The Sale Sharks ended the year with a bonus-point 30-15 victory over Gloucester, while there were also English Premiership wins for Harlequins, Saracens, the Northampton Saints, Bath and Bristol Bears.
A first-half try from Faf de Klerk, to go along with tries from Chris Ashton, Rob Webber and Denny Solomona gave the visitors back-to-back wins as they continued to rise in the table.
Gloucester, who took an early lead through hooker Jaco Visagie, were guaranteed to stay in third place no matter the result, but now face a fight to stay in the top four with Harlequins, Saints and the Sharks all lurking below them.
After Visagie’s try and a penalty from centre Billy Twelvetrees put Gloucester ahead, Sale hit back after Byron McGuigan gathered a box kick and passed to Ashton to score. Robert du Preez’s penalty cut the deficit to three points before a break engineered by Ashton and James O’Connor allowed De Klerk to go over and put them ahead.
Another Du Preez penalty made it 17-10 at the break, but the visitors suffered a blow when De Klerk was yellow-carded minutes into the second half for a deliberate knock-down. However, the numbers were levelled after Gloucester’s Lewis Ludlow was also sent to the sin bin, with Du Preez kicking the subsequent penalty to take the Sharks into a 10-point lead.
Webber then went over in the corner from behind a driving maul to add to Sale’s lead, before the ball was spread wide to see Solomona grab the bonus-point try. Gloucester responded through a try from Matt Banahan, but it could not prevent Sale from claiming the victory and climbing into the top six.
In other results, Cobus Reinach grabbed the headlines again as his second-half intercept try saw the Northampton Saints beat first-placed Exeter Chiefs 31-28.
Defending champions Saracens bounced back from their loss to the Chiefs last weekend by battling to a 25-17 win over the Worcester Warriors, and Harlequins handed Wasps their third consecutive defeat by winning 20-13 in London.
In the two matches on Sunday, Bath overcame an early try to beat the Leicester Tigers 23-16, thanks to first-half tries from Jamie Roberts and Nathan Catt, while the Bristol Bears claimed a 35-28 win against the Newcastle Falcons.
Round 11 results:
Harlequins 20 Wasps 13
Saracens 25 Worcester Warriors 17
Gloucester 15 Sale Sharks 30
Northampton Saints 31 Exeter Chiefs 28
Bath 23 Leicester Tigers 16
Bristol Bears 35 Newcastle Falcons 28
Photo: Dan Mullan/Getty Images