Sale Sharks proved too strong for Worcester Warriors at the AJ Bell Stadium and Newcastle Falcons claimed a narrow win over Gloucester at Kingston Park.
Sale 36-26 Worcester
AJ Bell Stadium
Sam James’ early try was countered by Francois Hougaard in a thrilling first 15 at the AJ Bell Stadium. Joe Taufete’e put Warriors ahead for the first time, but James’ second and Mike Haley’s effort put Sale 21-14 up at the break.
Byron McGuigan stretched the lead but a yellow card to Halani Aulika allowed Worcester back in, with Chris Pennell going over in the final 10 minutes. Ben Curry sealed the win though, with a late try from Biyi Alo grabbing a bonus point for Warriors as they fell to a 36-26 loss.
Looking for their first win on Sharks soil since 2008, Worcester didn’t start in the best way as James went through six minutes in.
Denny Solomona sped beyond the chasing Worcester defenders and fed it to Sale’s 13, whose try was awarded after the TMO checked it over. AJ MacGinty added the extras as the hosts produced a powerful opening.
But Worcester recovered quickly and Hougaard was the man who found a gap in the back line to level the scores. Perry Humphreys kicked things off with his break, Ben Te’o helped him out and Hougaard finished the job, allowing Mills to convert and make it 7-7.
The visitors were getting on top and took the lead courtesy of Taufete’e. Having denied Sale in the maul, a drive forward had the hosts on the back foot and Taufete’e crashed over, Mills converting again.
But despite being on top, Worcester squandered the lead as James grabbed his second and Sale’s 1000th try in the Premiership. 10 phases came and went before James found the line, the recipient of a kind deflection to make it 14-14.
Sharks took a lead into the break as they got their third try right on half-time. Haley’s run from 30 yards was timed to perfection and he pierced the Worcester defence to go through, providing a 21-14 lead.
Neither side started the second 40 well, with kicking the order of the first 10 minutes in a spell of little quality. Sale almost went through as the livewire Haley again bore down on the line, but a challenge and subsequent knock on stopped Warriors minor panic. And it was Worcester’s turn to go close.
They thought they’d gone over through Perry Humphreys, but the TMO’s countless replays proved he was held up inches away. And the action went straight up the other end as Sale made it 26-14.
McGuigan worked some magic in the build up, having been left with little avenues to go down after being fed possession by Josh Beaumont. Going it alone, he chipped beyond Chris Pennell, collected and crashed down for the most improbable of tries. The bonus point was secured and the conversion went through.
Halani Aulika was sent to the sin-bin though, which gave Worcester just a glimmer of hope of getting back into it.
And they took that opportunity with both hands in Aulika’s absence. Pennell went through after being shown up at the other end, finishing Ryan Lamb’s searching long pass.
Lamb was on hand to convert but MacGinty’s penalty maintained an eight point gap between the sides as they headed into the final five.
And it was job done when the fifth try came in. Curry added a bit of spice to the night with a wonderful try, muscling his way over having stolen the ball and finishing any worries the Sharks may have had in the process.
A late yellow to Mike Phillips meant they only had 14 at the end, but it mattered little. Worcester had the final say with another try, Alo the man with ball in hand as bodies flew over the line.
Tries: James 2, Haley, McGuigan, B Curry
Cons: MacGinty 4
Yellow Cards: Aulika, Phillips
Try: Hougaard, Taufete’e, Pennell, Alo
Cons: Mills 2, Lamb
Sale Sharks: 15 Mike Haley, 14 Denny Solomona, 13 Sam James, 12 Mark Jennings, 11 Byron McGuigan, 10 AJ MacGinty, 9 Mike Phillips, 8 Josh Beaumont (c), 7 Tom Curry, 6 Cameron Neild, 5 Andrei Ostrikov, 4 Bryn Evans, 3 Halani Aulika, 2 Rob Webber, 1 Ross Harrison
Replacements: 16 Ben Curry, 17 Jake Pope, 18 Kieran Longbottom, 19 George Nott, 20 Laurence Pearce, 21 James Mitchell, 22 Sam Bedlow, 23 Josh Charnley
Worcester Warriors: 15 Chris Pennell, 14 Perry Humphreys, 13 Jackson Willison, 12 Ben Te’o, 11 Josh Adams, 10 Ryan Mills,9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Marco Mama, 7 Sam Lewis, 6 Chris Vui, 5 Will Spencer, 4 Donncha O’Callaghan (c), 3 Nick Schonert, 2 Joe Taufete’e, 1 Ryan Bower
Replacements: 16 Jaba Bregvadze, 17 Ryan Grant, 18 Biyi Alo, 19 Darren Barry, 20 Dewald Potgieter, 21 Luke Baldwin, 22 Ryan Lamb, 23 Wynand Olivier
Referee: Matthew Carley
Assistant Referees: Hamish Smales, Wayne Falla
TMO: Trevor Fisher
Newcastle 16–14 Gloucester
Juan Pablo Socino put Falcons ahead midway through the first half with the opener, but tries either side of the break from Jonny May and Tom Marshall turned the scoreline in favour of Gloucester.
Falcons had chances to go back ahead but it looked like the game had gone. That was until Joel Hodgson’s ice-cool penalty at the death turned the scoreline around and gave Falcons the 16-14 win.
Both teams came into this one in indifferent form, with Newcastle hoping to complete the double over Gloucester for the first time in five seasons.
A quick opening produced no points, mainly thanks to a try-saving challenge from Micky Young blocking Charlie Sharples route to the line. Mike Delany’s post hitting penalty was the closest either side came to breaking the deadlock in the first quarter of an hour.
Socino thought he’d opened the scoring with a try, but the TMO cut his celebrations short. But he didn’t have too long to wait before getting himself and his side onto the scoreboard.
Only moments after the disappointment, the Argentine nipped over from a couple of yards out after Gloucester failed to withstand Falcons pressing. Delany made it a seven point lead and it was the least his side deserved.
But Gloucester levelled three minutes past the 40 as May went through to get the visitors back on terms. It was their first decent attack and the influential Willi Heinz passed into the arms of May, who evaded two challenges to go through. Billy Twelvetrees’ two saw the sides go in at 7-7.
Falcons retook the lead after half-time, with Joel Hodgson’s penalty putting them three points ahead. The lead didn’t last though as Gloucester went right up the other end after earlier being saved by the TMO, this time they were helped by him.
Marshall hunted down his own kick and was adjudged to have made it there in time, Twelvetrees converting again to give the visitors their first lead of the night.
The second half was scrappy but a Hodgson three pointer cut the gap down to a single point as the final 10 minutes remained finely balanced for either side to nick the win.
It was a nervy ending for Gloucester who were denied a try after Tom Denton went over, replays showing he spilt the ball in the process. And a yellow to Lloyd Evans for a high tackle leaving them a man light for the final moments.
Falcons had chances and had Sinoti Sinoti not thrown a pass straight out of play, things could have finished very differently. But despite knocking on in the final moments, Newcastle were given one last chance in the form of a penalty.
And with everything on the shoulders of Hodgson, he kept his nerve to give Falcons a 16-14 victory with the final kick.
Pens: Hodgson 3
Tries: May, Marshall
Cons: Twelvetrees 2
Yellow Cards: Evans
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Alex Tait, 14 Vereniki Goneva, 13 Chris Harris, 12 Juan Pablo Socino, 11 Marcus Watson, 10 Mike Delany, 9 Michael Young, 8 Ally Hogg, 7 Will Welch (c), 6 Mark Wilson, 5 Evan Olmstead, 4 Calum Green, 3 David Wilson, 2 Kyle Cooper, 1 Rob Vickers
Replacements: 16 Scott Lawson, 17 Ben Harris, 18 Jon Welsh, 19 Will Witty, 20 Callum Chick, 21 Sonatane Takulua, 22 Joel Hodgson, 23 Sinoti Sinoti
Gloucester: 15 Tom Marshall, 14 Charlie Sharples, 13 Henry Trinder, 12 Mark Atkinson, 11 Jonny May, 10 Billy Twelvetrees, 9 Willi Heinz (c), 8 Ben Morgan, 7 Jacob Rowan, 6 Sione Kalamafoni, 5 Mariano Galarza, 4 Tom Savage, 3 John Afoa, 2 Motu Matu’u, 1 Paddy McAllister
Replacements: 16 Richard Hibbard, 17 Yann Thomas, 18 Josh Hohneck, 19 Tom Denton, 20 Lewis Ludlow, 21 Callum Braley, 22 Lloyd Evans, 23 Henry Purdy
Referee: Luke Pearce
Assistant Referees: Anthony Woodthorpe, Gareth Copsey
TMO: Geoffrey Warren