Mon, Dec 29, 2008 - Page 20 News List

Bath show class for top rank


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.



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

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