De Klerk and a penalty try determine late wins
Harlequins: masters of inconsistency. Just as it looked like they would back up their impressive win over Saints last week with an equally high quality one away at Sale, they threw the game away. The two sides had been blow for blow throughout, with Sale starting better, but Quins seizing control with tries from Alofa Alofa, Charlie Walker and Ross Chisholm. Unfortunately for them, a moment of Joe Marler’s lack of self-control cost them a red card, which ultimately cost them the game Rohan Janse van Rensburg got a converted try and Faf de Klerk slotted a last-minute penalty for a 30-29 win.
They weren’t the only ones that threw away a game that they should have won this weekend. Gloucester allowed the chasing pack back into the battle for fourth as they conceded a galling late penalty try to lose 22-19 at Northampton. The Saints, with new boss Alan Gaffney in charge, didn’t trouble Gloucester too often, but stole momentum late on to arrest their slide.
A storming first half from Newcastle shocked Exeter Chiefs. Sinoti Sinoti, Vereniki Goneva and Kyle Cooper scored the tries that built a 25-3 lead in that forty, before the visitors fought back to make it 28-20 at the finish. The only disappointment for the playoff-pushing Falcons will be their failure to secure a bonus point in their battle to topple Gloucester.
Saracens were able to capitalise on that slip from the league leaders as they put in an authoritative performance against Wasps at the Ricoh Arena. Welcoming back the incomparable Billy Vunipola, the visitors built an early 18-3 lead and looked like they may run away with it. That was until two quickfire yellow cards for Owen Farrell and Schalk Burger and two tries – one a penalty and one through Willie Le Roux – threatened to derail them before the break. They regained their resolve though to score two more tries to add to their three in the first half and take a 38-15 win.
Bath and Tigers claimed contrasting wins to halt their respective runs of defeat. Whilst the West Country outfit were deadly in their 46-25 demolition of Worcester, Leicester were very laborious in their slender 19-15 win at home over London Irish.
What happened elsewhere?
It was a disappointing return to action for the South African sides after their Pro14 break. Cheetahs lost 27-21 at Treviso and Edinburgh hammered Kings 37-27 to keep on the pressure at the top. Ospreys hosted Blues in a cracker, which the home side won 29-28. Scarlets smashed Dragons 47-13 and there were also big wins for Leinster over Ulster, Munster against Connacht and Glasgow to topple Zebre.
Montpellier reclaimed top spot in the French league after beating Stade Francais 28-16 and La Rochelle could only manage a draw against lowly Oyonnax. Agen got a convincing 30-3 win over Castres, whilst Brive edged Toulon and Bordeaux beat Lyon. In Sunday’s games Pau beat Toulouse and
Villain of the week
His side looked all set for an impressive away win at Sale, but Joe Marler’s red card cost them dearly and leaves them languishing in the bottom half rather than competing for that fourth position.
Hero of the week
Billy Vunipola was a man mountain after months out, but for me it has to go to the collective effort of Newcastle Falcons this week. If anybody was in any doubt about the corner they have turned this season, the solid win over Exeter will have silenced those people.
Try of the week
Purely for the tasty offload by Jack Wilson, it goes to Kahn Fotuali’i this week in the last try in Bath’s victory at Worcester.
– Can Gaffney turn Northampton around?
– Will Newcastle push on to make fourth?
– What are your thoughts on Joe Marler and his red card?
– What impact will Vunipola’s return have on England?
by Joe Large