Rugby roundup: Bath have last word at Leicester on day of thrillers

Gerard Meagher


Rhys Priestland’s dramatic late conversion completed a stirring comeback for Bath, who clinched sixth place in the Premiership with a thrilling 32-31 win over Leicester. Jacques van Rooyen barged his way over from close range with two minutes remaining to score the crucial try before Priestland’s nerveless kick sealed the victory.

Bath came into the match in sixth but defeat would have seen them leapfrogged by Sale and while Todd Blackadder’s side began brightly – Anthony Watson scoring an early try on his 100th appearance for the club – Leicester hit back to lead 26-15 at half-time with 16 points from George Ford and a try each for Will Spencer and Brendan O’Connor.

Beno Obano briefly got Bath back to within touching distance but when Clayton Blommetjies went over for Leicester’s third try, a place in the top six appeared to be slipping through their fingers in Blackadder’s last match in charge until Van Rooyen had the final say.

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Sale made things similarly difficult for themselves but Denny Solomona’s remarkable try finally sealed a bonus-point win over Gloucester to cap a stunning 13-try contest. The Sharks would have been secure of a place in the top six with their 46-41 triumph until Bath’s late win but they ended up seventh and were left hopeful of still qualifying for the Champions Cup with results in France’s Top 14 potentially opening the door for an extra Premiership place next season.

Solomona somehow dotted the ball down in the corner when at full stretch with 12 minutes remaining against Gloucester, handing Sale the lead again before a late AJ MacGinty penalty sealed victory. Gloucester, already guaranteed third, rested a host of first-team players but were excellent value in a classic end-of-season thriller.

They led 26-24 at half-time with Lewis Ludlow clinching a bonus point before the break for the visitors. Chris Ashton put Sale back in front with his first Premiership try of 2019 but tries from Dom Coetzer and Ben Vellacott put Gloucester on course for victory. MacGinty got Sale back in touch however, and Solomona’s score ultimately proved decisive.

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Gloucester can now look forward to an away semi-final at Saracens, who lost 31-29 to Worcester thanks to a last-gasp Duncan Weir penalty. Saracens made 15 changes from the side that started last weekend’s Champions Cup final but were heading towards victory in the closing stages with 19 points from Tom Whiteley and tries for each of their centres Marcelo Bosch and Nick Tompkins. Josh Adams scored Worcester’s fourth try in his final appearance for the club to give the Warriors hope and Weir settled matters with the last kick of the game.

Elsewhere, Newcastle’s six-year stay in the Premiership ended in defeat by Bristol at Kingston Park. The Bears’ 19-12 victory was a seventh of the season for Pat Lam’s side, who have won many an admirer in their first season back in the top flight. Charles Piutau put Bristol on their way after 10 minutes. Piers O’Conor added Bristol’s second soon after half-time with Jack Lam swiftly following up with the third before Gary Graham and Johnny Williams added late scores for the Falcons.