Saracens maintain perfect start to season
September 14, 2013
Quins' Joe Marler clashes with Saints' Tom Mercey during their clash on Friday night © PA Photos
Saracens capitalised on a red card for Gloucester prop Nick Wood to crush their rivals 44-12 in their Premiership clash at Allianz Park on Sunday.
Wood received the second fastest red card in the league's history after stamping twice on the exposed head of openside Jacques Burger with just 73 seconds on the clock. The quickest sending off belongs to Mike Watson of London Scottish, who lasted just 42 seconds against Bath in 1999. The incident gave referee Wayne Barnes an easy decision to make and Wood trudged off, his hand clamped to his forehead in recognition of his moment of madness. It left Gloucester facing the title contenders with 14 men for virtually the entire game and their resistance lasted only until the third quarter when Saracens pulled clear. Tries from Joel Tomkins, Schalk Brits and Billy Vunipola and two from David Strettle produced Saracens' second bonus-point victory in two matches, while Owen Farrell kicked 17 points.
Northampton Saints alsomade it two wins from two with a 13-6 victory over Harlequins at a rain-drenched Twickenham Stoop on Friday night. The heavy rain that began falling in the afternoon continued throughout and it took the strength of Northampton's giant Wales wing George North to help break the deadlock with the score tied at 6-6. North, the Premiership's marquee signing of the summer, rode two tackles as Saints thrust deep into Harlequins' half. A set-piece later Luther Burrell spun the ball wide to Jamie Elliot, who combined with James Wilson to send the Kiwi outside centre storming over for the decisive try in the 63rd minute. Stephen Myler converted and kicked two penalties, but it was a harrowing night for his opposite number Nick Evans, the former New Zealand fly-half who landed only two of six penalty attempts.
Bath continued their strong start to the season with a 27-20 victory over old rivals Leicester Tigers at The Rec. Former Tigers player George Ford guided Gary Gold's men to victory with the ex-world junior player of the year kicking five penalties and converting centre Jonathan Joseph's first-half interception try.
Matt Banahan also scored before the break, giving Bath a commanding 18-point interval advantage after Tigers were briefly reduced to 13 men when front-row forwards Tom Youngs and Logovi'i Mulipola received yellow cards. Leicester, though, displayed admirable character and they fought back brilliantly through second-half tries by Steve Mafi, Ed Slater and Vereniki Goneva that ultimately secured a losing bonus point.
Newcastle Falcons notched their first victory of the season with a narrow 15-14 victory over Sale Sharks at the AJ Bell Stadium in Salford on Friday night. The Falcons responded impressively to being overpowered 21-0 in torrential rain at home to Bath last week on their return to the top flight. They were equal to the Sharks, surprise 22-16 winners at Gloucester last weekend, in greasy conditions following pre-match rain.
The visitors' points all came from penalties, four by former Scotland fly-half Phil Godman and the clincher through his replacement in this match Rory Clegg. Home captain Dan Braid scored the game's only try 10 minutes before half-time. Yet home number 10 Nick Macleod, preferred again to former England fly-half Danny Cipriani, rued missing the conversion and two penalties.
A late Ian Humphreys penalty secured London Irish a barely-deserved 20-18 victory over Worcester Warriors at Sixways on Saturday. The Exiles won just once away in the Aviva Premiership last season but some late ill-discipline from the hosts ensured they were able to immediately get off the mark this term on their travels. Marland Yarde scored a pair of tries but it was Humphreys who was the match winner with four minutes left after Ed Shervington was penalised. David Lemi and Ignacio Mieres scored the Warriors' two tries with the Argentinian adding eight points from his boot.
In the other game on Saturday, Exeter Chiefs opened their account in this season's Aviva Premiership with a 30-26 victory over London Wasps at Sandy Park. The Devon side, who suffered their largest Premiership defeat at Northampton Saints last time out, went inside at the break with a 16-12 lead after wing Tom James crossed for the only try of the opening 40 minutes. Fly-half Gareth Steenson converted and added three penalties while Andy Goode replied with four for Wasps. The Chiefs scored two further tries in the second half through flanker James Scaysbrook and a second from James, converted by Steenson. But Wasps kept battling with tries from wing Christian Wade and flanker Ashley Johnson both converted by Goode.
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