Aviva Premiership review: Exeter beat Gloucester

Last Updated April 08 2018, 16:16Rugby Union
Alec Hepburn scores Exeter's first try against Gloucester
Alec Hepburn scores Exeter's first try against Gloucester

A review of the latest action in the Aviva Premiership.

Aviva Premiership results

Friday, April 6

  • Sales 28-27 Wasps

Saturday, April 7

  • Bath 19-34 Leicester
  • Northampton 13-63 Saracens
  • Harlequins 5-35 London Irish
  • Worcester 27-13 Newcastle

Sunday, April 8

  • Exeter 46-10 Gloucester

Sunday

Exeter extended their lead at the top of the Aviva Premiership table to eight points with a convincing 46-10 win over Gloucester at Sandy Park.

Chiefs' victory secured them a semi-final spot but it put a huge dent in Gloucester's play-off hopes as the visitors remain in seventh position, five points adrift of fourth-placed Wasps with only three league games to play.

As a result it is likely that they will need to win all their remaining fixtures - against Harlequins, Bath and Saracens - if they are to have any chance of qualifying for the semi-finals.

Jack Nowell, who replaced Sam Hill midway through the first half, marked his first game since December by scoring two of Exeter's tries.

Sam Simmonds, Olly Woodburn, Gareth Steenson and Alec Hepburn also crossed with Joe Simmonds adding two penalties and five conversions.

Callum Braley scored Gloucester's try with Owen Williams kicking a penalty and a conversion.

A knock-on from Lachlan Turner gave Gloucester early possession and they almost capitalised when a well-judged pass from Williams gave Henry Trinder an opportunity but the centre was forced into touch, inches short of the try-line.

However it did not take long for the visitors to get on the scoreboard as Williams fired over a seventh-minute penalty.

Chiefs should have replied when Turner burst through the Gloucester defence to feed Don Armand but, with the line at his mercy, the home skipper passed to an opponent.

Gloucester suffered a setback when their captain, Will Heinz, limped off and almost immediately they received another blow when Hepburn wriggled out of a tackle to score.

Joe Simmonds converted to give his side a 7-3 lead at the end of the first quarter before his brother, Sam, extended that advantage by finishing off a driving line-out.

Joe's conversion attempt rebounded back off a post but the outside-half soon succeeded with a simple penalty.

Two minutes before the interval, Ruan Ackermann was yellow-carded as beleaguered Gloucester, who could not break out of their own territory, continued to offend and, with the last move of the half, Woodburn forced his way over for Chiefs' third try.

Within two minutes of the restart, Gloucester surprisingly scored their first try when Mark Atkinson slipped a tackle from Tomas Francis to create a try for Braley.

Simmonds knocked over a second penalty before Ackermann returned from the sin-bin but this could not prevent Nowell scoring two tries in quick succession to seal victory for Chiefs.

Gloucester's miserable afternoon was completed when replacement Steenson seized upon a stray pass from Tom Savage to complete the rout.

Saturday

Saracens bounced back from their Champions Cup exit with a crushing 63-13 victory against Northampton Saints at Franklin's Gardens.

Mark McCall's men scored nine tries, taking their tally against Northampton this season to 33 in just four matches. They have racked up a half-century of points on each occasion.

There were nine separate scorers, with Alex Lozowski, Schalk Brits, Ben Spencer, Mako Vunipola, Liam Williams, Chris Wyles, Sean Maitland, Jackson Wray and Nathan Earle all going over in this Aviva Premiership clash.

The Saints were well in the game at half-time, trailing just 15-13, with Reece Marshall having bagged a try on his first Premiership start.

But Saracens turned the screw in the second half, recovering from their European quarter-final defeat at Leinster with a stunning showing.

The hosts had the first big chance of the game but, after the ball was moved wide, Teimana Harrison missed a huge opportunity, knocking on with the line in sight.

Saracens soon made the most of their escape, stringing together a tidy move that ended with Maitland sending an inside pass to Lozowski, who scored.

Farrell added the extras but he was soon landing a high shot on Saints scrum-half Cobus Reinach, giving Stephen Myler a penalty chance, which he took to cut the gap to four.

Farrell kicked a penalty to restore his team's seven-point advantage but Northampton refused to be deterred and after kicking two penalties to the corner, they hit back.

Numbers were put into a big lineout drive and hooker Marshall picked the ball up, ran around the outside and scored in the corner.

Myler landed the touchline conversion and the scores were level, with the home faithful lifting the noise levels.

Northampton were soon ahead as Myler notched a penalty after another spell of pressure but Saracens responded immediately, sending hooker Brits over from a lineout drive.

The conversion was missed by Farrell to leave the gap at two points at the break but Saracens soon extended their lead after the restart as scrum-half Spencer scored in the corner.

Farrell again failed to add the extras, but he was on target soon after as Vunipola bagged Saracens' bonus-point score.

The successful conversion meant Saracens moved past 200 points against Saints in four meetings this season and it was a long way back for the hosts.

A Farrell penalty extended the Saracens lead further and things were unravelling rapidly for Northampton.

Williams was next to score, making the most of the acres of space he was afforded, before Wyles also registered, escaping the attentions of Ahsee Tuala.

Maitland was next over before Wray got the eighth and Farrell converted, sparking an exodus of frustrated home fans from Franklin's Gardens.

There was still time for Saracens to ensure it was their biggest points tally of the season against Saints as Earle dived over in the corner.

Leicester Tigers are back in the play-off race after a pair of decisive tries in the last seven minutes carried them to a 34-19 win over Bath in front of a 60,884 Twickenham crowd.

The match swung one way and then another as Leicester led 20-19 going into the last quarter.

Bath scored one try from hooker Tom Dunn, with fly-half Rhys Priestland kicking four penalties and a conversion.

However, number eight Sione Kalamafoni scored two tries to keep Leicester in the game during the second half, adding to a try from wing Adam Thompstone.

Adam Thompstone scores Leicester's first try against Bath
Adam Thompstone scores Leicester's first try against Bath

Scrum-half Sam Harrison got the bonus-point try on 73 minutes before full-back Telusa Veainu got the Tigers' fifth. Fly-half George Ford booted a penalty and three conversions.

Bath came out with all guns blazing as they looked to for their second successive victory over Leicester at Twickenham.

They lead 6-3 lead after 16 minutes through two Priestland penalties, with Ford sending over one for the Tigers.

The Tigers, however, gained the advantage after Bath scrum-half Kahn Fotuali'I was sent to the sin-bin when he stopped Leicester from scoring by putting his hands in a ruck on his own line.

Leicester landed on the Bath line and put their opponents under serious pressure.

England squad prop Ellis Genge gave Bath tight-head Shaun Knight a torrid time as the Tigers opted for scrum after scrum when Bath were continuously penalised.

Referee Wayne Barnes eventually had enough and reduced the West Country club to 13 men by sin-binning Knight.

The pressure told as Leicester took the lead. A move going left from yet another scrum saw centre Mathew Tait feed Thompstone to race over in the corner.

Ford's touchline conversion was excellent but, with Bath back to 14 men on Fotuali'I's return, they, surprisingly, had their best spell of the half.

They went back in front when the scrum-half fed Dunn to crash over under a pile of bodies for a converted touchdown.

In the last move of the period, England centre Jonathan Joseph kicked to the Tigers' corner, wing Matt Banahan did amazingly well to grab the ball and attempt to score on the right but the TMO replay showed the ball had slipped from his grasp in the act of touching down.

Leicester turned the screw after the break and again put Bath under pressure. Lock Graham Kitchener, who was having a good game in the loose, drove to the opposition line where Kalamafoni picked up and dived over from five metres.

Priestland booted two penalties either side of Kalamafoni's second try and Leicester also had Thompstone sin-binned for a high tackle on Bath full-back James Wilson.

With six minutes left, Leicester took a crucial lead as Harrison thrust himself over for his side's bonus-point touchdown that Ford converted.

The win was confirmed as Veainu went through a gap for Leicester's fifth try that Ford converted to leave Bath needing a miracle to reach the play-offs this season.

Newcastle's play-off hopes suffered a setback as Worcester came from behind to stun them 27-13 at Sixways.

Wing Vereniki Goneva's first-half try put Newcastle in charge, while fly-half Toby Flood added two penalties and a conversion, yet Worcester fought back impressively from a seven-point deficit.

Full-back Chris Pennell booted two early penalties before Worcester turned the game on its head with touchdowns during a three-minute second-half spell from flanker David Denton and prop Nick Schonert, both converted by substitute Dorian Jones, before Denton added his second five minutes from time and Jones again converted.

The result dropped Newcastle, who have never reached the play-offs since they began 16 years ago, outside the top four with three games left - at home to Sale Sharks and Wasps, plus an away clash against Leicester.

And they will be frustrated at playing second fiddle to a Worcester side far hungrier and organised as they recovered impressively after conceding Goneva's try, scoring 21 unanswered second-half points.

Worcester made a bright start, going ahead after just three minutes when Pennell kicked a penalty from just inside Newcastle's half, although he was well wide with a kick from shorter range shortly afterwards.

Newcastle, starved of possession, could make little headway as Warriors' England centre Ben Te'o tested them through a couple of midfield surges and a deft touch finder deep inside the Falcons 22.

It took Newcastle 20 minutes to threaten Worcester defensively, and they made progress through a sharp Sinoti Sinoti break before Warriors infringed and Flood kicked an equalising penalty.

Flood's strike settled Newcastle down, and he nudged them ahead four minutes later when several Worcester players carelessly drifted offside barely 15 metres from their own posts.

The Falcons thought they had scored from their next attack as Sinoti broke clear, but referee Christophe Ridley brought play back for a knock-on in build-up play by centre Chris Harris.

But Newcastle finally broke through on the stroke of half-time after Pennell booted a second penalty, with Sinoti and full-back Alex Tait making key contributions before Goneva applied a decisive finish.

Flood's conversion made it 13-6 at half-time, giving Newcastle an advantage that did not look likely following Worcester's initial dominance.

Worcester began the second period in similar vein to the first, setting up camp inside Newcastle's 22, but they blew a golden try-scoring opportunity when Pennell could not keep hold of the ball as he stretched for Newcastle's line after wing Bryce Heem freed him in space.

But the Warriors drew level after 66 minutes when a period of concerted pressure ended with Denton powering over from close range after Worcester sacrificed a kickable penalty for an attacking scrum, and Jones converted.

It got better for the home side just three minutes later as Schonert claimed a touchdown that Jones converted, leaving Newcastle suddenly up against it.

There proved no way back for the Falcons as Denton sealed the deal, leaving them to regroup quickly ahead of hosting Sale next Friday.

Piet van Zyl scored two tries as an excellent all-round display from London Irish gave them a 35-5 victory over Harlequins at the Stoop - just their third win of Aviva Premiership season.

The visitors thought they had their first points in the fourth minute, but Alex Lewington's effort was chalked off after referee Ian Tempest adjudged James Marshall's final pass to have been forward.

Irish eventually did get the first points, with Tom Fowlie bursting through the hosts defence before offloading to Van Zyl to finish off.

They doubled their lead less than 10 minutes later, Marshall's cross kick was collected by Lewington and his kick over Mike Brown bounced its way into Van Zyl's hands for his second.

Quins had a great chance to close the gap minutes later, but scrum-half Danny Care's knock on from the back of a five-metre scrum ensured the gap stayed at 14.

The visitors extended their lead even further when Max Northcote-Green finished off a move in the corner after some excellent build up play by the Irish backs.

A Tommy Bell penalty on the strokes of half-time saw the Premiership's basement club take a well-deserved 22-0 lead into the break.

The visitors extended their advantage with the first points of the second half, Bell once again slotting a penalty through the uprights.

Harlequins did eventually get on the scoreboard through Jack Clifford, the flanker diving on Care's chip into the corner, but only after the TMO had had a long look at the grounding.

That try could have been the catalyst for a comeback, but more sloppy passes constantly stopped them gaining any kind of momentum.

The visitors on the other hand, seemed a lot more composed and disciplined in their play, epitomised by their fourth try.

Centre Fowlie touched down Van Zyl's inch perfect chip into the back of the in-goal area to put the game out of sight of Harlequins.

The try itself only came about after Care was sent to the sin bin for failing to retreat 10 yards, yet another sign that the hosts were not quite at the races.

Another penalty by Bell soon after pushed London Irish's lead to 30 points.

Despite being down to 14 men for the last 10 minutes following Charlie Matthew's sin bin, the hosts had a chance to get a consolation try, but Chris Robshaw dropped the ball with the line at his mercy.

Friday

Marland Yarde touched down with the clock in the red as Sale Sharks defeated Wasps 28-27 in a remarkable game at the AJ Bell Stadium.

Dai Young's Wasps side began the match superbly and deservedly went 17-0 ahead via a Josh Bassett brace and Elliot Daly's three-pointer, but they were unable to hold that buffer.

Sale hit back with 23 unanswered points through Rob Webber, Byron McGuigan and Bryn Evans touchdowns, while AJ MacGinty added a conversion and two penalties.

Unperturbed, Wasps responded through Daly and then moved four points clear via the boot of Jimmy Gopperth. They would hold that lead until the last play of the game when Yarde crossed the whitewash to move the Sharks closer to the top four of the Aviva Premiership.

Despite what turned out to be a thrilling contest, the opening 10 minutes were anything but, perpetuated by kicking and turnovers.

Jack Willis was particularly enjoying the breakdown battle and one such steal at the contact area allowed Daly to take the visitors in front from long range.

Young's men were duly into their stride and, after a penalty had taken them to within five metres of the opposition line, they shifted the ball wide and Bassett had enough space to touch down.

Wasps were dominating proceedings while the Sharks were lacklustre and the visitors soon had their second try as the left wing was once again on the end of a well-worked move.

Danny Cipriani was pulling the strings from fly-half and his decision-making in the pivot position gave Willie le Roux an opportunity to run at the hosts' fringe defence. The full-back then drew Mike Haley and Bassett crossed the whitewash for a 17-0 advantage.

Having been outplayed in the first quarter, Sale did finally increase the intensity and were rewarded by MacGinty's three-pointer.

That provided the catalyst the hosts needed to stage an excellent comeback. The Greater Manchester outfit began to put the away team under duress and Webber burrowed over to give them hope.

MacGinty added the extras and then produced a neat cross-field kick for McGuigan to score and reduce the arrears at the interval.

Buoyed by that end to the half, the Sharks maintained their form at the start of the second period and Evans charged down Dan Robson's attempted clearance. Under pressure, the lock did well to pick up and touch down, giving the hosts the lead for the first time in the encounter.

MacGinty extended that buffer to six points from the tee before Wasps responded in style. This time Christian Wade was the instigator, breaking through the middle and off-loading for Daly to cross the whitewash.

In a see-saw game, the match took another twist when former Sale man Cipriani was yellow carded for a cynical infringement, but the visitors handled the setback impressively.

They controlled possession well and earned a penalty, which Gopperth converted, as the visitors went into the final 10 minutes in the ascendency.

However, the Sharks looked for the winner and were boosted by James Haskell's sin-binning. Cipriani was then worryingly taken off on a stretcher after a clash of heads with Faf de Klerk before Yarde's winning score completed a dramatic finale.

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