Aviva Premiership wrap: Owen Farrell stars as Sarries beat Harlequins
Aviva Premiership wrap: Owen Farrell impresses as Saracens were 39-17 winners against Harlequins
Saracens and Harlequins set a new world record for a crowd at a domestic rugby match as 83,889 flocked to Wembley Stadium to see the London derby. Making his first start since the Six Nations, Owen Farrell put in a man of the match performance with 17 points including an interception try as Sarries ran out 39-17 winners to return to the top of the Aviva Premiership table with five rounds to go. Chris Ashton started the rout, before tries from George Kruis and Farrell gave Mark McCall’s side a 27-10 lead as Quins were limited to a try from Karl Dickson and a Nick Evans penalty. A converted Sam Smith try got Twickenham side back to 10 points down, but Jacques Burger and Marcelo Bosch wrapped up the winning bonus point for Sarries.
A week after defeat to Exeter Chiefs in the LV=Cup final, Northampton Saints’ 11-match unbeaten league run came to an end with a 19-6 defeat at the hands of top four hopefuls Sale Sharks in the lowest scoring match of the round. First-half tries at the AJ Bell Stadium from Mark Cueto, Marc Jones and Tom Brady gave the northern side a 19-6 lead at the break as the Saints were limited to two Will Hooley penalties, before Sharks produced a superb defensive display to shut out a backline that included Wales wing George North, England centre Luther Burrell and full-back Ben Foden.
Leicester Tigers produced arguably their best performance of the season as they demolished the Exeter Chiefs 45-15 at Welford Road. Fit again England centre Manu Tuilagi and wing Niki Goneva led the way for the Richard Cockerill’s side.
Relegation favourites Worcester Warriors again came close to their first league win of the season on Friday night, leading 11-6 before London Wasps prop Jake Cooper-Woolley smashed his way through for an 81st minute try to break hearts at Sixways. Andy Goode stepped up to add the conversion for a 13-11 win against his old side – a sixth losing bonus point of the season was scant consolation for the Worcester side 12 points adrift of Newcastle Falcons. In a low-scoring first half Warriors full-back Chris Pennell saw two penalty efforts go wide and Ryan Lamb missed with a drop-goal as solitary Pernell and Goode penalties were the only scores as the sides went in at 3-3 at the break. Goode slotted a second penalty before Sam Betty put the Warriors on course for an unlikely win as he ran in off David Lemi’s 40-metre sublime breakaway. Goode missed with a drop-goal attempt, but Ryan’s long-range penalty edged Worcester further in front. Sustained Wasps pressure at the death was decisive as the Warriors’ miserable season continued.
England’s newly-capped outside-half George Ford booted 24 points as Bath improved their top-four credentials with a bonus point 44-23 victory over London Irish at the Madejski Stadium. Topsy Ojo went over for the Exiles’ first try and his first of the season eight minutes before the break before Kyle Eastmond hit back immediately, with Ford’s accurate kicking enough to give Bath a 14-13 lead at half-time. The Exiles’ party was further spoilt in the second half despite a penalty from Shane Geraghty’s and a late Chris Hala’ufia converted try as Anthony Watson, David Wilson and Matt Garvey all ran in for the visitors with Ford converting all three and slotting a further three penalties.
Newcastle Falcons produced a strong second-half comeback, but left it too late to avoid an 11th successive league defeat as Gloucester ran out 40-33 winners in a 10-try thriller at Kingsholm. Leaving the West Country with two points for their effort. Gloucester flanker Sione Kalamafoni opened the scoring early before Falcons number 8 Chris York’s try cancelled out his effort, but it was a short-lived respite as Rob Cook ran in for the first five of his 20 points as the Cherry and Whites went in 17-7 up at the break. The second half was a more frenetic affair as James Hudson, Mike Tindall and England wing Jonny May came off the bench as Gloucester powered to a 37-7 lead. George McGuigan and Andy Saul kept the Falcons in the match with two quick tries as Gloucester faltered before backs Alex Tait and Noah Cato added further tries for the try-scoring bonus point, with Joel Hodgson’s conversion secure a losing bonus point.