Guinness Premiership - Round 18 Review
Exiles hammer sorry Sale
March 27, 2010

Steffon Armitage bagged two tries as London Irish reclaimed fourth place with a resounding 38-0 rout of the relegation-threatened Sale Sharks at the Madejski Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

The Exiles never looked back after John Rudd's early touchdown, with Ryan Lamb's boot keeping the scoreboard ticking over before Armitage struck twice in the space of seven second-half minutes. Peter Hewat sealed the bonus point with just over 15 minutes to go before Alex Corbisiero put the seal on a stirring win when he crossed late on.

Despite the return of international stars Mark Cueto, Mathew Tait and Dwayne Peel, Sale looked utterly toothless in attack and at no point looked capable of emulating last weekend's win over another London side in Wasps.

Indeed, there only ever looked one winner after Rudd had touched down in the corner after demonstrating impressive strength in holding off Sale flanker David Seymour. The Exiles were over again in the 13th minute but what would have been a timely try for the out-of-form Delon Armitage was ruled out because of a forward pass from Elvis Seveali'i. It mattered not a jot to the dominant hosts, though, and Lamb stroked over three penalties to help Irish into a 14-0 interval lead, the fly-half passing the 500-point mark in the Guinness Premiership in the process.

The Exiles effectively put the game beyond the ineffective Falcons five minutes after the restart when Steffon Armitage grounded the ball in the right corner after a rampaging run from Chris Hala'ufia had stretched the visitors' defence to breaking point. England flanker Armitage dotted again in the 51st minute, with Hala'ufia again the creator.

The only remaining goal for the home side was to secure the bonus point and it arrived when Hewat dived over in the left corner after a slick passing move involving Lamb, Seilala Mapusua and Rudd. The rout was completed when Corbisiero burrowed his way over from close range after a spell of incessant forward pressure from the Exiles.

Third-placed Saracens arrested their recent slump in form courtesy of a commanding 58-15 victory over the struggling Newcastle Falcons at Vicarage Road.

Schalk Brits and Ernst Joubert both crossed twice, while Andy Saull, Noah Cato and Richard Haughton all scored one try apiece during a morale-boosting win for the hosts after a run of five defeats in six.

In addition, Sarries fly-half Glen Jackson had a productive afternoon with the boot, the Kiwi contributing 23 points in total. Jackson's opposite number, Jimmy Gopperth, accounted for all of the visitors' points but his performance was on the one highlight on an otherwise dark day for the Falcons.

Gopperth had actually kicked Newcastle into an early six-point lead, landing an ugly drop goal after three minutes and then following it up with a far more aesthetically pleasing penalty from half-way.

Less than 60 seconds later, though, Brits took the game by the scruff of the neck, crashing over under the posts after a barn-storming run which left a succession of would-be tacklers trailing in his wake. Newcastle responded with another Gopperth penalty but Brits struck again in the 15th minute, the hooker this time the beneficiary of an excellent break from Adam Powell.

Gopperth kept the Falcons right in contention with another penalty but Saracens took a firm grip on the game with a crucially-timed try from Andy Saull just before the break, the openside flanker barging over under the posts just 60 seconds after being forced into touch with the whitewash in his sights. Jackson converted and then added a penalty to help Sarries into a healthy 27-12 lead at the break.

Gopperth reduced Newcastle's arrears with another fine strike on goal shortly after half-time but there was to be no derailing Sarries, who cut loose in the final quarter. Cato finished superbly on the hour after a collecting a loose ball inside his own half before Joubert cruised over after intercepting a loose pass from Newcastle scrum-half Micky Young. Replacement wing Haughton then got in on the act before Joubert touched down again in the dying seconds.

Bath stretched their unbeaten run to seven games at the Rec on Saturday afternoon as they continue to look like viable play-off candidates.

Harlequins were their latest victims on Conor O'Shea's first match day as director of rugby, going down 24-13 to the in-form hosts. Olly Barkley produced a fine performance and the inside centre finished with 14 of their total, with a try, three conversions and one penalty.

The hosts produced a strong opening and were 10-0 up after ten minutes thanks to Barkley kicked a penalty before converting his own try. Former All Black Nick Evans kicked two penalties to bring 'Quins into the game, the second making the score 10-6 on the verge of half-time.

Duncan Bell was the unlikely try scorer for Bath ten minutes after the break, the big prop scoring ten minutes in before Barkley added the conversion. And wing Joe Maddock gave the visitors a mountain to climb three minutes later with a try which was again converted by Barkley.

Bath will be disappointed that they couldn't rally for a bonus point try, but credit must go to Harlequins, who brought themselves back into the game when substitute Tom Williams crossed for a try three minutes from time. Evans converted, but that was as close as they came to a losing bonus.

Northampton kept the pressure on Leicester at the top of the table with Stephen Myler's late kicks securing a 14-9 win over Wasps at Franklin's Garden, you can read the match report for that game here.

The Tigers continued their dominance at Sixways, with a 38-19 victory over basement boys Worcester.

Toby Flood kicked 24 points for the league leaders, who failed to claim a bonus point despite their 38-point haul. Mike Ruddock's men remain rooted to the foot of the table despite 18 points from the boot of Willie Walker, but there will be some comfort in the knowledge that they've gotten Leicester out of the way, while relegation rivals Leeds also lost.

Irish utility back Jeremy Staunton crossed for an early try after good work from Ben Smith, with Flood then getting his excellent kicking display underway with the penalty. Walker kept his side in it with four penalties and the score was 13-12 at the break, but Richard Cockerill's men powered on from there. Ben Youngs scorched over for a try ten minutes after the interval, while Flood continued with the kicks before replacement James Grindal finished the job late on.

Fellow strugglers Leeds failed to score against Gloucester as they slumped to a disappointing 19-0 defeat at Kingsholm.

The hosts maintained their late push for a top-four place, with Nicky Robinson scoring all of their points in a dominant display. But the bad news for the Cherry and Whites was the departure of the unlucky Mike Tindall, who suffered a groin injury after just six minutes of play.

The Yorkshiremen, who came into the match in form, looked like causing problems at the outset but Welsh fly-half Robinson kicked three first-half penalties for the hosts, adding another after the break for good measure. And although they suffered another injury blow when Wales No.8 Gareth Delve limped off, Robinson closed out the match when he spotted a gap between Ceiron Thomas and Scott Barrow on the edge of the Leeds '22 and beat Hendrie Fourie to the line to score.


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