Guinness Premiership - Round 20 Review
Tigers reclaim Premiership top spot
Scrum.com
April 18, 2010

Leicester powered back to the top of the Guinness Premiership table with a brutal 31-7 victory over Newcastle at Welford Road.

The Falcons were shorn of their full front row before kick-off with Carl Hayman (back), Jon Golding (ankle), Rob Vickers (neck) all failing late fitness tests and it showed as Leicester secured a try-scoring bonus point in just over half an hour. The Tigers were happy to sit on their 28-0 half-time lead and run their bench in the second half, while Newcastle showed much more fight scoring a try through Charlie Amesbury.

Newcastle had an early chance to open the scoring but Tom Catterick, briefly on as a blood replacement for Jimmy Gopperth, was short with a penalty kick at goal in the ninth minute. The Tigers pack destroyed the Newcastle scrum a few minutes later but Toby Flood put the penalty wide in the 13th minute. They did it again to turn over a Newcastle put-in five metres out and a back-row pick-up and drive ended with Lewis Moody scoring near the post and Flood converted for a 7-0 lead after 20 minutes. It was quickly 14-0 with relentless pressure from Leicester ending with a Geoff Parling charge and Ben Youngs floated pass putting Johne Murphy over the in the corner and Flood converting from wide out in the 24th minute.

Not only were Newcastle under the cosh in the scrum, they lost their third line-out in a row on their own throw and a high kick had the Falcons defence floundering with Flood cruising through under the posts and converting for 21-0 after just 28 minutes. Moody then shrugged off ineffectual tackling to grab his second after 34 minutes and again Flood converted.

The second half was a different story with substitute Hall Charlton, Josh Afu and Mark Sorenson making big inroads for Newcastle. When Gcobanai Bobo cleverly kicked wide and the bounce wrong-footed Scott Hamilton, Charlie Amesbury scored a 48th-minute try which Gopperth converted to make it 28-7. Leicester were content to run their bench as Newcastle made a better fist of their defence but the Falcons conceded a penalty in the 68th minute for Jeremy Staunton to make it 31-7 and the Tigers were happy to settle for that scoreline.

On Saturday, London Wasps heaped relegation woe on Worcester with a narrow 24-20 win at Sixways in our Game of the Week. Click here for the full report.

Elsewhere on Sunday, strugglers Leeds Carnegie took a big step towards Premiership survival with a stunning 23-13 win at London Irish that leaves them six points above bottom side Worcester with just two rounds of the regular season remaining. The result also dented the Exiles' hopes of making the post-season as they failed to bag the win that would have seen them reclaim fourth place from Wasps.

Irish took a grip from the start, forcing Leeds to make a succession of big tackles, but referee Wayne Barnes took exception to one of them and Chris Malone chalked up the game's first points with a fifth-minute penalty. Ceiron Thomas equalised with a penalty of his own on 13 minutes but Leeds quickly fell behind again thanks to Malone's second effort.

Irish, however, were not having things all their own way against a team fighting for their lives, and Leeds were level again after 21 minutes when Thomas was on target with his second penalty and his boot soon gave Leeds the lead. Irish then imploded on 34 minutes. Delon Armitage dropped a probing high ball and his team-mates appeared to freeze for a few seconds, during which Leeds centre Luther Burrell reacted fastest, snaffling up the ball, stepping Peter Hewat and banging the ball down by the post before being tackled. Thomas completed the score with a simple conversion that almost silenced the home crowd.

Hewat lifted home spirits on 38 minutes when he took a pass from Jamie Gibson and crossed the Leeds line. Malone's conversion made sure Irish did not change ends seriously adrift. Leeds took the initiative during the early second-half exchanges, and but for some poor final calls would have increased their lead. Irish gradually regained the upper hand, but despite winning four penalties in the Leeds 22, and requesting scrums for every one, they could not crack the visitors' defence. The cost was immense as Lee Blackett intercepted a loose pass on 70 minutes and sent Jon Goodridge in for a try, converted by Thomas.

A hat-trick of Chris Ashton tries saw Northampton go top of the table overnight after their bonus point 38-23 win over Gloucester. The result means the Saints go top of the table over night ahead of Leicester's trip north to Newcastle. The England winger's last ditch third claimed the all-important bonus for the home side who were made to work all the way by a dogged Gloucester side.

He got his team on their way with a 12th minute effort after Nicky Robinson and Stephen Myler had exchanged early penalties. Gloucester's Jake Boer inexplicably chose to tap and go when awarded a penalty under the posts and the move backfired spectacularly when Northampton turned the ball over and Ben Foden cleared.

The Saints stole the lineout and moved the ball to Ashton, who turned on the gas to score, Myler converted before adding a penalty, but Charlie Sharples crossed for a Gloucester try after taking a pop pass from James Simpson-Daniel. Robinson converted to make the score 13-10, but Myler extended the lead to six before half-time. Two tries in four minutes from England hooker Dylan Hartley and Ashton made the gap 30-13. If Ashton couldn't score one himself, he made Hartley's instead turning creator, offloading to the New Zealand born star. Again he took advantage of gaps in the visiting defence to score the third.

Dave Atwood narrowed the lead with a try from a patient move, before substitute Shane Geraghty scored a penalty and Ashton claimed the match ball with his third thanks to unselfish work from Kiwi Bruce Reihana who looked to be on for a try of his own, before generously feeding Ashton to extend his lead at the top of the try scoring charts.

Saracens produced a devestating display to win the London derby at Wembley, defeating Harlequins 37-18 in front of 47,106 spectators. The home of English football opened it's doors to rugby once again and Sarries' are certainly making themselves at home, making it four wins from four at the famous venue. After tightrope walkers and razmatazz, the action got going and led by South African hooker Schalk Brits the hosts played some excellent rugby.

Nick Evans missed out for 'Quins with a late hamstring injury and Derek Hougaard and Evans' 20 year old replacement Rory Clegg exchanged penalties before excellent work from Brits led to two excellent tries for openside Andy Saull within three minutes of eachother. A Brits offload set the first up, while the second was a superb move, Britz making an initial break, finding Justin Marshall and he fed Saull who cantered home. But Conor O'Shea's men got back in touch when Danny Care tapped a penalty and Chris Brooker spotted a gap on the fringe and touched down.

A Hougaard penalty made the score 18-8 at the break, but Sarries cut loose after half-time and scored three tries without reply. Alex Goode and Justin Marshall set Brits up for the score his play deserved, before Michael Tagicakibau and Ernst Joubert got the bonus point, with Ugo Monye and Chris York scoring late consolations for the visitors.

Earlier on Saturday, Bath maintained their push for the Guinness Premiership post-season with a comprehensive 34-15 victory over Sale ├Čn front of new owner Bruce Craig at The Rec. Five seperate players crossed the line for the hosts who dominated throughout. Ollie Barkley got them up and running with a penalty, before he converted Lee Mears' 24th minute try which came from a maul after Danny Grewcock had claimed the lineout. The inside centre then crossed for one of his own after looping on Matt Carrarro, and he added the extras to give his side a commanding 17-0 lead.

Richard Wigglesworth pulled back a penalty for the Sharks, but that couldn't stem the tide and it took just three second half minutes for Matt Banahan to powered through the tackle of Marika Vakacegu for a try, which Barkley converted. Joe Maddock superbly stepped past four defenders to claim the bonus point, before prop David Barnes got himself on the scoresheet from close range. Former Bath wing Ben Cohen had crossed for the visitors who need to improve to get themselves away from the relegation zone, despite Kris Ormsby's late consolation try.

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