Fourteen-man Exeter edge Sharks in thriller
PREMIERSHIP WRAP: Defending champions Exeter staged an extraordinary fightback with 14 men to beat Sale 20-19 and book a home play-off against the same opponents.
The table-topping Bristol Bears will host Harlequins in the early semifinal next Saturday, June 19, with Exeter Chiefs at home to Sale Sharks in the other play-off match.
For much of a gripping contest in the Devon sunshine, Sale served notice of their title credentials, leading by 16 points when Chiefs lock Sam Skinner was sent off for a high challenge on Francois de Klerk.
But Exeter somehow turned the game on its head after Skinner’s 54th-minute exit, storming to victory through tries by Luke Cowan-Dickie and Stu Townsend, while skipper Joe Simmonds kicked two penalties and two conversions, including a penalty clincher nine minutes from time.
Seeking a first Premiership final appearance for 15 years, Sale will return to Exeter next Saturday. Yet one more try, when they led 19-3 and were keeping the Chiefs at a safe distance, would have meant the game going to the north-west instead.
Wing Byron McGuigan, flyhalf AJ MacGinty and wing Arron Reed scored tries for Sale, with MacGinty booting two conversions, but ultimately they were undone by Exeter’s astonishing resilience as they were edged out on a day when their England centre Manu Tuilagi made a strong first start for nine months. They also suffered a cruel injury blow on the stroke of full-time as influential playmaker MacGinty was carried off.
* In other final round league action Bath secure a place in Europe’s elite club competition next season thanks to a 30-24 victory over Northampton.
Danny Care scored two tries as Harlequins warmed up for the play-offs with a comfortable 54-26 victory over Newcastle Falcons.
Leicester secured their first top-half Premiership finish for three seasons after edging Wasps 38-31 at the Ricoh Arena.
All the Round 22 scores and scorers!
Exeter Chiefs 20-19 Sale Sharks
For Exeter Chiefs
Tries: Cowan-Dickie, Townsend
Cons: Simmonds 2
Pens: Simmonds 2
For Sale Sharks
Tries: McGuigan, MacGinty, Reed
Cons: MacGinty 2
Exeter Chiefs: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Ollie Devoto, 11 Tom O’Flaherty, 10 Joe Simmonds (captain), 9 Jack Maunder, 8 Sam Simmonds, 7 Jannes Kirsten, 6 Dave Ewers, 5 Jonny Hill, 4 Sam Skinner, 3 Harry Williams, 2 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 1 Alec Hepburn.
Replacements: 16 Jack Yeandle, 17 Ben Moon, 18 Marcus Street, 19 Sean Lonsdale, 20 Richard Capstick, 21 Stu Townsend, 22 Harvey Skinner, 23 Ian Whitten.
Sale Sharks: 15 Simon Hammersley, 14 Byron McGuigan, 13 Sam James, 12 Manu Tuilagi, 11 Arron Reed, 10 AJ MacGinty, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Daniel du Preez, 7 Tom Curry (captain), 6 Cameron Neild, 5 Jean-Luc du Preez, 4 Cobus Wiese, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Armand van der Merwe, 1 Ross Harrison.
Replacements: 16 Curtis Langdon, 17 Bevan Rodd, 18 Will-Griff John, 19 James Phillips, 20 Ben Curry, 21 Will Cliff, 22 Robert du Preez, 23 Rohan Janse van Rensburg.
Referee: Karl Dickson
Assistant referees: Greg Macdonald & Wayne Falla
TMO: Clare Hodnett
Harlequins 54-26 Newcastle Falcons
Tries: Kenningham, Care 2, Green, Lynagh, Marchant, Landajo, Gray
Cons: Smith 5, Marchant, Tapuai
For Newcastle Falcons
Tries: McGuigan 2, Radwan, Blamire
Cons: Connon 2, Hodgson
Harlequins: 15 Tyrone Green, 14 Louis Lynagh, 13 Joe Marchant, 12 Ben Tapuai, 11 Aaron Morris, 10 Marcus Smith, 9 Danny Care, 8 Alex Dombrandt (captain), 7 Jack Kenningham, 6 Tom Lawday, 5 Dino Lamb, 4 Matt Symons, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Scott Baldwin, 1 Joe Marler
Replacements: 16 Joe Gray, 17 Santiago Garcia Botta, 18 Will Collier, 19 Hugh Tizard, 20 James Chisholm, 21 Martin Landajo, 22 Luke Northmore, 23 Cadan Murley
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Joel Hodgson, 14 Adam Radwan, 13 George Wacokecoke, 12 Luther Burrell, 11 Mateo Carreras, 10 Brett Connon, 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Callum Chick, 7 Mark Wilson (captain), 6 Will Welch, 5 Sean Robinson, 4 Greg Peterson, 3 Trevor Davison, 2 George McGuigan, 1 Adam Brocklebank
Replacements: 16 Jamie Blamire, 17 Kyle Cooper, 18 Rodney Ah You, 19 Philip van der Walt, 20 Carl Fearns, 21 Michael Young, 22 Pete Lucock, 23 Alex Tait
Referee: Christophe Ridley
Assistant referees: Jack Makepeace & Simon McConnell
TMO: Nige Carrick
Wasps 31-38 Leicester Tigers
Tries: Vailanu 2, Umaga, Rowlands
Cons: Umaga 4
For Leicester Tigers
Tries: Henderson, Scott, Cole, Montoya, Lavanini
Cons: McPhillips 5
Wasps: 15 Rob Miller, 14 Marcus Watson, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Michael Le Bourgeois, 11 Josh Bassett, 10 Jacob Umaga, 9 Dan Robson, 8 Sione Vailanu, 7 Brad Shields (captain), 6 Tom Willis, 5 James Gaskell, 4 Will Rowlands, 3 Kieran Brookes, 2 Tommy Taylor, 1 Simon McIntyre
Replacements: 16 Gabriel Oghre, 17 Ben Harris, 18 Jeff Toomaga-Allen, 19 Tim Cardall, 20 Alfie Barbeary, 21 Ben Vellacott, 22 Jimmy Gopperth, 23 Juan de Jongh
Leicester Tigers: 15 Zack Henry, 14 Freddie Steward, 13 Matt Scott, 12 Dan Kelly, 11 Nemani Nadolo, 10 Johnny McPhillips, 9 Jack Van Poortvliet, 8 Jasper Wiese, 7 Hanro Liebenberg, 6 George Martin, 5 Cameron Henderson, 4 Harry Wells, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Julián Montoya, 1 Ellis Genge (captain)
Replacements: 16 Charlie Clare, 17 James Whitcombe, 18 Joe Heyes, 19 Tomás Lavanini, 20 Ollie Chessum, 21 Ben Youngs, 22 Matías Moroni, 23 Kini Murimurivalu
Referee: Luke Pearce
Assistant referees: Mike Hudson & Jonathan Healy
TMO: Tom Foley
Bath 30-24 Northampton Saints
Tries: Underhill, Faletau, du Toit, Bayliss
Cons: Priestland 2
Pens: Priestland 2
For Northampton Saints
Tries: Naiyaravoro 2, Hutchinson, Grayson
Cons: Grayson 2
Bath: 15 Tom de Glanville, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Max Ojomoh, 11 Joe Cokanasiga, 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Ben Spencer, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Sam Underhill, 6 Miles Reid, 5 Charlie Ewels (captain), 4 Josh McNally, 3 Christian Judge, 2 Jacques du Toit, 1 Beno Obano
Replacements: 16 Tom Doughty, 17 Juan Schoeman, 18 Henry Thomas, 19 Will Spencer, 20 Zach Mercer, 21 Josh Bayliss, 22 Will Chudley, 23 Orlando Bailey
Northampton Saints: 15 Tommy Freeman, 14 Tom Collins, 13 Fraser Dingwall, 12 Rory Hutchinson, 11 Taqele Naiyaravoro, 10 James Grayson, 9 Alex Mitchell, 8 Tom Wood, 7 Lewis Ludlam (captain), 6 Courtney Lawes, 5 Alex Moon, 4 Alex Coles, 3 Paul Hill, 2 Mike Haywood, 1 Nick Auterac
Replacements: 16 James Fish, 17 Alex Waller, 18 Ehren Painter, 19 Api Ratuniyarawa, 20 Ollie Newman, 21 Connor Tupai, 22 Matt Proctor, 23 Josh Gillespie
Referee: Ian Tempest
Assistant referees: Hamish Smales & Peter Allan
TMO: David Rose
Sources: AP & RugbyPass