Bears stretch their lead
PREMIERSHIP WRAP: Bristol extended their advantage at the top of the Premiership to six points with a hard-fought 17-3 win over a spirited Leicester at Ashton Gate.
However, the league leaders struggled to overcome weakened opponents.
* Meanwhile, in other Saturday matches, London Irish continued to show they are a growing force in the Premiership by winning 16-10 at Wasps, Brett Connon held his nerve to kick a last-minute penalty as Newcastle returned to winning ways by beating Harlequins 25-22 and struggling Gloucester battled past Worcester 22-14 and secured just their second win of the season.
All the Saturday action!
Bristol Bears 17-3 Leicester Tigers
Bristol extended their advantage at the top of the Premiership to six points with a hard-fought 17-3 win over a spirited Leicester at Ashton Gate but the league leaders struggled to overcome weakened opponents.
Leicester made numerous changes following last week’s home win over Wasps and their young side frustrated the Bears in the first half-hour.
The sin-binning of their centre Matias Maroni proved decisive as Bristol scored 14 points in his absence.
Will Capon and Piers O’Conor scored Bristol’s tries, with Ioan Lloyd adding two conversions and a penalty, while Joaquin Diaz Bonilla kicked a penalty for Leicester.
Bristol made an all-action start but it took them until the 12th minute to carve out a real chance to open the scoring.
Lloyd was given the opportunity to kick a straightforward penalty but the Bears elected for an attacking line-out, overthrowing and squandering the chance.
The hosts persisted with their option of not taking kickable penalties but twice in quick succession they again blew their opportunity as again their line-out malfunctioned.
Leicester then had their first chance at points but they could not take them either as fly-half Bonilla was off target with a 45-metre penalty attempt.
The first quarter therefore finished scoreless as determined tackling from the visitors continued to frustrate their opponents and their commitment would have been rewarded if Bonilla’s 40-metre penalty from in front of the posts had not fallen short.
Two minutes later the outside half had a similar kick and this time he made no mistake to give the Tigers a 29th-minute lead.
However Moroni was sin-binned for a deliberate knock-on which proved costly as first Capon finished off a driving line-out before a well-constructed move from a scrum 10 metres out saw Luke Morahan send O’Conor over. Lloyd converted both to give his side a deserved 14-3 lead.
Soon after the restart Bristol took off the impressive Morahan, with Leicester introducing first-choice forwards Dan Cole and Calum Green.
Lloyd extended Bristol’s lead with a simple penalty but that was the precursor for the Tigers to have their best period of the match as the visitors’ front row caused their counterparts continual problems in the scrum, but they lacked the attacking nous to capitalise.
Lloyd’s penalty was the only score of an evenly contested second half, with Leicester emerging with great credit for competing toe to toe with the league leaders for most of the match.
Tries: Capon, O’Connor
Cons: Lloyd 2
For Leicester Tigers
Bristol: 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Luke Morahan, 13 Piers O’Conor, 12 Alapati Leiua, 11 Siva Naulago, 10 Ioan Lloyd, 9 Andy Uren, 8 Jake Heenan, 7 Dan Thomas, 6 Steven Luatua (captain), 5 Joe Joyce, 4 Chris Vui, 3 John Afoa, 2 Will Capon, 1 Jake Woolmore.
Replacements: 16 George Kloska, 17 Yann Thomas, 18 Jake Armstrong, 19 Ed Holmes, 20 Fitz Harding, 21 Tom Kessell, 22 Tiff Eden, 23 Niyi Adeolokun.
Leicester Tigers: 15 Kini Murimurivalu, 14 Kobus Van Wyk, 13 Matías Moroni, 12 Dan Kelly, 11 Guy Porter, 10 Joaquín Díaz Bonilla, 9 Jack Van Poortvliet, 8 Ollie Chessum, 7 Tommy Reffell, 6 Harry Wells, 5 Tomás Lavanini, 4 Cameron Henderson, 3 Joe Heyes, 2 Tom Youngs (captain), 1 Nephi Leatigaga.
Replacements: 16 Charlie Clare, 17 James Whitcombe, 18 Dan Cole, 19 Calum Green, 20 Luke Wallace, 21 Ben White, 22 Johnny McPhillips, 23 Harry Simmons.
Referee: Christophe Ridley
Assistant referees: Craig Maxwell-Keys & Dean Richards
TMO: Claire Hodnett
Newcastle Falcons 25-22 Harlequins
Brett Connon held his nerve to kick a last-minute penalty as Newcastle returning to winning ways by beating Harlequins 25-22. Falcons, whose last two games had been postponed due to COVID-19, claimed a first win since early January thanks to tries from Callum Chick, Logovi’i Mulipola and Adam Radwan and Connon’s composure from the tee late on.
Indiscipline cost Harlequins a fifth triumph on the trot, with Simon Kerrod sin-binned for a needless shoulder charge in the dying minutes. Quins looked sharper in the opening stages of the game, but it was the home side who took the lead with 13 minutes on the clock.
Chick, making his first start of the season, was able to score down the left after Aaron Morris misjudged a box kick and Ben Stevenson collected, offloading for the flanker to score. Connon added the extras. As the half progressed, Harlequins struggled for territory and were punished from a set-piece when Mulipola scored from a pick and go after an overthrow from a line-out.
Quins, though, responded straight away. Stephan Lewies steamed in from 20 metres after the Falcons failed to gather the restart, Marcus Smith kicking the conversion from tight on the right touchline. Inside the first five minutes of the second half, Newcastle came within five metres of the try line but, for the second time in the match, were pinged for holding on, giving the visitors the chance to clear their lines.
Radwan extended the lead after 48 minutes but in a less than typical manner as he barged his way over the line from a couple of metres under a tackle. Connon missed the conversion. Harlequins reduced the arrears after 55 minutes and it was a superb individual effort from Tyrone Green, who scored from a training ground line-out routine.
A superb step left Stevenson stranded and Green raced over, with Smith kicking the extras to make it a one-score game. Green levelled the game with another spectacular try after 63 minutes as he again raced down the right wing, the winger beating three defenders with his pace and hand-offs before scoring in the corner. Smith could not add the two points.
Indiscipline from Quins deep in their own territory gave Connon the easiest of opportunities to restore the lead for the home side with a little over 10 minutes remaining. However, Smith levelled the scores when he knocked a penalty over following a knock-on from Luther Burrell.
Pantomime boos went around the ground from the replacements after the TMO spotted a shoulder from Kerrod, which earned the Quins replacement a yellow card with four minutes remaining. From the resulting penalty, Falcons kicked into the 22 and won another penalty for offside. And Connon held his nerve to seal the victory, his kick sailing over with 40 seconds left on the clock.
For Newcastle Falcons
Tries: Chick, Mulipola, Radwan
Cons: Connon 2
Pens: Connon 2
Tries: Lewies, Green 2
Cons: Smith 2
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Tom Penny, 14 Adam Radwan, 13 Matias Orlando, 12 Luther Burrell, 11 Ben Stevenson, 10 Joel Hodgson, 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Callum Chick, 7 Philip van der Walt, 6 Sean Robinson (captain), 5 Marco Fuser, 4 Greg Peterson, 3 Logovi’i Mulipola, 2 George McGuigan, 1 Trevor Davison.
Replacements: 16 Jamie Blamire, 17 Adam Brocklebank, 18 Mark Tampin, 19 Darren Barry, 20 John Hardie, 21 Sam Stuart, 22 Brett Connon, 23 Mateo Carreras.
Harlequins: 15 Aaron Morris, 14 Joe Marchant, 13 Luke Northmore, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Tyrone Green, 10 Marcus Smith, 9 Martin Landajo, 8 James Chisholm, 7 Jack Kenningham, 6 Stephan Lewies (captain), 5 Hugh Tizard, 4 Matt Symons, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Elia Elia, 1 Joe Marler.
Replacements: 16 Scott Baldwin, 17 Jordan Els, 18 Simon Kerrod, 19 Glen Young, 20 Alex Dombrandt, 21 Danny Care, 22 Brett Herron, 23 Louis Lynagh.
Referee: Jack Makepeace
Assistant referees: John Meredith & Wayne Falla
TMO: Trevor Fisher
Wasps 10-16 London Irish
London Irish continued to show they are a growing force in the Premiership by winning 16-10 at Wasps, with Ollie Hassell-Collins’ try rewarding a dominant second-half performance.
The close nature of the scoreline does not really do justice over how on top the Exiles were after the restart at the Ricoh Arena, as they controlled possession and territory, while never giving the hosts a moment to settle.
They had to survive some belated pressure from Wasps, following a couple of penalties that took play deep into their 22, but Declan Kidney’s side held out.
A great break from Tom Parton in the first minute eventually led to London Irish claiming the first points of the game through a straightforward penalty from Paddy Jackson.
Having withstood an early onslaught from the Exiles, Wasps clicked into gear and almost hit back when scrum-half Will Porter was held up over the line, following a succession of forward drives.
But a collapsed scrum soon gave Jacob Umaga the simple task of levelling the game with a penalty from in front of the posts.
Jackson then kicked Irish 6-3 ahead with his second penalty, as Wasps struggled to keep their discipline during the opening 20 minutes.
The hosts’ attacking game was not really functioning at this point, with Brad Shields knocking-on in trying to force an offload after stealing possession in the visitors’ 22.
But Wasps did manage to claim the game’s first try four minutes before half-time, as Tom Willis bundled his way over from inches out after Gabriel Oghre’s tapped penalty had caught the Exiles on the hop.
Umaga converted to give his side a 10-6 lead at the end of a disjointed first half, but London Irish seized back the advantage nine minutes after the restart.
After Curtis Rona was stopped in his tracks in the shadow of the posts, Nick Phipps quickly recycled the ball out left for Theo Brophy-Clews, whose pass gave Hassell-Collins a walk-in at the corner.
Jackson converted well from the touchline to put the visitors 13-10 ahead, a lead that was not immediately threatened, as Wasps continued to make errors.
A chance to extend the lead disappeared when Rob Simmons was tackled five metres short of the line after being put through by Sean O’Brien, with Wasps’ forwards then driving over the ball to turn over possession.
The Exiles continued to dominate territorially, but still could not pull clear, as Ben Donnell was penalised for holding on after being tackled five metres out.
But Jackson was able to add another three points with five minutes left with a beautifully-struck penalty, as Wasps fell to a third straight home defeat.
For London Irish
Pens: Jackson 3
Wasps: 15 Matteo Minozzi, 14 Zach Kibirige, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Michael Le Bourgeois, 11 Josh Bassett, 10 Jacob Umaga, 9 Will Porter, 8 Tom Willis, 7 Gabriel Oghre, 6 Brad Shields (captain), 5 James Gaskell, 4 Will Rowlands, 3 Jeff Toomaga-Allen, 2 Tom Cruse, 1 Tom West.
Replacements: 16 Tommy Taylor, 17 Ben Harris, 18 Nicky Thomas, 19 Levi Douglas, 20 Sione Vailanu, 21 Ben Vellacott, 22 Charlie Atkinson, 23 Jimmy Gopperth.
London Irish: 15 Tom Parton, 14 Ben Loader, 13 Curtis Rona, 12 Theo Brophy Clews, 11 Ollie Hassell-Collins, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Matt Rogerson (captain), 7 Ben Donnell, 6 Sean O’Brien, 5 George Nott, 4 Steve Mafi, 3 Ollie Hoskins, 2 Agustin Creevy, 1 Allan Dell.
Replacements: 16 Matt Cornish, 17 Will Goodrick-Clarke, 18 Lovejoy Chawatama, 19 Rob Simmons, 20 Blair Cowan, 21 Ben Meehan, 22 Terrence Hepetema, 23 Will Joseph.
Referee: Hamish Smales
Assistant referees: Greg Macdonald & Gareth Holsgrove
TMO: Rowan Kitt
Gloucester 22-14 Worcester Warriors
Struggling Gloucester launched a stirring second-half comeback to battle past Worcester 22-14 and secure just their second win of the Premiership season.
Billy Twelvetrees, Matias Alemanno and Tom Seabrook all crossed for the hosts after Nick David’s early try had got Warriors off to a flying start.
Worcester scored a second-half penalty try after Fraser Balmain was sent to the sin-bin to give the visitors a 14-5 lead, and despite Jordy Reid and Santiago Carreras also being yellow-carded, Gloucester turned the game around and held on for victory.
The result lifts Gloucester up to 15 points in the Premiership table, level on points with Worcester after clinching their first win since November 28.
Warriors’ wing David opened the scoring with a sensational try inside the opening minute as he returned a kick from deep with a mazy run through the Gloucester defence.
The hosts continued to look lethargic as they attempted to get a hold of the game, with several penalties and unforced errors preventing them from threatening their M5 rivals.
Gloucester were dealt another early blow as hooker Jack Singleton left the field after 18 minutes having picked up an injury on his return to the side.
Jamie Shillcock managed the first half excellently for the visitors as he looked to keep the hosts on the back foot, searching for pockets of space in behind the Gloucester wingers.
However, they eventually worked their way into Worcester territory at the end of the half after ill-discipline from Warriors gave the home side’s forwards the opportunity to strike.
The Cherry and Whites’ pack drove within metres of the line before Willi Heinz arced off the back of the maul to find Twelvetrees coming in on a hard line to score.
But the flyhalf was unable to add the extras, leaving Gloucester trailing 7-5 heading into the break.
Worcester scored within three minutes of the second half, with referee Luke Pearce awarding a penalty try after Balmain had stopped the maul illegally.
However, 14-man Gloucester sprung into life as they flipped the game on its head with two quick tries.
Argentine lock Alemanno drove over from close range after 52 minutes before Seabrook capitalised on a loose ball in the backfield two minutes later to turn the score 19-14 in their favour.
Gloucester returned to a full contingent before another yellow card for flanker Reid sent them back down to 14 men.
But replacement flyhalf George Barton then slotted a 74th-minute penalty to leave Worcester needing two more scores for victory.
Carreras also received a yellow card for a deliberate knock-on and despite the visitors pressing for a score, Gloucester saw the game out.
Tries: Twelvetrees, Alemanno, Seabrook
Cons: Twelvetrees 2
For Worcester Warriors
Tries: David, Penalty try
Cons: Shillcock, penalty try does not require a conversion
Gloucester: 15 Kyle Moyle, 14 Santiago Carreras, 13 Henry Trinder, 12 Tom Seabrook, 11 Ollie Thorley, 10 Billy Twelvetrees, 9 Willi Heinz, 8 Ruan Ackermann, 7 Lewis Ludlow (captain), 6 Jordy Reid, 5 Matias Alemanno, 4 Ed Slater, 3 Fraser Balmain, 2 Jack Singleton, 1 Alex Seville.
Replacements: 16 Santiago Socino, 17 Jamal Ford-Robinson, 18 Jack Stanley, 19 Alex Craig, 20 Jack Clement, 21 Charlie Chapman, 22 George Barton, 23 Giorgi Kveseladze.
Worcester Warriors: 15 Chris Pennell, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Oli Morris, 12 Francois Venter, 11 Nick David, 10 Jamie Shillcock, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 GJ van Velze, 7 Matt Kvesic, 6 Ted Hill (captain), 5 Justin Clegg, 4 Andrew Kitchener, 3 Nick Schonert, 2 Niall Annett, 1 Ethan Waller.
Replacements: 16 Isaac Miller, 17 Marc Thomas, 18 Richard Palframan, 19 George Merrick, 20 Joe Batley, 21 Michael Heaney, 22 Fin Smith, 23 Ashley Beck.
Referee: Luke Pearce
Assistant referees: Mike Hudson & Robert Warburton
TMO: David Rose
Sources: PA & RugbyPass