Premiership rugby recap: Leicester extend pristine start as Saracens slam Saints

The New Year started much as it ended for Leicester Tigers as the Premiership leaders began 2022 with a dominant 31-0 win over Newcastle Falcons on Sunday.

Steve Borthwick's side have now won 11 games in as many attempts this season and remain on course to finish first, but second-placed Saracens are keeping up the pressure after they won 30-6 away to Northampton.

Mark McCall's side have secured back-to-back wins since losing at Exeter Chiefs in early December, and victory over the fifth-placed Saints will prove particularly valuable come the end of the campaign.

Elsewhere, Premiership titleholders Harlequins saw out a nail-biting display at Jamie George as third took on fourth, and it was ultimately the defending champions who kept their cool to snatch a 20-17 win.

Sale Sharks breathed new life into their play-off hopes by beating Wasps 26-18 at home on Saturday, the same day Exeter restricted Bristol Bears to a losing bonus point as they emerged 19-13 victors.

Mirror Sport breaks down the highlights from Sunday's splash of Premiership action as Leicester took another step closer to their first league title since 2013. . .

Leicester Tigers 31-0 Newcastle Falcons

Tries (Leicester): Kelly 31', Scott 38', Martin 54', Potter 80'+

Leicester never looked like losing a largely one-sided display against Newcastle, where Harry Potter sprinkled some injury-time magic to score from a superb Freddie Burns cross-field kick and collect the bonus-point win.

A George Ford penalty was all that separated the pair after 30 minutes when centre Dan Kelly—not for the first time—emerged as the scoring beneficiary of a team-wide Tigers maul.

Fly-half Ford turned creator when he chipped through for Matt Scott to gather and score minutes later, and director of rugby Dean Richards' side all of a sudden looked far from competitive.

The second period proved only marginally better for Newcastle as Leicester went over the line twice more, and Ford added the extras for each as No. 8 George Martin and wing favourite Potter did the damage.

While Leicester stretch their lead at the top to an impressive nine points, Newcastle remain eighth approaching the season's halfway mark but are level on points with both Sale and Wasps.

Who do you think will lift the Premiership title this season? Let us know in the comments section.

Northampton Saints 6-30 Saracens

Tries (Saracens): Lozowski 43', Woolstencroft 73', Itoje 77'

What started out as an agonisingly close clash ended with Saracens emphasising their place as title contenders as they pulled clear of Northampton late on Sunday.

Dan Biggar and Alex Lozowski traded two penalties apiece to keep the sides level at the break, only for the latter to take things into his own hands by sprinting over for the game's first try soon after the restart.

Although Alex Goode was playing at fly-half for the visitors, stand-in centre Lozowski continued to impress from the tee with captain Owen Farrell still injured (ankle).

George Ford also made an impact in his return at hooker, captaining McCall's men to an important victory in his first game back since he was injured on international duty in November.

Conor Carey replaced tighthead prop Paul Hill not long after the hour mark but lasted only eight minutes before his afternoon was ended by a late sin bin for impeding a Saracens maul.

Sarries made it count seconds later and barged over through substitute hooker Tom Woolstencroft, with the momentum swinging further out of reach for the 14 men of Northampton.

And Maro Itoje proved unforgiving as the England lock touched down for Saracens' third of the afternoon following an Eroni Mawi break, crossing over for his second try of the Premiership season.

Gloucester 17-20 Harlequins

Tries (Gloucester): Ackermann 23', Socino 77' – (Harlequins): Northmore 34', Care 64'

Two first-half sin bins weren't enough to prevent Harlequins from taking the bulk of the points on offer at Kingsholm, where Gloucester let their guests off the hook despite those early casualties.

Back-rower Tom Lawday and centre Luke Northmore—who scored not long before being sin binned for a deliberate knock-on—were lucky Quins went in level at the break despite each seeing yellow.

The 10-10 scoreline remained for much of the second half until scrum-half Danny Care crossed over to mark his 35th birthday in style, Marcus Smith adding the conversion before what would prove a crucial penalty.

Santiago Socino's converted try assured the Cherry and Whites of a bonus point to start the new year, although Gloucester will look back on Sunday's result as a missed opportunity at four against revered opposition.

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