Aviva Premiership - Round 18
Saracens dominate title rivals Quins
March 24, 2013
Saracens' Will Fraser celebrates scoring a try on the day his brother and former Saracens Academy player Henry Fraser officially opened the Allianz Park stadium © Getty Images
Saracens moved five points clear at the top of the Aviva Premiership with a dominant 27-12 victory over third-placed Harlequins at Allianz Park on Sunday.
Hooker Schalk Brits and flanker Will Fraser scored the tries with England fly-half Owen Farrell kicking their other 17 points. Fly-half Nick Evans kept Harlequins in contention into the second half with four penalties from five attempts but the reigning Premiership champions were second-best as they strove in vain to repel the Sarries' attack - or breach their rock-solid defence.
Leicester climbed to second in the table with a narrow 12-9 victory over Exeter Chiefs at Sandy Park on Saturday night. Four penalties from Toby Flood steered the Tigers to second place, at least for 24 hours, as they moved to within a point of leaders Saracens with victory in a tryless contest. The Chiefs had to settle for a losing bonus point, after Gareth Steenson had kicked three first half penalties, as they remain in eighth place - but crucially 12 points outside the top four.
Earlier in the day, Northampton made it four Premiership wins in-a-row with a last gasp 26-24 bonus point victory over London Wasps to end their rivals' unbeaten run at Adams Park this season. The visitors' forward dominance eventually told as Christian Day's last-gasp try saw them climb to third in the table and enhance their play-off aspirations. Northampton bossed the close exchanges and a penalty try plus further scores from Lee Dickson and Dylan Hartley - as well as four points from Stephen Myler's boot - gave them a 19-16 half-time lead. Wasps had twice been reduced to 14 men as Rhys Thomas and Tom Palmer went to the bin in the first half, but Tom Varndell's try, two penalties and a conversion from Stephen Jones and a three-pointer from Elliot Daly kept them in it.
And centre Daly's wonderful finish down the left, after another Jones penalty, briefly put them on course for a remarkable victory. But there was still time for Ashley Johnson to become the third Wasp to receive a yellow card, and another punishing series of Saints drives ended with Day getting the crucial fourth try at the death, with Myler's conversion sealing the win.
Elsewhere on Saturday, Gloucester's Freddie Burns broke London Welsh hearts with a penalty five minutes from time to propel his side to a narrow 15-14 win at Kingsholm and deny the Premiership relegation favourites a famous victory. Wing Phil MacKenzie's 52nd-minute try and three penalties by fly-half Gordon Ross put Premiership basement club London Welsh on the verge of only their fifth league win this season.
It would have closed the gap to fellow strugglers Sale Sharks to two points but Gloucester fly-half Burns had other ideas. Although the England international missed four shots at goal, he booted five others to keep Gloucester's title play-off hopes alive hopes.
London Irish took another major step towards Premiership survival with a comfortable 26-6 victory over a disappointing Worcester at the Madejski Stadium. With this win Irish have at present a 10-point cushion over bottom club London Welsh and a five-point lead over 11th-placed Sale, with Irish still having to play those two clubs at home in their remaining four fixtures. The game was a disappointing one for the annual St Patrick's celebration which saw an attendance of 19,523.
On Friday night, Mark Cueto's late try secured a priceless victory for Sale Sharks in their battle to avoid the drop as they overcame Bath 14-13 in horrific conditions. With survival at stake, a solid first half performance from Sale took them into the break 9-3 ahead through three Nick Macleod penalties. Bath, who still harbour top-four ambitions, responded before the interval via Tom Heathcote's three-pointer. Horacio Agulla's try then took the west country outfit into the lead, but Cueto's excellent finish sealed the win and took them six points clear of London Welsh
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.