Harlequins regain top spot
February 17, 2013
Harlequins' Nick Easter races away from Leicester's defence during his side's victory at The Stoop © Getty Images
Wasps maintained their unbeaten home record in the Premiership with a 33-29 victory over a Gloucester side who failed to capitalise on long spells of dominance at Adams Park. Gloucester were the better side for much of the contest, but they missed four penalties and that proved their undoing. With 20 minutes to go, Gloucester led 17-13, but tries followed from the impressive Christian Wade and Billy Vunipola and enabled Wasps to consolidate fourth place.
Sale Sharks took a big step towards Aviva Premiership safety with a crucial bottom-of-the-table 26-25 win over London Welsh at the Kassam Stadium. The result leaves the Sharks one point behind 11th-placed London Irish and three in arrears of Welsh. Wing Phil Mackenzie got the Exiles' only try, with scrum-half Alex Davies kicking four penalties and fly-half Gavin Henson adding two penalties and a conversion. Sale's points came via tries from scrum-half Will Cliff and flanker Daniel Braid with fly-half Danny Cipriani landing three penalties and two conversions and Nick Macleod one penalty.
England scrum-half Danny Care produced a moment of magic as Harlequins regained top spot after edging a thrilling contest against Leicester 25-21 at The Stoop. Trailing at the break, Care ran half the length of the field from a tap penalty to reignite Quins, with the mercurial Ben Botica adding 20 points from the boot in an impressive kicking performance as Leicester crumbled. Toby Flood scored 16 points for the Tigers on his return to Premiership action while Adam Thompstone touched down, but it was not enough.
Saracens celebrated their Premiership debut at Allianz Park by demolishing Exeter 33-11 with a rare four-try victory. Before today the 2011 champions had run in only 14 tries in as many games - the lowest number in the league - but Mako Vunipola crossed twice and Charlie Hodgson and Matt Stevens also touched down in a bonus-point win. It was a ringing endorsement for the artificial pitch at Saracens' new £24million ground in Barnet, which was staging its second match but the first in front of a capacity 10,000 crowd.
Bath made it six wins from as many games in all competitions with a 40-16 victory against London Irish. Looking a far more fluent outfit than the side that stuttered through the first half of the season, they saw off the Irish challenge with two tries in the last five minutes, the last coming in the final play of the game from prop Anthony Perenise. Replacement fly-half Tom Heathcote converted all four tries and also kicked two penalties.
Northampton revived their push for the play-offs with a 27-18 win at Worcester despite seeing England forwards Dylan Hartley and Courtney Lawes both sin-binned at Sixways. Flanker Samu Manoa's 70th-minute try - he was driven over the line by his fellow forwards just seconds after Worcester's former Northampton flanker Neil Best received a yellow card - made the difference before referee Greg Garner awarded Saints a late penalty try.
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