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Quins Run Continues
Tigers and Saints boosted by international returns
Posted Oct 31, 2011 by Chris White
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Harlequins maintained their unbeaten start to the season with their seventh straight Aviva Premiership victory to cement their place at the top of the table. Quins beat Exeter 19-13 at The Stoop on Saturday in what was a vital win with many of their rivals now boosted by the return of their international stars.
Quins have now won nine straight matches in all competitions this season, and took an early lead at home to Exeter when Nick Evans scored a third minute penalty. The Chiefs battled bravely and failed to take advantage of several good opportunities, and went 6-0 down when Evans scored another penalty on the half hour mark, and there was time for a third just before the break.
Ignacio Mieres pulled Exeter back into the match with the first score of the second half, and a second two minutes later had the hosts on the ropes. Bryan Rennie made the most of the Exeter pressure, crossing for the first try of the match to give Exeter the lead, but Evans kicked a fourth penalty, and Mike Brown was allowed to crash through for a fine try for the home side, converted by Evans, and Quins held on.
Saracens kept the pressure on Harlequins at the top of the table by beating Gloucester 19-17 at Kingsholm in another Owen Farrell-inspired victory. The match was on-edge throughout after an fracas in the first minute, and it was a controversial try that sealed the win for Sarries.
Freddie Burns kicked a penalty after Farrell was penalised for a high tackle to give Gloucester the lead, and Olly Morgan extended the advantage when he linked up with Henry Trinder to touch down. Charlie Hodgson brought the score back to 8-3 with a penalty from 40 metres, but a Burns penalty put the Cherry and Whites 11-3 ahead at the break.
The second half was all Saracens as the champions fought back. Farrell landed two penalties to close the gap to two points, but mistakes from the visitors allowed replacement fly half Tim Taylor to kick two penalties, making it 17-9. Farrell kicked another penalty to close the gap again and then a grubber kick from the fly half fell kindly for Brad Barritt and a television replay was needed to decide whether the ball was grounded or held up, with the decision going in favour of the visitors. Farrell’s conversion made it 19-17 and there was no was back for Gloucester.
Sale Sharks were bitten by the rejuvenated Leicester Tigers at Edgeley Park on Friday night, with the struggling Midlanders boosted by the return of their key international players at a crucial stage of the season.
It didn’t seem at first as though that made any difference, however, as Sale dominated the early exchanges. Tom Brady touched down for the Sharks in the first half, who already lead 6-3 after penalties were exchanged by Nick MacLeod and Tigers fly half Toby Flood, and MacLeod added the extras to put the hosts 13-3 ahead at the break.
After the interval, however, Leicester ran in 31 unanswered points and looked back to their very best. Flood kicked a penalty from in front of the posts, then four tires in 12 minutes sealed the win. First Alesana Tuilagi forced his way through the defence, then replacement Martin Castrogiavani crashed over, followed by Flood by the post and finally Marcos Ayerza in the 70th minute, leaving Sale stunned. Flood converted all four penalties in a 19-point haul to get the Tigers back into winning ways in the Premiership.
Bath edged a thriller at the Madejski Stadium thanks to a late Sam Vesty try against London Irish. The visitors ended the Exiles’ run of four wins from five in the Premiership, and went in 5-0 up at the break thanks to a Vesty try following a quick passing move from Bath.
Two penalties from Tom Homer brought London Irish back into the match, 6-5 ahead, but another Bath try, this time by Dave Attwood in the corner had the visitors back in front. Homer kicked two more penalties as the lead changed hands again, but it was Vesty who had the final word in this match, kicking a penalty in the closing minutes to secure a 13-12 win and move Bath to fourth in the table.
London Wasps were also involved in a tight affair, edging to a 14-12 victory away at Worcester. In a match dominated by kicking, it was a last minute try from Wasps’ Richard Birkett that separated the sides after Worcester thought they’d done enough for the win.
Wasps deservedly lead 6-3 at the break with two penalties from Nicky Robinson, answered by one from Andy Goode for the home side. Goode was replaced at the break by Joe Carlisle, and he brought the sides level with an early second half penalty. Wasps regained the lead soon after with another Robinson penalty, but Worcester fought back yet again with three more points from Carlisle’s boot. With just six minutes left on the clock, Wasps were penalised at a ruck and Carlisle kicked the resulting penalty to make it 12-9 to Worcester, but the visitors won a line out and from the resulting maul Birkett crashed over the try line for the match-winning points.
Like Leicester, Northampton were boosted by the return of their international stars, and ran in six tries in a 44-15 victory against Newcastle at Franklin’s Gardens. England winger Chris Ashton scored twice, as did Tom May and Russian winger Vasily Artemyev, who has now scored six tries in three matches for the club.
Ryan Lamb and Falcons fly half Jimmy Gopperth exchanged penalties early on, before former Newcastle man May went over for his first try. By the 20-minute mark, May had scored twice, latching onto a pass from Lamb to touch down near the posts, giving the fly half the simplest of kicks. Gopperth kept the bottom side in the match with two penalties, then a drop goal just before the break, but another Lamb penalty in the closing stages made it 18-12 to the home side at the interval. After the break, Artemyez scored his first try, then added a second and secured the Saints’ bonus point ten minutes later. Ashton then burst through to get himself on the scoresheet and raced in from 60 metres with five minutes remaining to seal it, with replacement Stephen Myler adding the extras.
This week’s results:
Gloucester 17 Saracens 19
Harlequins 19 Exeter 13
London Irish 12 Bath 13
Northampton 44 Newcastle 15
Sale 13 Leicester 34
Worcester 12 London Wasps 14