Aviva Premiership review: Match reports for all final-round fixtures

Rugby Union
George Ford starred for Leicester
George Ford starred for Leicester

Get match-by-match reports following the final round of Aviva Premiership regular-season fixtures, including an important win for Leicester.

Saracens 62-12 Gloucester

Saracens ended their regular season in impressive fashion by crushing Gloucester 62-12 at Allianz Park.

Neither side had much to play for with Saracens already guaranteed a home semi-final and Gloucester having secured a European Champions Cup place for next season and their mindset clearly on next Friday's European Challenge Cup final against Cardiff.

Despite this, Gloucester shocked their opponents with two sparkling early tries before the hosts assumed complete control to run out easy winners.

Ben Spencer scored two of the hosts' tries, Sean Maitland, Liam Williams, Juan Figallo, Maro Itoje, Chris Wyles, and Owen Farrell got the others. There was also a penalty try award with Farrell converting four and adding a penalty. Spencer also kicked two conversions.

Tom Seabrook and David Halaifonua scored Gloucester's tries, with Billy Twelvetrees converting one.

Gloucester took the lead in the first minute when, from a scrum deep in their half, brilliant handling created a try for Premiership debutant Seabrook.

The hosts immediately suffered a further blow when Schalk Burger limped off on crutches to be replaced by Sione Vailanu.

Saracens soon overcame these setbacks by drawing level with Maitland's try, after a Schalk Brits' burst had put the visitors' defence on the back foot.

Farrell converted with a superb touchline kick before Gloucester scored another excellent try following a 75-metre movement.

Jason Woodward received a pass in his own 22 to power down the left flank and evade two tackles before sending Halaifonua over.

The frenetic nature of the opening quarter continued with a second try for Saracens, with Williams forcing his way over from close range and it was 12-12 after 20 minutes.

The hosts then looked to have regained the lead when Alex Goode carved the defence apart - but the try was ruled out by the TMO for obstruction.

However Farrell was successful with a penalty before Saracens lost Marcelo Bosch through injury, with Alex Lozowski introduced in his place - and it was he who set up Farrell for the home side's third try for a 22-12 interval lead.

Within a minute of the restart, that advantage had been extended when Gloucester's errors in their own 22 gifted a try to Figallo before another from Itoje put the hosts out of sight.

Saracens were now rampant as the beleaguered visitors' defence couldn't cope with Wyles, a replacement for Williams, scoring the hosts' sixth.

The home side had scored three tries in the third quarter and were able to relax by withdrawing Farrell, with Goode switching to fly-half and scrum-half replacement Spencer taking the full-back role.

Gloucester lock Jeremy Thrush was sin-binned with 12 minutes remaining as the last quarter dragged but the home side emphasised their total dominance by winning a penalty try for repeated scrum infringements, before Spencer scored two late tries to complete the rout.

Owen Farrell
Owen Farrell: Among the scorers for Saracens

Bath 63-19 London Irish

Matt Banahan scored three of Bath's nine tries on his farewell appearance as the West Country club sneaked into next season's European Champions Cup after a 63-19 win over London Irish.

Since Sale and Gloucester both lost without a losing bonus point, Bath leapfrogged both to clinch sixth place in the Aviva Premiership having been all but written off just a couple of weeks ago.

It took them only three minutes to open the scoring through Taulupe Faletau, who had signed a new contract at the Rec this week.

Banahan combined on the right with Cooper Vuna, who found the Wales number eight with an inside pass.

Rhys Priestland converted and added the extras again when right wing Vuna crossed unopposed.

The home side then conceded five penalties in succession close to their line, with skipper Matt Garvey sin-binned as referee Matt Carley finally lost patience. The visitors spurned easy kicks for goal on each occasion, however, and Bath eventually punished them for their generosity.

There was a huge roar from the capacity 14,509 crowd as Banahan crashed over from a Kahn Fotuali'i pass on 22 minutes and an equally good, hard line by fellow centre James Wilson provided the bonus-point try nine minutes later.

Priestland had been kicking immaculately from the tee and obliged again on the stroke of half-time with his fifth conversion after hooker Tom Ellis had blasted through the Exiles defence and popped the ball to Elliott Stooke to touch down.

Even at 35-0 down, the Irish kept pilfering the odd breakdown and scrum-half Scott Steele broke clear but had only prop Ollie Hoskins in support.

Bath resumed normal service when Banahan joined a maul close to the Irish line and claimed his second try on 52 minutes. Freddie Burns, on for Priestland, converted, and then juggled a pass to create a second try for Wilson who ran in from 40 metres.

No-one would have begrudged the visitors a try and it came just short of the hour as flanker Josh McNally stretched over the line, but Greig Tonks hit the post with his conversion attempt to leave the score at 49-5.

As both coaching teams emptied their benches, the game became scrappy. But there was another huge roar when Banahan claimed his hat-trick, again from a driving maul, to bring his club tally to a tantalising 99.

Replacement prop Will Vaughan leapt acrobatically over a pile of bodies to score a ninth try, again converted by Burns, but the Exiles went down fighting with late tries by Ben Loader and McNally.

Matt Banahan goes over for his try for Bath
Matt Banahan signed off with a hat-trick for Bath

Newcastle 22-39 Wasps

Wasps snuffed out a late Newcastle fightback to end the Falcons' impressive home record with a 39-22 victory and book an Aviva Premiership play-off semi-final at Saracens.

The hosts drove a line-out in the 10th minute at Kingston Park and extracted a penalty which Sonatane Takulua kicked for 3-0 and then saw little of the ball for much of the game as Wasps ran in three tries in each half through Tom Cruse, Elliot Daly, Danny Cipriani, Josh Bassett, Jimmy Gopperth and Willie Le Roux.

Josh Matavesi, Zach Kibirige and Evan Olmstead touched down in the final 16 minutes in front of a sell-out 10,100 crowd but there was no way back for the Falcons, who face a daunting trip to Sandy Park to take on table-toppers Exeter in the other semi-final.

Missing the injured Toby Flood and Joel Hodgson, Newcastle had Matavesi at fly-half and his lack of game-time in the number 10 shirt showed, but he was not solely to blame as there was a rash of poor handling, kicking and decision-making from the home team.

Wasps took the lead when Cruse charged down a poor Matavesi kick and raced away to score an 18th-minute try, which was converted by Cipriani for 7-3.

The visitors were quickly back on the attack and Kyle Eastman and Cipriani sent in Daly for 12-3 in the 35th minute.

They notched a third try on the stroke of half-time, with their forwards driving it close to the line allowing Cipriani to slip through for a score converted by Daly to make it 19-3.

Wasps had the try bonus point wrapped up three minutes into the second half when Cipriani delivered an exquisite outside-of-the-boot kick and Bassett produced an equally impressive one-handed scoop before finishing in the corner for 24-3.

Cipriani left the field injured and his replacement Gopperth immediately scored against his former club. It took a while for referee Ian Tempest to give it and it looked marginal with the final pass seemingly forward, but the try was awarded and Gopperth converted for 31-3.

Newcastle finally found their teeth and Matavesi scorched 70 metres downfield for a try in the 64th minute following a lovely offload from Kibirige, and then Matavesi returned the compliment with a cross-field kick for Kibirige to score. Craig Willis converted to make it 31-15 with 10 minutes left.

And when Thomas Young was sin-binned, Newcastle took the penalty quickly and drove Olmstead over for a third try - converted by Willis - in the 74th minute to make things interesting at 31-22.

But it was too little, too late, as Gopperth kicked a 77th-minute penalty and Le Roux raced in from 70 metres in the 79th minute to finally take the steam out of the Falcons.

Delight for Jimmy Gopperth
Delight for Jimmy Gopperth

Northampton 32-24 Worcester

Northampton finished a difficult Aviva Premiership season with a rousing bonus point victory over Worcester at a sunny Franklin's Gardens.

Tries from number eight Mitch Eadie, centre Nafi Tuitavake, full-back Ben Foden and wing Tom Collins ensured a 32-24 victory which means Saints end the campaign ninth. Fly-half James Grayson kicked three conversions and a penalty and replacement Stephen Myler added another penalty.

Worcester centres Will Butler (2) and Ben Te'o grabbed their side's tries, with fly-half Dorian Jones converting all three and adding a second-half penalty.

Northampton said goodbye to 17 of their squad on Saturday including 34-times capped England international Foden - who has not announced his future intentions yet - and Wales wing George North, who is returning to his homeland to join Ospreys.

Worcester's faithful bid farewell to Irish legend Donncha O'Callaghan at Sixways last week, but 10 more are leaving - with more to be announced during the week.

But far from being an end-of-season run-out for the clubs, the match was intense. Foden spent time in the sin-bin after two minutes for a high tackle on Worcester captain GJ van Velze.

While the full-back was cooling off, former England Under-20 cap Butler, on his first Premiership start for the Warriors, grabbed two tries in the space of five minutes which - improved by Jones' conversions - put Worcester 14-0 to the good.

There was needle between the teams as well with some pushing and shoving at times.

The erratic Saints finally found some form and Eadie touched down under a pile of bodies next to the Worcester posts which, with Grayson's conversion, reduced the arrears to seven points.

Butler's match was over before the half-time whistle as he came off with an arm injury. At the same time, play was held up for five minutes as Warriors scrum-half Francois Hougaard was treated by medics on the pitch before being carried off on a stretcher.

Northampton ended the half on top with Grayson adding three points from a 23-metre penalty in the final moments.

Another crazy 20 minutes after the break saw four tries, with Northampton going 21-10 down before reaching the hour mark 29-24 ahead.

England centre Te'o was put in by wing Josh Adams to extend the Warriors' lead, but Tuitavake hit back minutes later with a converted touchdown.

Foden made up for his sin-bin by finishing a sweeping backs movement before wing Collins ran 30 metres down the left touchline for the Saints' bonus point try. Grayson added the extras to both.

With a five-point advantage, Northampton put the squeeze on their opponents, defending well to see out the last quarter easily.

Myler, who is also leaving the home side, kicked a penalty in the last minute to seal the win.

Sale 13-35 Leicester

Sale missed out on a European Champions Cup spot after ending their Aviva Premiership campaign with a 35-13 home defeat by Leicester.

England fly-half George Ford scored 20 points with a try, three conversions, two penalties and a drop-goal. Jonah Holmes went over for two tries and Mike Williams also crossed as the Tigers avoided a third successive defeat to end a comparatively disappointing season in fifth place.

Gloucester's defeat at Saracens meant that Leicester were assured of a top-six finish and with it a Champions Cup place but this was an opportunity missed for the seventh-placed Sharks, who came up short despite a valiant effort in front of a 10,015 crowd at a sun-kissed AJ Bell Stadium.

Already recoiling from their absence from the play-offs for the first time since 2004, Leicester at least had the consolation of finishing on a high and, of course, the 10-time English champions will have another European campaign to look forward to in 2019.

Centre Will Addison and full-back Mike Haley were given the honour of leading Sale out on their final appearances for the club as they head for the Irish provinces.

But Addison's farewell lasted only eight minutes as he went off with a hamstring injury and had barely reached the tunnel when the Tigers opened the scoring.

The visitors attacked down the left and England winger Jonny May came up with a neat offload for Holmes, who had tracked across from the right wing, to force his way to the line for the first of his two tries.

Skipper Ford added the conversion to make it 7-0 but Sale came back strongly and AJ MacGinty cut the deficit to a single point with two penalties.

The Sharks might have been in front after producing clean breaks through centre Sam James and lively scrum-half Faf De Klerk while Holmes came to Leicester's rescue with a timely interception after the latter looked set to score from MacGinty's pass.

The Tigers had a clear edge in the scrum and Ford had two chances to reward his forwards for their industry but was unfortunate to hit the uprights with both penalty attempts to leave the score well-balanced at 7-6 at the break.

The Tigers dominated the early stages of the second half to open up a 20-6 lead, courtesy of two penalties and a try from Ford, who finished off a break by his half-back partner Ben Youngs.

But Sale got back into it thanks to a breakaway try from winger Marland Yarde after flanker Sam Curry had pounced on a loose ball following a lively break by Leicester full-back Telusa Veainu.

MacGinty's conversion cut the visitors' lead to seven points but flanker Williams made sure of Leicester's victory when he got on the end of a midfield break by May for a try converted by Ford, who also added a drop goal.

Holmes then wrapped up the scoring with his second try in the last minute to give the visitors a flattering margin of victory.

Harlequins 17-43 Exeter

Exeter completed the regular Aviva Premiership season with an emphatic 41-17 victory at Twickenham Stoop that consigned Harlequins to a chastening 10th-placed finish.

The Chiefs' position at the summit of the league was already unassailable and they will face Newcastle at Sandy Park in the semi-final in a fortnight with momentum behind them.

Six tries were amassed against a side that collapsed in the final 10 minutes, the pick of them a dazzling touchdown finished by the outstanding Joe Simmonds, while flanker Dave Dennis crossed twice.

The defeat brought a dismal end to the reign of John Kingston, who was presiding over his final match as Quins director of rugby only to endure a third successive loss since news of his departure at the end of the season was announced last month.

His players looked like the campaign was already over as they waved Exeter through in the closing stages, but at 24-17 the game hung in the balance until a late flurry of points from the champions.

Quins started with plenty of intent set as they launched waves of attacks and although Mike Brown was prominent, it was the dancing footwork of Smith that swept them over the whitewash in the fourth minute.

But having lit up Twickenham Stoop with their endeavour, they then allowed their own line to be breached all too easily when Dave Ewers drove over from close range.

It was a sweeping move that led to Exeter's second try, a brilliantly judged pass from Simmonds creating space down the left before Ewers showed strength to feed Dennis the scoring pass.

The Chiefs' forward power helped Dennis score a second but the champions showed their class to secure the bonus point with a try-of-the-season contender launched from inside their own half by Sam Hill's log pass to Santiago Cordero.

With the support runners timing their arrival to perfection, Exeter swept over the 22 through Olly Woodburn before Simmonds arrived to finish the move.

Quins were in danger of being overrun but, for all their shortcomings, they remained dangerous in broken field and with seconds of the first half remaining they were able to conjure a try for Brown.

At 24-17 the match was finely poised as the rivals traded blows in a third quarter that started in entertaining fashion only to became increasingly scrappy.

It was Exeter who attacked with the greater speed and purpose but their endeavour was undermined by the growing error count.

When once advance came to a halt - Quins were now tackling with greater conviction - replacement fly-half Gareth Steenson used the penalty to propel Exeter 10 points clear.

The gap widened further when Tom Hendrickson crashed over from a line-out and with the home side falling apart at the seams, Alec Hepburn helped himself to a late try.

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