Fourteen-man Sale record late win over Gloucester
PREMIERSHIP WRAP: Sale Sharks overcame a first-half red card for Rob du Preez to boost their Premiership playoff prospects following a 25-22 triumph over Gloucester at the AJ Bell Stadium.
Sale Sharks and Gloucester scored three tries apiece, however, a late AJ MacGinty penalty made sure the hosts recorded the win.
In the other fixtures, Exeter Chiefs responded to their Champions Cup exit by resuming Premiership business with a 43-13 bonus-point victory over Wasps at Sandy Park.
The Chiefs’ hopes of a successful European title defence were ended by four-time tournament winners Leinster last weekend.
Harlequins took advantage of excellent conditions and willing opponents to engineer a 50-26 victory over Worcester that returned them to fourth place in the Premiership.
While Premiership leaders Bristol put in a scintillating attacking display as they claimed a 34-17 bonus-point victory at Kingston Park as hosts Newcastle slipped to a fifth-straight defeat.
Sale Sharks 25-22 Gloucester
Du Preez was sent off in the 26th minute with the Sharks leading 12-5 through tries from Faf de Klerk and Arron Reed.
Jonny May had responded for the Cherry and Whites prior to that incident and George Barton then added a penalty to give them a huge chance of upsetting the playoff challengers in the second period.
That seemed to be a long shot when an AJ MacGinty penalty and Marland Yarde try moved the hosts 14 points ahead but quick-fire scores from Santiago Carreras and Willi Heinz levelled matters.
Gloucester had the momentum but it was Sale who wrestled it back to claim the win through MacGinty’s three-pointer. Despite their hammering at the hands of La Rochelle in the Champions Cup quarter-finals, the Sharks have been in fine form and they began this encounter in excellent fashion.
Alex Sanderson’s men consistently pressured the opposition defensive line and, although one opportunity went awry, they were rewarded when du Preez broke through and off-loaded for de Klerk to score.
Sale were playing some fluent rugby but at times they overplayed and Gloucester capitalised as another stray pass allowed the Premiership strugglers to counter-attack. After the ball was kicked forward, it became a foot race between Luke James and May and there was only one winner as the wing touched down to reduce the arrears to 7-5.
Sale responded almost immediately, however, and constructed another well-worked try as Sam James’ inside pass sent Reed across the whitewash. Sharks were in control but they were dealt a blow when fly-half du Preez was correctly sent off for a dangerous tackle after tipping Val Rapava-Ruskin beyond the horizontal.
Barton then reduced the deficit from the tee before a breathless passage of play saw the ball regularly move from one end of the pitch to the other. Louis Rees-Zammit was deceived by the bounce when in an excellent position to score before the home side counter-attacked through James and MacGinty but the fly-half was unable to catch James’ pass when inside the opposition 22.
Both teams continued to attack and turn over the ball but, thankfully for both pack of forwards, play eventually came to a halt. That was the last significant action of the half as Sale went into the break four points in front.
The Sharks soon extended their lead in the second period as they began the half well, with MacGinty kicking a penalty. They were also handling the disparity in numbers impressively and were rewarded for their endeavour through Yarde’s try.
MacGinty was the architect of the score, weaving his way through the defence before the wing crashed over from close range. It appeared to be a long way back for Gloucester but they finally found the formula to take advantage of the red card.
Firstly, a fine Billy Twelvetrees pass meant Carreras could touch down before they produced a lovely move for Heinz to go over. Rees-Zammit was given the space to sprint down the right before he combined with Lewis Ludlow to send the scrum-half across the line unopposed.
Twelvetrees’ conversion levelled matters but Sale retook the lead through the boot of MacGinty, who bisected the uprights with ten minutes remaining. Gloucester went in search of the winner, playing the off-loading game which had served them so well in the second half, and thought they had it through Mark Atkinson.
However, it was chalked off for an illegal clear-out from Ed Slater and that proved decisive as the Sharks secured an important win.
For Sale Sharks:
Tries: De Klerk, Reed, Yarde
Cons: R du Preez, MacGinty
Pens: MacGinty 2
Tries: May 2, Heinz
Cons: Twelvetrees 2
Red card: Robert du Preez (Sale Sharks, 23)
Sale Sharks: 15 Luke James, 14 Arron Reed, 13 Sam James, 12 Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 11 Marland Yarde, 10 Robert du Preez, 9 Faf de Klerk (captain), 8 Daniel du Preez, 7 Tom Curry, 6 Jean-Luc du Preez, 5 Jean-Pierre du Preez, 4 Cobus Wiese, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Akker van der Merwe, 1 Ross Harrison
Replacements: 16 Curtis Langdon, 17 Valery Morozov, 18 James Harper, 19 James Phillips, 20 Cameron Neild, 21 Will Cliff, 22 AJ MacGinty, 23 Simon Hammersley
Gloucester: 15 Santiago Carreras, 14 Louis Rees-Zammit, 13 Chris Harris, 12 Mark Atkinson, 11 Jonny May, 10 George Barton, 9 Charlie Chapman, 8 Ruan Ackermann, 7 Lewis Ludlow (captain), 6 Jack Clement, 5 Alex Craig, 4 Ed Slater, 3 Fraser Balmain, 2 Jack Singleton, 1 Val Rapava-Ruskin
Replacements: 16 Henry Walker, 17 Alex Seville, 18 Jamal Ford-Robinson, 19 Matt Garvey, 20 Ben Morgan, 21 Willi Heinz, 22 Billy Twelvetrees, 23 Kyle Moyle
Referee: Adam Leal
Assistant Referees: Paul Dix and Gareth Holsgrove
TMO: Andrew Jackson
Exeter Chiefs 43-13 Wasps
Back-to-back Premiership crowns are now Exeter’s sole focus and they consolidated second place behind runaway leaders Bristol through a convincing win underpinned by 33 unanswered second-half points.
Fullback Stuart Hogg (two), centre Ollie Devoto, lock Jonny Hill, wing Facundo Cordero, flyhalf Joe Simmonds and prop Tomas Francis scored tries, with Simmonds kicking four conversions, while Wasps claimed a Josh Bassett touchdown and eight points from flyhalf Jacob Umaga.
There was also a 20-minute return off the replacements’ bench for Chiefs’ England wing Jack Nowell, who made his comeback following six months out due to toe ligament surgery and then a hamstring problem. But for Wasps, despite some impressive spells in the Devon sunshine, it was their sixth defeat from the last seven Premiership games, and playoff chances appear remote for Lee Blackett’s team.
Exeter showed four changes from the Leinster loss, including starts for Cordero, prop Harry Williams and lock Sam Skinner. Wasps, meanwhile, replaced injured full-back Matteo Minozzi with Rob Miller, fielded Tom West at loosehead prop and gave flanker Ben Morris a start instead of James Gaskell.
Exeter found themselves under pressure as the Wasps forwards targeted early in-roads, but after scrum-half Dan Robson’s pass fell the Chiefs’ way, Devoto gathered to claim an opportunist try from 80 metres out. Umaga opened Wasps’ account through a short-range penalty three minutes later, yet Exeter soon responded with a second try created by hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie on his 100th Premiership appearance.
The England international broke clear in open play, knocked a Wasps defender out of his way and then set up quickly-recycled possession for an unmarked Hill to cross wide out. But Wasps responded impressively, taking a three-point lead shortly before the break due to a second Umaga penalty and then a try following Exeter and Scotland star Hogg’s error.
Hogg had plenty of time to launch a clear kick into touch from inside his own 22, but Bassett charged it down and then gathered for a try, before Umaga added a wide-angled conversion. Wasps finished the opening 40 minutes as they had started it, camped inside Exeter’s 22 and giving the Chiefs plenty to ponder during half-time.
Exeter began the second period by moving up a gear in terms of their intensity, and it took a brilliant tackle by Wasps wing Paolo Odogwu to deny Chiefs number eight Sam Simmonds his 15th Premiership try of the season. But the Chiefs did not have to wait before they regained the lead, with impressive approach work by Devoto creating space and Hogg atoned for his earlier mistake by finishing strongly.
Exeter were back at it just two minutes later, claiming a bonus-point try after Cordero intercepted Wasps centre Malakai Fekitoa’s pass and leaving the visitors nine points adrift. The job was then completed by Wales international Francis 10 minutes from time, who scored his first Exeter try, and Simmonds converted to leave Wasps floundering following a second half that Chiefs dominated.
There was still time for Simmonds to touch down and convert his own try, before Hogg crossed for his second, as Exeter delivered one of their most impressive 40-minute performances this season.
For Exeter Chiefs:
Tries: Devoto, Hill, Hogg 2, Simmonds, Cordero, Francis.
Cons: Simmonds 4
Pens: Umaga 2
Exeter Chiefs: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Facundo Cordero, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Ollie Devoto, 11 Tom O’Flaherty, 10 Joe Simmonds (captain), 9 Jack Maunder, 8 Sam Simmonds, 7 Jacques Vermeulen, 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 Tomas Francis, 19 Jonny Gray, 20 Sean Lonsdale, 21 Stu Townsend, 22 Harvey Skinner, 23 Jack Nowell
Wasps: 15 Rob Miller, 14 Paolo Odogwu, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Michael Le Bourgeois, 11 Josh Bassett, 10 Jacob Umaga, 9 Dan Robson, 8 Brad Shields, 7 Thomas Young, 6 Ben Morris, 5 Will Rowlands, 4 Joe Launchbury (captain), 3 Kieran Brookes, 2 Tommy Taylor, 1 Tom West
Replacements: 16 Gabriel Oghre, 17 Ben Harris, 18 Jeff Toomaga-Allen, 19 Levi Douglas, 20 Alfie Barbeary, 21 Ben Vellacott, 22 Lima Sopoaga, 23 Zach Kibirige
Referee: Tom Foley
Assistant Referees: Greg Macdonald and Phil Watters
TMO: Geoff Warren
Harlequins 50-26 Worcester Warriors
Quins had the bonus point secured on the half-hour mark as they ran amok at Twickenham Stoop, inspired by their irrepressible halfback duo Danny Care and Marcus Smith.
A host of players shone, however, as the Premiership’s bottom-placed team waved in eight tries in a game lacking intensity.
Will Evans crossed two to spearhead the rout and there were also scores for Care, Smith, Andre Esterhuizen, Wilco Louw, Tyrone Green and Luke Northmore.
England assistant coaches John Mitchell and Simon Amor watched from the stands and can only have been impressed by Smith and Dombrandt, Quins’ rising stars who are making compelling cases to be given their Test debuts.
An eventful start produced an early blizzard of tries and was a poor indicator of the one-way traffic to come, the first scored when Care instinctively exploited a blindside that had been deserted by the Warriors’ defence.
Worcester hit back through Billy Searle, but it was his team-mates who orchestrated the try through a series of strong carries and crisp passing, although Quins’ passive tackling also played a role.
Smith took advantage of Ollie Lawrence darting out of the line to create space for Dombrandt and a pass later the supporting Smith crossed under the posts.
But once more Quins paid the price for a lack of urgency in defence as Joe Batley finished another sweeping move that began from inside Worcester’s half.
The clock had just passed the 10-minute mark and while the points briefly dried up, there was no shortage of drama with the rivals taking advantage of the dry weather to mount attack after attack.
Quins’ third try to regain the lead was a classy score, started by Mike Brown’s brave catch with Joe Marchant and Dombrandt also involved until Care sent Esterhuizen over.
South African brute strength was the source of their fourth, with inside centre Esterhuizen bulldozing a path off a line-out before Louw arrived to deliver the killer blow from close range.
It started to look bleak for Worcester as Evans peeled off a line-out drive to touch down virtually unopposed and as Marchant sliced through two feeble tackles early in the second half, there was clearly more misery ahead.
A throw to the back of the line-out brought it about sooner rather than later as the Warriors’ pack folded with embarrassing ease for Evans to claim his second.
Wing Tyrone Green raced over after a period of sustained pressure and with 10 minutes to go Northmore was the recipient of crisp passing from Dombrandt and Marchant.
Worcester had the final say when Richard Palframan and Alex Hearle went over late on, but the result had been decided long ago.
Tries: Care, Smith, Esterhuizen, Louw, Evans 3, Northmore
Cons: Smith 5
For Worcester Warriors:
Tries: Annett, Batley, Palframan, Hearle
Cons: Searle 3
Harlequins: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Tyrone Green, 13 Joe Marchant, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Cadan Murley, 10 Marcus Smith, 9 Danny Care, 8 Alex Dombrandt (captain), 7 Will Evans, 6 Tom Lawday, 5 Dino Lamb, 4 Matt Symons, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Scott Baldwin, 1 Joe Marler
Replacements: 16 Joe Gray, 17 Jordan Els, 18 Will Collier, 19 Hugh Tizard, 20 Jack Kenningham, 21 Martin Landajo, 22 Brett Herron, 23 Luke Northmore
Worcester Warriors: 15 Jamie Shillcock, 14 Perry Humphreys, 13 Ollie Lawrence, 12 Francois Venter, 11 Alex Hearle, 10 Billy Searle, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 GJ van Velze, 7 Matt Kvesic, 6 Ted Hill (captain), 5 Graham Kitchener, 4 Joe Batley, 3 Nick Schonert, 2 Niall Annett, 1 Ethan Waller
Replacements: 16 Isaac Miller, 17 Marc Thomas, 18 Richard Palframan, 19 Anton Bresler, 20 Tom Dodd, 21 Gareth Simpson, 22 Ashley Beck, 23 Harri Doel
Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys
Assistant Referees: Dean Richards and Simon McConnell
TMO: David Rose
Newcastle Falcons 17-34 Bristol Bears
Max Malins’ brace was added to by tries from Jake Heenan, Luke Morahan and Ben Earl as Pat Lam’s side overcame a slow start to retain their 12-point advantage at the summit.
The opening quarter suggested the game could have produced a different outcome as the Falcons opened the scoring after 16 minutes.
Michael Young intercepted a sloppy Bears pass to run in under the posts and provide Toby Flood with a simple conversion.
Despite being down a player for 10 minutes – Adam Brocklebank having been sin-binned for a late hit on Callum Sheedy – the hosts thought they had added another try through Cooper Vuna in the corner but the ball had been carried back over the line by Morahan.
From the subsequent scrum, Bristol conceded a penalty in front of the posts and Flood stretched the lead to 10-0.
The visitors hit back three minutes later as smart play down the right exploited an overlap and Heenan charged over.
Ioan Lloyd, on for the injured Sheedy, kicked the conversion and repeated the trick shortly afterwards as Malins put the Bears ahead in style, stepping inside a static Newcastle defence to dot down.
Morahan added a third try for Bristol in the final minute of the half as he raced over in the corner after shrugging off the challenges of Young and Flood.
Lloyd pushed his conversion attempt well wide but was successful with a penalty 12 minutes into the second period to extend the visitors’ advantage.
The Bears gained their try bonus point after 56 minutes as, following a lineout, Earl picked a great line to weave through a series of challenges. The conversion attempt from Lloyd was pulled wide of the posts.
Sean Robinson thought he had the home side back in the game but a knock-on had been spotted in the build-up.
Siale Piutau raced clear from the resulting scrum inside his own 22 but his inside pass to Malins was spilled.
The ball was recycled wide to Niyi Adeolokun, who glided over, but again play was called back for a knock-on after the TMO was consulted.
A fortuitous bounce then helped give Malins his second of the game as a deft chip evaded Jamie Blamire and landed perfectly into the arms of the fullback, who was able to canter over from 20 metres out for a try converted by Lloyd.
Newcastle had the last word as Kyle Cooper barged his way over the line from close range and Flood added the conversion.
For Newcastle Falcons:
Tries: Young, Cooper
Cons: Flood 2
For Bristol Bears:
Tries: Heenan, Malins 2, Morahan, Earl. Adeolokun
Cons: Lloyd 3
Yellow card: Adam Brocklebank (Newcastle Falcons, 11)
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Tom Penny, 14 Cooper Vuna, 13 George Wacokecoke, 12 Pete Lucock, 11 Ben Stevenson, 10 Toby Flood, 9 Michael Young, 8 Callum Chick, 7 Mark Wilson (captain), 6 Will Welch, 5 Sean Robinson, 4 Greg Peterson, 3 Logovi’i Mulipola, 2 George McGuigan, 1 Trevor Davison
Replacements: 16 Jamie Blamire, 17 Adam Brocklebank, 18 Rodney Ah You, 19 Marco Fuser, 20 Philip van der Walt, 21 Louis Schreuder, 22 Brett Connon, 23 Gary Graham
Bristol Bears: 15 Max Malins, 14 Luke Morahan, 13 Piers O’Conor, 12 Siale Piutau, 11 Niyi Adeolokun, 10 Callum Sheedy, 9 Andy Uren, 8 Jake Heenan, 7 Ben Earl, 6 Fitz Harding, 5 Joe Joyce, 4 Chris Vui, 3 John Afoa, 2 Will Capon, 1 Yann Thomas
Replacements: 16 George Kloska, 17 Jake Woolmore, 18 Max Lahiff, 19 Ed Holmes, 20 Dan Thomas, 21 Tom Kessell, 22 Ioan Lloyd, 23 Alapati Leiua
Referee: Christophe Ridley
Assistant Referees: Peter Allan and Jamie Leahy
TMO: Graham Hughes