Saracens sink Wasps
A review of the weekend's action in the Aviva Premiership as Saracens got the better of Wasps on Sunday.
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Former England fly-half Charlie Hodgson kicked a magnificent seven penalties from seven attempts but it was not quite enough to enable Saracens to depose Harlequins at the top of the Aviva Premiership as they beat Wasps 29-24.
Hodgson's only kicking miss was a conversion attempt from the touchline after lock Alistair Hargreaves scored Sarries' only try.
South African Hargreaves had an afternoon of mixed fortunes, grabbing his charge-down try and being sin-binned before being carried off on a stretcher following a controversial challenge by James Haskell.
Saracens' other three points came from a Nils Mordt penalty while Hodgson was off the pitch receiving treatment for a cut.
But Wasps pushed them all the way, with tries from winger Tom Varndell and scrum-half Charlie Davies, three penalties and a drop goal from Nick Robinson and a conversion by his replacement Tommy Bell not quite enough to stop their four-match winning run in all competitions from coming to an end.
A 70-metre try from wing Nick Scott with the last action of the match gave London Welsh an unlikely but crucial 16-9 win against Bath in their battle for survival.
Scott picked off Stephen Donald's telegraphed pass and had sufficient pace to hold off the cover for the match-winning try, which Gordon Ross converted.
It was the only try in a desperately poor game and a draw would have been a fair result as neither side played well enough to deserve a win.
Harlequins went top on Saturday a few hours after being overtaken by Leicester Tigers with a narrow 28-25 victory over Gloucester.
Full-back Mike Brown, released from the England training squad for the weekend, scored their first try with stand-in players Matt Hopper and Sam Smith also touching down.
Fly-half Nick Evans, back after an ankle injury, provided an instant return on the new three-year contract he signed earlier in the week by kicking 13 points for Quins, who were without England players Chris Robshaw, Danny Care, Ugo Monye and Joe Marler.
Evans' opposite number Freddie Burns kept fourth-placed Gloucester in contention with six penalties from six attempts before converting a late try by centre Billy Twelvetrees which salvaged a losing bonus point.
But defeat meant they lost their record as the only Premiership side unbeaten away from home this season.
Leicester had moved top after grinding out an unspectacular 16-12 victory over fierce local rivals Northampton at Welford Road.
Tigers could afford for young fly-half George Ford to miss five penalties and still triumph, courtesy of centre Matt Smith's second half try and 11 points by the young number 10.
On another day, Ford's inaccuracy might have proved costly, but Northampton, who were restricted to four Ryan Lamb penalties, lacked the firepower and tactical acumen to punish Leicester.
Saints led 6-3 just before half-time, but Leicester then scored 10 unanswered points - highlighted by Smith's 53rd minute touchdown - and Northampton could find no way back.
Late tries from Haydn Thomas and Chris Budgen put the seal on a convincing 33-9 victory for Exeter Chiefs who remain unbeaten at Sandy Park in the Aviva Premiership this season after seeing off Worcester.
Exeter led 19-3 at half-time but the match then went off the boil, with the hosts only finding their rhythm in the final 10 minutes as they pulled further clear.
Gonzalo Camacho touched down for an early try, and Gareth Steenson booted 16 points, with Worcester's reply coming in the form of three Andy Goode penalties.
Danny Cipriani inspired Sale Sharks to their first Aviva Premiership triumph of the season with a 21-9 victory over London Irish at the Salford City Stadium on Friday night.
The first half was dominated by Cipriani and the Sale forwards. The one-time England international set up Nick Macleod and Johnny Leota's tries in the opening period, as well as adding a conversion.
Irish's response before the break came through a penalty from Ian Humphreys.
Humphreys kicked two more three-pointers in the second period to reduce the deficit, but two late Cipriani penalties sealed the victory.