The return of their England contingent helped Saracens ease past Leicester Tigers in the Premiership as they won 32-17 at the StoneX Stadium on Saturday.
Maro Itoje, Andy Christie, Billy Vunipola and Jamie George crossed for the home outfit while Owen Farrell kicked 12 points off the tee in a bonus-point triumph.
Tom Whiteley and Jamie Shillcock crossed for the Tigers as they went down to a third defeat in four matches thus far under their new head coach, Dan McKellar.
Unlike Saracens, McKellar had opted to wait to bring back his international contingent, but it was still the visitors who were enjoying the early possession.
Shillcock kicked his side to an early lead from a penalty as he picked up from his clinical display from the tee in round three.
Saracens reacted superbly, with Ben Earl and Alex Lozowski making the most of a quick break and then recycling it to Itoje to score. Farrell calmly converted.
With the lead, the hosts began to click into gear, and the trouble they were causing in the Tigers’ half proved too much as Christie muscled his way over for another.
Farrell had no issues in converting his second as Sarries took a stranglehold on the match, increasing the lead to 14-3 inside 30 minutes.
Despite some sustained pressure in the Saracens’ 22, the visitors were unable to break the opposition down and put more points on the board in the stages leading to the interval.
After the break, the home side were swift in picking up where they left off, with the TMO deeming Vunipola successful in powering through from close range to score the hosts’ third try of the day.
Leicester were struggling to find a response and looked to the bench for some energy, but things went from bad to worse as Sarries locked up their bonus point.
It was George scoring this time from a strong maul in the far corner to extend the champions’ lead.
The home side looked to have switched off following their fourth try, with Whiteley pouncing and darting through to score after a Farrell kick was charged down, closing the gap to 26-10.
Leicester’s success was short-lived, however, and they were pegged back in their own half once more and forced to concede a penalty, allowing Farrell to add an extra three points to his tally for the day.
McKellar’s men kept coming, though, and Shillcock provided more points for the visitors when he darted through, handing off Farrell on his way to the line before converting his own try.
As the light over the StoneX Stadium faded, the match faded agonisingly out of reach for the visitors when Farrell converted yet another penalty to secure the 32-17 win for the hosts.
Northampton Saints held their nerve to secure a hard-fought 24-18 win over Bath.
The Saints had moved into a nine-point lead in the second period after George Hendy added to first-half tries from Tom Pearson and Alex Coles.
But Bath refused to go quietly, and they pushed hard until a Sam Graham breakdown penalty sealed the win for the Saints.
Bath had headed to the cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens with a rotated team that was without star fly-half Finn Russell.
Fin Smith put Northampton ahead inside the opening three minutes as he landed a long-range penalty.
Orlando Bailey soon levelled the scores at the other end, but he missed another chance soon after, taking too long to line his penalty attempt up, leading to Saints being handed a scrum.
Northampton soon punished the away fly-half, setting up a fine move that resulted in Tom James firing a fantastic flat pass to Pearson, who broke the line and scored.
Smith converted to make it 10-3, but Bath reacted well and grew into the game, producing a patient period of pressure that led to Thomas du Toit charging over for a try. Bailey converted to level the scores.
Northampton refused to be deterred, and James was looking razor-sharp. The home scrum-half opened the door for the Saints’ second try, bamboozling Bath with his footwork before offloading for Coles to score.
Smith added the extras, but Bath responded just before the break, working the ball well down the left before Tom de Glanville gathered and charged over the line. Bailey could not convert, leaving Northampton two points up at the interval.
Northampton did not waste much time adding to that in the second period. A clever lineout move resulted in Curtis Langdon setting up wing Hendy, who cruised in for his side’s third try of the game.
Smith converted to make it 24-15, and Northampton soon had some defensive work to do, winning a big penalty at a Bath scrum five metres from the home line.
Bath turned to their bench, bringing the likes of Charlie Ewels, Alfie Barbeary and Ben Spencer into the game.
— Planet Rugby (@PlanetRugby) November 4, 2023
Northampton did have a couple of spells in the Bath half but failed to add to their lead, meaning the away side were well in the game.
And the hosts were having to work hard in defence as pressure came their way on a fairly regular basis, with Spencer having an impact.
Bath were able to cut the gap to just six points when Ethan Waller was penalised, Spencer slotting the penalty with ease.
Tension was rising in the home ranks with 10 minutes to go, and Northampton were clinging on, with only a Max Ojomoh knock-on preventing Bath from scoring.
Bath kept coming and coming, looking ominous, but Graham got over the ball to spark celebrations among the home fans as their side moved into the top four.
Louis Lynagh capped his 50th club appearance with a try as Harlequins put Newcastle Falcons to the sword in a six-try 40-12 victory.
Winless Falcons dominated the early stages but trailed 21-0 at halftime after tries from Sam Riley, Dino Lamb, Nick David, and a perfect kicking display from Jarrod Evans.
Captain Alex Dombrandt and wings Lynagh and Tyrone Green then crossed to secure the bonus-point and lift Quins to the top of the table, while a penalty try and a Jamie Blamire score gave the Falcons something to show for their efforts.
The Falcons had earlier made a very promising start, nearly scoring off the first 22 entry of the match before the returning Matias Moroni was bundled into touch.
Fly-half Rory Jennings then had a golden chance to open the scoring with a penalty from in front of the posts but fired wide, much to the amusement of a sold-out Twickenham Stoop.
He then compounded a poor start by kicking dead with Falcons again in possession deep inside the Quins half, as the visitors’ strong opening amounted to nothing.
They were punished for their profligacy when hooker Bryan Byrne was sin-binned for a deliberate knock-on just 16 minutes into his first league start for Falcons.
From the resulting line-out, a catch-and-drive set up hooker Riley for his first league try since March.
It was another unlikely scorer who grabbed Quins’ second, as a succession of offloads allowed flanker Lamb to slide in between the posts on 25 minutes.
Newcastle kept threatening and a break from Mateo Carreras nearly led to their first try, but he was thwarted by the recovering David before Lennox Anyanwu made a vital turnover.
Quins’ offload game was a strength all afternoon and carved the Falcons open for a third try on the stroke of half time, as Dombrandt popped onto David, who arrived like a steam train to muscle his way over.
Quins signalled their intention of putting the game to bed early in the second half, opting for a scrum after winning a penalty in front of the sticks.
WOW. JUST. WOW!
— Planet Rugby (@PlanetRugby) November 4, 2023
The bonus-point try followed just a few phases later, as Dombrandt gathered an offload from two metres out to touch down.
A fifth Quins try arrived four minutes later, as Lynagh, who had earlier led the team onto the pitch, dived acrobatically into the left corner after some quick hands.
Falcons pulled one back through a penalty try, but Quins came again, with a sublime diving finish from Green after an inch-perfect cross-kick from replacement Marcus Smith on his return from international duty.
Hooker Blamire crossed for the final score of the game, but the Falcons stayed rooted to the bottom of the table after a fourth defeat.