Saracens book home semi-final berth
April 14, 2013
Saracens' David Strettle touches down for one of his three tries against Worcester at Allianz Park © Getty Images
Saracens secured a home semi-final in the Aviva Premiership play-offs with a 47-17 bonus-point win against Worcester in a highly entertaining game at Allianz Park on Sunday.
Winger David Strettle was the star performer, scoring a hat-trick of tries in the first 25 minutes as Saracens built a 23-3 lead. The Warriors hit back with tries from flanker Matt Kvesic and winger Josh Drauniniu but Sarries simply turned on the style again with replacement prop Carlos Nieto, winger Chris Ashton and No.8 Jackson Wray all crossing to complete the rout and make it 16 tries in four matches at their new home.
Elsewhere, Leicester Tigers confirmed their place in the play-offs with a 35-16 victory over London Wasps at Welford Road. The Tigers bounced back from last week's Heineken Cup exit in Toulon in some style thanks to tries from England scrum-half Ben Youngs (2), Graham Kitchener, Rob Hawkins and Adam Thompstone. A badly-depleted Wasps side, who were under the cosh for most of the game, scored just one try through Elliot Daly, the rest of the points coming from the boots of Daly and Chris Bell.
At the other end of the table, London Welsh face relegation after slumping to a 31-14 defeat at at the hands of Northampton Saints at the Kassam Stadium. A 10th successive league defeat consigned them to finishing bottom of the table and their only hope of survival is if the RFU Championship title winners - to be confirmed following play-offs late next month - do not meet Premiership entry criteria. But as the clear Championship favourites and current dominant team are Newcastle, who were a top-flight club last term, it appears inconceivable there will be a reprieve for Lyn Jones' side.
Harlequins snapped a three-game losing run and stayed on course for the play-offs with a 23-9 victory over Bath at The Stoop on Saturday. A trademark opportunist try from England scrum-half Danny Care and a 30th-birthday touchdown by winger Ugo Monye enabled defending champions Harlequins to end their three-match losing run in the Aviva Premiership and keep their top-four play-off hopes firmly on course. Care struck six minutes after half-time to rescue a season which was spiralling into decline and Monye followed up as he capitalised on a defensive mix-up in the 64th minute.
Ben Botica, a first-half replacement for injured centre Matt Hopper, kicked 13 valuable points for Harlequins, who had also lost to Munster in the quarter-finals of the Heineken Cup last Sunday. Japan-bound former All Blacks fly-half Stephen Donald, who is joining Mitsubishi Dynaboars at the end of the season, had earlier kicked Bath into a 9-6 half-time lead with three penalties.
On Friday night, Dwayne Peel touched down twice as Sale Sharks all but secured their Premiership survival with a dominant 32-9 bonus-point victory over Gloucester at Salford City Stadium. Johnny Leota, Peel and Cameron Shepherd all went over for Sale in the first half as they took a 22-6 lead into half-time. Freddie Burns responded for the Cherry and Whites with two penalties before the break and added another in the second period.
But it was not to be as the hosts' scrum-half and Mark Cueto crossed the whitewash late on to move the Sharks above London Irish into 10th and dent Gloucester's play-off hopes in the process. The result also leaves basement side London Welsh's hopes of avoiding the drop hanging by a thread with fellow strugglers London Irish now 12 points above them with just three games remaining.
Exeter Chiefs climbed back into the Heineken Cup places with a 27-6 victory over lowly London Irish at Sandy Park with the visitors missing out on the chance to secure their Premiership status and consign London Welsh to a quick return to RFU Championship. The hosts dominated much of the first half and were 12-3 up at the break thanks to four penalties from the boot of fly-half Gareth Steenson, with the Exiles' only reply coming through a Tom Homer penalty.
Steenson added a fifth penalty early in the second half and, although his opposite number Ian Humphreys replied with one of his own, Exeter crossed the whitewash twice through wing Matt Jess and replacement Dave Ewers with Henry Slade converting the latter score.
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