Gallagher Premiership: Bath go fifth with narrow win over Leicester, Bristol beat Newcastle in bottom-of-the-table clash

30 Dec

There were just two games in the Gallagher Premiership but both were absolute thrillers.

Below you can see the best of the action from Bath vs Leicester Tigers and Bristol vs Newcastle Falcons.

Bath 23-16 Leicester Tigers

Determined Bath climbed back into fifth place by beating Leicester 23-16 in the Gallagher Premiership.

Tries from Jamie Roberts, Mike Catt and Ruaridh McConnochie gave the home side enough of a platform to see off a Tigers comeback which earned a losing bonus point.

It was a tight game at the Recreation Ground

Buoyed by the bonus-point win over Harlequins that ended a run of seven defeats, Leicester took the lead after just two minutes as Jonny May latched on to a grubber kick by England team-mate George Ford, who also landed the conversion.

Bath responded with a sustained attack which earned a succession of penalties and a hard look from the TMO, but no try. Leicester had some respite when Ellis Genge won a scrum free-kick on his own line.

There was no let-up though and Francois Louw thought he had scored against the post on 19 minutes, only to be denied again by the TMO. Referee J P Doyle had been playing advantage so Burns kicked the penalty.

As Bath were enjoying nearly 80 per cent of territory and possession, skipper Will Chudley was stripped of the ball on the goal-line by Manu Tuilagi. Tigers won the scrum but hooker Jake Kerr spilled a pass from the resulting ruck and this time the home side were not to be denied.

Steady scrum ball allowed Chudley to feed Roberts on the crash ball on 27 minutes and Burns converted for a 10-7 lead.

Five minutes later he chased down Jonah Holmes deep into the visitors’ 22 and Catt was driven over for a second unconverted try to establish a two-score lead at the break.

A fast and furious start to the second half saw England flanker Sam Underhill helped off with his foot heavily strapped as Leicester started to threaten, eventually earning a penalty kicked by Ford.

But Bath’s riposte was immediate as Louw again broke the defensive line and swift passing gave McConnochie just enough space to evade Genge and score in the corner.

That third unconverted try made the score 20-10 on 55 minutes but Leicester looked dangerous on the break as Ford continued to sniff out opportunities for his runners.

Ford twice brought the visitors into losing bonus-point range with two penalties while Rhys Priestland came off the bench to kick a goal from 45 metres for Bath.

Bristol 35-28 Newcastle Falcons

Bristol stormed back from a half-time deficit to pick up a valuable five Premiership points with a thrilling 35-28 victory against Newcastle at Ashton Gate.

Tom Pincus scored the match-winner three minutes from time with Bristol’s other tries coming from Charles Piutau, Luke Morahan and Harry Randall. Ian Madigan converted two and kicked two penalties with Callum Sheedy adding a penalty and a conversion.

The game went down to the wire at Ashton Gate

Newcastle’s tries came from Vereniki Goneva, Adam Radwan and Callum Chick with Toby Flood converting two and kicking three penalties.

Bristol made an explosive start to take the lead after only 75 seconds with a brilliant try. A neat handling move saw Morahan make the crucial break before Randall showed strength to fend off the cover defence and force his way over.

Madigan converted before Falcons responded with a sustained period of pressure. Stern defence from the hosts kept their try-line intact but Flood put his side on the scoreboard with a simple penalty.

However, the visitors maintained their territorial dominance for the remainder of the first quarter and were rewarded with their first try when their pack drove Goneva over.

Flood converted before he extended the lead with his second penalty after Bristol wing Pincus was penalised for not releasing.

Newcastle then lost two players simultaneously with both Micky Young and John Hardie leaving the field for injury assessments before they suffered a further setback when Madigan knocked over a penalty.

The injury disruption did not stop Falcons’ momentum as their pack possessed too much power for Bristol, illustrated by their second try. The lively George McGuigan burst away from a line-out giving Chick the easy task of picking up and driving over.

Just before the interval, error-ridden Bristol rose from their slumbers with a free-flowing 60-metre move with Piutau, Dan Thomas and Chris Vui all making telling contributions but they lacked the accuracy to finish, leaving the hosts trailing 20-10 at half-time.

Charles and Siale Piutau celebrate Bristol’s win

After the restart, Bristol continued their improvement to reduce the arrears when Madigan’s pass sent Piutau over.

The score galvanised Bristol, who regained the lead with their third try. Morahan secured a vital high ball to give his side a platform from which Harry Thacker sent Morahan sneaking over.

Madigan missed the touchline conversion but succeeded with a penalty to give transformed Bristol a 25-20 lead going into the final quarter.

Newcastle responded with their third try when Radwan won the race to touch down a well-judged kick from Flood for the wing to celebrate his 21st birthday in style.

Bristol immediately changed their half-backs with new fly-half Sheedy kicking a penalty. That was soon nullified by one from Flood, before a superb burst from Ed Holmes set up the winner for Pincus.

European Rugby Champions Cup round-up: Newcastle claim brilliant victory over Montpellier, Leinster suffer agonising defeat at Toulouse

21 Oct

It’s been an eventful day in the European Champions Cup. Here is the best of Sunday’s action.

Newcastle 23-20 Montpellier

Newcastle snatched a dramatic 23-20 victory over star-studded Montpellier to go top of their pool in the Champions Cup.

With England head coach Eddie Jones in the stand, Newcastle led 16-6 at half-time and after last weekend’s heroics against Toulouse, the Falcons looked to be heading for another win against a side boasting a dozen internationals led by France number eight Louis Picamoles.

But Ruan Pienaar kicked two crucial penalties and lock Paul Willemse rumbled over for a try to give the visitors a 20-16 lead. But with the clock showing full time, the Falcons mounted one last attack following a penalty to the corner and after a staggering 39 phases, lock Callum Chick was driven over and Joel Hodgson converted for a last-gasp victory which takes Newcastle top of pool five.

Callum Chick and Gary Graham celebrate the brilliant win for Falcons

Toulouse 28-27 Leinster

Leinster’s impressive unbeaten run in the Heineken Champions Cup shuddered to a dramatic halt as the reigning champions fell to a 28-27 defeat at Pool 1 rivals Toulouse.

After last weekend’s bonus-point victory over Wasps, Leinster – who won all their games on their march to the title last season – started the match at Stade Ernest Wallon as favourites against their fellow four-time European champions.

But an end-to-end game turned on a raking length-of-the-field interception try in the dying minutes.

Replacement Louis-Benoit Madaule picked up a loose pass and released Toulouse’s flying backs division. Moments later, Maxime Medard scored his second try of the afternoon to wrest back a lead the hosts had held until midway through the second half.

Leinster was so close to claiming the win

Cardiff Blues 12-29 Glasgow

Glasgow opened their Heineken Champions Cup account with a 29-12 bonus point victory over Cardiff Blues at the Arms Park.

But the real beneficiaries were Pool Three leaders Saracens, who are four points clear of their rivals heading into December home and away fixtures against the Blues.

Glasgow, beaten at home by Saracens last weekend, did not look back after fly-half Adam Hastings and wing DTH van der Merwe scored tries in the first five minutes.

Hastings also added a conversion and penalty before half-time, and when scrum-half Ali Price rounded off a crisp move early in the second period, the only serious debate was whether or not Glasgow would claim a five-point maximum.

Early tries from Adam Hastings (pictured) and DTH van der Merwe set Glasgow on their way to victory

Glasgow got there when lock Jonny Gray added a fourth try 12 minutes from time – again converted by Hastings – and there was no doubting their supremacy over a Blues side that fell way short of repeating last Sunday’s performance when they beat Lyon in France.

Wing Aled Summerhill claimed two consolation tries for the Blues, with Gareth Anscombe adding a conversion, but they were also chasing a game that, in truth, was beyond reach following Glasgow’s early onslaught.

European Champions Cup: Newcastle claim shock win at Toulon, Danny Cipriani impresses for Gloucester in front of Eddie Jones

14 Oct

Here’s what happened in Sunday’s European games.

Toulon 25-26 Newcastle

Newcastle kick-started their Heineken Champions Cup campaign with a stunning 26-25 win against three-time European champions Toulon on their own patch, becoming just the second side to do so.

Their only previous defeat in 24 games in Europe’s top tournament had been against Saracens two years ago, and Newcastle – bottom of the Gallagher Premiership going into the game – had to do it the hard way.

Newcastle celebrate their stunning victory

Dean Richards’ side found themselves 10 points behind early on after conceding one of the quickest tries in the history of the competition when giant lock Romain Taofifenua charged down a clearing kick with only 21 seconds on the clock.

Francois Trinh-Duc added the conversion and then kicked a seventh-minute penalty to make it 10-0 to the home side, but that was as good as it got for the hosts.

They had three players sent to the sin-bin – prop Jean-Baptiste Gros, full back Daniel Ikpefan and winger Julian Savea – and were left to rue a decision in the final five minutes to kick for the corner, rather than take the three points on offer that might have won the game.

But after Loan Goujon’s opening try and Lionel Beauxis’ conversion and penalty, the visitors gradually took command to show their attacking prowess, with Gareth Anscombe scoring a spectacular solo try during the fightback.

Gloucester 19-14 Castres

Gloucester became the first English club to win a game in this season’s Champions Cup as they beat Castres at Kingsholm.

And four days before England head coach Eddie Jones names his autumn Test squad, fly-half Danny Cipriani led from the front.

The Gloucester playmaker, who was left out of Jones’ latest training group last month, kicked four penalties and a conversion for a 14-point haul as the England boss looked on.

Cipriani was on form in Gloucester’s win

Glasgow 3-13 Saracens

Saracens were made to scrap all the way as Mike Rhodes’ early try proved enough to see off gritty Glasgow 13-3 at Scotstoun.

The two sides had crossed a combined 57 tries in just six matches apiece in the build-up to their Heineken Champions Cup opener but the expected score-fest failed to materialise.

Instead, the cross-border skirmish proved to be a tense, bad-blooded affair pot-marked by basic errors, inexplicable refereeing calls and numerous feisty head-to-heads.

Rhodes’ early try set Sarries on their way to the win

In the end, Rhodes’ first-half touchdown and eight points from the boot of Owen Farrell gave the joint-Gallagher Premiership leaders first blood in Pool 3, leaving Glasgow ahead of what already appears to be a make-or-break trip to Cardiff next Sunday.

Lyon 21-30 Cardiff

Cardiff Blues marked their return to the Champions Cup after a four-season gap with only their fourth win in 21 games on French soil.

Lyon’s debut in the tournament got off to a flyer, taking a 10-0 lead as they sought revenge for their double defeat to the Blues as the Welsh side went all the way to win the Challenge Cup for the second time last season.

Premiership Rugby Review: Saracens smash Bath, Exeter continue good form and Danny Cipriani fails to shine for Gloucester

29 Sep

Bath were punished for fielding a weakened team against Saracens as Liam Williams ran in a hat-trick of tries to help the Gallagher Premiership champions claim a 50-27 victory at Allianz Park.

Director of rugby Todd Blackadder made 13 changes to the side that toppled Northampton, including Toby Faletau, Luke Charteris, Sam Underhill and Joe Cokanasiga among the group of front-line players rested.

Liam Williams goes over for one of his three tries

Blackadder’s decision was shaped by Exeter’s visit to the Recreation Ground on Friday, but the price was paid in north London where Saracens had the bonus point sown up before half-time and amassed eight tries in total.

To Bath’s credit they trailed only 26-20 at the interval and were persistent throughout, but they were outclassed and would have finished further behind had Alex Goode and Williams not blundered in the final act of scoring.

Goode could be forgiven his mistake, however, as his lines of running, step and vision made him untouchable at times and the full-back repeatedly overlooked by England head coach Eddie Jones finished as man of the match.

Exeter continued their impressive start to the season with a fifth successive win as Worcester became their latest victims in a hard-fought 28-21 success at Sandy Park.

Jack Nowell makes a successful break at Sandy Park

The Warriors were competitive in the opening quarter but conceded three tries in the second to ensure that there was to be no repeat of last season’s shock 6-5 win at Sandy Park, which was the only occasion that Exeter were beaten in the league on their home ground.

Dave Ewers scored two tries for Exeter, Jack Yeandle and Harry Williams one apiece, with Gareth Steenson converting all four.

Two penalties from Chris Pennell and a try from Ted Hill were Worcester’s response as they now have their eyes firmly set on next week’s crucial home game with Premiership newcomers Bristol.

Bristol suffered their first Gallagher Premiership home defeat of the season as Northampton claimed a 45-40 bonus point victory at Ashton Gate.

The teams served up an 11-try spectacular in the west country sunshine to maintain this season’s trend of high-scoring encounters.

Lewis Ludlam goes over for Bristol at Ashton Gate

And Saints, without an away league success since April, had enough in the tank to deny a Bristol side that had already claimed wins on home soil against Bath and Harlequins.

Northampton often made hard work of it, but they got over the line after tries from Ehren Painter, Andrew Kellaway, Lewis Ludlam, Taqele Naiyaravoro, Alex Waller and Mike Haywood, while fly-half Dan Biggar kicked five conversions and a penalty and Harry Mallinder also landed a conversion.

Bristol only led once in the game, yet they refused to go quietly, with centre Will Hurrell (two), hooker Harry Thacker and wings Luke Morahan and Alapati Leiua all claiming touchdowns and fly-half Callum Sheedy booting 15 points.

Harlequins won for the first time in the Gallagher Premiership since the first match of the season as a thumping clash saw them overhaul home team Gloucester 27-25.

Cipriani failed to inspire Gloucester

Two tries from wing Nathan Earle plus the boots of fly-half James Lang, with two penalties an a conversion, plus his replacement Marcus Smith, who landed three penalties, saw the Londoners to victory.

Fly-half Danny Cipriani scored 15 of Gloucester’s points with a try, two penalties and two conversions with wing Charlie Sharples crossing the Harlequins line twice.

Gallagher Premiership: Exeter continue brilliant start, Saracens remain unbeaten, Newcastle claim first win of season

15 Sep

Here is the best of the action from Saturday’s games in the Gallagher Premiership.

Exeter Chiefs 35-18 Sale Sharks

Exeter maintained their exemplary start to their season with a third bonus point victory in succession to remain at the top of the Gallagher Premiership table.

However, their latest success, 35-18, was far from straightforward as Sale battled hard throughout and were unlucky to come away from Sandy Park with nothing.

Santiago Cordero got things up and running for Chiefs

Exeter scored five tries through Santiago Cordero, Jack Maunder, Jonny Hill, Tom Lawday and Alex Cuthbert. Joe Simmonds converted three and Gareth Steenson two.

Marland Yarde and Bryn Evans scored Sale’s tries with Alan MacGinty adding two penalties and a conversion.

Northampton Saints 27-38 Saracens

Saracens overcame a slow start to score five tries and secure a 38-27 victory over Northampton in a thrilling Gallagher Premiership encounter at Franklin’s Gardens.

In a game which swung back and forth, two tries in three minutes from David Strettle late on secured a bonus-point win for Mark McCall’s men.

Strettle’s try helped the champions secure a bonus point win

The visitors claimed the spoils despite seeing Jamie George and Billy Vunipola yellow-carded in either half as Alex Lewington crossed for a brace with Ben Spencer also on the scoreboard.

Northampton’s points came via Piers Francis, Dylan Hartley and Ben Franks, but the boot of Dan Biggar was not enough.

Worcester Warriors 20-23 Newcastle Falcons

The boot of former England fly-half Toby Flood steered Newcastle to a first Gallagher Premiership victory of the season.

Last year’s play-off semi-finalists held on to beat battling Worcester 23-20 at Sixways.

Flood scored 13 of Newcastle’s 23 points

Flood kicked three second-half penalties to add to first-half conversions of tries from scrum-half Sonatane Takulua and wing Sinoti Sinoti.

But the Falcons let Worcester off the hook as Scottish fly-half Duncan Weir scored a try, conversion and penalty, with full-back Chris Pennell landing a long penalty – while the hosts were also awarded a penalty try.

Harlequins 32-37 Bath Rugby

Joe Cokanasiga scored two tries as Bath ran out 37-32 winners during an entertaining Gallagher Premiership match at Harlequins.

Cokanasiga’s two tries helped Bath claim a narrow victory at the Stoop

The wing scored either side of half-time, while number eight Zach Mercer also added two tries as Todd Blackadder’s men claimed their first win of the season.

However, Bath were made to work by the hosts late on as Joe Marler and Charlie Mulchrone scored to give the home fans some hope following earlier scores from Danny Care and Joe Marchant.

Gallagher Premiership: Billy Vunipola scores on Saracens return, Exeter continue good start, Bath and Gloucester draw in thriller

8 Sep

Here is the best from Saturday’s action in the Gallagher Premiership.

Saracens 44-23 Bristol

Billy Vunipola made a try-scoring comeback as Saracens pulled clear of Bristol in a dominant second half that underpinned a 44-23 Gallagher Premiership victory at Allianz Park.

Vunipola’s first appearance since re-fracturing his arm against South Africa in June totalled 36 minutes and the injury-ravaged England number eight was a menace throughout.

Saracens needed his firepower to subdue a resilient Bristol who led 18-13 at half time and suffered the injustice of seeing George Smith harshly sent off for a tackle on Jackson Wray when the score was delicately poised at 18-18.

Vunipola and Saracens turned the screw in the second-half

Smith’s challenge was at shoulder height and there was a clear attempt to use his right arm, but after repeated viewings referee Andrew Jackson reached for the red card. Wray departed for a head injury assessment and was unable to return.

The Australia Test centurion stared at Jackson in disbelief, received a sympathetic pat on the head from his head coach Pat Lam upon reaching the dugout and then watched as Saracens powered clear with tries from Vunipola and Liam Williams.

England lock Maro Itoje was lucky to escape punishment for a high tackle on Joe Joyce under the posts as Bristol staged a final-quarter comeback that ended when Williams plundered two additional tries to complete his own successful return from a groin problem.

Wasps 31-42 Exeter

Exeter beat Wasps 42-31 in an enthralling contest at the Ricoh Arena to continue their impressive start to the Gallagher Premiership season.

Henry Slade scored two of Exeter’s six tries

After last week’s 40-point demolition of Leicester at Sandy Park, the visitors overcame a 24-21 half-time deficit to run out deserved winners.

Sam Simmonds and Henry Slade both scored two tries for Chiefs, with Santiago Cordero and Don Armand also crossing and Gareth Steenson converting all six.

Elliot Daly, Josh Bassett, Dan Robson and Nathan Hughes scored Wasps’ tries, with Billy Searle adding three conversions and a penalty. Lima Sopoaga added a conversion.

Bath 31-31 Gloucester

Matt Banahan denied his former Bath team-mates a remarkable Gallagher Premiership victory as his late converted try secured Gloucester a 31-31 draw.

Banahan denied his old club the victory at the death

Ex-England wing Banahan, who joined Gloucester this summer following a long Bath career that saw him more than 250 appearances, struck two minutes from time, with Billy Twelvetrees’ conversion ensuring the points were shared.

Leicester 49-33 Newcastle

Leicester gave Geordan Murphy the perfect start as interim head coach as they came out on top in a thrilling 49-33 victory over Newcastle.

It had been a turbulent week for the Tigers with Matt O’Connor sacked on Monday following their 40-6 humiliation to Exeter in their Gallagher Premiership opener, leaving former Ireland and British & Irish Lions full-back Murphy in command on a temporary basis.

Murphy got off to a winning start as interim Leicester head coach

But the 40-year-old, who made 316 appearances for the Tigers, watched his men get off to a winning start against his old coach Dean Richards.

Newcastle Falcons 32-21 Saracens: Reigning Premiership champions get off to a win thanks to brace from debutante Alex Lewington

2 Sep

Alex Lewington scored twice on his debut as  Saracens overcame two yellow cards to make a winning start to their Gallagher Premiership campaign with a 32-21 victory over Newcastle at Kingston Park.

The hosts found themselves 17-9 down at half time, but trailed the reigning champions by just a point with 20 minutes remaining.

Tomkins touches down late on to settle Sarrie nerves

However, Nick Tompkins’ try with four minutes left was followed by Owen Farrell’s conversion and late penalty, leaving the hosts without even the consolation of a losing bonus point.

Tries by Jamie George, two from Alex Lewington on debut and Tompkins gave Saracens the bonus point win – and the Falcons a lesson in finishing.

The visitors led 17-9 at half-time with strikes from George and Lewington converted by Farrell plus a penalty. Newcastle’s Toby Flood replied with three penalties.

George was booed when he scored in the corner as there was a hint of obstruction and a poor grounding but it came as a result of some fine inter-play by Alex Lozowski, David Strettle and Farrell and included a great take by George – and of greater significance was the fact the TMO was happy.

Owen Farrell was fantastic with ball in hand, but struggled with his kicking

Saracens were bossing the game but even they were not immune to frustration and Flood’s third penalty in the 33rd minute reduced the champions’ lead to one point.

Saracens responded, swiftly recycling Sonatane Takulua’s box kick and Goode and Lozowski evaded two desperate tackles to send in Lewington for his debut try – which was converted by Farrell right on half-time.

The Falcons moved up through the gears after the break and they forced Saracens on to the back foot enough for Mark Wilson to break straight through the middle of the ruck on the 22 for a 55th minute try which made it 17-14.

Flood missed the straightforward conversion and Saracens made Newcastle pay five minutes later with a pulverizing drive from Nick Isiekwe and Mark Itoje and a lovely floated pass from Farrell for Lewington to score in the corner.

Tompkins was yellow carded for a hand in the face of Flood in the 64th minute and Goode joined him with 10 minutes left for an illegal tackle on Simon Hammersley.

Newcastle went straight to the corner with the penalty and drove Wilson over for his second trying – and when Flood converted Newcastle were within a point.

However, Saracens delivered the killer blow when Farrell fed Tompkins down the right for a bonus point try – and the late kicks took the visitors further clear.

Exeter Chiefs 36-5 Newcastle Falcons: Reigning Aviva Premiership champions to face Saracens at Twickenham

19 May
Exeter Chiefs 36-5 Newcastle Falcons: Reigning Aviva Premiership champions to face Saracens at Twickenham
Nic White celebrates going over for the first try of the game

Reigning champions Exeter will face Saracens in next Saturday’s Aviva Premiership final at Twickenham after cruising to victory against Newcastle.

The Falcons’ Premiership play-off debut proved a deflating affair at Sandy Park as Exeter romped home 36-5.

The Chiefs never looked back after building a 16-point interval advantage through scrum-half Nic White’s try, plus three penalties and a conversion from his half-back partner Joe Simmonds.

Newcastle were never remotely allowed into the contest, having to stage a prolonged defensive rearguard as Exeter pulled further away through tries by wing Olly Woodburn and flanker Don Armand, two more penalties and another Simmonds conversion as he finished with 19 points, while Gareth Steenson added the final conversion.

Alex Tait claimed a consolation try for Newcastle, but their impressive campaign – they finished fourth in the table, reached a first league play-off and were European Challenge Cup semi-finalists – ended on an afternoon when they were dominated in every key department.

This season’s Premiership final will be a repeat of the 2016 title showdown – Saracens beat Exeter 28-20 on that occasion – and will see England’s top two teams following the 22-game regular season going head to head.

If Exeter win, they will become only the third club after Leicester, Wasps and Saracens to successfully defend Premiership silverware in the competition’s 20-year history.

Exeter monopolised initial exchanges, going through 26 unbroken phases of play at one stage, with England pair Henry Slade and Sam Simmonds prominent as Newcastle were tested defensively.

The Falcons had just seven per cent of possession in the first 10 minutes, and they continued to be pinned inside their own half, making numerous tackles before a second Simmonds penalty took Exeter six points clear.

The Chiefs’ relentless grip on proceedings began to take a heavier toll as half-time approached, with Newcastle lock Evan Olmstead being sin-binned by referee Matt Carley for a technical offence and Simmonds completing his penalty hat-trick.

Newcastle also saw prop Scott Wilson carried off after he was on the receiving end of a hefty collision, with David Wilson replacing him following a lengthy delay while the former received treatment.

And Exeter finally breached Newcastle’s defence a minute before the break following a thrilling move launched from inside his own half by Chiefs full-back Lachie Turner.

The Australian’s searing pace caused panic in Newcastle’s defence, and after flanker Dave Ewers and Woodburn supported superbly, White touched down between the posts and Simmonds converted for a 16-point lead.

The interval statistics proved overwhelmingly in Exeter’s favour, making just 10 tackles compared with Newcastle’s 169, while stringing together 189 passes, with Falcons moving the ball just eight times.

Exeter also had the wind behind them for the second period, suggesting that Newcastle would face another long 40 minutes as they struggled to make any impression on proceedings.

Simmonds kicked two more penalties early in the second-half, which effectively killed off any hope of a Newcastle fightback, although substitute Tait claimed a 57th-minute try before fly-half Toby Flood saw his conversion attempt charged down by Turner.

But before Newcastle could threaten any further in-roads, Exeter struck when White broke from the back of a scrum and sent Woodburn over in the corner for a touchdown that Simmonds converted magnificently from the touchline.

And Newcastle’s misery was completed when Tait dropped the ball in the act of touching down for what would have been his second try three minutes from time.

Aviva Premiership: Newcastle Falcons 39-22 Wasps

5 May
Aviva Premiership: Newcastle Falcons 39-22 Wasps
Josh Bassett runs in to score for the visitors

Wasps snuffed out a late Newcastle fightback to end the Falcons’ impressive home record with a 39-22 victory and book an Aviva Premiership play-off semi-final at Saracens.

The hosts drove a line-out in the 10th minute at Kingston Park and extracted a penalty which Sonatane Takulua kicked for 3-0 and then saw little of the ball for much of the game as Wasps ran in three tries in each half through Tom Cruse, Elliot Daly, Danny Cipriani, Josh Bassett, Jimmy Gopperth and Willie Le Roux.

Josh Matavesi, Zach Kibirige and Evan Olmstead touched down in the final 16 minutes in front of a sell-out 10,100 crowd but there was no way back for the Falcons, who face a daunting trip to Sandy Park to take on table-toppers Exeter in the other semi-final.

Missing the injured Toby Flood and Joel Hodgson, Newcastle had Matavesi at fly-half and his lack of game-time in the number 10 shirt showed, but he was not solely to blame as there was a rash of poor handling, kicking and decision-making from the home team.

Wasps took the lead when Cruse charged down a poor Matavesi kick and raced away to score an 18th-minute try, which was converted by Cipriani for 7-3.

The visitors were quickly back on the attack and Kyle Eastman and Cipriani sent in Daly for 12-3 in the 35th minute.

They notched a third try on the stroke of half-time, with their forwards driving it close to the line allowing Cipriani to slip through for a score converted by Daly to make it 19-3.

Wasps had the try bonus point wrapped up three minutes into the second half when Cipriani delivered an exquisite outside-of-the-boot kick and Bassett produced an equally impressive one-handed scoop before finishing in the corner for 24-3.

Cipriani left the field injured and his replacement Gopperth immediately scored against his former club. It took a while for referee Ian Tempest to give it and it looked marginal with the final pass seemingly forward, but the try was awarded and Gopperth converted for 31-3.

Newcastle finally found their teeth and Matavesi scorched 70 metres downfield for a try in the 64th minute following a lovely offload from Kibirige, and then Matavesi returned the compliment with a cross-field kick for Kibirige to score. Craig Willis converted to make it 31-15 with 10 minutes left.

And when Thomas Young was sin-binned, Newcastle took the penalty quickly and drove Olmstead over for a third try – converted by Willis – in the 74th minute to make things interesting at 31-22.

But it was too little, too late, as Goppeth kicked a 77th-minute penalty and Le Roux raced in from 70 metres in the 79th minute to finally take the steam out of the Falcons.

Leicester Tigers 23-25 Newcastle Falcons: Newcastle up to third in the Aviva Premiership after late drama at Welford Road

27 Apr
Leicester Tigers 23-25 Newcastle Falcons: Newcastle up to third in the Aviva Premiership after late drama at Welford Road
The Leicester players cannot believe they have been beaten at the death

Newcastle claimed a dramatic stoppage-time victory at Welford Road to deny Leicester and keep themselves firmly in the Aviva Premiership play-off race.

Number eight Ally Hogg’s try, which was reviewed at length by the television match official, and replacement scrum-half Sonatane Takulua’s conversion, edged Newcastle home 25-23.

It took them third in the table with one game left, but Leicester, who have not finished outside the Premiership’s top four since 2004, are facing play-off heartache.

Tries by wing Jonny May and lock Mike Fitzgerald – plus 13 points from fly-half George Ford’s boot – appeared to be enough for Leicester as Newcastle chased a first win on Tigers soil for 20 years under their rugby director and former Leicester boss Dean Richards.

Newcastle’s ex-Leicester wing Vereniki Goneva scored two tries, while fly-half Joel Hodgson added a conversion and penalty before going off injured and Juan Pablo Socino landed a penalty.

And the Falcons – thanks to their late, late, show – remain in control of their own destiny ahead of hosting Wasps next weekend.

Leicester, meanwhile, must beat Sale Sharks, but even that is unlikely to be enough as Newcastle and Wasps are now favourites to join Exeter and Saracens in the semi-finals.

Newcastle claimed the opener through Goneva, who broke clear from the base of a ruck 40 metres out and left Leicester’s defence in reverse gear for a superb solo touchdown that Hodgson converted.

Leicester, though, responded impressively, establishing a threatening position when flanker Brendon O’Connor made initial headway, and quickly recycled possession resulted in centre Manu Tuilagi, on his return to action after five weeks out injured, sending May over.

Ford kicked the touchline conversion to make it 7-7, yet Newcastle quickly regained the lead when Hodgson booted a penalty after Leicester flanker Luke Hamilton was punished for killing possession.

The England fly-half then tied things up with a penalty, but the injury count began to mount up for Newcastle as Hodgson limped off to follow earlier injury departures of prop Scott Wilson and lock Sean Robinson, which tested their resources and resolve.

A second Ford penalty edged Leicester ahead nine minutes before the break, only for Newcastle to finish the half strongly and set up camp inside Leicester’s 22.

And they gained their reward through a Socino penalty, making it 13-13 at the interval and setting up an intense second 40 minutes as both sides fought for vital league points.

Leicester thought they had regained the lead early in the second period after they broke clear from a scrum near their own line, Newcastle fumbled in defence and Ben Youngs kicked ahead to touch down.

But referee Luke Pearce, after consulting with television match official Stuart Terheege, ruled a Leicester knock-on before the move began and Newcastle escaped.

It was a short reprieve for Newcastle, though, and Leicester scored from their first attack, sending a wave of ball-carriers at Falcons’ defence before Fitzgerald stretched out and claimed a try that Ford converted.

Ford completed his penalty hat-trick to ease Leicester’s nerves, and although Goneva breached their defence for a second time 11 minutes from the end, it still looked all up for Newcastle until Hogg and Takulua came up trumps after Tigers number eight Sione Kalamafoni was sin-binned.