Leeds Carnegie's surprise march to Premiership safety gathered further momentum yesterday after they recorded an impressive win over Saracens, the once runaway leaders, to move off the foot of the table for the first time in months. Leeds had started the day level on points with Sale Sharks but bottom on points difference yet they leapfrogged the Sharks who lost 15-7 at home to Northampton Saints.
While Saracens have now lost five out of the last six league games, Leeds are on the charge and they made it three wins from three after recovering from a 9-3 half-time deficit to win 19-12 on a bright but chilly afternoon. Although Leeds lost reliable goal-kicker Ceiron Thomas midway through the first half, his replacement - 19-year-old Joe Ford, the son of England defence coach, Mike - kicked enough of the chances that came his was to make sure of the triumph.
Lee Blackett, the Leeds wing, helped too by crossing on the hour for the game's only try on a virtually grassless but dry surface. Derick Hougaard kicked all of Saracens' points. Across the Pennines at Edgeley Park in Stockport, tries from wings Paul Diggin and Chris Ashton saw Northampton make light of a woeful goal-kicking display from fly-half Stephen Myler to keep the pressure on leaders Leicester at the top of the table.
Northampton led 7-0 at the break thanks to Diggin's try, converted by Bruce Reihana, the former New Zeland full-back, but could have been much further ahead as Myler missed four straightforward penalties. Charlie Hodgson and Lee Thomas failed with a penalty attempt apiece for the Sharks. Ashton then went over shortly after the break and Shane Geraghty slotted a penalty to seal the win, before Ben Cohen got a late try for the home side and Hodgson missed a last-gasp penalty which would have given his side a losing bonus point.
David Walder scored 19 points as London Wasps closed in on the top four with a 24-19 home victory over Gloucester. The former England fly-half scored a try which he converted and added four penalties. Gloucester battled back from 13-0 down to 16-16 only to be sunk by a late try. David Lemi took a pass wide on the left and accelerated beyond the challenges of James Simpson-Daniel and Olly Morgan to score with a dive by the flag.
Newcastle's hopes of a rare double over Bath disappeared as the visitors scored two second-half tries to come back from 10-5 down and win 17-13 at Kingston Park yesterday. The game ended in controversy with the referee blowing for time with one minute and eight seconds still left on the scoreboard clock and Newcastle banging away at the Bath line before Bath turned it over and booted the ball dead.
* With agencies