Post denies Goode Wasps a win
Andy Goode’s injury-time conversion missed off the upright and saw Wasps succumb 15-16 to the visiting Harlequins at Twickenham on Saturday.
Earlier in the day, Saracens wing Mark Cueto scored a last-minute try to seal a 42-20 bonus-point win over London Irish at the same venue.
Meanwhile, Sale Sharks secured a surprise 22-16 win over Gloucester at Kingsholm and Northampton Saints laid down an early marker win a 38-11 bonus-point win over Exeter Chiefs at Franklin's Gardens.
We look at all Saturday's matches!
London Wasps 15-16 Harlequins
New London Wasps signing Andy Goode was left devastated after a dramatic defeat against Harlequins at Twickenham.
There are few players who you would prefer to stand over a match-deciding late conversion than the experienced 33-year-old flyhalf with five Premiership titles on his CV.
But he saw his seemingly on target effort smash against the post as pre-match favourites Quins opened their season with a victory by the narrowest margin.
Wasps took less than a minute to ignite their season as Joe Launchbury scored direct from the kick-off. Wasps hit slumbering Quins where it hurts as Launchbury dived across from close range after a darting and defence-splitting run from Sam Jones, captaining in the absence of Chris Bell.
Goode slotted the conversion and then exchanged penalties with Nick Evans as the first half ended 10-3.
This was billed as a clash between Quins wing Ugo Monye and Wasps flyer Christian Wade and the pair tangled several times during the first half in what was an intriguing sub-plot.
Guy Thompson, Ed Jackson and Jones didn't put a foot wrong in the opening exchanges as Wasps' back row defended well and answered every question posed by Quins.
And they could have extended their lead shortly before the break, Tom Varndell scampering down the wing before a frantic last-ditch tackle from George Lowe, who this week extended his contract at the Stoop, forced him into touch.
After two penalty misses in the first half – when the blustery conditions made life difficult – Evans threaded two penalties from just over 40 metres shortly after the restart to reduce the deficit to one point.
Both sides struggled to find any momentum in a frustrating and stop-start game, but Quins were now in the ascendancy, continually forcing Wasps on the back foot with some frantic defending on the try-line.
However, despite establishing good field position, they repeatedly spurned gilt-edged chances to breech the barricades.
Finally, in the 71st minute, Mike Brown's perfect run sucked in the Wasps defence and Karl Dickson – with a cheeky dummy – put Harlequins ahead for the first time, a score Evans duly converted.
Wasps finally awoke to the challenge in the closing minutes with Wade and Varndell both threatening and it was Ashley Johnson's vision that set up their last minute try, while Goode's quick hands released lock Tom Palmer to crash through Paul Sackey's grasp in the corner.
But new signing Goode's late conversion, from the toughest of positions, struck the posts to gift Harlequins a dramatic victory by a single point.
For London Wasps:
Tries: Launchbury, Palmer
Pens: Evans 3
London Wasps: 15 Andrea Masi, 14 Christian Wade, 13 Ben Jacobs, 12 Charlie Hayter, 11 Tom Varndell, 10 Andy Goode, 9 Joe Simpson, 8 Ed Jackson, 7 Guy Thompson, 6 Sam Jones (captain), 5 Tom Palmer, 4 Joe Launchbury, 3 Jake Cooper-Woolley, 2 Tom Lindsay, 1 Matt Mullan.
Replacements: 16 Neil Cochrane, 17 Simon McIntyre, 18 Will Taylor, 19 James Cannon, 20 Ashley Johnson, 21 Charlie Davies, 22 Joe Carlisle, 23 Tommy Bell.
Harlequins: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Paul Sackey, 13 George Lowe, 12 Jordan Turner-Hall, 11 Ugo Monye, 10 Nick Evans, 9 Danny Care, 8 Nick Easter, 7 Chris Robshaw (captain), 6 Luke Wallace, 5 George Robson, 4 George Merrick, 3 Will Collier, 2 Joe Gray, 1 Joe Marler.
Replacements: 16 Rob Buchanan, 17 Mark Lambert, 18 Paul Doran Jones, 19 Maurie Fa'asavalu, 20 Tom Guest, 21 Karl Dickson, 22 Ben Botica, 23 Charlie Walker.
Referee: Tim Wigglesworth
Assistant referees: Roy Maybank and Andrew Pearce
TMO: Sean Davey
London Irish 20-42 Saracens
Saracens hooker Jamie George put down a sizeable marker that he's ready to enjoy a breakthrough season for club and country by scoring two first-half tries as London Irish were cut down to size 42-20 at Twickenham.
George, who made his Sarries debut in 2009, has played second fiddle to South African duo Schalk Brits and John Smit in the hooking pecking order in recent seasons.
But with Smit having retired and Brits serving a suspension – George now has his chance to impress for Saracens and he grabbed it with both hands on the biggest stage of all at the double header at Twickenham.
It took just four minutes for Saracens to get the scoreboard ticking over, with Owen Farrell striking over a penalty, before George burrowed over for the first of his tries on nine minutes – converted by the England and Saracens No.10.
Ian Humphreys reduced the arrears to 3-10 with a penalty for London Irish but Farrell extended Saracens' lead on 27 minutes with his second penalty of the afternoon, before George, 22, added try number two for the North London club.
Following a successful line-out, a smart inside ball released the hooker and he dashed over in the corner – Farrell missed with his conversion this time around.
But flank Kieran Low dragged London Irish straight back into the game straight from the resulting kick-off with a try under the posts after holding off would-be tacklers – Humphreys added the extras.
But momentum swung back to Saracens on the stroke of half-time as Farrell continued his kicking form from the British and Irish Lions tour, adding a penalty to make the interval total 21-10.
Within 60 seconds of the restart, London Irish’s indiscipline resulted in a Saracens penalty and Farrell extending the lead to 24-10 and it could have got worse three minutes later but the England man missed his kick at goal this time around.
Already dominant in the scrum, the strength of the respective squads was highlighted on 50 minutes as Saracens introduced three-time Test Lion Mako Vunipola off the replacements bench.
While just minutes earlier, Farrell had further extended Saracens lead to 27-10 with a fine kick from the touchline – effectively squeezing the life out of London Irish with every successful strike at goal.
Just before the hour-mark, London Irish flyer Marland Yarde demonstrated why he's on England boss Stuart Lancaster's radar with a devastating break but the Exiles couldn't get support to him.
Despite enjoying elongated pressure on the Saracens line, Smith's men were unable to take advantage at the set-piece and had to settle for a solitary penalty from flyhalf Humphreys.
But Sarries roared straight back on to the scoreboard, with explosive front row Vunipola burrowing over the London Irish line after a series of pick and goes – Farrell added the extras to stretch the score to 34-13.
Lions prop Matt Stevens blotted his copybook with just 14 minutes remaining as he was sent to the sin-bin for an unfair tackle on Topsy Ojo and the reduction in numbers handed the emphasis back to London Irish.
The Exiles came storming back with just 10 minutes remaining as a wonderful offload from replacement Chris Hala'ufia saw Yarde go over in the corner.
The try was made all the more special as Yarde was lying on the floor receiving treatment from the London Irish medical staff when the move started – Humphreys added the conversion to make the score 34-20.
Farrell took the sting out of London Irish's fightback with a penalty to stretch Saracens' lead to 37-20 – taking his personal tally for the afternoon to 22 points.
And with the final play of the game, England wing Chris Ashton ensured Saracens claimed the all-important bonus point win as he stretched to touch down in the corner – Farrell unable add the extras.
For London Irish:
Tries: Low, Yarde
Cons: Humphreys 2
Pens: Humphreys 2
Tries: George 2, M Vunipola, Ashton
Cons: Farrell 2
Pens: Farrell 6
Yellow card: Matt Stevens (Saracens, 66th minute)
London Irish: 15 Topsy Ojo, 14 Marland Yarde, 13 Guy Armitage, 12 Eamonn Sheridan, 11 Sailosi Tagicakibau, 10 Ian Humphreys, 9 Tomás O'Leary, (captain), 8 Jon Fisher 7 Ofisa Treviranus, 6 Kieran Low, 5 Bryn Evans, 4 Nic Rouse, 3 Halani Aulika, 2 David Paice, 1 Matt Parr.
Replacements: 16 Jimmy Stevens, 17 John Yapp, 18 Leo Halavatau, 19 Declan Danaher, 20 Chris Hala'ufia, 21 Andrew Fenby, 22 Shane Geraghty, 23 Darren Allinson.
Saracens: 15 Chris Wyles, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Joel Tomkins, 12 Brad Barritt, 11 David Strettle, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Richard Wigglesworth, 8 Ernst Joubert, 7 Jacques Burger, 6 Billy Vunipola, 5 Alistair Hargreaves, 4 Steve Borthwick (captain) 3 Matt Stevens, 2 Jamie George, 1 Rhys Gill.
Replacements: 16 Scott Spurling, 17 Mako Vunipola, 18 Petrus du Plessis, 19 George Kruis, 20 Jackson Wray, 21 Ben Spencer, 22 Nils Mordt, 23 Ben Ransom.
Referee: Greg Garner
Assistant referees: Paul Burton and Ashley Rowden
TMO: Graham Hughes
Gloucester 16-22 Sale Sharks
The evergreen Mark Cueto inspired Sale Sharks to an impressive opening day win in the Premiership as they withstood a Gloucester fight back at Kingsholm.
The wing, the record try-scorer in the history of the league, took his career total to 79 with the only try of the first half before his clever kick set up Andy Forsyth for Sale's second after the break.
Henry Trinder went over for Gloucester after that and Freddie Burns rediscovered his kicking boots but it was not enough as the Cherry and Whites lost in Round One of the Premiership for the fourth season in a row.
Sale had not won on their travels in the league since February but an impressive forward effort laid the platform for this impressive win in the West Country.
A James Gaskell charge down created the first scoring chance of the game for Sale and when Gloucester conceded the penalty Nick MacLeod made no mistake, bisecting the posts for a 3-0 lead.
The visitors were certainly the brighter of the two sides in the opening exchanges and in the 12th minute, they deservedly had the first try of the match.
From a scrum, Dwayne Peel broke two tackles on a looping run to the left to create the overlap and Cueto dummied Charlie Sharples to dive over. MacLeod missed with the conversion, however, and the visitors were only 8-0 to the good.
Flyhalf Burns, the top points-scorer in the Premiership last year, then got Gloucester up and running with his first penalty of the new campaign on 19 minutes.
And moments later, he could have had his second after a good turnover from Rupert Harden, who collared Peel after a quick line-out, but this time Burns' long-range effort drifted wide.
And just after the half-hour mark Burns continued to misfire, this time from bang in front and Tom Arscott made him pay.
The former London Welsh fullback lined up a penalty from near half-way after the dominant Sale pack had won a penalty at scrum time and his monster effort sailed over with room to spare.
And that was not the end of the scoring for the first half after another scrum went the way of the visitors, Gloucester prop Nick Wood being sent to the sin bin after conceding another penalty.
This one was from even further out but Arscott repeated his trick, slotting between the upright from the half-way line for a 14-3 lead at the break.
After the break, MacLeod continued to take on the closer-range kicks for Sale but he was off target immediately after an impressive driving maul from the Sharks forwards had won another penalty.
But that miss did not look like it would prove too costly after Forsyth went over for their second try in the 51st minute.
A clever grubber kick from Cueto released the outside centre and although the Kingsholm faithful were convinced he was offside, the TMO remained unmoved.
MacLeod could not add the conversion but the Sharks were 19-3 up with less than half an hour to go.
It got worse for Gloucester after that as England international Billy Twelvetrees was the second player for the home side sent to the sin bin, this time for a tip tackle.
But despite the numerical disadvantage, it was Gloucester who summoned a response, Trinder cutting a wonderful line to collect Tavis Knoyle's offload and race over, Burns' conversion reducing the deficit to 19-10.
Two more penalties from Burns made it 19-16 as Nigel Davies’ side were roared on by the home support.
Joe Ford, on a replacement for MacLeod, restored a six-point lead for Sale with 10 minutes to go as he slotted a drop-goal in a rare foray into the Gloucester half.
Ford then ate up more of the clock with a long-range penalty that never threatened the posts but Gloucester kept coming.
But for all their pressure in the Sharks’ 22, replacement Ross Harrison sent to the sin bin for the visitors in the final stages, the visitors held firm for a richly-deserved and hard-earned victory.
Pens: Burns 3
For Sale Sharks:
Tries: Cueto, Forsyth
Pens: Macleod, Arscott 2
Yellow cards: Nick Wood (Gloucester, 36th minute), Billy Twelvetrees (Gloucester, 53rd minute), Ross Harrison (Sale Sharks, 79th minute)
Gloucester: 15 Rob Cook, 14 Charlie Sharples, 13 Henry Trinder, 12 Billy Twelvetrees, 11 James Simpson-Daniel, 10 Freddie Burns, 9 Dan Robson, 8 Ben Morgan, 7 Matt Kvesic, 6 Sione Kalamafoni, 5 Lua Lokotui, 4 Tom Savage (captain), 3 Rupert Harden, 2 Darren Dawidiuk, 1 Nick Wood.
Replacements: 16 Dan George, 17 Dan Murphy, 18 Yann Thomas, 19 Elliott Stooke, 20 Akapusi Qera, 21 Tavis Knoyle, 22 Mike Tindall, 23 Martyn Thomas.
Sale Sharks: 15 Tom Arscott, 14 Phil McKenzie, 13 Andy Forsyth, 12 Jonny Leota, 11 Mark Cueto, 10 Nick Macleod, 9 Dwayne Peel, 8 James Gaskell, 7 David Seymour, 6 Dan Braid (captain), 5 Michael Paterson, 4 Johnathan Mills, 3 Henry Thomas, 2 Marc Jones, 1 Eifion Lewis Roberts.
Replacements: 16 Tommy Taylor, 17 Ross Harrison, 18 Vadim Cobilas, 19 Kirill Kulemin, 20 Josh Beaumont, 21 Will Cliff, 22 Joe Ford, 23 Rob Miller.
Referee: Andrew Small
Assistant referees: Kevin Stewart and Nigel Carrick
TMO: Geoff Warren
Northampton Saints 38-11 Exeter Chiefs
All eyes were on George North but it was Luther Burrell who stole the show as Northampton Saints laid down the gauntlet to Premiership rivals with a thumping 38-11 victory over Exeter Chiefs.
Burrell was the standout performer for a ruthless Saints side who had racked up their four-try bonus point by half-time – Dylan Hartley, Ken Pisi, Tom Wood and George Pisi all crossing before the break.
The second half saw the Chiefs admirably limit the damage and score a try of their own by skipper Dean Mumm before Saints responded late on with a pushover from replacement Samu Manoa.
British and Irish Lions stars North and Alex Corbisiero made their debuts in front of an expectant Franklin's Gardens but it was skipper Hartley who responded to his sending off in last season's Premiership Final in the best possible fashion, dotting down after just two minutes in front of the watching Stuart Lancaster.
Centre Burrell, who made his England debut against Argentina earlier this year, was the architect with a superb long pass to find hooker Hartley, who darted for the line himself despite support out wide.
Stephen Myler, another to win his first England cap against the Pumas, added the extras although Saints weren't having things all their own way – Phil Dowson was sent to the sin bin on 10 minutes for killing the ball in front of the posts from an offside position.
Gareth Steenson made no mistake with the penalty but despite their numerical disadvantage, Saints continued to carry the fight to Exeter with wave after wave of attack – Alex King's influence as backs coach already bearing fruit.
Myler was lethal from the tee throughout and had his first penalty of the day before North raised the roof at the Gardens, bursting down the left from his own try-line and getting over half-way before a posse of Chiefs finally stopped him.
On 19 minutes, however, Ken Pisi grabbed his side's second try of the afternoon after a scything break from that man Burrell – Myler again converted to leave Exeter shell-shocked.
In total, Saints added 10 points when down to 14 men and with Dowson restored, they soon made it try number three – Ben Foden somewhat fortuitously gathering his fly hack and offloading to the supporting Wood, who skippered England in Argentina, for the simplest of tries to make it 24-3 on 23 minutes.
The Chiefs gathered themselves and enjoyed a rare spell of possession soon after but when they threatened the try-line, with the penalty advantage, George Pisi's superb defence kept them at bay.
They did go back for the penalty, however, and Steenson notched his second three-pointer of the day but Saints hit back again and saved their best for last in the first half – George Pisi rounding off a fine flowing move that saw Hartley, Christian Day and Courtney Lawes combine to send the Samoan through.
Chastised by Saints in the first half, Exeter sought about restoring pride in the second half and their cause was helped by the sin-binning of Lawes for a dangerous tackle on 46 minutes.
Saints showed their attacking qualities in the first half and displayed their defensive grit in the second, holding the Chiefs, determined to trim the deficit, at bay.
A raft of substitutions saw Saints flex their muscles – introducing Samu Manoa, Calum Clark and Kahn Fotuali'i off the bench – but it was the Chiefs who drew first blood in the second half, skipper Mumm crossing before replacement flyhalf Henry Slade missed the conversion.
The Chiefs sought to frustrate the Saints by slowing down the match and they succeeded – starving the hosts of possession with only one neat show of hands from North all the home faithful had to shout about.
That was until Saints won a penalty deep in enemy territory and kicked for the corner, Manoa shoving over from the resulting line-out for try number five – much to the delight of forwards coach Dorian West – before Myler again converted.
For Northampton Saints:
Tries: Hartley, K Pisi, Wood, G Pisi, Manoa
Cons: Myler 4
For Exeter Chiefs:
Pens: Steenson 2
Yellow cards: Phil Dowson (Northampton Saints, 10th minute), Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints, 46th minute)
Northampton Saints: 15 Ben Foden, 14 Ken Pisi, 13 George Pisi, 12 Luther Burrell, 11 George North, 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Lee Dickson, 8 Sam Dickinson, 7 Phil Dowson, 6 Tom Wood, 5 Christian Day, 4 Courtney Lawes, 3 Tom Mercey, 2 Dylan Hartley (captain), 1 Alex Corbisiero.
Replacements: 16 Mike Haywood, 17 Alex Waller, 18 Gareth Denman, 19 Samu Manoa, 20 Calum Clark, 21 Kahn Fotuali'i, 22 James Wilson, 23 Jamie Elliott.
Exeter Chiefs: 15 Phil Dollman, 14 Matt Jess, 13 Ian Whitten, 12 Jason Shoemark, 11 Tom James, 10 Gareth Steenson, 9 Haydn Thomas, 8 Dave Ewers, 7 James Scaysbrook, 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 Carl Rimmer, 19 Tom Hayes, 20 Ben White, 21 Dave Lewis, 22 Henry Slade, 23 Sam Hill.
Referee: JP Doyle
Assistant referees: Roger Baileff and Peter Huckle
TMO: Rowan Kitt