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Thrilling final day in the Aviva Premiership league season

The talking point of the weekend was Harlequins pipping Bath to fourth place and a much prized play-off semi-final. A crucial ‘winner takes all’ game, which had us all on the edge of our seats – right into the red.

A fantastic but risky long pass from Danny Care to Mike Brown saw the Quins take an early lead, but George Ford decided to equalise in jaw dropping style – accelerating, darting and dodging defenders – with deftness like no other.

In the second half, it was the Quins’ ability to concoct quick turnovers and the dependable boot of Nick Evans which highlighted the only difference between these two sides. The rocky roller-coaster of this Premiership season has been a kaleidoscopic adventure for the London side, and now this 19-16 victory will see them face the supreme Saracens at Allianz Park next Saturday. What a mind-blowingly magnificent result for Conor O’Shea and his merry men.

Second-placed Northampton Saints were looking to seal a home semi-final, but as the London Wasps took an early 0-13 lead – with tries from Charlie Davies and Tom Varndell – it looked doubtful.

However, the match then proved one-way traffic for Northampton, turning play around to record the largest Premiership win this season so far, 74-13. Captain Phil Dowson and George North notched up a try a piece in the first half, along with the multi-faceted Stephen Myler, and just short of half time, Luther Burrell secured the bonus point try. But it didn’t stop there!

Seven tries followed in the second half – and the Saints now go into their Friday night semi against Leicester – hungry, confident and determined they can secure that all important Premiership final place.

With Saracens clear on 83 points at the top of the Aviva Premiership table and a home semi-final secured prior to Leicester arriving at Allianz Park, it was fair to say Mark McCall had the right idea by putting out a young Saracens squad.

Tigers, on the other hand, had different plans; with a first team squad starting. Back from injury, it was fantastic to see Tom Croft coming off the bench, – a joy for all Leicester and England supporters alike.

A close game and the ability of Saracens’ academy players was reflected in the tight score line on the final whistle, 31-27. Leicester’s win secured third place in the table and they now make the short journey down the M1 to Franklins Gardens for this season’s third East Midlands derby … ding ding!

Newcastle Falcons were looking to end a run of defeats but the intent of the visitors, Exeter, shone through. With the likes of Luke Cowan-Dickie, Henry Slade and Fetu’u Vainikolo all causing chaos, it ended 13-23.

It was Newcastle’s 16th straight league defeat and a sorry end to their season, although Sinoti Sinoti did look deadly and dangerous at times. However, with Stuart Lancaster in the crowd, the talking point afterwards was who might be on that plane to New Zealand? Potentially Luke Cowan-Dickie? What a phenomenal player.

Tenth placed London Irish welcomed sixth-placed Sale Sharks to the Madjeski Stadium and on paper at least, the home side looked to be the underdogs. Mark Easter scored the opener and his first Premiership try for the Sharks, and a breakaway try from Tom Arscott set Sale up nicely; but with the likes of James O’Connor setting up Marland Yarde and Andrew Fenby scoring two, the home side were on a roll and it definitely wasn’t the luck of the Irish.

The Exiles really showcased their full repertoire of skills on Saturday and it was a sound and satisfying 22-20 win to end the season.

The West Country saw a huge local derby, with relegated Worcester Warriors wanting to gift their supporters the promise of brighter times next season, and they did just that in front of 11,852 at Sixways.

With Charlie Sharples, Mike Tindall and Billy Twelvetrees out of Gloucester’s 23-man squad due to injury, there was more than a glimmer of hope that life might just be a little easier for the Warriors. But don’t get me wrong, it was still a tough test – especially with Jonny May scoring twice and Sione Kalamafoni producing an outstanding game – bringing his finest flair to the field for the Cherry and Whites.

However Worcester weren’t giving up without a fight, and managed to withstand the pressure, with Chris Pennell, David Lemi and the reliable boot of Ryan Lamb sealing the narrow 28-27 victory. What a great addition Lamb has been for the team and I envisage good things to come from Warriors, as they reflect and revitalise their squad for the challenge of the Championship next season.

Results:

Harlequins 19-16 Bath

Northampton Saints 74-13 London Wasps

Leicester Tigers 31-27 Saracens

Newcastle Falcons 13-23 Exeter Chiefs

London Irish 22-20 Sale Sharks

Worcester Warriors 28-27 Gloucester

Final Aviva Premiership Table

Pos

Team

P

W

D

L

BP

Points

1

Saracens

22

19

0

3

11

87 (Q)

2

Northampton Saints

22

16

2

4

10

78 (Q)

3

Leicester Tigers

22

15

2

5

10

74 (Q)

4

Harlequins

22

15

0

7

7

67 (Q)

5

Bath

22

14

2

6

7

67 (Eur)

6

Sale Sharks

22

12

0

10

9

57 (Eur)

7

London Wasps

22

9

0

13

13

49 (Play Off)

8

Exeter Chiefs

22

9

0

13

9

45

9

Gloucester

22

8

0

14

12

44

10

London Irish

22

7

0

15

8

36

11

Newcastle Falcons

22

3

0

19

10

22

12

Worcester Warriors

22

2

0

20

8

16 (R)

By Rhiannon Chandler-Day (@RhiannonCDay)

To see more from Rhiannon, please check out her rugby blog at: rhiannonsrugbyunionblog.blogspot.co.ukrhiannonsrugbyunionblog.blogspot.co.uk

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