The battle for survival in the Aviva Premiership took yet another twist this weekend as Newcastle fought back to close the gap between themselves and London Wasps to 4 points. Here is the best of the action from around the world:
Falcons back in the hunt as Wasps rotten week fails to improve
A first win at Kingsholm for 14 years and a first away league win in 14 months could not have come sooner enough for Newcastle Falcons, with two rounds remaining of the Aviva Premiership season. Now four points behind nearest rivals London Wasps, who Gary Gold’s side will face on the final day of the season, if they do pull off the greatest of escapes then Gold and star fly-half Jimmy Gopperth should be given the keys to the city.
Gopperth’s priceless boot, which is currently tied to Newcastle until 2015, came to the fore once again with 19 points against Gloucester, the final two denying the hosts a valuable bonus point in their hunt for a Heineken Cup place next season. It was Gopperth’s quick feet and hands that created the first try for Ally Hogg, before the hosts came back thanks to Freddie Burns and a fifth try of the season for Akapusi Qera. But it was the substitute Mark Wilson who burst from the middle of the lineout to grab the winner.
It meant the pressure was on Wasps to respond away to Harlequins, where after a hellish week regarding their off-field financial strife they were blown away by leaders Harlequins, birthday boy Ugo Monye crossing over along with England captain Chris Robshaw plus two more for a try bonus point. It ups the ante ahead of what could be a winner takes all encounter with Newcastle in the final game of the season.
Leicester rampant at Franklin’s Gardens as Exeter leave it late
In the tamest Midlands derby for some time in terms of discipline, Leicester crushed Northampton with Toby Flood racking up 25 points including two tries. Northampton made the early damage but the momentum swung with Flood’s chargedown try. From thereon the Tigers never looked back, Alesana Tuilagi finishing superbly after Horacio Agulla’s chip and chase down the right touchline. Flood crossed again in the second half through some flimsy defence, before Agulla made the result definite with the final try. Lee Dickson snatched a score back for the Saints, with Chris Ashton grabbing the final try with an outstanding finish.
Exeter arguably produced the result of the weekend however, coming from 26-19 with two minutes to go to score two tries from Phil Dollman and the returning Sireli Naqelevuki to snatch a 26-31 win. It means that the Chiefs have not only secured Heineken Cup rugby for the first time ever, but more importantly leapfrogged Northampton into fourth spot in the table, making their match against the Saints next weekend simply enormous.
The other two games this week saw Sale defeat Bath on Friday night, moving the Sharks up to 6th in the Premiership table, whilst Saracens overcame London Irish at the Madejski thanks to 23 points from Charlie Hodgson.
Heavy win for weakened Leinster as Treviso pip the Dragons
Despite changing 12 of their starting XV from the Heineken Cup quarter-final, Leinster cruised past a strong Edinburgh outfit, running in 8 tries with 8 different scorers against a poor Edinburgh outfit, whose attention appears to rightly be on the Heineken Cup given their languishing position at the bottom of the league table.
There was also an outstanding win for Treviso away against the Dragons, Alberto Sgarbi crossing for the winning bonus point try in the 73rd minute. Adam Hughes snatched a try back for the hosts with two minutes to go on the clock, but Treviso held on winning 33-32 with a victory that moved them level on points with the Dragons in the table. There were also wins for the Scarlets, Ospreys, Connacht and Munster.
Chiefs move top of the table as the Stormers are finally beaten
As high-scoring as expected, the Chiefs made it six wins from seven against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on Saturday winninb 33-39, running in five tries against the hosts including a brace for high-scoring prop Arizona Taumalolo. The Cheetahs points came from the boots of Sias Ebersohn and Johan Goosen, whilst Wasps new signing Ashley Johnson scored a breakaway interception try, running the ball in from half way. The Chiefs have been superb so far in 2012 despite a long list of injuries earlier in the season, with good work both on and off the pitch.
They leapfrogged the Stormers into 1st place, who went down to the Crusaders in Christchurch thanks to 31 points from Tom Taylor for the home side, who was in charge of kicking duties despite Dan Carter playing at inside centre. The visitors scored an excellent try in the second half through Bryan Habana, but the Crusaders were more than worthy of their victory. The Brumbies picked up the only other home win of the round, crushing the Rebels 37-6, with the Waratahs, Sharks and Bulls all picking up away wins.
Try of the Weekend goes to Alesana Tuilagi, after outstanding work from Horacio Agualla.
This weekend’s Hero is Sireli Naqelevuki for his winning score for Exeter, with a special mention going to 39 year old Chris Budgen for his superb assist.
Finally, our Villains this weekend are the Melbourne Rebels for their appalling performance against the Brumbies.
by Ben Coles