Premiership: Bristol Bears, Leicester Tigers and London Irish continue play-off push

Planet Rugby
Three Premiership matches took place this Sunday, with Leicester Tigers, London Irish, and Bristol Bears notching up important victories over Gloucester, Sale Sharks and Harlequins, respectively.

Three Premiership matches took place this Sunday, with Leicester Tigers, London Irish and Bristol Bears notching up important victories over Gloucester, Sale Sharks and Harlequins respectively.

Despite a poor start to the season, Bristol Bears are clawing their way into a play-off spot, and their win over Harlequins only strengthens their bid.

The Bears scored seven tries, with Harry Thacker and Charles Piutau both recording braces and Gabriel Ibitoye, Semi Radradra and Harry Randall also crossing.

Harlequins flanker Jack Kenningham scored a try double of his own from close-range drives while wingers Josh Bassett and Cadan Murley ensured the visitors returned home with a bonus point.

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After four Premiership wins on the bounce, Bristol are now seven points from the play-off places with a game in hand over their rivals. Harlequins sit eighth, one point and one place below the Bears.

Bristol wasted little time in opening the scoring with hooker Thacker spinning off the side of a maul from a lineout to dot the ball down in the corner.

But the lead was short-lived as Kenningham dived over a ruck after sustained bombardment by the visiting forwards.

The tries continued to flow in the dry conditions in BS3 with Piutau unlocking the Londoners’ defence with an out-the-back offload to Ibitoye who cut in off the left wing to run in under the posts, celebrating before dotting down against his former club.

Shortly after, Bristol winger Siva Naulago had a try disallowed for a knock on, but the Bears fans only had to wait a couple of minutes to celebrate again. The Fijian fooled the Harlequins’ defence with a dummy run to open up a gap for Thacker, who finished an arcing run under the posts which started off the top of a lineout 20 metres out.

Within 24 minutes the hosts had the bonus point wrapped up as fly-half AJ MacGinty delayed a pass beautifully before hitting Radradra on a straight line which again ended under the sticks.

Harlequins hit back with a nice foray down the left wing, working an overlap to put Dino Lamb away along the touchline before the lock passed back inside to Bassett to finish the cutting move.

USA international MacGinty added a penalty to take his tally to 11 points and put Bristol 31-12 ahead after 30 minutes before he limped soon after to be replaced by Sam Bedlow.

Bristol opened the scoring in the second half with a penalty from the boot of James Williams.

Kenningham then powered over from close range for his second of the afternoon before the Bears responded with a superb purple patch to blow the game out of the water.

First Randall sniped his way over and Harlequins lost hooker Sam Riley to the sin bin for a high tackle.

With the extra man, Piutau finished two wonderful, sweeping attacking moves to continue his rich vein of personal form.

Murley’s interception from Bedlow’s pass and 80m run-in secured the bonus point for Harlequins, on a day largely to forget for Tabai Matson’s men.

Leicester defeat Gloucester at Kingsholm

Leicester won 26-5 at Kingsholm to maintain their recent dominance over Gloucester and keep alive their hopes of an end-of-season play-off spot.

It was Leicester’s sixth consecutive win over Gloucester and their 14th in the last 17 fixtures between the clubs.

Their tries came from Mike Brown, Julian Montoya, Ben Youngs and Jasper Wiese, with Handre Pollard adding three conversions.

Gloucester’s sole response was a Jonny May try, with this defeat a bitter blow to their playoff hopes.

Gloucester exerted early pressure with a couple of close-range driving lineouts, but they lost possession at the second to enable the Tigers to clear the danger.

Minutes later, Leicester had a similar period of pressure, but they also could not capitalise as the hosts broke away with a superb passage of play.

First May, playing against his old club, burst away down the right wing before a long pass from Santiago Carreras saw Ollie Thorley run 40 metres on the opposite flank, but desperate defence from Tigers kept their line intact.

It was Leicester’s turn to threaten when Matt Scott made a clean break and looked a likely scorer, but the centre was indecisive in not running hard for the line, and the cover defence was able to haul him down.

As a result, an evenly-contested first quarter finished scoreless, but soon after Leicester suffered a blow when their wing Harry Potter was sin-binned for a deliberate knock-on.

In Potter’s absence, the home side were able to build up a real head of steam and, aided by frequent penalties in their favour; they were able to batter the opposition line.

It seemed Gloucester must score, but remarkably Tigers held out with Potter able to return with no damage done to the scoreboard, and it remained at 0-0 at the interval.

Second half

After the restart, the home side continued to have the lion’s share of possession and territory, but in the 48th minute, Leicester replaced both their locks.

One of the new faces George Martin, made an immediate impact by brushing aside Jordy Reid’s tackle on a thunderous burst into the home 22.

From that position, Gloucester were penalised, and Tigers appeared to have scored when Hanro Liebenberg reached out to touchdown, but TMO replays showed there was a double movement from the flanker.

However, Leicester were not to be denied, and they broke the deadlock after 55 minutes when Brown finished off a succession of close-range drives.

Pollard’s conversion rebounded back off a post, but five minutes later, his side scored another when their skipper Montoya finished off a driving lineout.

Pollard succeeded with a more difficult conversion before Gloucester finally got a reward for their commitment with a try from May.

The game looked in the balance, but Lewis Ludlow was yellow-carded for a needless deliberate knock-on, with Tigers capitalising with a try from Youngs.

Gloucester’s woes continued when May followed his captain into the sin-bin, but although Ludlow returned, Wiese powered off for the bonus-point try with the last play of the game. 

London Irish boost play-off hopes

London Irish gave their play-off aspirations a boost as they overcame second-placed Sale 36-18 in a compelling battle at the Gtech Community Stadium.

Tries from Hugh O’Sullivan, Agustin Creevy, Lucio Cinti, Tarek Haffar and James Stokes secured the bonus-point victory.

Jean-Luc du Preez and Sam Dugdale’s scores had kept the game within reach for the Sharks until the closing minutes, before two late home tries sealed matters.

Exiles’ fast start

The hosts took an early lead when Paddy Jackson slotted three points after a Sale breakdown infringement. Irish then added the opening try as Rory Jennings found space in the left wide channel and coolly passed inside to O’Sullivan for an easy run-in.

The visitors soon got themselves on the scoreboard, as Rob du Preez converted a simple penalty after being handed the kicking tee ahead of George Ford, who is knocking on Steve Borthwick’s door following a spell in his England camp earlier this week.

The opportunistic Creevy majestically hacked a loose ball for a 50:22, before Irish’s driving maul steamed over to allow the former Argentina captain to finish off the chance he created with a score.

The hooker’s countryman Cinti was next over the whitewash, as a Jackson cross-field kick reached the winger, who suavely cut inside Tom O’Flaherty for the five-pointer.

But Irish’s party was brought to a halt as Facundo Gigena received a 10-minute bin sentence after making shoulder contact with Joe Carpenter’s head in a tackle.

The loosehead prop was indebted to Tom Pearson, whose low tackle from behind forced the Sale full-back to drop to a knee as the hit registered, saving Gigena from receiving his marching orders from referee Matthew Carley.

Sharks capitalised on their man advantage as Jonny Hill slammed the ball firmly into Jean-Luc du Preez’s breadbasket, and he streaked clear of the maul before driving over before the interval.

Second half

Following an outstanding kick to touch from Ford, Sale referred to their bread-and-butter once again, utilising the destructiveness of their pack to maul over as Dugdale touched down.

The 5ft 9in Jennings epitomised the spirit of rugby with a sacrificial try-saver that forced 6ft 5in Cobus Wiese into touch with a hit that saw the bigger man replaced moments later.

A Ford penalty moments later reduced the gap to four points, but the marauding Pearson soon broke free of a tackle, before Josh Caulfield passed outward to allow prop Haffar to show some wheels as he outpaced Carpenter to the line.

Another Jackson cross-field kick retrieved by Cinti was this time passed inside to Stokes, allowing the Exiles faithful to get the party started.

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