Ford the hero at Welford Road
PREMIERSHIP SATURDAY WRAP: A virtuoso Joe Ford inspired Leicester Tigers to just their second victory of 2019 as they claimed the scalp of rivals Wasps.
Geordan Murphy’s side, who had lost their last six matches in all competitions before rolling out the red carpet for their Midlands contemporaries at Welford Road, were indebted to a nerveless display from No.10 Ford, who scored every one of his team’s points in the 19-14 win.
Exeter Chiefs survived a late scare from a resurgent Sale Sharks to leave the AJ Bell Stadium with 20-14 win bag and their place at the top of the Premiership table intact.
Meanwhile, Nathan Earle crossed with the final play of the game to give Harlequins a dramatic 31-29 victory over Bath at the Rec in a topsy-turvy Premiership clash.
Leicester Tigers 19-14 Wasps
Marcus Watson got the ball rolling for the visitors in the ninth minute, the winger going over out wide before two Joe Ford penalties shaved Wasps’ advantage to a single point.
But more Watson magic fired Dai Young’s men back into the ascendancy with 30 minutes on the clock.
Taking matters into his own hands, the Watson darted through a gap before isolating Jonah Holmes one-on-one.
The Tigers wide man didn’t know whether to stick or twist and before he could make a decisive mood, Wasps’ Watson burst over the line to make it 14-6.
Ford bisected the posts for the third time on the strike of half-time and early in the second period, the Leicester flyhalf hauled his team in front, faking to pass before side-stepping through the Wasps defence to ground the ball and then convert his own score.
But back came Wasps, and Will Stuart though he had swung the pendulum the other way when he dived for the line from close-range but saw his score ruled out for a knock-on.
Having successfully navigated a spell of pressure, the hosts allowed set the stage for Ford to tuck away another penalty and hand his team a five-point cushion.
The Tigers looked to have done enough to take the win but allowed Wasps to steal the ball in the game’s dying embers.
The visitors laid siege to the Leicester defence and celebrated after Biyi Alo looked to have dotted down but the score wasn’t given and the Tigers snatched the spoils.
Pens: Ford 4
Tries: Watson 2
Cons: Miller 2
Yellow card: Tommy Taylor (Wasps, 41)
Leicester: 15 George Worth, 14 Jonah Holmes, 13 Gareth Owen, 12 Kyle Eastmond, 11 Sam Aspland-Robinson, 10 Joe Ford, 9 Ben White, 8 Sione Kalamafoni, 7 Guy Thompson, 6 Mike Williams, 5 Graham Kitchener, 4 Will Spencer, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Tom Youngs (captain), 1 Facundo Gigena.
Replacements: 16 Jake Kerr, 17 Campese Ma’afu, 18 Joe Heyes, 19 Harry Wells, 20 Mike Fitzgerald, 21 Will Evans, 22 Sam Harrison, 23 Leonardo Sarto.
Wasps: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Marcus Watson, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Gaby Lovobalavu, 11 Josh Bassett, 10 Rob Miller, 9 Joe Simpson, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Thomas Young, 6 Ashley Johnson (captain), 5 James Gaskell, 4 Will Rowlands, 3 Will Stuart, 2 Tommy Taylor, 1 Ben Harris.
Replacements: 16 Tom Cruse, 17 Tom West, 18 Biyi Alo, 19 Charlie Matthews, 20 Jack Willis, 21 Craig Hampson, 22 Jacob Umaga, 23 Ross Neal.
Referee: JP Doyle
Assistant Referees: Steve Lee & Hamish Smales.
TMO: Sean Davey
Sale Sharks 14-20 Exeter Chiefs
An early score by Ollie Devoto was followed by a Don Armand try after sustained Chiefs pressure at the end of the half to put them 15-0 to the good and seemingly in control.
Exeter again extended their advantage, this time through Sean Lonsdale, after Sale hit back through flyhalf Sam James.
But replacement scrumhalf Will Cliff gave Sale hope late on with a try that cut the gap to six, although they could not roar back for a famous win.
Exeter, top from Saracens by three points, made a confident start as Gareth Steenson slotted over penalty but Faf de Klerk and James O’Connor crafted early opportunities for Sharks.
A Sam James kick nearly found Denny Solomona in the corner for the opening try but it was Chiefs that scored the first of the day just on the 20-minute mark, courtesy of the influential Santiago Cordero, who set up centre Devoto in the corner.
Following a lengthy delay while referee Ian Tempest confirmed Devoto was not in touch, Steenson kicked over for two extra points.
Flanker Armand extended his side’s lead after a 10-minute period of Chiefs pressure, giving his side a 15-point advantage going into the break.
But Sale responded when Sam James went over from De Klerk’s pass.
De Klerk converted and Sharks pressed on but Chiefs soaked up the pressure and broke away through Olly Woodburn and Cordero, who found replacement forward Lonsdale in the corner.
Sale struck back immediately when Cliff went over after Byron McGuigan’s breakaway, which Sam James then converted.
A head injury forced Cliff off late on, and Sale weren’t able to rebuild their momentum to upset the league leaders.
Tries: James, Cliff
Cons: James, De Klerk
Tries: Devoto, Armand, Lonsdale
Sale: 15 Luke James, 14 Denny Solomona, 13 James O’Connor, 12 Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 11 Byron McGuigan, 10 Sam James, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Josh Strauss, 7 Ben Curry, 6 Jono Ross (captain), 5 James Phillips, 4 Bryn Evans, 3 WillGriff John, 2 Rob Webber, 1 Valery Morozov.
Replacements: 16 Curtis Langdon, 17 Tom Bristow, 18 Joe Jones, 19 Andrei Ostrikov, 20 Cameron Neild, 21 Will Cliff, 22 Cameron Redpath, 23 Arron Reed.
Exeter: 15 Santiago Cordero, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Ian Whitten, 12 Ollie Devoto, 11 Olly Woodburn, 10 Gareth Steenson, 9 Nic White, 8 Matt Kvesic, 7 Don Armand, 6 Dave Ewers, 5 Jonny Hill, 4 Dave Dennis, 3 Greg Holmes, 2 Jack Yeandle (captain), 1 Alec Hepburn.
Replacements: 16 Elvis Taione, 17 Billy Keast, 18 Marcus Street, 19 Mitch Lees, 20 Sean Lonsdale, 21 Jack Maunder, 22 Joe Simmonds, 23 Sam Hill.
Referee: Ian Tempest
Assistant Referees: Adam Leal & Jonathan Healy.
TMO: Stuart Terheege.
Bath 29-31 Harlequins
Hosts Bath – who also lost in the last play to Northampton Saints last weekend – looked like they had done enough to secure the win in the second-half thanks to Ross Batty’s try and the boot of Rhys Priestland.
But not for nothing are Quins a revitalised side under Paul Gustard and now on a five-match winning streak in the league, and they came roaring back at the death to hand Bath yet more last-gasp misery.
Quins – looking to become the first side to beat Bath at the Rec in the league since October – started so fast.
Chris Robshaw went over from close range before Joe Marchant got on the end of Alex Dombrandt’s clever kick through to race under the posts.
Priestland kicked a penalty to give Bath a foothold and then it was Jonathan Joseph who benefited from a loose ball to go over in the left corner.
Back came Quins though, Marchant and Mike Brown working space down the left to put Dombrandt over.
But Nathan Catt’s close-range try just before the break looked vital for Bath as they only trailed 16-21 at the turnaround.
And in the second half Priestland kept the scoreboard ticking before Batty piled over after a fine break and offload from Ruaridh McConnochie.
But Quins don’t know when they are beaten these days and first Marchant went over from a Brown offload to reduce arrears.
And then, after a mountain of late pressure and Marcus Smith turning down a kick at goal to go to the corner, Quins finally got the breakthrough as Nathan Earle dived over in the right corner.
Tries: Joseph, Catt, Batty
Pens: Priestland 4
Tries: Robshaw, Marchant 2, Dombrandt, Earle
Cons: Lang 3
Bath: 15 Freddie Burns, 14 Ruaridh McConnochie, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Cooper Vuna, 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Will Chudley (captain), 8 Zach Mercer, 7 Francois Louw, 6 Paul Grant, 5 Elliott Stooke, 4 Dave Attwood, 3 Henry Thomas, 2 Tom Dunn, 1 Nathan Catt.
Replacements: 16 Ross Batty, 17 Beno Obano, 18 Anthony Perenise, 19 Levi Douglas, 20 Miles Reid, 21 Kahn Fotuali’i, 22 Jackson Willison, 23 Tom Homer.
Harlequins: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Ross Chisholm, 13 Joe Marchant, 12 Ben Tapuai, 11 Nathan Earle, 10 James Lang, 9 Charlie Mulchrone, 8 Alex Dombrandt, 7 Chris Robshaw (co-captain), 6 Ben Glynn, 5 James Horwill (co-captain), 4 Matt Symons, 3 Will Collier, 2 Elia Elia, 1 Lewis Boyce.
Replacements: 16 Dave Ward, 17 Joe Marler, 18 Josh Ibuanokpe, 19 George Merrick, 20 Jack Clifford, 21 Dave Lewis, 22 Marcus Smith, 23 Francis Saili.
Referee: Matthew Carley
Assistant Referees: Anthony Woodthorpe & Robert Warburton.
TMO: Graham Hughes