Premiership: London Irish shock Exeter, Northampton ease past Worcester and Gloucester win at Newcastle

Planet Rugby

London Irish claimed a memorable 18-14 victory over Exeter Chiefs in their Premiership clash at Brentford Community Stadium on Saturday.

Crossings from Matt Cornish and James Stokes along with the boot of Paddy Jackson helped the hosting team to the four points against Rob Baxter’s visiting Chiefs.

Exeter, who were missing Sam Simmonds and Luke Cowan-Dickie, scored through Olly Woodburn and Patrick Schickerling as they go home with a losing bonus point.

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The Chiefs, who dropped their Native American branding during the week, made the better start of the two sides by scoring the first try after just five minutes.

Following multiple phases in the Irish 22 after fly-half Joe Simmonds’ original break, scrum-half Jack Maunder popped to flying wing Woodburn to crash over.

Exeter skipper Simmonds then improved it for an early 7-0 advantage before adding to that further with their second score in the opening 17 minutes.

Simmonds found the corner with a penalty before their pressure was rewarded with another infringement.

Tighthead prop Schickerling took a quick-tap penalty and burrowed over with Simmonds on target for 14-0.

Back came the hosts though with hooker Cornish going over after 24 minutes from a maul but Jackson missed the extras so they trailed 14-5.

However the 30-year-old was on target eight minutes later though with a pinpoint penalty and followed it up with another to cut the gap to just three points.

Right on half-time, lightning-quick hands from Irish between Jackson and right wing Ben Loader put full-back Stokes in at the corner.

Jackson converted to give the home side an 18-14 lead at the break.

Momentum can be a huge thing in sport though and the home side took everything they had gained at the end of the first half into the second period.

On the hour mark, the Chiefs looked to be crumbling up front when they were twice penalised in an area they have built their foundations upon in the last few seasons.

With five minutes left, the home side won a penalty and from over 40 metres out, Jackson edged it just wide.

The fly-half then put another penalty shot from halfway into the corner with seven minutes left, before multiple pick and goes set up another scoring chance.

Jackson was handed the kicking tee with the clock in the red after his pack had done the hard yards but he put it wide.

In the end it did not matter, with the game already won for Irish in front of vociferous support in south west London.

Northampton too good for Worcester Warriors

The Steve Diamond era began in losing fashion at Sixways as Northampton recorded a 29-13 Premiership victory over Worcester.

Former Sale Sharks boss Diamond, currently working as Worcester’s lead rugby consultant, will succeed Alan Solomons in the post of Warriors director of rugby this summer.

Head coach Jonathan Thomas departed the club earlier this week, but Diamond can take considerable encouragement from a battling second-half performance that produced tries for prop Rory Sutherland and centre Ashley Beck.

Saints, who remain firmly in play-off contention, cruised clear through tries by centre Rory Hutchinson, hooker Sam Matavesi and scrum-half Alex Mitchell, with Wales captain Dan Biggar kicking two conversions and a penalty.

Northampton led 22-3 before Warriors’ revival, and Saints had to wait until 10 minutes from time before they could claim a bonus-point triumph when substitute hooker James Fish scored their fourth try and Biggar converted.

Scotland prop Sutherland returned for Worcester after serving a suspension imposed following his sending-off against Bath three weeks ago, while Sutherland’s Test team-mate Duhan van der Merwe also started after recovering from illness.

Centre Fraser Dingwall captained Northampton for the first time in a Premiership game, with Biggar and Scotland centre Hutchinson featuring ahead of next weekend’s Six Nations kick-off.

A scrappy opening 15 minutes ended scoreless, although Worcester looked marginally more threatening in attack as Van der Merwe roamed off his wing, probing for midfield gaps.

Northampton successfully absorbed a spell of pressure and then struck from their first attack as they drove a lineout before possession found its way to Hutchinson, who cut back inside and touched down.

Biggar converted as Saints moved seven points clear and, while Fin Smith opened Worcester’s account through a short-range penalty, Warriors then saw wing Perry Humphreys sin-binned by referee Ian Tempest for a deliberate knock-on.

Smith was forced off injured 12 minutes before half-time, which meant Wales international Owen Williams making a first appearance since tearing his hamstring almost four months ago.

And Worcester’s injury woes continued when lock Andrew Kitchener followed Smith in making an early exit, as Justin Clegg replaced him.

Kitchener had barely left the action before Saints struck again after good close-quarter work by their forwards enabled Matavesi to claim their second try.

Northampton had control of the contest as the interval approached and they claimed a third try when the ever-alert Mitchell darted clear in midfield and enjoyed an 30-metre unopposed run to the line.

Biggar converted and Northampton were in charge at the break, leading 19-3, needing one more try for a bonus-point.

Biggar opened the second-half scoring through a 44th-minute penalty, but Worcester still had their moments, notably a thrilling 40-metre surge by Van der Merwe that required a fearless Mitchell tackle to halt him.

It set up a strong attacking position, though, and Worcester’s forwards rumbled over, with Sutherland awarded the touchdown as Northampton’s advantage was cut to 14 points.

Worcester then looked like they might score again two minutes later after skipper Ted Hill broke clear, only for Saints wing Ollie Sleightholme to pull off a try-saving tackle.

But Northampton were pinned inside their own half and Worcester made further in-roads with 16 minutes remaining when Beck marked his 50th Warriors appearance by collecting a fine try.

Saints needed to regroup and they did so impressively as Fish’s touchdown and another Biggar conversion made the game safe.

Gloucester continue fine form with win over Newcastle Falcons

In the final Premiership match of the day, Gloucester made it four away wins from five in the competition with a 32-22 win against Newcastle Falcons at Kingston Park.

Wales international Louis Rees-Zammit scored a sensational try in which he set off from his own half and slalomed his way through the home side’s defence to seal five points on a day impacted by bad weather.

The match was set to start at 3pm but the impact of Storm Malik pushed it back to 7pm, and it was the Cherry and Whites who dealt better with the upheaval.

They ran in five tries through Val Rapava Ruskin, Santiago Carreras, Lewis Ludlow, Ollie Thorley and Rees-Zammit to underline their top four credentials.

Newcastle struck first as Brett Connon tamed the wind to fire over a penalty from 30 metres in the third minute.

Gloucester then went ahead from their first attack with Rapava-Ruskin being pushed over from close range following a breakdown in the right corner. The conversion was missed as the remnants of Storm Malik blew around the stadium.

The fast start for both sides continued with two tries in three minutes; firstly Adam Radwan collected a pass on the right and raced 40m downfield before cutting inside and dotting down. Connon had his conversion charged down.

Gloucester responded and Carreras scored in the corner after the Cherry and Whites created an overlap. There were suspicions of obstruction but they were waved away and Adam Hastings kicked the extra points.

Newcastle thought they had got their second try after Pete Lucock went through a gap in the defence but there was crossing from the Falcons in the build-up.

Hastings added another three points from in front of the posts as the hosts were pinged for not rolling away.

Gloucester extended their lead after 31 minutes as Ludlow powered over from close range but Hastings was off target with his kick.

Newcastle had the opportunity to close the gap six minutes later but Connon saw his kick fly narrowly wide of the upright.

The Falcons needed a positive response to get them back in the game and Mateo Carreras gave them one after a long, looping pass from Connon found the Argentinian and he ran in. The conversion was good from Connon.

Gloucester hit back just short of the hour mark through Thorley who had the space on the left to finish in the corner and give his side a bonus point. Lloyd Evans failed to get the extras.

They added their fifth try of the game only moments later, though, and it was the pick of the bunch as Rees-Zammit put on the afterburners to race from inside his own 22 and beat a couple of defenders to score a sensational try.

Charlie Maddison grabbed the last score of the game for the Falcons with seconds remaining as he powered over from close range after Santiago Socino had been yellow-carded. Will Haydon-Wood kicked the conversion.