Gareth Steenson was the stand out performer in England with a total of 8 Irish players taking to the field off play in the weekend’s action.
Steenson landed 3 penalties and 3 conversions in his 72 minutes on the pitch as Exeter turned in a strong second half performance to beat Northampton 30-9 at Sandy Par. The chiefs went in at half time 9-3 down however a 55th minute try from Limerick man Tom Hayes, who played the full game, started the comeback with Exeter’s first try in almost 130 minutes of rugby as he touched down in the corner and the chiefs added 2 more tries to seal a big win.
James Downey played the full game at Centre for Northampton while Roger Wilson was banned following a citation for stamping on an opponent during the Aviva Premiership match against Saracens on February 12. Wilson is due to return to action on the 8th March.
Bob Casey made his second start in a week as London Irish went down 27-19 away to Leeds. The Kildare man played 51 minutes coming off with Irish 19-15 ahead. Kyle Tonetti and Neil McMillan both started as Sale went down 33-26 away to Wasps. 10 points in the last 7 minutes put a more respectable slant on the score line for Sale with Tonetti off the field for the late rally having come off after 60 minutes. Fellow Irish man McMillan was sin binned on 25 minutes however the Northern Irish man was fortunate that Sale only conceded 3 points during his enforced absence.
At Welford road Jeremy Staunton kicked 9 points as Leicester went down 14-15 to Saracens in a tense encounter. Despite the loss Leicester stay top however Saracens are breathing down their necks and are just 2 points behind the leaders.
Newcastle dented the top four hopes of Conor O’Shea’s Harlequins and moved themselves to within 2 points of third from bottom sale with their second win in a week. Jeremy Manning started for the Falcons however the former Munster full back was forced off on a stretcher with a leg injury on 34 minutes with Newcastle leading 10-6. Fly half Jimmy Gopperth scored 3 unconverted second half tries as Newcastle ran out 33-18 winners.