Category Archive: Premiership Rugby

Premiership Rugby News

May 21

Thrilling Premiership semi-finals hint at a Twickenham treat yet to come | Robert Kitson

If the forthcoming final comes anywhere close to matching the level of entertainment in these matches then supporters are guaranteed a cracking game

Assuming both teams can still walk after two truly epic Premiership semi-finals, the English club season is set for a ripper of a Twickenham finale. If the showdown between Exeter Chiefs and Wasps is even half as thrilling as Saturday’s twin peaks it will be a rare treat, even if the significant shoulder injury that has ruled Billy Vunipola out of the Lions tour has now cast a cloud over the latter stages of the domestic season.

On paper it will look pretty routine to anyone who missed the games in favour of, say, attending a society wedding: the top two regular season sides made home advantage count and will now meet in the final. That simplistic summary does not reflect the intensely dramatic reality: the aggregate margins at Sandy Park and the Ricoh Arena amounted to just three points and neither victory was sealed until the closing seconds.

Related: Exeter into Premiership final as Sam Simmonds stuns Saracens with late try

Related: Wasps go to Premiership final as Josh Bassett’s late try floors Leicester

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May 21

Exeter pack shows Saracens there are worse things than Beast of Bodmin | Robert Kitson

It was as if everything Exeter had been working on for nine months had been distilled into one breezy May afternoon as they ended Saracens’ dream of a ‘double double’

With Exeter hosting the Devon county show and the European champions on the same day, this was always going to be a rare weekend in the west. There was probably a similar amount of prime beef on display at both venues and, rugby-wise, the winning rosette ended up pinned on the most popular of local rumps. The Chiefs are going back to Twickenham and this may yet prove the most significant 80 minutes in their history.

Related: Exeter into Premiership final as Sam Simmonds stuns Saracens with late try

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May 20

Wasps’ Kurtley Beale in race to be fit for swan song in Premiership final

• ‘It’s a hamstring – fingers crossed it’s not too bad’
• Wasps full-back aiming for Twickenham final against Exeter

Dai Young remains optimistic Kurtley Beale will be available for the Premiership final, which would be the No15’s last match for Wasps before he returns to Australia.

“He went off with a bit of a hamstring injury. Fingers crossed it’s not too bad,” the Wasps director of rugby said. “There’s a bit of a tight turnaround. Not ever having had a hamstring injury myself, I don’t know how quickly it can be done. I’m really hoping we can get him to Twickenham, because it would be a really fitting last game for him.”

Related: Wasps go to Premiership final as Josh Bassett’s late try floors Leicester

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May 20

Gareth Steenson says Exeter can win Premiership after ending Saracens run

• Chiefs fly-half Gareth Steenson says team will ‘go hard’ against Wasps
• Mark McCall says of Saracens’ 18-16 defeat: ‘We can hold our heads high’

Exeter believe they have what it takes to become champions after coming from behind to defeat the European Cup holders, Saracens with a last-minute try before a record crowd at Sandy Park.

The try by their replacement No8 Sam Simmonds from a driving maul, after Henry Slade’s 60-metre kick to touch had set up the lineout, took Exeter to their second consecutive final and was Saracens’ first defeat in nine knock-out matches since losing to Clermont Auvergne in the 2015 Champions Cup semi-final.

Related: Exeter into Premiership final as Sam Simmonds stuns Saracens with late try

Related: Wasps grab Premiership final place as Josh Bassett’s late try floors Leicester

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May 20

Wasps go to Premiership final as Josh Bassett’s late try floors Leicester

• Wasps 21-20 Leicester
• Tigers battle back to lead but undone in final minute

The second semi-final here matched the first at Exeter as an epic of scarcely conceivable drama and intensity. Finally, after a second half that touched extraordinary heights, it was Wasps who stepped clear and on to Twickenham to face the Chiefs, stealing yet another victory at this new home of theirs at the very end.

Leicester, after the season they have had, came here without so much as a prayer but put in a remarkable performance when it mattered and not for the first time recently Wasps were forced to find a way to snatch victory. They did so in the only way they know how – by running and running again and again in a bewildering variety of angles. That Leicester’s defence held out as long as it did is of immense credit to a side who seem to have found themselves again but there is just no answering Wasps when they turn it on as they did here.

Related: Exeter into Premiership final as Sam Simmonds stuns Saracens with late try

Related: Wasps’ Kurtley Beale in race to be fit for swan song in Premiership final

Related: Exeter’s Gareth Steenson gives final warning: ‘We will go in hard’

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May 20

Exeter 18-16 Saracens: Premiership semi-final – as it happened

Sam Simmonds went over in the last action of the game to win a dramatic semi-final for Exeter and win their place in another Premiership final

4.32pm BST

So Exeter will head to the Premiership final at Twickenham on May 27 where they will meet either Wasps or Leicester. That’s all from me, thanks for reading.

Related: Exeter into Premiership final as Sam Simmonds stuns Saracens with late try

4.30pm BST

That Henry Slade kick, which set up the lineout from which Exeter won the match, was monstrous.

4.29pm BST

It was local lad Sam Simmonds who carried the ball over officially, but it was almost every Exeter player in that maul driving the ball over the line. A remarkable finish to an entertaining match. Saracens’ hopes of a double double is over. Exeter are going to the final.

4.26pm BST

The conversion wasn’t added but it doesn’t matter. What a match!

4.25pm BST

Exeter win their lineout and blast towards the line with shouts of ‘heave’ from the stands. The backs pile in and join the push and the red wall gives way on the line! Wayne Barnes sprints in, takes a look at the pile of bodies and awards the try. Bedlam!

4.23pm BST

78 min Exeter dominate their own scrum and win a penalty which Henry Slade kicks ridiculously to the corner from well inside his own half. They are seven metres out!

4.21pm BST

77 min Exeter patiently probe on the fringes of the Saracens defensive line. Sandy Park is a tense place right now as time runs down.

4.19pm BST

Saracens pour forwards, red shirts filling the Exeter 22. They work it to the right wing where Schalk Brits fires a high pass to Mike Ellery overlapping who slams into Henry Slade – and falls over the top of the tackler, to touch down on the line. A fine if unorthodox finish. Farrell whips the conversion wide. Three in it, four minutes to play.

4.16pm BST

74 min A mistake by Lees who comes in from the side, and Exeter’s good spell of pressure is undone.

4.15pm BST

73 min Chudley hangs up a ridiculously high ball over Saracens’ 22-metre line. Ellery stands, catches, and is promptly wiped out by Whitten sprinting after the kick. That was a massive collision. Saracens manage only to scramble the ball off the field, and they’re under pressure.

4.13pm BST

72 min Steenson slams the penalty down into Saracens’ half.

4.13pm BST

71 min Saracens suddenly scream forwards after Wyles beats Nowell in the air, but Exeter earn a turnover as replacement Sam Simmonds forages at the breakdown. Brilliantly done.

4.11pm BST

69 min Exeter tap and go. Chudley grubbers a clever kick to the corner and no the pressure is on the Saracens lineout five metres from their line. There have been a raft of changes up front for both sides, and now Saracens’ No12 Devoto makes way for Campagnaro.

4.09pm BST

68 min The Exeter pack squeeze hard and earn a penalty from the scrum as Saracens collapse, to huge cheers around Sandy Park.

4.08pm BST

67 min Brits makes a fine burst with some lightning footwork, and a chip to the corner forces Exeter to touch down over their own line. The scrum doesn’t come to much but a minute later Exeter knock-on to hand Sarries a scrum near the centre spot.

4.05pm BST

65 min Steenson matches Farrell’s kick, landing his on the touchline to lose territory. The tension is showing.

4.02pm BST

63 min A poor kick by Owen Farrell. Frustrated by their slow progress through the middle of the field, he tries to chip one to the corner but overcooks and finds touch on the full.

4.00pm BST

61 min A lovely piece of recovery by James Short who dashes back to gather Wigglesworth’s kick, hopping along but just inside the touchline before turning away from two Saracens chasers and making 30 metres.

3.57pm BST

59 min Clever play by Farrell, who gathers a loose ball and quickly grubbers towards the corner before he could be swamped by the black shirts around him. Saracens are on the front foot.

3.56pm BST

A brilliant move by Saracens, who string together the most phases of the match so far as they work the ball right and then wide to the left for Itoje, who times an excellent pass over the top of his tackler for Chris Wyles to touch down in the corner before Nowell could push him into touch. A crucial conversion from the touchline which the Exeter crowd fall silent for – before roaring their approval as Farrell’s kick sails wide.

3.52pm BST

54 min Saracens earn a penalty from the scrum but Farrell produces a carbon copy of Steenson’s kick in the first half, perhaps underestimating the wind and missing touch with an uncharacteristic error.

3.51pm BST

53 min Stuart Townsend gets a huge cheer as he is replaced by the more experienced Will Chudley. A fine performance by the young scrum-half.

3.50pm BST

52 min Saracens string 12 phases together but seem to be lacking the dynamism to make a meaningful break. Wayne Barnes brings the play back for a knock-on by Steenson trying to intercept. Sarries scrum on halfway.

3.48pm BST

50 min Exeter have been utterly dominant in this second half, but Mako Vunipola earns a crucial moment of relief with a turnover in the middle of the field and a penalty. Steenson slams the kick into touch in Exeter’s half and Sarries secure the lineout.

3.45pm BST

48 min A brilliant box-kick from Stu Townsend from the centre of the field, who arcs a left-footed chip inside the Sarries 22 which bounces once before finding touch.

3.44pm BST

47 min The two involved in that huge game-suspending collision earlier, Mako Vunipola and Dave Dennis, return to the field.

3.43pm BST

46 min Exeter have all the momentum right now. Dollman joins the back line and receives Steenson’s pass before cutting inside and making 10 metres, but he’s penalised for a knock-on and Saracens will have a scrum.

3.41pm BST

45 min Schalk Brits replaces Jamie George as Saracens look to add some energy.

3.40pm BST

From the resultant scrum Exeter fly forwards with quick ball from each ruck. Devoto makes a crucial line break on the right wing and when Jack Nowell scoops up the loose ball Saracens can’t prevent him diving over the line. Steenson adds two more.

3.37pm BST

42 min Both Mako and Dave Dennis go off for head injury assessments. Lamositele and Lees are their replacements respectively.

3.35pm BST

42 min Itoje fumbles the kick-off and immediately Exeter pounce. Townsend jinks into a gap before they work the ball into the centre, but they run out of ideas and go backwards before a huge collision between Mako Vunipola and Dave Dennis forces Wayne Barnes to pause the game. I felt that.

3.32pm BST

The second half is under way, for a place in the Premiership final at Twickenham on May 27.

3.31pm BST

That was an odd half, in that Exeter had lots of the ball and most of the momentum but only played in meaningful areas of the pitch in the final ten minutes or so. A lot was down to Farrell simply making better decisions with the boot than Steenson, and executing better kicks too. But Exeter will have the wind behind them in the second half so we’ll see if they can make it count.

If it remains a draw:
10 minutes extra time each way, if still equal:
Most tries, if same:
Place kicking competition.

3.17pm BST

Nip and tuck.

3.15pm BST

39 min Suddenly Jack Nowell throws a dummy to slip off two tacklers and he’s away, speeding towards the posts, but he’s brought down by the last man – Dollman, I think – and knocks on trying to offload.

3.13pm BST

37 min Exeter are back on the attack in the final minutes of the half, carefully plotting their way through. Ten phases down and they are still searching.

3.11pm BST

35 min The scrum is reset … and again. Third time lucky and Waldrom picks from the back. He powers forward but is stopped at the last by his opposite number Billy Vunipola with a brilliant try-saving tackle, and a couple of phases later Vunipola stays on his feet at the ruck to force a penalty, earning a turnover for Saracens almost single-handedly.

3.08pm BST

32 min Saracens go on the front foot after winning the kick-off, with Schalk Burger powering into the 22. But when Stu Townsend anticipates a pass Exeter win the ball back and burst forwards, playing flowing rugby and forcing Sarries to touch down over their own line. Exeter will have a 5-metre scrum.

3.06pm BST

Gareth Steenson converts a simple kick to level the scores.

3.05pm BST

29 min Dollman jinks through a gap barely there in the middle of the field, rousing the crowd as he makes 10, 20, 30 yards before being hauled to the floor around the 22. Exeter bring their forwards into play but the ball is slow. Suddenly Devoto adds some pace and at a scrappy breakdown Saracens are penalised for hands on the floor. Penalty in a central position, 20 metres from the posts.

3.01pm BST

Exeter are on the board.

3.01pm BST

24 min Exeter heave their way to the Sarries line for the first time. Several pick and gos come close to delivering a try before a pile of red shirts hold up the ball – Wayne Barnes awards a penalty to Exeter for some hands on the floor, right under the posts.

2.59pm BST

23 min A livewire piece of defending by Whitten pinches the ball as Saracens were trying to spread the ball wide, and he rushes 50 metres before eventually being brought to ground.

2.57pm BST

21 min Saracens are enjoying a dominant period, working through the phases in Exeter’s half, but each time they near the try line they are forced back.

2.54pm BST

19 min Exeter turn the ball over and when Jamie George comes in from the side, the Chiefs have a penalty 40 yards out. It seems like an opportunity to get on the scoreboard but, with the wind against, Steenson instead elects to kick to touch. He doesn’t make huge gains though, and Exeter’s pressure peters out.

2.52pm BST

17 min Itoje rips the ball from a dithering Townsend, but gets the rub of the green and earns a scrum for Saracens in the centre of the field.

2.50pm BST

And Saracens are going to make Exeter pay for that missed touch. An untidy lineout hands Sarries a 5m-scrum from which they force another penalty. Farrell converts.

2.48pm BST

13 min With the replacements coming on Exeter had been taking advantage, winning a penalty in the centre of the field with some excellent work at the breakdown. But Steenson failed to find touch and a moment later Owen Farrell relieves the pressure with a brilliant 60-yard clearance to the corner.

2.46pm BST

12 min Michael Rhodes has also been forced off, meaning two quick changes early in this match for Saracens. Schalk Burger is his replacement.

2.45pm BST

11 min Chris Ashton has been down receiving treatment after a collision. He can’t continue, and looks devastated to come off. Mike Ellery is on.

2.43pm BST

9 min A chip to the corner sparks a foot race between Nowell and Wyles, with the Saracens wing looking for a try, but the Exeter wing recovers well to clear the danger.

2.41pm BST

7 min The first scrum of the match is a Sararcens ball in Exeter’s half, but prop Mako Vunipola is penalised. Despite the penalty, it’s not a great start at the set-piece for Sarries.

2.38pm BST

6 min Ashton and Taylor combine deep in Exeter territory to drag the Chiefs full-back Dollman over touch, but Jamie George gets a rare lineout wrong and Saracens waste opportunity.

2.37pm BST

Owen Farrell is more than 40m out, wind swirling, but lands the kick to leave the home support sitting very quietly.

2.35pm BST

3 min An early joust for territory sparks a kicking game. Jack Nowell collects Alex Goode’s high ball and goes on a scamper, getting the crowd up. A couple of phases later, though, and Exeter are penalised at the breakdown just inside their half. Penalty.

2.33pm BST

1 min Farrell gets the game going and Exeter secure the ball, before Jack Nowell kicks into Sarries’ half.

2.30pm BST

Owen Farrell leads out the European champions with captain Brad Barritt out injured injured. Ian Whitten has the honour for Exeter on his 100th appearance. Here we go…

2.25pm BST

Kick-off imminent. It’s going to be noisy…

Show of Hands’ Steve Knightley finally gets some noise out of The Library

2.11pm BST

If you’d like some more pre-match chit chat from Jack Nowell to get in the mood, here he is:

Related: Exeter’s Jack Nowell respectful but not afraid of all-conquering Saracens

11.10am BST

On the face of it this will be a tough task for an Exeter side who have not beaten Saracens this year, losing at Sandy Park at the start of the season before a 13-13 draw at Allianz Park in January. Today they meet a buoyant Sarries team fresh from retaining their European Champions crown and motivated to secure a famous ‘double double’.

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Apr 16

Wasps consign Bristol to bottom place with a comfortable victory

• Bristol 21-36 Wasps
• Bristol face almost certain relegation

Wasps consigned Bristol to a last‑place finish in the Aviva Premiership and almost certain relegation after claiming a comfortable 36-21 victory at Ashton Gate.

Bristol are 12 points behind Worcester with just two games left, and the only way they can now survive in English rugby’s top flight is if the eventual Championship title winners do not meet Premiership entry criteria.

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Apr 16

Alex Lozowski sparks Saracens revival to defeat dominant Northampton

• Northampton 25-27 Saracens
• Late conversion keeps Saracens in hunt for top-two finish

If this was a duel between England’s two hookers vying for a place in the British & Irish Lions squad, then Dylan Hartley can celebrate a comprehensive win but it will be little consolation after a smash-and-grab win for Saracens they had little right to claim.

It was Alex Lozowski who sparked the champions’ revival, making the break for Marcelo Bosch’s try and nailing a tricky conversion to put Saracens ahead in the closing minutes and keep them in the hunt for a top-two finish. How Northampton contrived to lose a match they had largely dominated will be of huge frustration to Jim Mallinder, even if Saracens’ resilience has to be marvelled at.

Related: Lions squad: two-tone approach may throw Warburton and Hartley a lifeline | Paul Rees

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Apr 15

Worcester’s rare win over Bath makes them all but safe from the drop

• Worcester 25-19 Bath
• Will Spencer seals Worcester victory over bogey side

Worcester may not be safe mathematically but Bristol’s number is up. The Warriors’ second-half rally against their Premiership bogey side took them 12 points clear of the bottom club who have three matches to play, including the leaders Wasps on Sunday and the champions Saracens in the penultimate round. Even a miracle would not be enough.

Worcester knew victory would turn their survival prospects from probable to almost certain, but they had beaten Bath only twice in 21 Premiership meetings and once in the previous 15. The Lions’ assistant coaches Rob Howley and Steve Borthwick were in the stand as they prepared for Wednesday’s squad announcement.

Related: Ellis Genge’s belligerent display earns Leicester a bonus over Newcastle

Related: Mark Tainton fights on but says Pat Lam can lead Bristol to the big time

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Apr 15

Ellis Genge’s belligerent display earns Leicester a bonus over Newcastle

• Leicester 30-3 Newcastle
• Ellis Genge scored two tries to help tighten Tigers’ grip on fourth place

Leicester DNA was the topic of conversation for Matt O’Connor last week and here was conclusive proof that Ellis Genge has it in spades. The 22-year-old loosehead scored two tries in a bonus point victory, on O’Connor’s first match back at Welford Road. But it was Genge’s attitude that most caught the eye.

He has a snarl about him that has long since convinced Eddie Jones and he has already endeared himself to the Leicester faithful. He was replaced after an hour – perhaps for his own good after yet more afters – but there can be little doubting he was the catalyst for a victory that tightens their grip on fourth place following Bath’s defeat at Worcester.

Related: Worcester’s rare win over Bath makes them all but safe from the drop

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Apr 15

Mark Tainton fights on but says Pat Lam can lead Bristol to the big time

Bristol probably need to beat Wasps to have a chance of staying up but their outgoing head coach insists relegation would not ruin the club’s grand plans

Easter Sunday is associated with resurrection and Bristol are in need of divine intervention if they are to dodge an immediate return to the Championship. Having been within three minutes of beating last season’s beaten finalists, Exeter, a week ago, they on Sunday face the Premiership leaders, Wasps, at Ashton Gate with matches running out.

After Bristol were relegated in 2009, they spent seven years in the rugby wilderness. The money went, then the players, and when they assembled a competitive squad they were tripped up by the Championship’s play-off system. Should they go down again, however, their return is likely to be far quicker, with the club financially stable and underpinned by a strong infrastructure.

Related: Worcester take giant leap towards safety by hitting Bristol for six

Related: ‘Big Cats’, brand reviews and the rampant commercialism of the Lions | Gerard Meagher

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Apr 14

Exeter march on but Henry Slade a saint and sinner against Harlequins

• Harlequins 26-39 Exeter
• Eddie Jones on hand to watch Slade and Dave Ewers

Henry Slade’s delightful solo try lit up another bonus point victory for Exeter in which the Chiefs fly-half demonstrated his infuriating habit of dazzling and deflating in equal measure. Eddie Jones was in attendance, casting his eye over a raft of players who are likely to make his squad for the summer tour to Argentina and while Slade will be one of them, his tendency to blow hot and cold belies his unquestionable talent.

As it was, Slade’s dink over the top was a sucker punch for Harlequins, who had just conceded a similar try from Lachie Turner, drafted into the squad just an hour before kick-off, down the right. Up until then Harlequins had been competitive, Nick Evans keeping them in the hunt, but scores from the towering Dave Ewers – another in contention for the trip to South America – Michele Campagnaro, Slade and two for Turner ensured the Chiefs march towards the playoffs, now unbeaten in 13 league matches.

Related: Jack Clifford ruled out of England tour of Argentina with shoulder injury

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