, 6 Jono Ross, 5 Andrei Ostrikov, 4 Josh Beaumont, 3 WillGriff John, 2 Rob Webber, 1 Ross Harrison.
Replacements: 16 Marc Jones, 17 James Flynn, 18 Alexandru Tarus, 19 George Nott, 20 Cameron Neild, 21 Will Cliff, 22 Josh Charnley 23 Cameron Redpath.
Referee: Ian Tempest
Assistant referees: Hamish Smales, Roy Maybank
TMO: Geoff Warren