Worcester 6-32 Northampton: Saints beat poor Warriors to ease Gallagher Premiership relegation fears

22 Dec

Northampton eased some concerns of being relegated from the Gallagher Premiership with a comfortable 32-6 win at Worcester Warriors.

Warriors, who surprisingly rested England centre Ben Te’o, were poor as Saints fly-half Dan Biggar kicked a creditable 20 points.

Biggar helped Saints claim a good win

Second-half intercept tries from Cobus Reinach and Luther Burrell added gloss to the scoreline, but Saints were deserved winners.

All Worcester could manage were two penalties from Duncan Weir who had an off night.

After Weir put the kick-off out on the full, Northampton dominated the early exchanges and Taqele Naiyaravoro had an early try ruled by TMO Rowan Kitt out for a foot in touch.

The giant wing was tackled under pressure by Bryce Heem, but Biggar rewarded his team’s impressive start with two penalties either side of a simple miss from his opposite number.

Weir had kicked 19 straight attempts going into this game, but he somehow skewed a simple attempt wide of the posts early on.

Saints’ attacking intent was clear in the opening quarter, Biggar spreading the ball wide from his own 22 where Tom Collins sped away down the right wing.

And when scrum-half Reinach ripped the ball from GJ van Velze, Biggar made it 9-0 to the Saints with his third kick of the night.

The home crowd were far from happy with referee Wayne Barnes, but he did penalise Burrell for a high tackle which allowed Weir to put Worcester on the scoreboard.

Biggar put a drop goal wide and Tom Wood’s charge down of a Francois Hougaard box-kick bounced dead, but Saints turned around 12-3 ahead.

Biggar’s fourth penalty and a second miss from Weir had left Worcester with plenty to do.

Saints had a 100 per cent tackle success before the break, but Worcester’s only comfort was their impressive scrum. Weir narrowed their deficit to six when the game resumed, but even though they were improved in the second period, things just did not quite go their way.

Josh Adams chased down a kick ahead, but it ran away into touch when a kinder bounce would have led to an almost certain try.

Then, Worcester turned the ball over in a prime attacking position. Biggar led the Northampton riposte by superbly claiming an up and under, but he was forced from the field with Wood after both suffered blows to the head.

Worcester pounded away in search of a try using their scrum, but as they pushed on their opponents’ line, Hougaard saw his pass intercepted by opposite number Reinach.

The scrum-half ran the length of the field to score the game’s decisive try. Piers Francis converted with Biggar absent to put Northampton in the driving seat.

Luther Burrell also went over for Saints

There was still time for Biggar to return to the field and kick two more late penalties before Burrell intercepted following a poor Weir pass.

Biggar rubbed salt in opposition wounds with the conversion on a night to forget for Worcester.

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.

Wasps flanker James Haskell to sign for fellow Aviva Premiership side Northampton Saints on one-year deal

14 May
Wasps flanker James Haskell to sign for fellow Aviva Premiership side Northampton Saints on one-year deal
Haskell in action for Wasps earlier in the season

Northampton have signed England back-row forward James Haskell on a one-year contract from Wasps.

The 77-times England capped forward is the seventh close-season signing to arrive at Franklin’s Gardens ahead of the 2018/19 season.

He made over 200 appearances during a 12-year career with Wasps and has also played for Stade Francais, Ricoh Black Rams and the Highlanders.

“I’m really excited and humbled to be joining a giant of English rugby in Northampton Saints,” said Haskell.

“Having had the opportunity to play against them for many years now, I know this is a club with a proud history and a set of passionate and loyal supporters who always make their presence felt.”

Haskell announced back in January he would be leaving his boyhood club at the end of the current season.

Wasps still have to play Saracens in the Aviva Premiership semi-final away from home on Saturday, May 19.

Check out Haskell’s post on Instagram below confirming he is leaving.

Aviva Premiership: Northampton Saints 32-24 Worcester Warriors

5 May
Aviva Premiership: Northampton Saints 32-24 Worcester Warriors
Ben Foden crosses over for the hosts

Northampton finished a difficult Aviva Premiership season with a rousing 32-24 victory over Worcester at a sunny Franklin’s Gardens.

Tries from number eight Mitch Eadie, centre Nafi Tuitavake, full-back Ben Foden and wing Tom Collins ensured a bonus point victory which means Saints end the campaign ninth. Fly-half James Grayson kicked three conversions and a penalty and replacement Stephen Myler added another penalty.

Worcester centres Will Butler (2) and Ben Te’o grabbed their side’s tries, with fly-half Dorian Jones converting all three and adding a second-half penalty.

Northampton said goodbye to 17 of their squad on Saturday including 34-times capped England international Foden – who has not announced his future intentions yet – and Wales wing George North, who is returning to his homeland to join Ospreys.

Worcester’s faithful bid farewell to Irish legend Donncha O’Callaghan at Sixways last week, but 10 more are leaving – with more to be announced during the week.

But far from being an end-of-season run-out for the clubs, the match was intense. Foden spent time in the sin-bin after two minutes for a high tackle on Worcester captain GJ van Velze.

While the full-back was cooling off, former England Under-20 cap Butler, on his first Premiership start for the Warriors, grabbed two tries in the space of five minutes which – improved by Jones’ conversions – put Worcester 14-0 to the good

There was needle between the teams as well with some pushing and shoving at times.

The erratic Saints finally found some form and Eadie touched down under a pile of bodies next to the Worcester posts which, with Grayson’s conversion, reduced the arrears to seven points.

Butler’s match was over before the half-time whistle as he came off with an arm injury. At the same time, play was held up for five minutes as Warriors scrum-half Francois Hougaard was treated by medics on the pitch before being carried off on a stretcher

Northampton ended the half on top with Grayson adding three points from a 23-metre penalty in the final moments.

Another crazy 20 minutes after the break saw four tries, with Northampton going 21-10 down before reaching the hour mark 29-24 ahead.

England centre Te’o was put in by wing Josh Adams to extend the Warriors’ lead, but Tuitavake hit back minutes later with a converted touchdown.

Foden made up for his sin-bin by finishing a sweeping backs movement before wing Collins ran 30 metres down the left touchline for the Saints’ bonus point try. Grayson added the extras to both.

With a five-point advantage, Northampton put the squeeze on their opponents, defending well to see out the last quarter easily.

Myler, who is also leaving the home side, kicked a penalty in the last minute to seal the win.

Aviva Premiership news: Wasps 36-29 Northampton – Danny Cipriani and James Haskell mark final games with victory

29 Apr
Aviva Premiership news: Wasps 36-29 Northampton - Danny Cipriani and James Haskell mark final games with victory
Danny Cipriani and James Haskell

Danny Cipriani and James Haskell marked their final home appearances for Wasps by helping to secure a place in the Aviva Premiership play-offs with a 36-29 victory over Northampton.

Cipriani, who is thought to be joining either Racing 92 or Stade Francais next season, took centre stage at the Ricoh Arena by orchestrating the downfall of determined opposition while England head coach Eddie Jones watched from the stands.

Jones has steadfastly refused to pick Cipriani but he can only have been impressed by the vision and handling he displayed in the penultimate round of the regular Premiership season.

Haskell stepped off the bench as Wasps were in the process of building a commanding lead and, while his arrival was warmly greeted by team-mates and fans, it was the prelude to a collapse from the title contenders.

Leading 33-17 with 25 minutes remaining, they lost focus and paid the price as Northampton struck twice in quick succession to cause ripples of panic around Coventry.

A penalty by Jimmy Gopperth eased the anxiety but the most telling contribution by Haskell, who has yet to find a new club, was a high tackle that meant a late try for Josh Bassett was disallowed.

The victory might have come at considerable cost for club and country, however, as Elliot Daly limped off after injuring his left arm while trying to stop Tuala’s try.

Wasps struck in each corner as part of a dominant opening quarter that burst into life when Christian Wade, benefiting from an initial break by flanker Jack Willis, was sent over by Willie le Roux.

The South Africa full-back later supplied the scoring pass to Daly, but it was the distribution of Cipriani that created the chance as his perfectly-timed long pass found the sprinting Le Roux.

Northampton interrupted the tries with a superb score of their own that was launched from inside their 22 and given fresh impetus when Cobus Reinach slipped between Cipriani and Gopperth before being finished by Teimana Harrison.

Wasps’ line cracked again in the 26th minute, exposing a frailty as repeated pick and goes concluded when Fijian lock Api Ratuniyarawa burrowed over from close range.

Only Gopperth’s boot was keeping daylight between the teams but, early in the second half, there was a decisive shift in the home side’s favour.

It started when Luther Burrell was sent to the sin-bin for sliding into Wade and catching his thigh with his knee in an attempted trip, but the Wasps wing soon had his revenge.

Once again it was a line-out that provided the platform for the title challengers to attack and once again it was Cipriani and Gopperth who manipulated the space before Le Roux was set free to draw the remaining defenders and feed Wade.

The bonus point arrived when Guy Thompson, another player departing the Ricoh Arena at the end of the season, forced a hole as he broke from the ruck and, when the ball was released, the Cipriani-Gopperth-Le Roux axis used quick hands to send Juan De Jongh in.

Northampton threw caution to the wind by attacking from deep in their own half, initially through George North and then Jamie Gibson, who showed Daly a clean pair of heals, before Alex Mitchell crossed in the corner.

Suddenly the deficit was down to four points as Wasps’ crumbling defence splintered again in the 69th minute and Foden sent Ahsee Tuala over, but the home side did not concede again.

Wales winger George North to join Ospreys from Northampton Saints in the summer

25 Apr
Wales winger George North to join Ospreys from Northampton Saints in the summer
North in action for Wales during the Six Nations

Wales international George North has agreed to join Ospreys from Northampton Saints in the summer.

After signing a National Dual Contract with the WRU in November, the winger has finally chosen which club he will represent when he returns home.

On Tuesday, the Welsh giants announced they would be appointing Allen Clarke as head coach, and have now followed that up by signing the 73 times-capped star.

“I’m really excited to be joining the Ospreys and starting a new chapter in my career when I return to Wales,” said North.

“I believe the Ospreys have an exciting future with the structure and the recruitment they have put in place and I’m really looking forward to linking up with Allen (Clarke) and the squad in the summer.

“It was a really positive decision for me to sign a National Dual Contract with the support and structure it provides.

“I have worked alongside the WRU to finalise my choice of region and I would like to thank everyone involved. I’m really looking forward to becoming an Osprey.”

Ospreys have moved to sign the 26-year-old, with half-backs Rhys Webb and Dan Biggar leaving the club before next season to join Toulon and Northampton, respectively.

The club’s rugby general manager Dan Griffiths said: “We are delighted to be able to add George to our squad for next season.

“A truly world-class player, he is someone that everybody at the region is excited about seeing in an Ospreys jersey – supporters, players and coaches alike.

“George has taken his time to ensure that his decision was the right one, and it is fantastic news that he sees our environment as the best place to be going forward.”

And WRU chief executive Martyn Phillips added: “George returning home to Wales is a major positive for Welsh rugby and for the Ospreys. I know he is really looking forward to next season and making a positive impact on Welsh rugby.”

England captain Dylan Hartley ruled out of summer tour to South Africa due to concussion

23 Apr
England captain Dylan Hartley ruled out of summer tour to South Africa due to concussion
Dylan Hartley is set for spell on the sidelines

England captain Dylan Hartley has been ruled out this summer’s tour to South Africa due to concussion.

The Northampton hooker has not played since suffering a head injury in the Six Nations defeat to Ireland in March.

It has now been decided the 32-year-old should take an extended break lasting until pre-season for the 2018-19 campaign.

“I’m very disappointed that I will not be available for selection for Saints’ remaining Premiership games, as well England’s tour to South Africa,” Hartley said.

Two years ago Hartley was ruled out for 14 weeks because of two separate concussions, the last in the Grand Slam-clinching victory over France in Paris.

The 32-year-old later conceded he had no memory of the trophy presentation held on the pitch and questioned whether another significant head knock would force him to reconsider his future in the game.

“It has been recommended by specialists that I take a break this summer and while I find that decision hard to accept, it’s important I listen to that advice,” Hartley said.

“I intend to use this time to recover fully from my injury, so I can be ready to hit the ground running when pre-season training starts later this summer.”

Hartley has been ever-present as captain under Eddie Jones but the Australian must now turn elsewhere for the three-Test series against the Springboks that takes place in June.

Owen Farrell is the front-runner as the Saracens playmaker was placed in charge when Hartley missed the March showdown with France because of a tight calf.

However, Jones had indicated he might look to rest some of his British and Irish Lions with next year’s World Cup in mind, and Farrell’s workload this season would make him an obvious candidate.

Maro Itoje is another possibility but he falls into the same Lions category as Farrell, thinning the options to George Ford and Chris Robshaw.

The growing number of absentees from South Africa, however, may force Jones to abandon his plan to give some of the players involved against New Zealand 12 months earlier the summer off.

Jonathan Joseph (ankle), Anthony Watson (Achilles), Nathan Hughes and Courtney Lawes (both knee) will play no part in the series, while Billy Vunipola has not played since January because of a broken arm.

Jamie George is the obvious choice to deputise at hooker as Hartley watches the tour from home hoping the words spoken in 2016 as he reflected on the knock-out at the Stade de France are not prophetic.

“Every time that you see your kid you think, ‘If I hit my head again, what’s that going to mean?'”, Hartley said.

“If I got another one now I’d be worried. I would probably start looking at other careers, or stuff like that, or maybe a long lay-off.”

Northampton Saints 13-63 Saracens: Nine-try Sarries humble Saints

7 Apr
Northampton Saints 13-63 Saracens: Nine-try Sarries humble Saints
Alex Lozowski scored Sarries' first try of the game

Saracens bounced back from their Champions Cup exit with a crushing 63-13 victory against Northampton Saints at Franklin’s Gardens.

Mark McCall’s men scored nine tries, taking their tally against Northampton this season to 33 in just four matches. They have racked up a half-century of points on each occasion.

There were nine separate scorers, with Alex Lozowski, Schalk Brits, Ben Spencer, Mako Vunipola, Liam Williams, Chris Wyles, Sean Maitland, Jackson Wray and Nathan Earle all going over in this Aviva Premiership clash.

The Saints were well in the game at half-time, trailing just 15-13, with Reece Marshall having bagged a try on his first Premiership start.

But Saracens turned the screw in the second half, recovering from their European quarter-final defeat at Leinster with a stunning showing.

The hosts had the first big chance of the game but, after the ball was moved wide, Teimana Harrison missed a huge opportunity, knocking on with the line in sight.

And Saracens soon made the most of their escape, stringing together a tidy move that ended with Maitland sending an inside pass to Lozowski, who scored.

Farrell added the extras but he was soon landing a high shot on Saints scrum-half Cobus Reinach, giving Stephen Myler a penalty chance, which he took to cut the gap to four.

Farrell kicked a penalty to restore his team’s seven-point advantage but Northampton refused to be deterred and after kicking two penalties to the corner, they hit back.

Numbers were put into a big lineout drive and hooker Marshall picked the ball up, ran around the outside and scored in the corner.

Myler landed the touchline conversion and the scores were level, with the home faithful lifting the noise levels.

Northampton were soon ahead as Myler notched a penalty after another spell of pressure but Saracens responded immediately, sending hooker Brits over from a lineout drive.

Farrell missed the conversion to leave the gap at two points at the break but Saracens soon extended their lead after the restart as scrum-half Spencer scored in the corner.

Farrell again failed to add the extras, but he was on target soon after as Vunipola bagged Saracens’ bonus-point score.

The successful conversion meant Saracens moved past 200 points against Saints in four meetings this season and it was a long way back for the hosts.

A Farrell penalty extended the Saracens lead further and things were unravelling rapidly for Northampton.

Williams was next to score, making the most of the acres of space he was afforded, before Wyles also registered, escaping the attentions of Ahsee Tuala.

Maitland was next over before Wray got the eighth and Farrell converted, sparking an exodus of frustrated home fans from Franklin’s Gardens.

There was still time for Saracens to ensure it was their biggest points tally of the season against Saints as Earle dived over in the corner.

Aviva Premiership round-up: Sale end losing streak, Gloucester beaten at home by Newcastle

3 Mar

Aviva Premiership round-up: Sale end losing streak, Gloucester beaten at home by Newcastle

The rugby union schedule was not immune to ‘The Beast from the East’, with Exeter v Saracens called off due to this week’s snow, but fans braved the cold as Saturday’s other two fixtures went ahead as normal.

Northampton 25-34 Sale:

Denny Solomona scored a first-half hat-trick as Sale claimed victory at Northampton for the first time in 12 years with a 34-25 win.

Saints staff and supporters had worked together to clear snow from the ground to get the game on and when it did kick-off Sale started strongly.

The Sharks had lost on their past nine visits to Franklin’s Gardens, with their losing streak stretching back to May 2006.

But a superb first-half showing that saw Solomona run riot and Marland Yarde also register a try left the Saints shell-shocked and trailing 31-6 at the interval.

Northampton did eventually respond after the break with Michael Paterson, Rob Horne and Heinrich Brussow scoring, but it was too little, too late, despite two Sale sin-bins.

Gloucester 20-21 Newcastle:

Newcastle took a huge step towards securing an Aviva Premiership play-off place as Gloucester lost for the first time at home in the league this season.

At the hosts will be kicking themselves after their wastefulness from the tee cost them victory.

Falcons’ 21-20 win saw them move up to third in the table and extend their advantage over fifth-placed Gloucester from two to four points with five league games remaining.

Ally Hogg and Micky Young scored tries for Newcastle, with Joel Hodgson kicking three penalties and a conversion.

Jason Woodward, David Halaifonua, Mark Atkinson and Lewis Ludlow scored Gloucester’s tries but crucially all were unconverted.