• Saracens take command

    Saracens soared to the top of the English Premiership with an emphatic 39-17 win over Harlequins in front of a world record club crowd of 83,889 at Wembley.

    The five-try victory put them three points clear of Northampton, who dropped down the rankings with a surprise 19-6 loss to the Sale Sharks earlier in the day.

    Harlequins, who rested their England Six Nations contingent of Chris Robshaw, Danny Care and Mike Brown, started the day in fifth place on the log, but lost valuable ground in the drive for a play-off place. They were no match for a fired-up Saracens team, who were gifted an early boost when Chris Ashton snapped up a loose pass and raced 90m for the opening score with just nine minutes on the clock.

    George Kruis took advantage of poor defending and then Owen Farrell intercepted another pass just before half-time to counter a Quins try from Karl Dickson and give his team a 27-10 lead. Sam Smith's short-range touchdown gave Quins a glimmer of hope, but then Jacques Burger benefited from great work by former Bok hooker Schalk Brits to put the game out of reach. Argentine centre Marcelo Bosch merely enhanced the scoreline in the last minute.

    The Sale Sharks came knocking on the door of the play-offs with their upset victory. All the points were scored in the first half; by left wing Mark Cueto, thanks to an amazing break from Dwayne Peel; Marc Jones with a close-range pick-and-go from a ruck; and right wing Tom Brady after Danny Cipriani threaded a grubber through into his path.

    The rain came hammering down after the break, which made handling difficult, but Saints, who had their England players back in action, need to look at the chances they blew in the Sale red zone because of their own sins, outside of the superb defensive effort put up by the Sale Sharks. It was performance which indicates that Saints, with five games to go, are not guaranteed a home semi-final.

    That put Sale into fifth place on the log on 47 points, but they are still in a play-off battle after Bath consolidated their position at No 3 with a bonus-point win over London Irish. Leicester drew level with Bath on 54 points after a six-try 45-15 romp over Exeter on Sunday.

    Results:

    Worcester Warriors 11 London Wasps 13
    Sale Sharks 19 Northampton 6
    Gloucester 40 Newcastle 33
    Saracens 39 Harlequins 17
    London Irish 23 Bath 44
    Leicester 45 Exeter 15

    Premiership log

    Photo: David Rogers/Getty Images