Aviva Premiership round-up
Bonus-point win puts Sarries top
March 3, 2013
Bath hold off dogged Gloucester

David Strettle continued to push for an England recall by sealing a 35-14 bonus point win for Saracens against beleaguered London Welsh that took them to the top of the Aviva Premiership.

The in-form winger followed up his double at Leicester last week by running in Sarries' fourth try as they took themselves four points clear of Harlequins at the summit. Joel Tomkins and Will Fraser had touched down earlier in the second half for Sarries, who were awarded a first-half penalty try.

Seb Stegmann scored a try on his debut for Welsh while Gavin Henson kicked nine points but it was a frustrating afternoon for Welsh who had a Henson try ruled out and two players, Phil MacKenzie and Tom Bristow, sent to the sinbin. It rounds off a difficult week for the Exiles, who find out their fate over the alleged ineligibility of scrum-half Tyson Keats at an RFU hearing on Tuesday which is threatening to seal their fate in their battle against the drop.

Exeter Chiefs shocked league leaders Harlequins with a 27-16 victory in their clash at The Stoop on Saturday.

Ugo Monye gave Quins the lead after just five minutes when he ran a great line off Jordan Turner-Hall to notch the game's opening try. But Exeter fly-half Gareth Steenson kept his side in the match with three first-half penalties ensuring they only trailed by a point at half-time.

Ben Botica and Steenson exchanged a brace of penalties after the break before Exeter stepped up their pace and Harlequins were unable to cope. After a period of sustained pressure, second-row Damian Welch crashed over and soon after fullback Luke Arscott picked his way through the home side's defence for a score that set the seal on a league double over the defending champions and their first win on the road since November.

Elsewhere, Leicester Tigers dealt Sale Sharks a major blow in their bid to escape relegation with a clinical 48-10 win at Welford Road. Tigers scored six tries on their way to victory with Ed Slater and Matt Smith grabbing a brace each. Mathew Tait and a penalty try completed their try-scoring and fly-half George Ford converted all six tries and added two penalties. Sale had no answer to a rampant Tigers side and scored their only try through Welsh No.8 Andy Powell two minutes from time, which Danny Cipriani converted to add to an earlier Nick McLeod penalty.

Northampton Saints also scored six tries as they stopped London Irish from taking advantage of Sale's loss with a 40-14 victory at Franklin's Gardens that lifted them into the play-offs picture. Wing Jamie Elliott grabbed a hat-trick and there were tries for Samu Manoa, Soane Tonga'uiha and GJ van Velze. Stephen Myler converted four and Ryan Lamb one, while the Exiles points came from a Guy Armitage try and three Tom Homer penalties. Courtney Lawes played a full 80 minutes at second-row, while his England team-mate Dylan Hartley started at hooker, but came off after 68 minutes.

On Friday night, Bath claimed the West Country bragging rights with a 31-25 victory over Gloucester at The Rec. The hosts took the lead in the fourth minute when Matt Banahan led a counter-attack before Tom Biggs was tackled without the ball by Charlie Sharples. Bath were awarded a penalty try and Sharples was sent to the sin-bin. Henry Trinder then charged down Nick Abendanon's clearance kick and picked up the ball to run in the try, before fullback Rob Cook slipped the ball to Jonny May and he raced in at the corner to bring Gloucester back into the match. The match swung back Bath's way on the half-hour mark when Tom Heathcote spotted a gap, raced clear and then passed onto Kyle Eastmond and the ex-league man jinked his way past Cook to put Bath back in the lead.

The match swung further Bath's way early in the second half when Gloucester's hooker Darren Dawidiuk was sent-off for a dangerous tackle on Dave Attwood. Biggs took advantage of their numerical advantage when he ran in a third try and while May grabbed a second, it wasn't enough to spark a late comeback.

Worcester Warriors meanwhile grabbed a vital four-try 29-23 win at home to London Wasps that will help ease their relegation fears. Fullback Chris Pennell and wing David Lemi helped give the hosts a half-time lead, while Nick Robinson scored all Wasps' points with two penalties. The London side came out in more determined fashion in the second half and ran in tries from Rhys Thomas and Ashley Johnson. Worcester came back again though and Blair Cowan and Jonny Arr fought their way to cross the line. Andrea Masi was sin-binned on 67 minutes to leave Wasps with a difficult task to come back again though Jack Wallace's late try was at least enough to ensure they left with the losing bonus point.

Pos Team P W D L F A F-A TBP LBP BP Pts
1 Saracens 17 13 1 3 391 255 +136 4 1 5 59
2 Harlequins 17 12 0 5 446 355 +91 4 3 7 55
3 Leicester Tigers 17 11 1 5 397 265 +132 4 4 8 54
4 Northampton Saints 17 11 0 6 370 330 +40 3 2 5 49
5 Gloucester Rugby 17 9 1 7 407 357 +50 1 7 8 46
6 London Wasps 17 9 0 8 414 387 +27 4 6 10 46
7 Bath Rugby 17 8 1 8 349 323 +26 2 6 8 42
8 Exeter Chiefs 17 8 1 8 405 347 +58 3 4 7 41
9 Worcester Warriors 17 5 1 11 333 375 -42 3 7 10 32
10 London Irish 17 5 0 12 327 475 -148 1 3 4 24
11 London Welsh 17 4 0 13 298 464 -166 0 6 6 22
12 Sale Sharks 17 4 0 13 270 474 -204 0 3 3 19

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