Chiefs leapfrogged to the top spot
Leicester Tigers dug deep to extend their Premiership Rugby winning streak to six with a hard-fought victory over Sale Sharks.
While Freddie Burns returned to haunt London Irish for the second time in as many weeks as he kicked visiting Bath Rugby to victory at the Madejski Stadium.
Exeter Chiefs 31-17 Harlequins
Lachie Turner wasted no time in getting the Chiefs off the mark with the first try, but James Chisholm blasted his way over in response just minutes later.
Olly Woodburn continued his prolific form with a try in the corner, but Tim Visser struck back for Harlequins and Marcus Smith landed a penalty to edge his side in front at the break.
After the interval, Exeter lock Hill powered over to wrestle back control from the London side, and the giant second-row finished off a long-range try to round off the victory in the final quarter.
The game started with Rob Baxter’s side knowing that a win would take them top, and with that in mind, Turner took just five minutes to trouble the scorers.
Harlequins responded with No.8 Chisholm, still working his way back to full fitness, crashing his way through the 22 to shock the Devon crowd.
On 24 minutes a sweeping backs move gave Woodburn the overlap and the deadly wing held off Ross Chisholm’s tackle for a well-taken finish.
The visitors’ second try was all of the makings of Smith, who punted upfield and then passed to Visser after Gareth Steenson had misjudged where the kick would land.
On 44 minutes Don Armand muscled his way towards the Harlequins line, enabling Hill to touch down a couple of phases later, with Steenson again adding the extras.
And with 12 minutes left to play Woodburn made a break down the left before the ball found its way to Hill, who had an easy run in to seal the bonus point.
Tries: Turner, Woodburn, Hill 2
Cons: Steenson 4
Tries:J. Chisholm, Visser
Cons: Smith 2
Exeter: 15 Phil Dollman, 14 Lachie Turner, 13 Ian Whitten, 12 Ollie Devoto, 11 Olly Woodburn, 10 Gareth Steenson, 9 Nic White, 8 Thomas Waldrom, 7 Julian Salvi, 6 Don Armand, 5 Jonny Hill, 4 Mitch Lees, 3 Moray Low, 2 Jack Yeandle (captain), 1 Ben Moon.
Replacements: 16 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 17 Alec Hepburn, 18 Greg Holmes, 19 Toby Salmon, 20 Sam Skinner, 21 Will Chudley, 22 Joe Simmonds, 23 Sam Hill.
Harlequins: 15 Ross Chisholm, 14 Alofa Alofa, 13 Harry Sloan, 12 James Lang, 11 Tim Visser, 10 Marcus Smith, 9 Jono Kitto, 8 Mat Luamanu, 7 Jack Clifford, 6 James Chisholm, 5 James Horwill (captain), 4 Charlie Matthews, 3 Will Collier, 2 Dave Ward, 1 Mark Lambert.
Replacements: 16 Charlie Piper, 17 Lewis Boyce, 18 Phil Swainston, 19 George Merrick, 20 Ben Glynn, 21 Ian Prior, 22 Gabriel Ibitoye, 23 Charlie Walker.
Referee: JP Doyle
Assistant referees: Adam Leal, Jonathan Healy
TMO: Stuart Terheege
Leicester Tigers 35-27 Sale Sharks
Ben Curry opened the scored following a lovely chip-kick from Mike Haley allowed the teenager to find space and go over for the visitors.
Referee Luke Pearce then awards the home side a penalty-try and sent Curry to the sin bin for collapsing the maul.
But the Sharks regained the advantage as the visitors worked the phases to create the extra man out wide, allowing Mark Jennings to score.
An incisive Tigers attack then caused the Sale defence to be out of position allowing Ellis Genge to go under the posts.
But the visitors went in at the break ahead after Marland Yarde, who started and finished a crisp move to cap off his first start with a try.
An early Tigers penalty from Ford put the home side ahead, but Sale got their bonus point with their fourth try of the afternoon when Jono Ross powered over after more good phase work from the Sharks, deep in the Tigers half.
The Tigers edged in front inside the final 15 minutes as Ford’s kick to the wing eluded Yarde to find the hands of Gareth Owen who fought over the line for the try, with the conversion added by Ford.
After Yarde was shown the yellow card for a series of high tackles, the Tigers went in search of their bonus point try and got there thanks to Nick Malouf’s late burst in the corner to settle the score in the home side’s favour.
Tries: Penalty try, Genge, Owen, Malouf
Cons: Ford 2
Pens: Ford 3
Tries: Curry, Jennings, Yarde, Ross
Cons: de Klerk 2
Pen: de Klerk
Yellow Cards: Ben Curry (Sale Sharks, 23), Marland Yarde (Sale Sharks, 73), Teluse Veainu (Leicester Tigers, 1)
Leicester: 15 Telusa Veainu, 14 Nick Malouf, 13 Matt Smith, 12 Gareth Owen, 11 Adam Thompstone, 10 Joe Ford, 9 Sam Harrison, 8 Valentino Mapapalangi, 7 Will Evans, 6 Mike Williams, 5 Graham Kitchener, 4 Mike Fitzgerald, 3 Greg Bateman, 2 Tom Youngs (captain), 1 Ellis Genge.
Replacements: 16 Harry Thacker, 17 Kyle Traynor, 18 Chris Baumann, 19 Harry Wells, 20 Brendon O’Connor, 21 Harry Simmons, 22 Tom Hardwick, 23 Jonah Holmes.
Sale Sharks: 15 Mike Haley, 14 Denny Solomona, 13 Sam James, 12 Mark Jennings, 11 Marland Yarde, 10 James O’Connor, 9 Faf De Klerk, 8 Josh Strauss, 7 Ben Curry, 6 Jono Ross (captain), 5 Andre Ostrikov, 4 Bryn Evans, 3 WillGriff John, 2 Rob Webber, 1 Ross Harrison.
Replacements: 16 Marc Jones, 17 James Flynn, 18 Alexandru Tarus, 19 George Nott, 20 Sam Moore, 21 Cameron Neild, 22 Will Cliff, 23 Josh Charnley.
Referee: Luke Pearce
Assistant referees: Hamish Smales, Nigel Carrick
TMO: Sean Davey
London Irish 18-22 Bath Rugby
In an eight-try thriller, second-half scores from Gareth Owen and Nick Malouf ensured the Tigers secured the bonus point victory after the Sharks had led at the break
Faultless with the boot all day, Burns kicked 17 points for Bath in a 22-18 win after playing a similarly pivotal role in their 26-22 triumph in the Anglo-Welsh Cup there on November 4.
Irish were first on the board through the boot of Tommy Bell, who slotted an early penalty after Bath were pulled up for offside.
But Todd Blackadder’s side hit back quickly, the charging bulk of Matt Banahan powering through a few moments later for the game’s first try after good work by Aled Brew and Paul Grant, Burns slotting the conversion.
James Marshall dotted down soon after for the home side cut the gap to 10-8 as Irish rallied.
Burns, capped ten times for England, then landed a drop goal after 23 minutes for another three points, before power was added to precision moments later when he sent a penalty sailing through the posts from near halfway.
Irish hit back and thought they had sliced the lead when Blair Cowan crossed, but this was ruled out by the officials.
But the hosts did strike a blow just before half-time through another Bell penalty as the sides went into half-time at 11-16.
A tricky kick from the touchline ten minutes after half-time was another test for Burns, but he sent it through with the minimum of fuss once more as Bath stretched their advantage.
The game got scrappier, playing into the visitors’ hands, with Burns adding another three-pointer midway through the second period to cement an 11-point lead.
Irish valiantly kept hammering away at the Bath backline, and replacement Scott Steele crashed over with five minutes to go to ensure a frantic finale, Greig Tonks on hand with the extras.
Irish relentlessly poured forward in search of a winning score and nearly had it in the final seconds, but Ollie Hoskins was held up just short of the line.
Tries: Marshall, Steele
Pens: Bell 2
Pens: Burns 4
London Irish: 15 James Marshall, 14 Joe Cokanasiga, 13 Fergus Mulchrone, 12 Luke McLean, 11 Alex Lewington, 10 Tommy Bell, 9 Ben Meehan, 8 Blair Cowan, 7 Conor Gilsenan, 6 Max Northcote-Green, 5 Sebastian De Chaves, 4 Franco van der Merwe, 3 Petrus du Plessis, 2 David Paice (captain), 1 Ben Franks.
Replacements: 16 Dave Porecki, 17 Harry Elrington, 18 Ollie Hoskins, 19 Will Lloyd, 20 Mike Coman, 21 Scott Steele, 22 Greig Tonks, 23 Tom Fowlie.
Bath: 15 Tom Homer, 14 Jack Wilson, 13 James Wilson, 12 Matt Banahan, 11 Aled Brew, 10 Freddie Burns, 9 Kahn Fotuali’i, 8 Paul Grant, 7 Zach Mercer, 6 Matt Garvey (captain), 5 Elliott Stooke, 4 Luke Charteris, 3 Anthony Perenise, 2 Tom Dunn, 1 Beno Obano
Replacements: 16 Michael van Vuuren, 17 Nick Auterac, 18 Max Lahiff, 19 Levi Douglas, 20 Josh Bayliss, 21 Darren Allinson, 22 Josh Lewis, 23 Darren Atkins.
Referee: Thomas Foley
Assistant referees: Paul Dix, Wayne Falla
TMO: Keith Lewis