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Aviva Premiership round 18: England player watch

31 March 2014

  • Leicester overturn Northampton in East Midlands derby
  • Worcester oust Newcastle for first victory of the season
George Ford

Photo: Getty Images

George Ford and Danny Cipriani went head-to-head at a rain-soaked Rec on Friday evening to kick-start the 18th round of Aviva Premiership action, Sale Sharks continuing their impressive campaign by ousting Bath Rugby 12-11.

Landing four penalties from the tee, six-cap England international Cipriani was responsible for all of the visitors' points to keep Sale in the play-off hunt.

Ford managed six points of his own in reply, but despite a late try by hooker Ross Batty and some enterprise out wide from England Saxon Semesa Rokodoguni and Clermont-bound Nick Abendanon, Bath were sunk.

Saturday saw a quartet of local tussles, beginning with Gloucester Rugby’s trip to Sandy Park to face Rob Baxter’s Exeter Chiefs.

RBS 6 Nations stars Billy Twelvetrees, Ben Morgan and Jonny May returned to Nigel Davies starting lineup and each of them impressed, May stacking up four clean breaks.

However, it was Charlie Sharples – proud owner of four Test appearances since his debut against Wales in 2011 – who crossed for the decisive score in a 14-13 win for the Cherry and Whites.

Tom Johnson was full of endeavour for the home side, making 10 carries and seven tackles, but the Chiefs could not get break a dismal league run that now stands at nine defeats in their last 11 games.

Joe Marler

Photo: Getty Images

Harlequins welcomed a trio of notable returnees into their ranks for the tie against London Irish, with Mike Brown, Danny Care and skipper Chris Robshaw back on domestic duty.

Last week’s dismantling at Wembley was forgotten thanks to a 23-9 triumph over the Exiles, and each of the big names were influential.

Mike Brown maintained his wonderful form, scoring a try on the way to astonishing figures of 14 carries, three cleans breaks and nine beaten defenders. Care sniped to good effect and set up wing Sam Smith to go over with a looping pass, while Robshaw carried hard and added some skilful touches in open play.

Joe Marler was characteristically industrious, while Marland Yarde was a shining light for Irish. He made the most out of scant ball that came his way, racking up 64 metres from six carries against his future clubmates.

Saracens retained top spot over in Wycombe, Alex Goode’s fine individual try helping to see them past London Wasps 32-20. Ten carries and 12 tackles from Mako Vunipola were also extremely valuable.

Tom Wood

Photo: Getty Images

Over at Franklin’s Gardens, Leicester Tigers edged Northampton Saints 22-16 in a typically feisty East Midlands derby, putting pressure on their neighbours for a home semi-final berth.

Stuart Lancaster's blindside flanker Tom Wood was exceptional at No.8, making 16 tackles and nine carries as well as taking four lineouts. Lee Dickson made a significant impact from the bench as well, but in the end Saints came up just short.

Anthony Allen went over in the first quarter and Owen Williams kicked the remaining points to see Richard Cockerill’s charges home.

Visiting skipper Ed Slater was once more extremely prominent, Manu Tuilagi made some powerful surges and Ben Youngs sparked Leicester’s go-forward well before receiving a late yellow card.

Finally, Sunday saw Worcester Warriors prevail over Newcastle Falcons 17-12 at Kingston Park for their maiden win of a miserable season. In doing so, they kept alive some slim hope of avoiding relegation.

It was Josh Drauniniu’s try 10 minutes from time that decided the matter, with two earlier penalties each from Chris Pennell and Ryan Lamb proving enough to squeeze out Dean Richard’s Falcons.