Home comforts for Sarries
Saracens beat Cardiff Blues 19-11 as they began life at their new £24million Allianz Park home with a win.
- Related Content
The artifical pitch passed its first test in an LV= Cup tie that also witnessed the successful return of England full-back Alex Goode.
Goode, making his first appearance in five weeks, played 56 minutes and emerged unscathed. England open their Six Nations campaign against Scotland at Twickenham on Saturday with Goode competing against Mike Brown and Ben Foden for the number 15 jersey.
A low-key Anglo-Welsh encounter in Barnet was also significant as the first professional rugby union match to be played on an artificial pitch designed for the sport.
On this occasion - a designated 'test event' attended by 3,500 invited Saracens fans - the bold decision to abandon grass could only be viewed as a success.
A try by Cardiff's Robin Copeland saw the Blues lead 8-6 at the break.
However, Saracens moved ahead and landed the killer blow in the closing moments when James Short crossed.
Saracens now trail London Irish by a point in Pool Three.
The Exiles posted a convincing 46-24 win over Worcester at the Madejski Stadium to remain in pole position for a semi-final spot.
Marland Yarde was the star performer with a hat-trick of tries while Halani Aulika collected a brace of scores and Tom Homer kicked 16 points in a deserved win for the hosts.
Worcester scored three second-half tries but, after trailing 22-3 at the break, they had little hope of getting anything out of the game.
Irish's travel to Cardiff for their final game next Friday knowing a bonus-point win would guarantee their berth in the next round.
For Worcester, the defeat virtually extinguishes their hopes of progressing.
On Saturday, new signing Peter Stringer came off the bench on his Bath debut to score both tries in a scrum-half masterclass against Exeter at the Recreation Ground.
Ireland international Stringer, who had arrived on loan from Munster earlier in the week, had spent 38 minutes watching Exeter dominate much of the first half of this LV=Cup clash while Bath looked anything but the home team.
However, the 35-year-old crossed twice in the second half to earn Bath a 16-6 victory.
It was Exeter's first defeat in this season's LV=Cup and they still have not beaten their west country rivals in a competitive match since 1978.
It had started well enough for Bath as Tom Heathcote opened the scoring with a fourth-minute penalty. But that was soon cancelled out by Henry Slade.
Stringer proved the difference between the sides in the second half.
Both sides remain in the semi-final hunt, although both need to rely on other results.
Harlequins went to the top of Pool One with a flattering 23-6 victory over a battling London Welsh side in a scrappy match at The Stoop.
The Quins now face Ospreys at Bridgend next Sunday in their final group fixture when a draw would be sufficient to see them through to the semi-finals.
For Welsh it was their third consecutive defeat in the tournament which leaves them bottom of Pool Four without a single point.
Mark Lambert and Dave Ward scored the hosts' tries, while Ben Botica kicked 13 points.
Northampton ended a three-game Franklin's Gardens try-drought to maintain top spot in Pool Four with a 26-7 victory over Gloucester.
Saints had not scored a try in front of their own fans since November 24 but Luther Burrell and Alex Waller touched down in either side of the interval to end that barren spell and earn their side the victory.
Northampton can now secure a place in the semi-finals with victory in their final pool game at Exeter.
Gloucester's only try came courtesy of Ryan Mills.
Danny Cipriani claimed a 21-point haul as relegation-threatened Sale put their dismal league campaign behind them with a 36-17 victory over a severely understrength Scarlets.
The fly-half scored a second-half try and kicked 16 points as Steve Diamond's men kept alive their hopes of reaching the knockout stages of the Anglo-Welsh tournament.
Sale have endured a bitterly disappointing Aviva Premiership campaign and lie bottom of the table after 13 games.
But they ultimately had too much power for their Welsh visitors as tries from Richie Vernon, Charlie Amesbury, Cipriani and replacement Charlie Ingall secured the win.
Holders Leicester also kept their hopes alive with a five-try, 34-8 victory over great rivals Wasps at Welford Road.
The win puts Leicester, who started the day second bottom of Pool Two, on nine points and still in the hunt with just one match left.
They go away to Llanelli Scarlets next week, aiming to climb above Sale and reach the semi-finals.
Leicester's tries came through Logovi'i Mulipola, Michael Noone, Mathew Tait and Vereniki Goneva, who crossed twice, with Dan Bowden kicking a conversion and a penalty and Matt Cornwell two conversions.
Wasps, who have not won at Leicester since 2008, were outplayed for most of the game and scored a consolation try through replacement Hugo Southwell near the end to add to a penalty from Tommy Bell.
In the day's late game, fly-half Steffan Jones landed six penalties for Newport Gwent Dragons as the Ospreys saw their chances of reaching the latter stages take a big knock with an 18-14 defeat at a drenched Rodney Parade.
Man of the match Jones booted the Dragons to their first win in the competition this season although the feisty match only came to life in the final quarter after Ospreys flanker Jonathan Thomas scored the only try of the evening.
Matthew Morgan kicked three penalties for the visitors but they were not helped by having to play 20 minutes of the match with 14 men through two sin-bins against one for the Dragons.
The defeat leaves the Ospreys third in Pool Four with five points from their three matches. Newport are out of semi-final contention.