Northampton edge towards final four with win
January 25, 2014
Gareth Denman braves the extreme mud in Newport to score © Getty Images
Northampton Saints took a massive step towards the LV= Cup semi-finals with a 34-16 victory over Newport Gwent Dragons in horrific conditions at Rodney Parade.
In a game which had a 20-minute delay due to a hail storm, Northampton stuck to their game plan and went ahead on 21 minutes thanks to a penalty try. Faatoina Autagavaia then crossed seven minutes later to extend the lead further.
Dragons had stayed close through the boot of Jason Tovey and they grabbed a try on the stroke of half-time as scrum-half Luc Jones crossed to give Dragons a 16-15 half-time lead. But it did not last - Northampton came out all guns blazing in the second period and tries from Mike Haywood, Gareth Denman and GJ van Velze earned them the bonus point victory to take them clear at the top of Pool 4 - making it almost a certainty they will be in the final four.
Sale Sharks overcame a dogged performance from struggling Worcester Warriors to record a 20-6 victory at AJ Bell Stadium to move to the brink of a semi-final place.
A forgettable first half was limited to a solitary Joe Ford penalty in the fourth minute as both side's cancelled each other out in all phases of the game. Ford knocked over a penalty in the opening minute of the second period to get the scoreboard ticking over again, with Elliott Davies opening Worcester's account eight minutes later.
That made it 6-3 but it was as close as Worcester would come as Mark Easter stormed through to score as the hour-mark approached. Charlie Ingall's try ten minutes from time confirmed the win for Sale and consigned Worcester to yet another defeat as their woeful season continues.
Sale's Mike Haley is stopped in his tracks © Getty Images
London Wasps' success from the kicking tee proved to be the difference as they edged London Irish 22-15 at Adams Park.
Both sides scored three tries but London Irish converted none of them, while Wasps converted twice and added a Joe Carlisle penalty.
Tries from Charlie Davies, Ed Jackson and Josh Bassett put Wasps into a strong position at half-time before Irish fought back, but tries from Sailosi Tagicakibau, Chris Hala'ufia and Jamie Hagan proved in vein.
Harlequins' clash against Leicester Tigers was ended 10 minutes from half-time in horrendous conditions at the Stoop. Quins led comfortably after tries from Paul Sackey, Maurie Faasavalu and Tom Guest and looked to be heading for a win until the wind dragged scaffolding onto the pitch - leading to the match to be abandoned with Harlequins leading 20-6.
The result will stand which leaves Leicester in a real battle to make the semi-finals.
Jordan-Turner Hall advances before conditions took a turn for the worst at Harlequins © Getty Images
Exeter Chiefs overcame a spirited Ospreys side 36-22 in an entertaining game at Sandy Park, outscoring the Welsh region five tries to four, while Bath secured their place in the semi-finals with a bonus-point 24-13 win over Cardiff Blues.
On Friday evening Scarlets recorded a hard-earned 13-7 victory over Gloucester to keep their hopes of qualification alive.
A solitary Steffan Hughes try in the first half gave the hosts a narrow 5-0 lead at the interval, with Gloucester making life difficult for Scarlets in the opening exchanges. Fly-half Billy Burns then converted his own try after the restart to edge Gloucester ahead and it looked like the Premiership outfit may be in for a rare win.
Scarlets were still very much in the game but they had to wait until four minutes from time to make the vital breakthrough. After heavy pressure a break from wing Aaron Warren down the left flank found Gloucester wanting and the 23-year-old touched down to restore the home side's lead - which they never relinquished.
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