Gallagher Premiership review: Bristol, Saracens and Gloucester win

Bristol's Harry Thacker scores against his former side, as they beat Leicester Tigers
Bristol's Harry Thacker scores against his former side, as they beat Leicester Tigers

Saracens remain the only unbeaten side in the Gallagher Premiership following their conformable win over play-off rivals Wasps, while Newcastle made it back to back victories, and Bristol and Gloucester earned important wins.

Saracens 29-6 Wasps

Jamie George scores Saracens' first try
Jamie George scores Saracens' first try

Saracens clocked up a ninth straight Premiership win of the season by beating Wasps to go top of the table and maintain their 100% winning start.

Wasps former player Alex Lozowski inspired the Champions to their 16th successive Premiership victory, going back to last season, as he kicked five penalties as part of a 19-point haul.

Sarries also claimed the game's only tries, from hooker Jamie George and a Nick Isiekwe intercept.

In the first meeting since their record-breaking 57-33 Premiership semi-final meerting in May, the visitors battled well. The first half was a kicking contest, as England centre Lozowski landed his first three penalties, while Wasps captain Elliot Daly slotted a 56-metre kick in response.

A further two Lozowski penalties and another long-ranger from England star Daly followed after the break, but Sarries, who had to deal with loss of injured Wales star Liam Williams before kick-off, also crucially grabbed two tries.

With 20 minutes left, England hooker Jamie George, a hat-trick hero in this same fixture last season, again got over out wide, Lozowski adding the extras.

Then, when Daly's pass was intercepted close to the try-line eight minutes from time, Isiekwe was on hand to crash over.

Gloucester 36-16 Worcester Warriors

Gloucester's Charlie Sharples runs in to score the game's second try
Gloucester's Charlie Sharples runs in to score the game's second try

Gloucester moved back up to third in the table with a 36-16 bonus-point victory over Worcester at Kingsholm.

Worcester were only one point adrift at the interval but the home pack dominated the second half for Gloucester to run out convincing winners.

Ollie Thorley scored two tries for Gloucester, with James Hanson, Jaco Visagie, Freddie Clarke and Charlie Sharples also crossing and Billy Twelvetrees adding three conversions.

Bryce Heem scored a try for Worcester with Duncan Weir kicking the conversion and three penalties.

Gloucester coach Johan Ackermann said: "I'm satisfied with the win and very pleased with the extra point against a quality side.

"We knew we had to start well and we became confident by scoring two well-constructed tries but then there was a phase where we made silly mistakes and our discipline let us down.

"We couldn't believe that we were only point ahead at half-time but we took the interval messages on board to start the second half well and be more accurate.

"We got the scoreboard rolling again but when the game was wrapped up ,we again made silly mistakes and we need to show more maturity in finishing off the games."

Worcester director of rugby Alan Solomons had no complaints about the result: "We were outmuscled and they were on top of us for most of the game and Chris Pennell's yellow card made no different to the result."

"The physicality of their pack was crucial and they dominated the collisions today but we could have played better."

Bristol Bears 41-10 Leicester Tigers

Leicester Tigers have now suffered six straight defeats
Leicester Tigers have now suffered six straight defeats

Geordan Murphy admitted his Leicester team were exposed after suffering a 41-10 drubbing against Bristol and seeing Kyle Eastmond sent off.

It was Leicester's record loss to Bristol and their sixth successive defeat in all competitions.

Bristol, meanwhile, moved above Tigers in the Gallagher Premiership as they claimed a first win against Leicester since 2007 and posted their biggest Premiership victory for 18 years.

Referee Wayne Barnes dismissed former England centre Eastmond for a dangerous head-high tackle on Bristol fly-half Ian Madigan after 25 minutes, leaving the Tigers in major strife.

"It (red card) is huge in a game like that," Leicester's interim head coach Murphy said.

"We had a pretty poor start in the game, but we came back into it and pulled it back to 10-7. And then the high tackle kills us. Down to 14 men against a side like Bristol, who want to throw the ball around, it was always going to be a very long day at the office.

"It was going to be tough and we ran out of steam. We were exposed at times."

Leicester are likely to drop down the table after this weekend's league programme is completed, and on current form it is not inconceivable that the eight-time Premiership champions could be dragged into a relegation scrap.

"It's really disappointing. I think that will boost Bristol's chances of staying up and we have to bounce back from that performance," added Murphy.

Hooker Harry Thacker rocked his former club by claiming two tries - he scored a hat-trick against Wasps last weekend - while wing Luke Morahan and scrum-half Harry Randall each claimed virtuoso touchdowns and Madigan kicked five penalties and three conversions for a 21-point haul.

Leicester, despite welcoming back Manu Tuilagi, Jonny May, George Ford and Ben Youngs from England duty, were ruthlessly torn apart, with a scant consolation arriving through an early Tuilagi try, and Ford added a conversion and penalty as Bristol claimed a bonus point triumph.

Bristol head coach Pat Lam said: "I am extremely pleased. It was our biggest ever win against Leicester and five points, given the nature of the competition, is massive.

"The collective effort pleased me most. The forwards were superb, which allowed individuals to shine. We scored some very good tries.

"In context, it's a massive win. We have taken eight points in the last three games and to do that against Exeter, Wasps and Leicester is huge.

"It is a big day for us, particularly when you look at the individuals they (Leicester) had."

Northampton Saints 14-16 Newcastle Falcons

Newcastle Falcons players celebrate their second win in a row
Newcastle Falcons players celebrate their second win in a row

Mark Wilson's 86th-minute try and Toby Flood's conversion gave Newcastle Falcons a 16-14 win at Northampton Saints in a thrilling encounter at Franklin's Gardens.

Bottom of the table Newcastle had trailed 14-9 in the closing stages after Cobus Reinach's try double for the hosts. But Wilson - back from England international duty - was on hand at the end to break the Saints with Flood simply adding the two-points in front of the posts to give the Falcons their third Premiership win of the season.

England captain Dylan Hartley returned from international duty for the Saints for his 250th appearance for the club.

Flood kicked Newcastle ahead inside two minutes after Jamie Gibson was penalised for taking out a player in the air at the game's first line-out.

Biggar was pulling the strings at outside-half for the hosts, demonstrating his worth as Wales' number one 10. His inch perfect reverse ball to Ahsee Tuala sent the full-back running towards the try-line but the visitors held firm to clear their lines.

That was a repeating story as the Saints went without reward for a number of promising attacks.

Eventually, after 30 minutes, the Saints had their breakthrough. Gibson's clever pass found Reinach, who beat three tackles to cross at the posts for his first try.

Biggar converted and on the stroke of the interval found touch with a penalty - but the hosts could not make the most of a golden opportunity.

Northampton deservedly doubled their lead after the break when Reinach scored his second of the game. The scrum-half collected Teimana Harrison's inside ball at the 22 and darted away to touch down beneath the bar.

Clear-cut chances were few and far between for both sides in the second half, with the hosts remaining well in control of proceedings.

Falcons had a rare sniff midway through the half but could not make the most of that with prop Sam Lockwood eventually penalised and Saints able to clear their lines.

At the other end Saints failed with another good opportunity from a rolling maul and later on had to rely on Tuala's last-ditch tackle to halt a charging Vereniki Goneva from scoring in the corner.

With 10 minutes remaining, the Falcons cut the gap to five points when replacement Brett Connon drilled a penalty from distance.

And they sealed a thrilling victory with the clock well in the red when flanker Wilson scrambled over to level the game, with Flood kicking the conversion.

Bath 7-7 Sale

England wing Joe Cokanasiga struck late to secure an unlikely 7-7 draw for Bath just when it seemed Gallagher Premiership bottom club Sale would leave a rain-sodden Rec with a priceless victory.

Replacement fly-half James Wilson, signed up as injury cover only this week, converted to claim two points for Bath. Sale's reward was to leapfrog Newcastle into 11th position in the table.

After a turgid, scoreless first half, the game had sprung to life after 49 minutes when Sale number eight Jean-Luc du Preez plunged over for a try, converted by his elder brother Rob.

Although the draw propelled Bath from 10th to sixth in the table they face the toughest of tests home and away to European champions Leinster on the next two weekends. As a dress rehearsal this sluggish performance could hardly have been less encouraging.

Bath's stumbling progress over the first three months of the season has left them short of confidence. As if desperate to cut down on mistakes, the home side opted to play slowly, with a succession of box kicks on a wet pitch in intermittent drizzle.

They had an edge in the scrum at first and it earned them a penalty after seven minutes but Freddie Burns was wide from 45 metres.

Given another he opted for the corner and although the line-out was functioning cleanly, ball from second and third phase was too slow from the hands of Kahn Fotuali'i.

Sharks fly-half Rob du Preez then had a penalty chance at the other end, only to push the ball wide.

The crowd came to life momentarily when Cokanasiga arrowed in on a cross-kick by Wilson but the ball would not bounce kindly.

Bath had 70 per cent possession but could not make it pay. Instead it was Sale who came closest to scoring when Denny Solomona latched on to a kick by Rob du Preez but lost control of the ball as he slid over the line.

That inspired them to a much more purposeful approach in the second half and a catch-and-drive in the corner set up position for Jean-Luc du Preez's try.

Bath initially struggled to respond as the visitors began to find space and break tackles.

Wilson was wide with a penalty chance but, just when it seemed Sale would hold out, Cooper Vuna broke free and kicked ahead for Cokanasiga to gather and touch down.

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