London Irish boost survival hopes
February 24, 2013
Saracens' Charlie Hodgson is caught by Leicester's Tom Croft and Ed Slater © Getty Images
London Irish edged themselves away from the Aviva Premiership trap door with a 30-19 victory over London Wasps at the Madejski Stadium on Sunday.
Buoyed by an outstanding performance from No.8 Chris Hala'ufia and 20 points from the boot of Tom Homer, they turned around a 16-11 deficit to finish comfortably on top. Wasps were disappointing, being outgunned up front where they badly missed the firepower of number eight Billy Vunipola and failed to take advantage of Hala'ufia's spell in the sin-bin. With this win Irish will be strong favourites to avoid the drop as they have fellow strugglers London Welsh, Sale and Worcester as their three remaining home fixtures.
Saracens produced a stunning second-half fightback to beat great rivals Leicester 32-27 in snowy conditions at Welford Road. Trailing 17-6 at half time, Saracens scored four tries in a one-sided second-half to stay in second place in the Aviva Premiership. Saracens' tries came from wingers David Strettle (two), James Short and fullback Chris Wyles, with fly half Charlie Hodgson kicking 12 points. Julian Salvi and Dan Bowden scored for Leicester, who were also awarded a penalty try right on full-time when Strettle deliberately knocked on and was sin binned.
Northampton edged Bath 25-23 at Franklin's Gardens with Jamie Elliott's double helping them towards their win. With 20 minutes to go, Northampton looked to be heading towards a routine home win at 20-9 in front, but young referee Luke Pearce sparked the game into life by awarding a controversial penalty try and when centre Semesa Rokoduguni followed up with an another, Bath led 23-20 with 10 minutes to go. But England discard Ben Foden sent Elliott over for his second try with seven minutes left and Northampton clung on for a vital win.
Exeter crossed for five tries as they hammered London Welsh 47-16 at Sandy Park . Fly-half Gareth Steenson booted 22 points as the Chiefs stay eighth and London Welsh are now just three points above bottom-of-the-table Sale Sharks. The home side opened a comfortable 19-9 lead at the break thanks to four penalties from Steenson and his conversion of the only try of the half, which came from hooker Jack Yeandle. Gavin Henson replied with three penalties, but the visitors were put to the sword in the second half. Further tries from skipper Tommy Hayes, Damian Welch, Sireli Naqelevuki and Jack Nowell, all converted by Steenson, steered the Devon side to their deserved bonus-point victory.
Harlequins strengthened their grip at the top of the table with a 30-21 victory over basement side Sale Sharks at Salford City Stadium. Cameron Shepherd's try took Sale into an early lead, but Quins controlled the rest of the half with Tom Williams touching down and Ben Botica adding eight points with the boot. Botica continued his fine form in the second period with another penalty before converted scores from Nick Easter and Charlie Matthews sealed a fine victory, their 12th in 13 games. Richie Vernon and Sam Tuitupou scored consolation efforts in the last few minutes for Sale, but the result means they still reside at the bottom of the league.
Gloucester climbed back into the play-off places with a dramatic 29-23 victory over Worcester Warriors at Kingsholm. With 20 seconds remaining, Jonny May burst away on the left flank and reached the visitors' 22 before attempting to step inside fullback Errie Claasens, who felled the flying wing with a trip. On the advice of the TMO Claasens was sent off and Gloucester awarded a penalty try, converted by Rob Cook, which broke Worcester hearts as they seemed set for a shock win following tries from centres Josh Matavesi and Alex Grove.
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