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Exiles Fight Back to Draw with Resurgent Tigers

Thriller at Welford Road but Quins still lead the way

Posted Nov 08, 2011 by Chris White

Harlequins remain unbeaten in the league this season

With their international stars now back in the ranks at Welford Road, many are expecting Leicester Tigers to start roaring their way up the Aviva Premiership, and at 24-7 against London Irish, they looked set to do just that. However, a 78th-minute try from Matt Garvey rescued a draw for the Exiles, which left the Tigers in tenth.

Shontayne Hape, also back from England duty, gave the Exiles an early lead, before a penalty try and eight points from the boot of Toby Flood gave the home side the lead at the break. Tom Croft went over just after the hour mark, after Flood had added two more penalties. However, as the Tigers’ confidence grew, Adam Thompstone dashed in from 20 metres to reduce the arrears, and Tom Homer converted and added a penalty soon after to reduce the deficit to just seven points.

As Irish pushed for the vital points, they kicked to touch from a penalty and Flood’s clearance was charged down, allowing Garvey to ground in the corner. Homer’s conversion drew the sides level with just a minute to go, but Flood missed the final chance of the match, sending a drop goal wide.

Nick Evans continued his fine start to the season with 16 points, as Harlequins extended their unbeaten run. Evans gave his side the lead against Bath with a 40-metre penalty, but it was Dave Attwood who scored the first try of the game for the home side, with Sam Vesty adding the extras. Chris Robshaw immediately responded with a try of his own against the run of play, and Evans converted and added a penalty before the break to extend Quins’ lead to 13-7.

Two more successful penalties after the break from Evans – sandwiched by three points from Vesty – gave the leaders control of the game, but another penalty from Vesty with ten minutes remaining made for a nervy finish. However, as the home side pushed for points, Mike Brown broke away to touch down for the 26-13 win.

Saracens kept the pressure up on Harlequins with a 23-10 win against Sale, racing into a 10-0 lead at the break thanks to an early try from David Strettle, and five points from the boot of in-form Owen Farrell.

Soon after the break, Sarries were well on course for their seventh straight league victory, when Farrell kicked a 40-yard penalty, and added three more points five minutes later. Nick Macleod missed a chance to get Sale on the scoreboard, and Matt Stevens was driven across the line to extend the lead, with Farrell adding the extras to take his personal tally to 13 for the match. The Sharks did finally score, in the final ten minutes, when Rob Miller crossed, and Mark Easter went over shortly after but both conversions were missed.

Gloucester finally brought an end to their dismal away record with a 24-19 win at Exeter. Freddie Burns opened the scoring in just the sixth minute of the match, fending off the challenges of the Chiefs defence. Burns converted his own try, but Hoani Tui replied ten minutes later for the home side, capitalising on the increasing pressure.

Akapusi Qera went over just before the break after a swift Gloucester move, to give them a 14-11 lead at half time, with Burns converting again. Gareth Steenson had replied with two penalties as Exeter took the lead but they couldn’t prevent Qera from crossing. After the interval, Olly Morgan gave Gloucester some breathing space, converted again by Burns, who added another penalty. Exeter got three more points through Ignacio Mieres, and sealed a losing bonus point when Matt Jess touched down in the final minute.

With Wasps thrown into turmoil during the week with the news that coach Shaun Edwards was leaving the club, and veteran Simon Shaw handing in a transfer request, a game against Northampton was probably the last thing they needed. The Saints have welcomed back their international stars in recent matches and came away from Vicarage Road with a 24-13 victory.

The Saints took the lead when Ryan Lamb kicked a penalty, but Tom Varndell dispossessed Chris Ashton, and subsequently found Riki Flutey, and he crossed in the corner for the only try of the half. Nicky Robinson missed the conversion, but made amends with a penalty, only for Lamb to kick three of his own before the break, to send the visitors in 12-8 in front. Three minutes after the break, they scored their first try thanks to Soane Tonga’uiha, who picked up the ball from close range and powered over the line. Brian Mujati charged through the defence and scored under the posts, and Lamb kicked the conversion. Ross Filipo pounced on a loose ball to score a second try for Wasps but it was all too little too late.

The clash of the two bottom sides in the Aviva Premiership ended in a thrilling 16-16 draw, as Newcastle Falcons fought back to share the points with Worcester. After five minutes, Joe Carlisle kicked a penalty for the Warriors, and Newcastle’s Jimmy Gopperth followed up with one of his own. The pair then traded penalties before Shaun Perry’s converted try sent the visitors in 13-6 ahead at the break.

Gopperth converted a straightforward penalty after the interval. Andy Goode, on for Carlisle, restored the seven point lead for Worcester, who were almost assured of victory at that point. However, replacement hooker Michael Mayhew finished off a series of powerful drives from the Falcons with three minutes remaining, and Gopperth levelled the scores with the conversion.

This weekend’s results:

Bath 13 Harlequins 26

Exeter 19 Gloucester 24

Leicester 24 London Irish 24

Newcastle 16 Worcester 16

Saracens 23 Sale 10

Wasps 13 Northampton 24

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