Northampton Saints tenure at the top of the Aviva (English)Premiership may still be intact after their slightly surprising defeat away atSale Sharks yesterday, to end a five-match winning streak that had seemeddestined to pull them clear of the chasing pack at the top, but what it hasdone is to bring Bath back on to their heels with only one point now separatingthem.

Sale’sexcellent 20-7 victory limited the powerful Saints to just theone try on the day from Teimana Harrison late on, by which time the game wasbasically done and dusted after twenty unanswered points prior to that for thehome side.

They led 13-0 at the break after England-hopeful Danny Cipriani’stwo penalties and a try from Eifion Lewis-Roberts, which became 20-0 when DanBraid crossed the line for a further try in the second period.

Bath’s 39-26 success over Wasps ensuredthat the gap to the Saints is down to a slender margin at the top after theweekend’s fixtures, with a notable first being the opening try for Rugby leagueconvert Sam Burgess for Bath in the second period. The home side were always incontrol, leading comfortably 20-5 by the break thanks to tries from FrancoisLouw and Semesi Rokoduguni (the latter limping off with a thigh strain as aresult).

With Wasps’ mustering just an Alapati Leiua try themselves. AfterBurgess’ success, ex- England back Matt Banahan clinched the vital bonus pointwith a further try which was added to by Ollie Devoto for Bath, following onfrom Fijian-born Nathan Hughes’ five-pointer for Wasps. The away side managed afour-try bonus point of their own when Ben Jacobs and Alex Lozowski crossed theBath line later on in the match, perhaps partly due to the fact that Bath werefielding two scrum-halves due to injuries by that time.

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Rugby

Burgess, playing at inside-centre against Wasps, hasadmitted that the change from league to union is proving more of a challengethan he first expected, but this was an encouraging step on what many hope willbe a successful spell in the game as he targets a possible England call up in thefuture.

There has been some hope offered by former Englandcaptain Lawrence Dallaglio regarding the incumbent England number eight BenMorgan, after he was seen to be stretchered off on Friday while playing for hisclub side Gloucester against Saracens.

Gloucester dramatically snatched thegame at the death 24-23 thanks to a penalty from half-way by Welsh star JamesHook, after a long stoppage in the play while Morgan received treatment on thepitch. The recent star performer during the autumn internationals fractured hisleg in the Premiership game, but Dallaglio believes that he will have recoveredby the time the World Cup comes around in September. One thing for certainthough is that he will be a big miss for England in the upcoming Six Nations’ tournamentwhich begins next month.

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