Gallagher Premiership Round 24 Review

We have been treated to another round of incredibly exciting rugby in the Premiership, with try’s all over the place causing some incredible results.

Northampton Saints vs Harlequins

We were starting off the weekend with a brilliant tie between two of the most exciting teams in the premiership in a clash which certainly did not disappoint. Encouraged by the surprise return of Courtney Lawes, it was the home side who made the more positive start to the game.

Some fantastic rugby eventually put in Tommy Freeman for the first try of the game, but Andre Esterhuizen quickly responded to tie the game up after seven minutes. The Saints fast attack was creating big holes in the Quins defence and captain Lewis Ludlam burst through one of the holes to return the Saints lead to seven. It became a lead of 12 when George Furbank extended out to just put the ball down on the line.

But it certainly was not all Northampton in the first half. Some incredible work on the sideline from Joe Marchant put in Huw Jones for the away sides second try of the game after a Marcus Smith penalty. Just before half time Northampton were piling the pressure on and the power of Alex Waller took them over for the score.

To start the second half, Quins were down by nine points, but this lead was wiped out when tries from Alex Dombrandt and Cadan Murley put the London club ahead, leading by two points at the hour mark. But this is where the game changed. A high shot from substitute Santiago Garcia Botta brought out the yellow car and under pressure, Quins failed to score for the final 20 minutes of the game.

This meant that with five minutes remaining, James Grayson’s long range penalty was enough for the win. It is a huge win for the Saints. They showed attacking flair and it means that if they can beat Saracens and Newcastle, their place in the playoffs is guaranteed. What may worry Saints fans is that Juarno Augustus, Conor Carey, Paul Hill and Alex Coles all went off injured in the first half.

The win hurts Quins chances of playing their final at the Stoop, but they played well and losing to an inform Saints side at Franklin’s Gardens is not a difficult loss to take.

Sale Sharks vs Newcastle Falcons

While Sale’s chances of top four are very slim, they are still aiming for a top eight finish with big changes coming this summer. A visit from the Newcastle Falcons seemed like a great opportunity for a big five points.

But it was the visitors who made the better start. One of the Falcons star players George McGuigan held onto the back of the maul to go over for the opening score of the game, his fourteenth try of the season. But Sale responded with their own driving maul, with Akker van der Merwe going over for the try.

This didn’t slow the visitors down and Newcastle eventually got over with Joel Hodgson scoring. But another driving maul allowed Van der Merwe through and he could not be stopped as he ploughed over the line. A penalty from Hodgson restored the visitors lead to just one point.

But Sale were quickly back on the attack in the second half, with both teams trading tries to start the second half. A missed Falcons conversion gave Sale a one point lead which became eight after Simon Hammersley scored, but Sale were reduced to fourteen after a nasty head collision caused by Johan van Rensburg.

Despite being a man down, Ewan Ashman found a lot of space through Newcastle’s defence which proved to be the winner after a late Matias Orlando try made things interesting. It is a big win for Sale as still hunt for the final playoff place. Newcastle will be encouraged from another good attacking display, but their leaky defence has to be improved before next season.

Gloucester vs Bath

A west country derby is always a good occasion in rugby, with Gloucester and Bath putting on a great performance every time they play. But Saturday saw two teams in very different positions as Bath travelled to Kingsholm.

Things could have started horribly for Bath, after Valery Morozov’s tackle on Santiago Carreras was high. Thankfully for Bath, the referee saw enough of a dip from Carreras that the card was downgraded to yellow and they managed to hold out for almost the entire ten minutes.

But after wasting a few opportunities, Gloucester finally took the lead in the 12th minute when Chris Harris drove over from short range. Bath did however face another ten minutes with 14 men after Max Clark was carded in the build up to the try. But again, Bath held out for the sin bin period and had some good attacking work of their own.

But some really poor defending from Bath allowed Lewis Rees-Zammitt in for his first try of the game. Just five minutes later, the young Welshman was in again, grounding his own kick for Gloucester’s third, with Carreras adding their fourth as the clock turned red. Less than a minute into the second half, Ben Morgan went over and things continued to get worse for Bath.

Tries from Mark Atkinson, Lewis Ludlow, Ben Meehan, Jamal Ford-Robinson and Matis Alemnanno made it an awful day for Bath. By the end of the 80 minutes, the score read 64-0, Bath’s biggest defeat to their rivals in the teams history. It was a embarrassing display from Bath.

With huge changes coming in the summer, it seems the lack of relegation has meant the Bath players don’t really have anything to play for. With Europe out of reach, Bath are just waiting for next season and this performance showed that.

For Gloucester, it was an emphatic win, particularly with Northampton winning on Friday night. They are only one point behind four placed Northampton, with some big games against Harlequins and Saracens before the end of the season. They have a very tricky run in, but the top four is very much still on for the Cherry and Whites.

Leicester Tigers vs Bristol Bears

Off the back of a close loss to Harlequins and with a massive game against Leinster next weekend, the Tigers needed to get the job done against struggling Bristol.

They made the perfect start to the game, with Chris Ashton scoring in the corner. The try just three minutes in was a record breaking one, with Ashton becoming the Premierships greatest try scorer after overtaking Tom Varndell. After 15 years as one of the best wingers in the premiership, Ashton has secured the try scoring record with his sixth team.

A George Ford penalty took the lead to eight, but searing pace from Jack Bates reduced the lead to one. But the game quickly got away from Bristol, as Ashton took his try record to 95 with a hattrick in the first half an hour. Ben Youngs and Toby Fricker traded tries to make the score 27-12 going into the half.

Tries from Freddie Steward and Matias Moroni put the game away before the hour mark, before Jasper Wiese drove over to take Leicester past the 50 point mark. Harry Potter added the home sides eighth try of the game. Harry Thacker and Chris Vui replied for Bristol, but their sloppy defence meant the game ended 56-26 to the home side.

Leicester look in brilliant form, with Bristol proving to be a tricky team over the last few weeks. Their squad is also massively healthy and well rested for a massive game against Leinster. But the win and Harlequins loss secures the fact that their semi final will be at Welford Road.

For Bristol, it is another difficult result in an awful season. But they are at least blooding some youngsters thanks to the absence of Charles Piatau, Semi Radradra and Nathan Hughes. With Ellis Genge making the move over to Bristol next season, their fortunes should improve but this season has been a massive disappointment for Pat Lam.

Worcester Warriors vs Saracens

Saracens rolled into Worcester looking to take another step towards a home semi-final, as Worcester are just try their best not to finish bottom of the premiership. So it was two very different sides and this was clear early on.

A lovely dummy from Max Malins put Sarries ahead four minutes in, but the home side had a penalty of their own. But poor work at the lineout allowed Ben Earl to sprint over from 50 metres out. The London side continued to extend their lead, with Rotimi Segun benefitting from his teams power at the lineout.

Worcester struggled to get over the gain line, particularly when they got close to Saracens 22. Instead, Fin Smith nailed three penalties to make the score 9-17 at the half time break. But less than a minutes after the break, Malins was in again for his second try of the game and bonus point score for Saracens.

Malins was in again fifteen minutes later for his hattrick, as Saracens raced away with the game in front of the Warriors crowd. Malins got in again for his fourth as Saracens ran out dominant 16-38 winners, thanks to a late try from Tom Howe, hardly a surprising result.

The home side were never expected to win this game. They put out a nearly full strength team mid-week to reach the premiership cup final. Duhan van der Merwe, Sione Vailanu and Alex Hearle were all missing after playing midweek. It is clear the Warriors are focused on winning the premiership cup more than winning games in the premiership.

Worcester are a good team, but they are clearly looking to next season and try to improve some good young prospects. It is a very different scenario for Saracens as they now pretty much set for a home semi-final after Quins loss. It was also a great day for Max Malins, with his four tries taking the England winger to top of the Premiership try scoring charts, despite missing some games due to the Six Nations.

London Irish vs Wasps

After wins for Northampton and Gloucester, both of these teams were essentially eliminated from the top four race, but the race for top eight was still very much on.

The game was tight to begin, but the power of Wasps maul drove over Gabriel Oghre for the score, but the some side quickly responded. Their fast flowing rugby put in Kyle Rowe to tie the game up. More brilliant rugby from Ollie Hassell Collins put in Tom Parton for the second score of the game.

But again the visitors responded, a wicked pass from Dan Robson put in Francois Hougaard for the try. Charlie Atkinson gave Wasps the lead from another well worked scrum as Wasps took the lead into the break. They were back on the front foot after as well. Second half tries from Hougaard and Zach Kibirige surely put the game away at 14-39.

But you can never count this London Irish team out and they scored through Tom Pearson to reduce the lead to 18 before young star Henry Arundell reduce the lead further. But Wasps still had an eleven point lead with four minutes to go. But the fullback was back again as he put in Ollie Hassell Collins, with the conversion reducing the deficit to four points.

A Wasps penalty off the restart took the lead back to seven and the visitors had the ball when the clock turned red. But an incredible counter rucking effort from the Irish gave them the penalty and they kicked to the corner. After TMO review, it was determined that Joe Launchbury had illegally brought down the maul. The penalty try was awarded and the full time whistle blew at 42-42.

One of the best games of the season, showing the incredible attacking talent of both teams. Last season it was Wasps with the comeback, but the Irish did it this week. An incredible result, but the draw does mean the top four is probably out of reach for both teams now.

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