Rugby round-up

Munster's Francis Saili tries to evade  Ospreys' Alun Wyn Jones (centre left) during the Guinness PRO12 Semi final match at Thomond Park.  Picture: Niall Carson/PA Wire.

Munster's Francis Saili tries to evade Ospreys' Alun Wyn Jones (centre left) during the Guinness PRO12 Semi final match at Thomond Park. Picture: Niall Carson/PA Wire.

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Aviva Premiership semi-finals: Exeter Chiefs 18 - 16 Saracens

Exeter ended Saracens’ hopes of a second successive European and domestic double in dramatic fashion.

Replacement back-row forward Sam Simmonds scored an 80th-minute try to secure an 18-16 home triumph and halt Saracens’ reign as Aviva Premiership champions.

Seven days after lifting the European Champions Cup by beating Clermont Auvergne, Saracens looked to have again dug deep as replacement wing Mike Ellery’s 76th-minute touchdown appeared to floor the Chiefs.

But Devon’s finest, unbeaten in the Premiership since October, somehow clawed out a narrow victory following an earlier Jack Nowell try and eight points from skipper Gareth Steenson.

Wing Chris Wyles had scored a 57th-minute try for Saracens, with captain Owen Farrell kicking two penalties, but Exeter had just enough in the tank to keep alive hopes of being crowned English champions for the first time in their 146-year history. Exeter ended Saracens’ hopes of a second successive European and domestic double in dramatic fashion.

Replacement back-row forward Sam Simmonds scored an 80th-minute try to secure an 18-16 home triumph and halt Saracens’ reign as Aviva Premiership champions.

Seven days after lifting the European Champions Cup by beating Clermont Auvergne, Saracens looked to have again dug deep as replacement wing Mike Ellery’s 76th-minute touchdown appeared to floor the Chiefs.

But Devon’s finest, unbeaten in the Premiership since October, somehow clawed out a narrow victory following an earlier Jack Nowell try and eight points from skipper Gareth Steenson.

Wing Chris Wyles had scored a 57th-minute try for Saracens, with captain Owen Farrell kicking two penalties, but Exeter had just enough in the tank to keep alive hopes of being crowned English champions for the first time in their 146-year history.

Wasps 21 - 20 Leicester

Josh Bassett’s late try put Wasps into their first Aviva Premiership final for nine years. Jimmy Gopperth and Willie Le Roux sent Bassett into the corner with two minutes to play, to end the ever-dogged Leicester’s stubborn resistance.

But Dai Young’s side may have to face Exeter without star man Kurtley Beale after the Australia flyer limped off with a leg problem.

Beale grabbed Wasps’ first score as they led early on but Leicester drew level at 13-13 courtesy of Peter Betham’s score. Telusa Veainu’s second-half try for the Tigers left Wasps throwing everything at a madcap recovery, with Bassett just finding time to turn the tide.

Leicester captain Tom Youngs was unable to guide his side to the final but was lauded by both sets of supporters, all aware his wife Tiffany has been diagnosed with terminal cancer.

The Tigers’ bravery and granite grit so nearly trumped Wasps’ fluent back play, but in the end the hosts had it – but only just.

Championship Cup play off

Northampton 21 - 15 Connacht

Northampton kept alive their hopes of playing in the European Champions Cup next season with a hard-fought 21-15 victory in the second play-off.

Saints now face a home clash with Stade Francais next Friday, and the winners will take the last remaining place in next season’s competition.

Nic Groom and Harry Mallinder scored tries for the home side, with Mallinder converting one and adding three penalties.

David Heffernan and Niyi Adeolokun scored tries for Connacht, with Craig Ronaldson converting one and kicking a penalty.

But there was to be no fairy tale ending for their head coach, Pat Lam, who takes over at Bristol for next season.

Northampton had held a narrow 13-10 lead at the interval, which was when French referee Mathieu Raynal was forced to withdraw with an injury sustained in a hefty collision with Saints prop Alex Waller.

Guinness Pro12 Semi-final

Munster 23 - 3 Ospreys

Table toppers Munster booked their place in next Saturday’s Guinness Pro12 final with a runaway 23-3 victory over Ospreys at Thomond Park.

Departing centre Francis Saili signed off at the province’s Limerick fortress with a magnificent man-of-the-match performance as Munster set up a title decider with Scarlets at Dublin’s Aviva Stadium.

A well-taken 25th-minute try from Saili, whose release by Munster at the end of the season was confirmed on Friday, saw the home side leading 8-3, with Dan Biggar and Tyler Bleyendaal kicking a penalty each.

Driven on by captain Alun Wyn Jones, who made a welcome return from a shoulder injury, the Welshmen began to wilt after Simon Zebo took his Munster record to 53 tries on the hour mark.

Bleyendaal converted and also added a penalty with 14 minutes remaining, before Andrew Conway crossed for a classy 74th-minute try as Munster moved within reach of their first Pro12 crown since 2011.

The eagerly-awaited duel between British and Irish Lions scrum-halves Conor Murray and Rhys Webb was shelved as the latter was withdrawn before kick-off with a groin injury.

Ospreys had the first points on the board when Biggar slotted over a seventh-minute penalty. But although the visitors dominated possession for much of the opening 40 minutes, Munster held them at arm’s length with some well-organised and steely defence.

New Zealander Saili was Munster’s liveliest runner and his efforts were rewarded with an opportunist try.

Munster began to get the edge at scrum time, and a furious late assault on the Ospreys line ended with Bleyendaal’s right boot putting them five points up at half-time.

On 60 minutes Munster somehow turned a Justin Tipuric hack downfield into a thrilling score, a breathless counter-attack that ended with Zebo grounding.

Winger Conway showed great feet and finishing skills to make the line for the third try.

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