Saracens enjoyed the last laugh over Northampton and Soane Tonga'uiha, their prop forward who agreed to join Sarries only to undergo a change of heart by ending the Saints' unbeaten home record yesterday with a 28-27 victory in the Guinness Premiership. Shane Geraghty missed a late penalty that would have confirmed Northampton a home semi-final. For Saracens, victory ensured they would play a semi-final. Leicester guaranteed themselves a home semi-final in the play-offs with a comfortable 40-22 win over Harlequins at Welford Road.
London Irish saw their hopes of reaching the play-offs suffer a huge setback after they were crushed 34-20 at Kingsholm yesterday. The Exiles, beaten Premiership finalists last season, were blown away by a Gloucester side that blazed into a 27-3 interval lead. In the late game, London Wasps lost to Bath 35-19. In the Super 14, the New South Wales Waratahs dealt a serious blow to the CA Brumbies' finals hopes after a gritty 19-12 victory at ANZ Stadium yesterday.
In a dour struggle, the Waratahs scored the lone try through winger Justin Turner to secure the vital four competition points in front of 40,271 supporters. Morne Steyn scored 24 points to help the Pretoria Bulls bounce back from their indifferent Super 14 away leg with a crushing 51-11 win over Golden Lions, their neighbours, in Pretoria yesterday. The Sharks kept their slim Super 14 play-off hopes alive thanks to a nervous 23-10 victory over the Blues in Durban. Ruan Pienaar scored 14 points, with a solitary try for the visitors coming from Peter Saili. The Wellington Hurricanes' slim play-off hopes remain alive after an entertaining bonus-point victory against the Otago Highlanders in Dunedin.
Both teams scored five tries apiece at Carisbrook as they attacked with gusto and in the end the fact Aaron Cruden converted four of the Hurricanes' tries and Israel Dagg could only convert three of the Highlanders' proved to be the difference. * Agencies