Tomkins makes eye-catching debut
January 29, 2012
Rugby league convert Joel Tomkins grabbed two tries on his Saracens debut © Getty Images
Joel Tomkins marked his Saracens first team debut with two tries as a commanding second-half performance secured a 41-14 victory over Worcester, although victory is not likely to rescue the club's Anglo-Welsh Cup campaign.
Rugby League convert Tomkins crossed twice in five second half minutes after scrum-half Peter Stringer and flanker Justin Melck had already crossed for the hosts. Hooker Jamie George grabbed Sarries fifth try with fly-half Nils Mordt weighing in with 16 points with the boot. Tries from flanker Sam Betty and winger Tom Arscott had helped Worcester claim a narrow 14-13 lead at the break but they were kept scoreless after the break by a much improved Saracens unit including a number of younger prospects filling in for the club's absent England and Wales players. However, only a defeat for Pool 1 rivals Bath in next month's final round of matches and a huge victory over the Dragons will see Sarries progress to the final four.
In Sunday's other clash, Newcastle over-powered Sale Sharks 37-7 at Kingston Park to keep their semi-final hopes alive. The Sharks held their own in the opening period with a try from centre Nick Macleod giving them an early advantage but that was as good as it got for the visitors. The boot of Jimmy Gopperth, who finished with a 22-point hail, and a try from No.8 Mark Wilson gave the Falcons a 13-7 lead at half-time. The Falcons extended their advantage after the break before tries from hooker Rob Vickers, lock Tim Swinson and Gopperth ensured new boss Gary Gold kicked off his tenure with a bonus point win. The victory leaves them four points behind Pool 3 leaders Scarlets ahead of the final round of games.
Bath put themselves on course for a home draw in the semi-finals with a 46-14 rout of Northampton Saints at The Rec on Saturday afternoon. Olly Barkley had kicked the home side into a 12-6 lead, having outscored Saints fly-half Stephen Myler by four penalties to two, when hooker Ross Batty crashed over on 36 minutes for the game's opening try. Myler responded with another penalty right on half-time to keep Northampton in touch but Bath prop Anthony Perenise dotted after a stunning 40-metre break within a minute of the restart to put daylight between the two sides.
Another front-rower, Saints loose-head Alex Waller, touched down moments later to keep his side in the game but Bath finally broke Northampton's resistance in the final quarter, racking up further tries from winger Ollie Woodburn, fly-half Stephen Donald and replacement prop Charlie Beech to seal their third successive win in this year's competition. Despite defeat, Northampton remain top of Pool 4 - a point ahead of Exeter.
Leicester Tigers' hopes of reaching the last four remain intact courtesy of a hard-fought 19-9 victory over Harlequins side at The Stoop that leaves them top of Pool 2. The Tigers wasted little time in making their mark on the game, centre Andy Forsyth crossing under the posts with less than four minutes on the clock. Fly-half George Ford converted before opposite number Rory Clegg responded with a penalty on 11 minutes to get the hosts off the mark and, remarkably, that's the way it stayed until just before the tail end of the third quarter when Leicester winger Alex Lewington touched down after getting on the end of his own grubber down the line. The Tigers then killed the game off as a contest when back-row Ben Pienaar barged his way over with 12 minutes remaining as Harlequins slipped to their fourth defeat in the last six matches in all competitions.
Viliame Iongi scorted two tries as the Scarlets moved a step closer to the semi-finals thanks to a 27-19 victory over London Irish in Llanelli on Saturday night. Tom Homer opened the scoring for the Exiles with a penalty but fellow fullback Daniel Newton replied in kind to level matters before Iongi crossed for the first time 26 minutes in to help Scarlets into a 10-3 lead at the interval.
Homer drew Irish to within a point with two more sweet strikes but only to see Deacon Manu cross eight minutes after coming on as a replacement to hand the initiative back to the Scarlets. The Exiles weren't done and they edged ahead when Topsy Ojo dotted after Homer had landed his fourth penalty of the game. However, Newton kicked a penalty to reclaim the lead for the home side and Iongi then sealed a vital win when he dived over with just two minutes to go.
Gloucester kept their qualification dream alive with 40-3 demolition of the winless Cardiff Blues at Kingsholm. Bizarrely, it was the Blues who began the better and the Welsh region opened the scoring with a penalty from goal-kicking fullback Ben Blair just three minutes in. However, Gloucester replied with a try from blindside flanker Peter Buxton moments later before fly-half Ryan Mills knocked over three penalties before the half-hour mark to put the Cherry and Whites in complete command.
Centre Tim Molenaar crossed on 34 minutes as the Gloucester went in 18 points up at the interval and the home side had it all their own way in the second period as winger James Simpson-Daniel helped himself to a quick-fire brace before openside flanker Andy Hazell completed the rout with his 70th-minute touchdown.
London Wasps remain in freefall after a 30-16 defeat at home to Exeter Chiefs, for whom fly-half Gareth Steenson kicked 15 points. After Steenson and opposition number Ryan Davis had exchanged a brace of early penalties, Exeter racked up their first try of the game when Pat Phibbs put blindside flanker Dave Ewers over for a try in the 15th minute.
Davis added another penalty for Wasps but the Chiefs went in 23-9 to the good at the interval following a try from fullback Myles Dorrian and a further five points from the boot of Steenson. Aly Muldowney crossed for Exeter's third try eight minutes into the second half and the game had long since ended as a contest by the time Mike Powell registered a consolation score for Wasps in the dying minutes.
The Ospreys all but ended the Newport Gwent Dragons' slim hopes of progressing to the knockout stages with a four-try 26-21 victory over their Welsh rivals at the Brewery Field on Friday night. The Ospreys had lost the last three meetings between the sides but tries courtesy of Ross Jones, Hanno Dirksen, Eli Walker and South African centre Stefan Watermeyer gave them their first win in this season's competition, with fly-half Matthew Morgan kicking three conversions. The Dragons had been level at 14-all at the interval thanks to a try from wing Pat Leach and three penalties from fly-half Steffan Jones, but replacement Luke Williams' last-gasp try was their only score of the second half.
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