Mon, Dec 29, 2008 - Page 20 News List

Bath show class for top rank

AFP , LONDON

A couple tries by South African scrum-half Michael Claassens saw Bath to a 25-14 victory over Northampton on Saturday and go to the top of the Premiership.

They benefited from previous leaders London Irish slipping up as they lost 16-13 to Saracens, who showed character in rebounding from a 33-24 defeat by Wasps, who were at the receiving end of a 31-3 walloping by Sale on Friday.

Harlequins returned to their original home of Twickenham and they and opponents Leicester put on a thriller of a match for the record club attendance of 50,000 in a 26-26 draw.

The hosts produced a great comeback, having trailed 16-9 at the break and then falling further behind in the second-half as the Tigers — who last played Harlequins at Twickenham in 1987 when they won 12-7 — clawed their way to a 23-9 lead thanks to tries by Johnny Murphy and Tom Croft, while Toby Flood kicked 16 points.

However, second-half tries by Mike Brown and Ugo Monye’s late effort — his sixth of the campaign, leaving him at the top of the try-scoring charts in the Premiership — brought them back into the match.

Former All Black fly-half Nick Evans contributed 16 points, including the conversion to level the match.

Another side to bounce back from defeat were Gloucester, who beat bottom side Bristol 29-10, with World Cup winning center Mike Tindall scoring two tries to restore some luster after the 42-12 thrashing they suffered at the hands of London Irish the previous weekend.

The only good news for Bristol — whose coach Richard Hill has been told he will receive money to bolster his squad in their battle against relegation — was that second from bottom Newcastle could not pull away as they were held to a 16-16 draw by Worcester.

Claassens, capped eight times by the Springboks, made his decisive contribution in the second-half, scoring one try in the 54th minute and another six minutes from time. His compatriot Butch James added 10 points with his boot.

Saracens, who remain in mid-table, had the satisfaction of ending their opponents’ 10-match winning run in all competitions.

They had some nervy moments once veteran South African-born, English World Cup winning back Mike Catt was introduced at fly-half, but the 37-year-old was not quite able to get them over the line.

The Exiles cause was not helped by Australian fly-half Peter Hewat — who had set up their only try — missing two penalties, especially a very kickable one minutes from time.

CELTIC LEAGUE

AFP, CARDIFF

Welsh international scrum-half Mike Phillips ended his nine-month injury nightmare in style on Saturday, making a try-scoring return in the Ospreys 20-6 win over Scarlets in the Celtic League.

Wales captain Ryan Jones added another try five minutes into injury time to deny the Scarlets a losing bonus point.

Saturday’s other result:

• Ulster 13 Leinster 21

This story has been viewed 1282 times.

Comments will be moderated. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned.

TOP top