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Premiership Rugby: Sale Sharks, Bath seal play-off spots, Newcastle Falcons end season winless

Sale Sharks ensure their place in the Gallagher Premiership Play-Offs in two weeks' time with victory over Saracens; they will face Bath, who finish second after victory over league leaders Northampton Saints; Newcastle Falcons end campaign winless after defeat at Gloucester

Saracens v Sale Sharks - Gallagher Premiership - StoneX Stadium
Sale Sharks' Ben Curry (centre) celebrates their side�s victory with Jean-Luc du Preez (left) and Raffi Quirke (right) during the Gallagher Premiership match at StoneX Stadium, London. Picture date: Saturday May 18, 2024.
Image: Ben Curry celebrates Sale's victory over Saracens with Jean-Luc du Preez and Raffi Quirke

Sale Sharks survived the loss of Manu Tuilagi to clinch a Gallagher Premiership Play-Offs spot thanks to a 20-10 upset win at Saracens.

Tuilagi, who was celebrating his 33rd birthday, has almost certainly played his last game in a Sharks shirt after he was forced off with a hamstring injury after 17 minutes.

Initial indications from the club were that the centre's campaign was over and he would miss the semi-final against Bath on Saturday, June 1 and a possible Twickenham final before his move to Bayonne in France.

Saracens v Sale Sharks - Gallagher Premiership - StoneX Stadium
Saracens' Owen Farrell during the Gallagher Premiership match at StoneX Stadium, London. Picture date: Saturday May 18, 2024.
Image: Owen Farrell has played his last home game as a Saracens player

Saracens' defeat condemned them to a last-four knockout game on the road against Northampton Saints on Friday, May 31 after they had been favourites for a home tie, and it also meant this was the last home game for Owen Farrell, Billy and Mako Vunipola before their summer moves.

Tries either side of half time from Tom Roebuck and Rob du Preez, plus two conversions and two penalties from England fly-half George Ford, set the Sharks on their way to victory at the StoneX Stadium for the first time.

Marco Riccioni got the only try for Saracens, with Farrell converting and adding a penalty for the hosts.

Bath rose to the occasion at the Recreation Ground with a six-try 43-12 demolition of table-toppers Northampton which confirmed their place in the play-offs, but the players had to wait several agonising minutes to learn that they had also earned a home tie against Sale.

Also See:

Gallagher Premiership play-off fixtures

Friday, May 31: Northampton Saints vs Saracens (7.45pm).

Saturday, June 1: Bath vs Sale Sharks (3.30pm).

Premiership Final at Twickenham on Saturday, June 8 (3pm)

It is testimony to a remarkable transformation from the dark days of two years ago when Bath finished bottom of the table.

Man of the match Josh Bayliss wasted no time in justifying his selection at No 8 ahead of Alfie Barbeary, as Bath shoved the Saints scrum over the line after just seven minutes, with Finn Russell adding the conversion.

Two tries either side of half time from Will Muir, plus scores from Tom Dunn, Ben Spencer and replacement Barbeary made certain of the bonus point for the hosts, with Russell kicking a total of four conversions and a penalty.

A much-changed Northampton side replied through tries from James Ramm and Tom Seabrook, with Charlie Savala adding a solitary conversion.

Bath v Northampton Saints - Gallagher Premiership - The Recreation Ground
Bath's Matt Gallagher is tackled by Northampton Saints' Ollie Sleightholme during the Sky Bet Championship play-off, semi-final, first leg match at The Hawthorns, West Bromwich. Picture date: Sunday May 12, 2024.
Image: Bath's Matt Gallagher looks for a way through the Northampton defence

Bears, Chiefs fall short | Falcons end season winless

Sale's victory over Saracens meant the outcome at Welford Road between Leicester Tigers and Exeter Chiefs was academic, as the visitors would miss out on a semi-final place regardless.

A red card for departing back-rower Jasper Wiese was not enough to dampen the mood for the hosts either as Leicester secured a 40-22 victory. Despite Wiese's dismissal in his final Tigers game, this was the ideal way for eighth-placed Leicester to end what has been a difficult campaign.

Tries from Ollie Hassell-Collins, Jack van Poortvliet, Tommy Reffell and Mike Brown set the hosts on course for the win, with Handre Pollard converting all four and kicking two penalties.

Results elsewhere meant Exeter, who replied through tries from Immanuel Feyi-Waboso, Dan Frost and Ross Vintcent plus two conversions and penalty from Henry Slade, dropped two places to seventh on the final day of the regular season.

Bristol Bears v Saracens - Gallagher Premiership - Ashton Gate
Bristol Bears' Ellis Genge during the Gallagher Premiership match at Ashton Gate, Bristol. Picture date: Saturday May 11, 2024.
Image: England prop Ellis Genge was injured in Bristol's win over Harlequins

Over at The Stoop, Bristol Bears held up their end of the bargain by winning a thrilling encounter against Harlequins 53-28, but it was not enough to reach the play-offs in a match where both teams could have qualified with a bonus-point win, provided other results went their way.

Bears led 21-14 at half-time, with James Williams, Ellis Genge and Gabriel Ibitoye all crossing. Those scores came at a cost though, with injuries to Benhard Janse van Rensburg, Callum Sheedy and England prop Genge who ended the game on crutches and in a walking boot which will concern head coach Steve Borthwick ahead of this summer's two-Test tour of New Zealand, which is live on Sky Sports.

Harlequins scored two tries of their own through Chandler Cunningham-South and Alex Dombrandt. Early in the second half, Harry Thacker brought up Bristol's bonus point, but Quins responded through Luke Northmore before a second Cunningham-South try gave them the lead for the first time in the match.

However, the boot of Williams and tries from Max Lahiff, Noah Heward and Gabriel Oghre allowed Bristol to retake the lead and stretch clear, even if it was not enough to crack the top four.

Newcastle Falcons, meanwhile, finished the season without a single win as Gloucester were convincing 54-14 winners at Kingsholm. As a result, Falcons became the third team after Rotherham in 2003/04 and London Welsh 2014/15 to fail to record a victory in a Premiership campaign.

After last week's 90-0 humiliation at the hands of Northampton, Gloucester were mightily relieved to finish on the winning side, but it still was not enough for them to avoid statistically their worst-ever Premiership season.

Zach Mercer, Chris Harris, Charlie Atkinson, Ollie Thorley, Seb Blake, Jonny May, Alex Hearle and Josh Hathaway scored their tries with Caolan Englefield converting five. Stephen Varney and Santiago Socino each added a conversion. Jamie Blamire and Matias Moroni scored Newcastle's tries, both of which Brett Connon converted.

Watch England's two-Test tour of New Zealand, plus Wales in Australia and Ireland in South Africa live on Sky Sports in July. Also stream with NOW.

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