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Aviva Premiership round 16: England player watch

03 March 2014

  • Alex Goode stars as Saracens down Bath
  • Manu Tuilagi returns for Tigers in Newcastle
Alex Goode

Photo: Getty Images

No fewer than eight of England’s wider RBS 6 Nations squad were on show last Friday evening at The Rec as Bath welcomed Saracens to begin the 16th round of Aviva Premiership action.

With Anthony Watson, George Ford, Kyle Eastmond and Dave Attwood facing Alex Goode, Mako Vunipola, Brad Barritt and Richard Wigglesworth an absorbing clash in the West Country clash was full of subplots.

In the event it was Goode that deservedly took the majority of headlines after moving to fly half just 30 seconds before kick-off when Charlie Hodgson was taken ill. Justifying Stuart Lancaster’s faith in him as an option at stand-off, the 25 year-old guided the visitors to a dogged 23-10 win by kicking 13 points including a 40-metre drop-goal.

Watson, Eastmond and Attwood – with 12 carries on his own – were relentless in their efforts to unlock the Saracens defence, but Barritt and Saxon George Kruis led an immense defensive effort, racking up 31 tackles between them.

Will Hooley

Photo: Getty Images

That took Mark McCall’s team to the top of the league table, but Northampton Saints immediately usurped them on Saturday. A late surge saw them thrash Gloucester Rugby 39-13 at Franklin’s Gardens.

Though Freddie Burns’ second penalty minutes after the break had tied it up at 13-13, a raft of replacements – including Lee Dickson and Ben Foden – upped the ante. Will Hooley and Tom Stephenson, England Under 20 players past and present, were among their side’s five tries.

Another of last year’s Junior World Championship-winning crop was at the heart of a positive result down in Devon, Henry Slade kicking eight points at Exeter Chiefs ousted London Irish 18-0.

Luke Cowan-Dickie was at hooker for Rob Baxter’s men, making four carries for 39 metres and six tackles. Marland Yarde also made his first start in 14 weeks and impressed, his 10 carries worth 53 metres, beating two defenders on the way.

Worcester Warriors' winless campaign continued agonisingly at The Twickenham Stoop, Harlequins storming back from 13-0 down on the back of scores from Sam Smith and Harry Sloan to prevail 21-20.

Tom Youngs tackles Alex Tait

Photo: Getty Images

Elsewhere, Danny Cipriani was an influential replacement as Sale Sharks overturned London Wasps. The seven-cap man kicked 11 points and set up a try for Johnny Leota with a slick pass as his old club were sunk 21-17.

Manu Tuilagi’s return was the big story on Sunday and Leicester Tigers’ comprehensive 41-18 defeat of Newcastle Falcons did feature some typically destructive play from the centre.

However, it was Ed Slater and Tom Youngs who were most crucial to the win, their huge industry and accuracy up front defying Newcastle’s early enthusiasm and snatching forward ascendancy.

Tuilagi, Ben Youngs and Toby Flood were all shown yellow cards during a fractured second half, but Tigers were good value for their bonus-point victory.