Northampton back on top

  • Last Updated: March 2 2014, 16:19 GMT

A review of the weekend's action so far in the Aviva Premiership, including another win for Northampton as they returned to the top.

Calum Clark scores for Northampton in their comfortable win
Calum Clark scores for Northampton in their comfortable win

Scrum dominance sparked Northampton to a 39-13 bonus-point victory over Gloucester to extend their club-record unbeaten Aviva Premiership run to 13 games.

Saints climbed back to the top of the table with their five-try win, replacing Saracens who had led the standings courtesy of Friday's victory at Bath.

Ken Pisi, Calum Clark, Tom Stephenson, Alex Waller and Will Hooley scored for Northampton as they cut loose in the second half.

Henry Trinder's try and a conversion and two penalties for Freddie Burns had Gloucester level at 13-13, before Clark plundered the pivotal score just before the hour.

In a turgid contest littered with errors on both sides, Northampton's ability to keep their scrum tidy proved decisive.

When both sides sent their front-row cavalry replacements into action just before the hour, the hosts claimed immediate profit.

Clark's inevitable try after two penalty line-outs killed the visiting resistance, and, when Stephenson crossed 10 minutes later the result was sealed.

Sam Smith, who has agreed to join bottom-of-the-table Worcester in the summer, sunk his future club as Harlequins came from 13-0 down to win 21-10 and deny the Warriors their first victory of the season.

The 23-year-old winger scored a try and then created a second for debutant centre Harry Sloan as Quins, trailing until the 63rd minute, rallied to inflict a 16th successive Aviva Premiership defeat on Worcester.

Fly-half Ben Botica, stand-in for the injured Nick Evans, kicked Quins' other 11 points.

Worcester had opened up a 13-0 lead with a penalty from full-back Chris Pennell, a scintillating try from Samoan winger David Lemi and a conversion and penalty from fly-half Ryan Lamb, making his first start since his arrival from Leicester.

Pennell's late try and conversion earned them a losing bonus point.

Sale took a significant step towards European qualification by defeating Wasps 21-17 at Adams Park.

The Sharks remain in the sixth position in the Aviva Premiership table, but crucially they have extended their lead over Wasps - in seventh - by a further three points, which leaves them with a handy eight-point advantage over their nearest rivals.

The controversial moment of the game came in the 10th minute with the sin-binning of Joe Simpson. The Wasps scrum-half high tackled Nick Macleod who took no further part in the game.

The incident was reviewed and a yellow card was awarded but Simpson may have been fortunate not to pick up a red one.

Sale scored a decisive 10 points in Simpson's absence. Danny Cipriani kicking a penalty and a conversion to add to Dan Braid's try before Wasps rallied to score 17 unanswered points. Joe Carlisle kicked four penalties before Simpson raced away for his side's only try.

The final quarter saw the Sale pack dominate and they recovered from 17-10 down with an unconverted Jonny Leota try before Cipriani kicked over two penalties in the final 20 minutes.

Saturday's other game saw the Exeter Chiefs' run of five straight defeats - their worst run in the competition - come to an end as they completed a season double over London Irish with an 18-0 win.

The home side led 6-0 at the break through two Henry Slade penalties, while James O'Connor saw his one attempt at the post rebound back but the visitors were reduced to 14 men midway through the half with prop Leo Halavatau shown yellow.

The Chiefs added two further tries in the second half with Phil Dollman's touchdown - converted by Slade - and Ian Whitten effort, although their resolve tested when they had Ben White yellow-carded for a tip tackle on the hour mark

On Friday, Saracens all but ended Bath's ambitions of a top-two finish with a ruthless examination of the third-placed side's credentials.

Sarries were the last side to win a league match at the Recreation Ground - a similarly conclusive 22-0 victory in December 2012 - and the visitors seldom looked under pressure here in winning 23-10.

Flanker Jacques Burger was at his destructive best in the loose, until he was sin-binned for one illegal tackle too many, while Alex Goode stepped up at short notice to control the game at fly-half.

Goode landed two penalties, two conversions and a drop-goal in a near faultless performance after Charlie Hodgson pulled out during the warm-up, feeling unwell.

The Saracens tries came from Chris Wyles and David Strettle, while Bath were given a penalty try.


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