Saracens secure victory
A review of the weekend's action in the Aviva Premiership, including wins for Saracens and Northampton on Sunday.
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Aviva Premiership leaders Saracens claimed a 23-18 victory over Newcastle at Kingston Park with the home side snatching a vital bonus point in their battle against relegation.
Sinoti Sinoti scored an early try for the Falcons but Tim Streather and Ben Ransom crossed over for Sarries before Alex Tait grabbed a reward for Newcastle four minutes from time.
Charlie Hodgson kicked the rest of Saracens' points with namesake Joel booting two penalties for Newcastle and Phil Godman slotting a conversion.
Northampton pulled seven points clear of third-placed Bath in the Aviva Premiership table after securing an edgy 36-21 win over London Irish at Franklin's Gardens.
After 42 minutes the game looked over as Salesi Ma'afu scored Northampton's fourth try to make it 29-0, adding his score to two from Jamie Elliott and one from Kahn Fotuali'i.
But a series of calamitous errors saw Irish come back with three second-half tries from Shane Geraghty, Andrew Fenby and Jebb Sinclair.
It might have been four if the TMO had not scrubbed off Marland Yarde's 60-metre effort.
Instead Alex Waller added a fifth which James Wilson converted to add to Stephen Myler's three conversions and a penalty.
On Saturday, Bath left it until the 77th minute to claim the four-try bonus point that lifted them back into third place as they overcame Worcester at the Rec.
They lead Leicester on games won and, with Northampton to face at home before the final game away to another of the play-off contenders Harlequins on May 10, it looks set to go down to the wire.
Bottom club Worcester were never out of this game until Matt Banahan's late try, which denied them a losing bonus point. Up to that point they looked more than capable of winning, having scored three tries themselves through Josh Drauniniu, Andy Symons and Chris Pennell but came away with nothing.
Bath's other tries, all scored in the first half, came from Micky Young, Horacio Agulla and Nick Abendanon. George Ford, who was sin-binned for taking out David Lemi in the air, kicked nine points with Gavin Henson adding a penalty.
Wasps seized the initiative in the battle for European qualification after sweeping Gloucester aside with a 38-30 bonus-point victory at Twickenham.
Two tries from James Haskell and one apiece from Tom Varndell, Elliot Daly and Ashley Johnson enabled the London club to replace Exeter in seventh place in the Aviva Premiership, which offers a play-off route into next season's Champions Cup.
Sale kept a grip on sixth place and guaranteed a place in the European Rugby Champions Cup for next season with a 55-12 victory over Exeter at Sandy Park.
Mike Brown's decisive try continued Harlequins' late charge for a place in the Aviva Premiership play-offs and ended Leicester's seven-match winning league run.
Brown powered over in the 70th minute to snatch victory for Quins, who battled back from 10-0 and 13-3 down to secure their third successive triumph in a pulsating 24-20 showdown at Twickenham Stoop.
Referee Tim Wigglesworth awarded the 2012 Premiership champions a penalty try and was involved in several other controversial decisions.Fly-half Nick Evans kicked three penalties and a conversion as fifth-placed Quins kept up the pressure on the top four with a critical match against closest rivals Bath looming on May 10.
Vereniki Goneva and Jamie Gibson scored tries for Leicester, whose hopes of replacing Northampton in second have dimmed.