Newcastle 9-9 Harlequins
A last-gasp penalty from Nick Evans spared Harlequins’ blushes as they escaped from Kingston Park with a draw after a bruising encounter with Newcastle Falcons.
With discipline at a premium, the league leaders were first to show when Evans’s first penalty sailed through the uprights but his opposite number Jimmy Gopperth soon levelled matters with his opening effort of the evening.
Evans opened the second half as he edged Quins back in front but despite no running and expansive rugby being played, a fascinating encounter was developing as Gopperth restored parity with his second penalty.
Falcons’ hooker Rob Vickers was sent to the sin-bin for punching Joe Marler but it didn’t stop Gopperth from putting the hosts into the lead for the first time with his third successful shot at goal. But with the final kick of the game, Evans struck a superb penalty to end the game as a draw and prevent Newcastle from claiming a vital win in their battle against relegation.
Bath 36-17 Worcester
Bath secured an impressive bonus-point victory over Worcester Warriors as they kept their slim hopes of claiming a play-off place alive.
It was the visitors who opened the scoring when winger Tom Arscott touched down but the home side responded in kind when Tom Biggs dived over to level the scores. Bath then hit Worcester with a pair of converted tries when Matt Banahan and Michael Claassens crossed the whitewash to give the hosts a 21-7 lead.
Andy Goode’s penalty briefly got the Warriors back into the contest but when Claassens grabbed his second score, Bath had sealed the win and taken a bonus point. Worcester rallied impressively and Miles Benjamin went over to reduce the gap between the sides before Tom Heathcote’s penalty extended Bath’s lead.
Biggs then put the gloss on the scoreline with a superb individual try as Bath kept up the heat on the top four and brought Worcester firmly back down to earth.
Exeter 37-12 Sale
A wonderful first half from Exeter sealed a bonus point victory over Sale Sharks as the West Country side closed the gap on the top four.
Phil Dollman’s early score gave the Chiefs the lead before Ignacio Mieres backed up the try with two penalties as the hosts raced into an 11-0 advantage. A converted try from Richard Baxter just before half-time sent Exeter into the break with an 18-point lead as Sale looked shell-shocked from a nightmare opening 40 minutes.
The Chiefs began the second half in the same way as they ended the first when Nick Sestaret crossed before another score, this time from Matt Jess, secured the bonus point for Exeter after only 55 minutes.
Sale did manage to get themselves onto the scoreboard and restore some pride with late tries from Luther Burrell and Tony Buckley but Exeter were to have the last word when referee Dean Richards awarded them a penalty try which sealed a convincing victory by 25 points over their rivals for a play-off place.
Wasps 18-13 London Irish
Wasps took a massive step towards Aviva Premiership safety as they secured a vital win over London Irish at Adams Park.
A tight first half between the sides saw the scores level at 6-6 at half-time after Wasps’ Nick Robinson and Irish’s Steve Shingler kicked two penalties each in an edgy opening 40 minutes where both sides appeared to be lacking in confidence.
The home side began the second half well and two more Robinson penalties put them into a 12-6 lead but the pendulum soon swung the way of the visitors when Sailosi Tagicakibau went over for the first try of the afternoon.
But Wasps rallied following the disappointment of conceding that score and further indiscipline from Irish gave Robinson two more shots at goal. The fly-half wasn’t in the mood to pass up the opportunities and landed both kicks to give Wasps an excellent victory and stretch the gap between his side and Newcastle at the foot of the table.
Leicester 36-3 Gloucester
Leicester moved up to third in the Aviva Premiership table after a five-try demolition of Gloucester at Welford Road.
Freddie Burns gave the visitors an early lead with a penalty but that was as good as it got for the Cherry and Whites as Leicester hit back through scores from Logovi’i Mulipola and Steve Mafi. A penalty from Toby Flood extended the lead before a converted score on the stroke of half-time from Ben Youngs gave the hosts a 22-3 lead at the break.
The second half was all about the home side as Gloucester rarely threatened to get back into the encounter and Matt Smith was next on the scoresheet for the Tigers as he latched onto a kick through to cross.
Alesana Tuilagi’s late try gave the scoreline a true reflection of the game as Leicester leapfrogged Northampton in the table and kept up the pressure on Harlequins and Saracens at the top of the league.
Saracens 18-12 Northampton
Saracens overcame Northampton in a penalty battle at Vicarage Road as they closed the gap on leaders Harlequins at the top of the Aviva Premiership.
Stephen Myler’s opening penalty gave the Saints the lead but Charlie Hodgson soon put Saracens in front as he landed two successful efforts at goal. Myler thought he had made it a level game at half-time with his second penalty but Hodgson was in superb form with the boot and restored the home side’s three-point lead with the last kick of the first half.
Two more penalties from the Saracens fly-half early in the second half put them into a commanding 15-6 lead before he and Myler exchanged shots at goal to leave the hosts leading by 18 points to 9 heading into the final 20 minutes.
In the closing stages of the game, Northampton replacement kicker Ryan Lamb grabbed a losing bonus point for the away side with long-range penalty but they were always second best on the day as Saracens claimed a deserved victory.