Against a backdrop of a potential influx of South Africans, Don Barrell, the homegrown forward who was born within a stone's throw of the club's ground, scored a dramatic late try for Saracens against Bath yesterday to provide the troubled club with some relief following a tumultuous week. Rocked by the decision of Eddie Jones, their hugely respected coach, to resign following a public fall-out with the club's board, Sarries looked to be heading to yet another defeat until Barrell crashed over in the corner to seal a heartening 20-16 victory.
Bath's failure to hold on at the death meant London Irish took advantage to move up to joint second with a bonus-point win over struggling Worcester at the Madejski Stadium. Harlequins, another play-off chasing team, also came unstuck, going down 24-16 at the hands of a rejuvenated Newcastle side inspired by a 19-point haul from Tom May. Northampton's director of rugby Jim Mallinder believes the British Irish Lions selectors should be running the rule over Ben Foden, his match-winning full-back.
Foden, who was again omitted from England's Six Nations squad, scored one try and regularly tormented Sale's defence in Northampton's 38-3 romp on Saturday - the Saints' biggest league win of the season. "He backs up performances week after week and I can only say that we are delighted to have him on our side," said Mallinder. "But for the lad, in terms of his England aspirations, I feel sorry for him because he's showed that he's good enough to play at the next stage.
"In terms of everything he does it's fantastic and he's backed it up again today. I can only hope that the British Lions are watching him. "When he gets released from the England squad he's disappointed but Ben doesn't get down very easily. "He takes it all in his stride and, as he keeps saying to me, all he can do is keep playing, going out there and doing his very best and that's what he keeps doing."
Another England outcast, Danny Cipriani, played through the pain barrier and made a fantastic try for teammate Lachlan Mitchell but his efforts were in vain as Gloucester beat London Wasps, 24-22, to move to the top of the table. Wasps assistant coach Tony Hanks revealed Cipriani suffered a recurrence of an ankle injury while teammate Josh Lewsey was forced off after just 12 minutes.
"Danny's problem was his ankle that he injured last year," said Hanks. " There are times when it just becomes really sore. He played through quite a bit of pain today. "If it had been any other day we might have brought him off but we are pleased that he really toughed it out." Hanks added: "Losing Josh early did not help, of course. "He has been in great form and pretty instrumental in what we have been doing. He has taken a really bad knock on the quad just above the knee. There is no way he could have carried on as it was quite swollen and he was in quite a bit of pain."
Dean Ryan, the Gloucester coach, felt his side would have won by a bigger margin had Olly Barkley been more accurate with his goalkicking. "I think it was tighter than it needed to be," said Ryan. "I think we missed 20 or 21 points from the boot and I don't think we ever got more than a two or three point gap. "If we had stuck to our guns, I thought there was a bonus point there for us which is disappointing."
* With agencies