This week’s Guinness Premiership fixtures involved all three clubs that are battling for survival in this year’s competition. Sale hosted Saracens on Friday night whilst Harlequins took on Leeds and Worcester welcomed London Irish to Sixways.
At Edgeley Park on Friday night, Sale were hoping to improve their chances of survival with a win over a resurgent Saracens side that were looking to consolidate their position in the playoffs.
Sale started brightly and Sisa Koyamaibole scored early to put them in the lead. Chris Wyles replied with a fantastic solo effort for Saracens but the boot of Charlie Hodgson kept Sale 16-13 in the lead going into half-time. The second half was dominated by Saracens however, and soon it became apparent that there was a gulf in class between the two teams.
Saracens’ back line was just too powerful for Sale and the running of Brad Barritt and Alex Goode proved decisive in the outcome of the game. Goode scored 10 minutes into the half whilst Barritt wrapped up the game with five minutes to go following an impressive break from substitute Jaques Burger. Sale could only muster a solitary penalty in the second period as the game slipped away from them. The final result read 19-30 in favour of the visitors and the loss leaves Sale third from bottom whilst Saracens remain third and safely in a playoff spot.
Harlequins destroyed a sorry Leeds side 46-11 at The Twickenham Stoop on Saturday to keep alive their hopes of qualifying for next year’s Heineken Cup. Leeds were in this match until half time having reduced Quins to a solitary converted Tom Williams try and two penalties from Nick Evans. It was a tale of two halves though as Harlequins took control of proceedings with a Mike Brown try after 60 minutes. Leeds capitulated from there and further scores from Brown, George Lowe, David Strettle and Chris Brooker condemned Leeds to a heavy defeat. A late try by Alfie To’oala was scant consolation for the Yorkshire men as defeat left them just one place above the bottom the league.
The final game of the weekend saw the struggling Worcester Warriors fail to capitalise on their rivals’ defeats as the Armitage brothers took centre stage for the Exiles. Both Delon and Steffon Armitage crossed the whitewash just before half time to overturn Worcester’s promising start and early touch down from Alex Grove. Irish led 17-10 at half time and although Willie Walker reduced the deficit to just four with a penalty early in the second half, two further penalties from Chris Malone resulted in London Irish taking the spoils 23-13 and denying Worcester a losing bonus point in the process.
London Irish leap frog Wasps to go into the final playoff spot whilst Worcester are left to prop up the table, three points behind Leeds. That fixture between Leeds and Worcester on April 25th is looking more and more likely to decide the relegation battle, unless one of them can claim an unlikely win in either of their two other fixtures.
By Andrew Daniel