Guinness Premiership - Round 4 Review
Saracens march on to top spot
September 25, 2009

Replacement hooker Schalk Brits scored the decisive try and fly-half Glen Jackson chipped in with 14 points as Saracens condemned Gloucester to their third consecutive defeat, going top of the Guinness Premiership thanks to a 19-16 triumph.

The Cherry and Whites had taken a second-minute lead through Rory Lawson's opportunist try and maintained that advantage until Brits barged over in the 67th minute. Nicky Robinson landed three penalties and a conversion but he missed with an injury-time drop goal that would have earned Gloucester a draw.

Sarries skipper Steve Borthwick was forced off after just 13 minutes with a nasty cut to his left eye after an apparent clash with the Gloucester hooker Olivier Azam. Saracens' uninspiring brand of rugby may be winning matches but it is not winning them many new friends - only 7,777 turned up and some of them were booing in frustration before Brits plundered over to secure the win.

Lawson put Gloucester ahead inside two minutes after Alasdair Strokosch stole the Saracens lineout 10 metres out and the Scottish scrum-half darted through the gap to score. But Saracens stuck by the boot and it once again proved effective as Gloucester failed to deal with successive high balls and on both occasions conceded penalties. Jackson stroked both kicks over.

Jackson and Robinson exchanged further penalties as the game descended into another drab affair of few openings and plenty of mindless, aimless kicking. Gloucester have had discipline problem this season and after receiving a team warning for persistent infringements, Lawson became their fifth player to be sin-binned so far this campaign.

Jackson missed the penalty but opened the second period with a drop-goal. But, once again, Robinson replied with a penalty almost immediately. Saracens reverted back to kicking everything and their approach began to draw jeers, whistles and slow handclaps from their own supporters during a particularly tedious bout of kick-tennis.

But Justin Marshall's introduction changed the tempo and, after Saracens kicked a penalty into the corner, the former All Black orchestrated a series of close-range attacks before Brits drove over the line.

A titanic arm-wrestle at the Rec between Bath and Leicester saw a late Dan Hipkiss try cancelled out by a Nicky Little penalty and the teams finish 20-20 in their Guinness Premiership clash on Saturday.

The visitors outscored their hosts by two tries to one as Hipkiss was joined by Mefin Davies on the scoresheet but a typically robust score from Matt Banahan and five penalty goals from Little saw Bath hold the initiative for most of the match.

Leicester were well marshalled by their fly-half Jeremy Staunton who kicked two penalties and converted both tries for Richard Cockerill's side - the touchdowns being the Tigers' first of the season. They also saw their captain Geordan Murphy helped from the field late in the second-half when he appeared to injure an already troublesome shoulder after landing awkwardly in attempting to get to a ball that he'd kicked ahead.

It wasn't until the 76th minute that a Ben Youngs break saw him fire a pass to Hipkiss who stood up his defender and scorched over for a crucial try that Leicester had a realistic chance at victory.

It wasn't to be though as Bath, fully deserving of the draw in front of their fans, had Little step up and slot a late penalty to earn himself the Man of the Match award and Bath a share of the spoils.

Shane Geraghty produced an inspired performance to lead Northampton to a bonus point 30-10 victory over bottom-of-the-table Leeds in the Guinness Premiership on Saturday.

Geraghty, a leading candidate to start for England in the autumn internationals due to injuries to Riki Flutey and Toby Flood, was the star turn at Franklin's Gardens in his usual position of fly-half, scoring one try and setting up two others for in-form centre Jon Clarke. The 23-year-old also chipped in with seven points with the boot, through one penalty and two conversions, the second of which was the bonus point try by Chris Ashton.

Leeds' sole try, converted by Henry Paul, came from Ceiron Thomas in the 40th minute and the Welshman also added a penalty which was scant consolation for a brave performance by the visitors. They stay rooted to the foot of the Premiership table.

Geraghty, who missed an eighth-minute penalty, made amends 11 minutes later by breezing over down the right after receiving a pass from Lee Dickson, following sustained home pressure on Leeds' line.

The No. 10 hit the post with his conversion but converted a try made by himself - with a deft grubber kick - and finished off by the rampaging Clarke after some soft hands by Chris Mayor, the recipient of Geraghty's kick. It was the first of three tries in a five-minute spell that blew Leeds away, as Northampton secured the bonus point after just 32 minutes.

The third touchdown arrived after more good work by Geraghty, who under pressure lofted a left-footed kick to the left corner for Clarke to collect and ground for his fourth try this season. And the fourth was a superb team try, with Ben Foden, Bruce Reihana, Chris Mayor and Ashton combining for the latter to canter under the sticks.

Thomas reduced the deficit on the stroke of half-time when he arrived on the shoulder of Jonny Hepworth to go over for a scored converted by Paul, who had earlier taken over kicking duties from the Welshman.

A resilient Worcester denied Sale in a tight 24-18 win at Sixways on Saturday with individual tries from wingers Marcel Garvey and Miles Benjamin and the boot of Willie Walker proving decisive.

Worcester hit Sale hard in the opening minutes of each half and used Walker's kicking - three penalties, a drop goal and a conversion - to build a handy lead.A brilliant try from England centre Mathew Tait, who had an outstanding game, caused Worcester some late anxiety but Sale only secured the losing bonus point through a last-minute drop goal from Lee Thomas and a missed penalty by Walker with the very last kick of the game.

Worcester crossed the tryline as early as the ninth minute as off an attacking scrum Garvey beat off a weak challenge from Chris Bell and darted between two more defenders for a superb individual score. Chris Bell scored Sale's first try in the 17th minute, after James Gaskell gathered Nicholas Macleod's deft flick-pass and drew the cover defence to put Bell away.

Worcester began the second-half as they had the first with Netani Talei and captain Pat Sanderson opening up Sale's defence with storming runs and Benjamin applying the finish with an arcing break through more flimsy tackling.

Tait decided not to trust those around him and jinked through for a brilliant try under the posts after he collected a pass from Cueto. That wasn't enough though as Walker kicked the penalty to put the Warriors out of Sale's reach.

Nick Evans landed a late penalty to earn Harlequins a 17-17 draw with Newcastle Falcons at Kingston Park on Friday night.

The result ended Quins' run of three successive Premiership defeats and incredibly was the third time in four outings that the Falcons have had to settle for a share of the spoils.

Evans had opened the scoring with a three-pointer five minutes in but Newcastle quickly took stranglehold on the game, thanks to converted tries from Tane Tu'ipulotu and Tim Swinson.

Micky Young was involved in both scores, putting Tu'ipulotu over in the eighth minute after a terrific run from Falcons wing Charlie Amesbury had taken the hosts deep into Quins territory. In the 22nd minute, Young again came to fore, taking his side to within touching distance of the whitewash before Swinson burrowed his way over.

The fit-again Jimmy Gopperth converted both touchdowns and the visitors went in 14-3 ahead at the interval. However, Quins made a stirring start to the second half, with Evans slotting over his second penalty of the game before Ugo Monye raced through to score in the corner in the 46th minute.

Gopperth responded with a penalty to put six points between the sides with just over 24 minutes remaining but Evans landed a penalty in the 66th minute and then struck again with just five minutes to go after Rob Vickers had been sent to the sin bin to level matters at 17 points apiece.

The former All Black then had a late chance to clinch what would have been Quins' first win of the season but his drop goal attempt drifted wide.


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