Week 18 of the Aviva Premiership saw Saracens extend their lead at the top of the table after Leicester Tigers halted Northampton Saints’ progress.
However, the big story of the week came at the wrong end of the Premiership as Worcester Warriors recorded their first win of the season away at Newcastle Falcons.
See below for an up-to-date Aviva Premiership table with analysis of the week’s key games as we enter the final stretch for the 2013/14 season.
Newcastle Falcons 12-17 Worcester Warriors
Worcester chalked up their first win of the Aviva Premiership season with a hard-fought victory over relegation rivals Newcastle.
Not only was it the Warriors’ first win of the season, but it was also their first away from Sixways since New Year’s Day 2012, as Plant Rugby’s Ben Coles revealed via Twitter:
A first Premiership away win for Worcester since New Year's Day 2012. Hell of a time to pull that one out the hat.— Ben Coles (@bencoles_) March 30, 2014
The Premiership’s bottom club found themselves 9-6 down at the interval thanks to three Phil Godman penalties, but they made their way back into the match and snatched the victory.
In a tight second half, the game appeared to be anyone’s, but it was the visitors that made the decisive breakthrough with just nine minutes remaining.
Andy Symons broke through before offloading to Josh Drauniniu, who went on to cross the whitewash to give the Warriors a massive win.
Following the match, vice-captain Chris Pennell, who scored two penalties in the match, gave credit to the away support in Newcastle during an interview with the official Worcester Warriors website, saying:
“The support was amazing. We could hear them getting behind us despite being outnumbered by the home support. Given our position in the league and without a win before Newcastle, to have that sort of support behind you means an awful lot.”
The wins moves Worcester within nine points of Newcastle at the bottom of the Premiership with just four matches remaining as their bid for a great escape ignited on Tyneside.
London Wasps 20-32 Saracens
Saracens’ table-topping quest continued as their 32-20 bonus-point win over Wasps put them seven points clear at the top of the Premiership.
A Charlie Hodgson penalty and a Jackson Wray try put the league leaders 10-0 ahead at the end of the first quarter, and it never got better for the hosts from then on.
Two further tries from Jamie George and one from Alex Goode gave Saracens a crucial four-try haul, making it a five-pointer for Mark McCall’s side.
The hosts recorded three tries, but sloppy kicking from Andy Goode meant that Saracens were able to pull away to record a vital win, as the club’s official Twitter feed revealed:
Double try-scorer Jamie George spoke to Saracens’ official website following the match and showed his happiness at coming away from Adams Park with five points:
We couldn’t really ask for much more than that today. Adams Park is a very hard place to come and play, so we are definitely going to take a bonus-point win. Obviously there are things that we can work on after that, things like our discipline, but all in all I think we were pretty sound throughout. We corrected a few wrongs in the first half and I think we’ve put down a good platform going into a big game next week.
Next week sees the Premiership's top two meet as Saracens welcome Northampton Saints to Allianz Park where a victory for the hosts would see them all but secure the top spot heading into the playoffs.
Elsewhere, Gloucester won the battle of the West Country by edging out Exeter Chiefs at Sandy Park, while Harlequins disposed of London Irish with a stunning second-half comeback that saw the hosts touch down three times.
In the early game of the weekend on Friday, Danny Cipriani kicked all 12 points for Sale Sharks as they saw off the challenge of Bath by an 11-12 scoreline to keep them in touch with the top four.
Though there’s just four matches remaining in the Premiership season, there’s still much to be decided. End-of-season form is crucial at both ends of the table as it could prove enough to bring about survival or glory.