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Tigers Maul Saints in Midlands Derby
Quins march on, Champions beat Exiles
Posted Dec 06, 2011 by Chris White
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In the Midlands derby at Welford Road it was Leicester Tigers who came out on top, showing signs of continuing their revival after a disappointing start. The morale boosting victory against Northampton Saints is likely to give the Tigers the confidence to make a later than planned title push, although Harlequins are going to take some catching after extending their outstanding unbeaten start to the season.
The Tigers are now unbeaten in seven matches in all competitions after beating the Saints 30-25 in a real thriller. Ryan Lamb and Toby Flood exchanged penalties in a cagey start from both sides, but the game took a sudden turn soon after. Both sides were reduced to 14 men after red cards were shown to Alesana Tuilagi of Leicester and Northampton’s Tom Wood, after Tuilagi reacted to his hair being pulled by Chris Ashton in a tackle, and the game sparked into life. Tries from Matt Smith and Steve Mafi put the home side 13-6 ahead and Flood converted the latter to extend the lead. Another penalty from Lamb closed the gap before the break, but an Ashton try heaped the pressure on the Tigers. Ben Youngs replied soon after for the home side, who looked to be back in control of proceedings.
But before long the Saints were ahead. Tom May went over, and Stephen Myler converted, with Phil Dowson touching down behind the posts, making it easy for Myler to convert to put Northampton in front. Just when it looked as though the visitors had done enough to take the victory, however, Horacio Agulla sprinted 50 metres and scored with an ‘Ash Splash’ style celebration, and Flood’s conversion secured the victory, with the Saints settling for a losing bonus point.
Harlequins remain top of the Aviva Premiership after extending their unbeaten run further still, making it ten wins from ten with a victory over London Wasps at Adams Park. Wasps dominated the first half, but a Matt Hopper try sent the visitors in 7-6 ahead at half time. The leaders then took advantage of their lead in the second half and found their impressive form, with Mike Brown and Luke Wallace finishing off some outstanding moves to extend the lead. Hugo Southwell scored for the home side, followed soon after by Tom Varndell, but Quins held on for the victory, moving them nine points clear of their nearest challengers and putting them in a good position ahead of their Heineken Cup clash with Toulouse on Friday night.
Champions Saracens hold on to second place, after a 15-11 win against London Irish at Vicarage Road. They weren’t at their fluent best however, and were reliant on all of their points coming from the boot of Owen Farrell, kicking five penalties in the victory. David Paice scored the only try of the game in the second half, with the other points coming from the boots of Tom Homer and Daniel Bowden, who put the visitors 11-9 ahead at one stage, only for the home side to fight back and hold on to the victory.
Exeter took advantage of London Irish’s defeat and moved up to third on points difference with a 15-9 victory against Worcester. All 24 points in the match came from penalties, with Ignacio Mieres kicking all 15 for the Chiefs, who lead 9-6 at the interval, and maintained their lead throughout the second period, despite the best efforts of Joe Carlisle and Andy Goode.
Bottom side Newcastle edged a thriller at Kingston Park, picking up their first victory of the season. The Falcons fought back from conceding an early try against Gloucester to win 26-25, after Freddie Burns missed a 65th minute conversion for the visitors. Olly Morgan scored in the second minute for Gloucester, but the home side responded well and scored a deserved try through Jordi Pasqualin. Both sides then exchanged tries before the break, with James Simpson-Daniel scoring for Gloucester and James Fitzpatrick going over for Newcastle. Three Jimmy Gopperth penalties put the Falcons ahead, and Scott Lawson scored a third try for Gloucester, but Burns sent his conversion wide which proved to be the final attempt at goal as the home side held on for their first win.
A second half fight back from Sale inflicted a third successive defeat on Bath at The Rec, despite the home side going in 10-0 up at the break. A try from Michael Claasens, converted by Olly Barkley, who then kicked a penalty put Bath in total control of the game. Nick MacLeod provided the first points of the game for Sale off the tee, and Mark Cueto dummied his way across the line to score, with MacLeod levelling the match with the conversion. Bath regained the lead with another Barkley penalty, but two kicks from MacLeod put the visitors into a lead that they were determined not to surrender.
This weekend’s results in full:
Bath 13 – 16 Sale
Exeter 15 – 9 Worcester
Leicester 30 – 25 Northampton
Newcastle 26 – 25 Gloucester
Saracens 15 – 11 London Irish
Wasps 16 – 22 Harlequins
Can Leicester still mount a serious title challenge? What did you make of the brawl at Welford Road involving Tuilagi, Ashton and Wood? Give us your thoughts here, on Twitter @ImagineRugby and on Facebook by clicking here.