Weekend Round Up

Weekend Round Up

Irish strike late to thwart Saints' summit bid

Dave Porecki's last-gasp try prevented 14-man Northampton Saints from going top of the Premiership as London Irish secured a thrilling 20-16 win at Franklin's Gardens.

The visitors were 16-8 down heading into the final eight minutes but tries from Franco van der Merwe and Porecki got the job done for Irish after Api Ratuniyarawa had seen red.

Ollie Hassell-Collins' early try gave the underdogs the lead, but the Saints – who lost England centre Piers Francis to injury in the first half – led at the break after Cobus Reinach dotted down and James Grayson added eight points with the boot. Full report

Sale hold firm to down Premiership leaders Exeter as Wasps stun Worcester

Sale Sharks survived a second-half fightback from Exeter Chiefs to secure a hard-earned 22-19 victory over the Premiership leaders.

Having headed into Saturday's encounter on the south coast without a defeat in all competitions since November, Exeter found themselves trailing 22-5 at the interval after a blistering first-half display from the visitors. Full report

Southern Kings 30-31 Cheetahs: Rhyno Smith inspires remarkable comeback

An incredible finish to Saturday's Pro14 game saw Rhyno Smith's late double lift Cheetahs to a stunning 31-30 win at rivals Southern Kings.

The two South African sides clashed at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium and, for much of the contest, the struggling Kings looked certain to claim their first derby win. Full report

Top 14: Leaders Lyon bounce back from European disappointment

Lyon quickly put their European Champions Cup disappointment behind them to return to the Top 14 summit with a comfortable home victory over Toulon on Saturday.

The domestic league leaders failed to advance through their European pool after losing to Leinster and Northampton Saints across the previous two weekends.

But a Top 14 title charge is very much on thanks to their 11th win of the campaign, a 27-12 success as Toulon were held try-less. Full report

Harlequins 41-14 Saracens: Derby defeat for depleted champions

Saracens were handed a resounding 41-14 defeat by Harlequins in the absence of several key players as they returned to Premiership action for the first time since their automatic relegation was confirmed.

With seven players at an England training camp ahead of the Six Nations and Billy Vunipola out with a broken arm, Saracens – who will spend next season in the Championship after breaching salary cap regulations – succumbed to a chastening loss as the rain lashed down at Twickenham Stoop.

Quins welcomed captain Chris Robshaw back into the line-up and took the lead inside two minutes, Alex Dombrandt putting the disappointment of being overlooked by Eddie Jones aside by winning a turnover and setting up Danny Care to touch down. Full report

Toulouse keep Bordeaux from Top 14 summit

Defending Top 14 champions Toulouse defeated Bordeaux-Begles, who missed the chance to return to the top of the table on Sunday.

Lyon beat Toulon on Saturday to unseat Bordeaux at the summit, and a 22-14 away reverse the following day - inspired by Thomas Ramos - kept the visitors in second.

Ramos scored a try, dispatched two conversions and also a penalty to supply half of Toulouse's points as they climbed to sixth. Full report

NZ triumph at Hamilton 7s

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The All Blacks Sevens and Black Ferns Sevens won their respective men’s and women’s titles at the 2020 New Zealand Sevens in Hamilton.

The Black Ferns ran away with an historic first 2020 New Zealand Sevens women’s trophy by overcoming Canada 24-7 in the Cup final, while the All Blacks Sevens beat France 27-5 to lift the Cup in Hamilton for the first time in three tries.

 Predicted: How Ireland could line up in the Six Nations opener

Ireland kick off a new era on Saturday 1 February with Andy Farrell taking charge of his first game as the new Irish head coach as they host Scotland.

The former defence coach will name his first starting 23 on Tuesday and while there are five uncapped players in the squad it is unlikely we will see all five players involved.

The five uncapped players are Ulster’s Billy Burns and Tom O’Toole and the Leinster trio Max Deegan, Caelan Doris and Ronan Kelleher. Read more

Where Saracens players could end up next season?

Saracens are likely to hang onto some of their star players despite their relegation with a number of players set to sign loan deals with Premiership clubs, others set for sabbaticals however, they will be bracing themselves for a mass exodus that will see some of rugby’s brightest talent heading out of the door.

The club revealed how England captain Owen Farrell and some of his England colleagues including Maro Itoje and Jamie George could stay at the club with unique arrangements aimed at priming them for a tour with the British & Irish Lions in 2021.

With England coach Eddie Jones and his Lions counterpart Warren Gatland have given their consent to the masterplan.

However, players like the next generation – that includes the likes of flanker Ben Earl, who has just been called up by England – know that they need to play in the top flight to further their test careers.

Saracens want to send a number of players out on loan but potential suitors are insisting on permanent deals. Full story

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