Aviva Premiership - Round 3
Impressive Saracens extend 100% record
September 21, 2013
George North's heroics for Northampton were over-shadowed by an error from officials that led to Gloucester claiming the spoils at Kingsholm © Getty Images
Saracens climbed to the top of the Aviva Premiership with a thumping 31-17 victory over Bath at Allianz Park on Sunday.
By the end of the first quarter the hosts led 17-3 and when the interval arrived they had powered 31-3 ahead to all but guarantee their third successive five-point haul in three matches. David Strettle crossed twice and there were also tries for Alex Goode - making his comeback from shoulder surgery - and Matt Stevens with Ashton kicking all four conversions and a penalty as Bath's triumphant opening to the Premiership was blown apart. Mako and Billy Vunipola made noteworthy contributions once more and England head coach Stuart Lancaster will also have been pleased by Chris Ashton's performance. Although Ashton failed to breach the whitewash, he was influential with his running off the ball and work in support helping unlock Bath's traumatised defence.
Leicester Tigers had been top thanks to a 31-6 victory over Newcastle Falcons at Welford Road on Saturday. The Tigers made it an uncomfortable return for former player and boss Dean Richards with a convincing bonus point victory. It was Richards's first visit to Leicester for five years following the 'Bloodgate' scandal which earned him a three-year ban, and his first as Newcastle's director of rugby. But champions Leicester were much too strong for the side promoted to the Aviva Premiership last season and won comfortably with tries from Jordan Crane, Graham Kitchener, Blaine Scully, Dan Bowden and Thomas Waldrom. Former Newcastle fly-half Toby Flood kicked two conversions, his replacement Owen Williams one, while in reply Falcons fly-half Rory Clegg slotted a penalty and a drop goal.
England centre Billy Twelvetrees kicked a controversial late penalty to give Gloucester a dramatic 26-24 victory over Northampton at Kingsholm on Saturday. Saints looked to have done enough to move top of the league when wing Jamie Elliott struck a minute from time following stunning approach work by juggernaut Wales wing George North, with fly-half Stephen Myler's conversion edging them ahead. But Northampton were mysteriously penalised at a scrum deep into injury time, and Twelvetrees struck from 35 metres for a 26-24 verdict.
Twelvetrees and his fellow England back Charlie Sharples both scored tries for the home side, but it was a second-half touchdown from Gloucester academy player Elliott Stooke that appeared to have initially edged Gloucester home. England Under-20 lock Stooke pounced after 66 minutes, while fly-half Freddie Burns chipped in with two penalties and a conversion to put Gloucester six points in front. Northampton took an early lead through fullback Ben Foden's try, and there was a second-half score for lock Samu Manoa, with Myler adding seven points from the boot - but Gloucester closed out the game.
Exeter scored both of their tries in the final 20 minutes as they stormed home to a 29-23 victory over London Irish at the Madejski Stadium. The visitors rattled on 15 unanswered points in the final quarter, including tries to Dean Mumm and Ben White, to secure a 29-23 success. For the opening hour Irish were the better side, showing greater enterprise than a lethargic Exeter and with visitors' wing Tom James in the sin bin, the hosts appeared sure-fire winners. Irish had already gone over through Nick Rouse and Marland Yarde in each half but they came to a standstill as 19 points from the boot of Gareth Steenson ensured Exeter sailed home.
Worcester crashed to their third successive defeat of the season after a Chris Robshaw-inspired Harlequins coasted to a 37-13 victory at Sixways on Friday night. First-half tries from England internationals Danny Care and Joe Marler left Worcester with a mountain to climb, but they could find no way back as Quins skipper Robshaw dominated the close-quarter exchanges and repeatedly secured possession for his team.
Nick Evans chipped in with 14 points from the boot, and all Worcester could muster was two Ignacio Mieres penalties and a late penalty try that Mieres converted as their 37-13 reversal left them with just one point from three starts. Three yellow cards during the opening 50 minutes did not help Worcester's cause, but they were outclassed by a slick Quins outfit as second-half touchdowns followed for hooker Rob Buchanan and fullback Mike Brown before substitute Ben Botica added a penalty in the dying seconds.
Replacement fly-half Danny Cipriani steered Sale Sharks to a 26-22 victory over London Wasps at the AJ Bell Stadium in Friday night. The controversial stand-off replaced Nick Macleod after 19 minutes and racked up 21 points to ensure his side had a big enough lead to defend. Cipriani kicked two first-half penalties and a conversion and set up Mark Cueto's try. Andy Goode's single three-pointer was Wasps' only response before the break as they struggled for continuity.
Cipriani, who was playing his first game of the season having been left out of the previous two squads, crossed after the break to give the hosts a seemingly comfortable 20-3 advantage. But the visitors responded well as Ashley Johnson touched down before they were awarded a penalty try. Although Cipriani kicked another penalty, Josh Bassett's score gave Goode the chance to put them ahead with the conversion, but the fly-half missed and Sale's mercurial pivot sealed the win with a last-minute three-pointer.
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