Ashton scores on return to Saracens, Wade stars for Wasps
Former England wing Chris Ashton scored a try on his comeback on Saturday after a long suspension for biting as he helped English Premiership champions Saracens to a 21-6 victory over Newcastle.
Saracens top the table on 42 points level with Wasps, for whom prolific wing Christian Wade scored a hat-trick of tries, taking his tally for the year to 18, in a crowd-pleasing 40-26 win over third-placed Bath.
Exeter went fourth with an impressive 31-10 win over Leicester, former Tigers number 8 Thomas Waldrom showing no room for sentiment against his old club by scoring a brace of tries to take his tally to eight for the season.
Ashton, who is to leave for French club Toulon at the end of the season, came on in the second half and the 29-year-old ensured he left his mark after the 13-week suspension with a try against struggling Newcastle.
"It is good to have Chris (Ashton) back in the team and scoring tries," said Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall.
"It wasn't the best game for him to come back for but he got his name on the scoresheet.
"His attitude in training has been fine. He's been waiting for this chance to play again and now he's keen to get a couple of starts.
"We now just want to see more of what he's given the club over the last four years," added the 49-year-old former Ireland international centre.
Saracens may have made heavy weather of beating one of the strugglers but Wasps and Leicester turned on the style for the heavyweight clash as second took on third.
A superb no holds-barred game saw eight tries scored and the win ensured Wasps ended the year unbeaten at home in 18 matches.
However, while the spectators may have been delighted at getting value for money Wasps director of rugby Dai Young couldn't quite get into the Christmas spirit.
"It was obviously a really tough game, as you expect with it being second against third," he said.
"We showed some fantastic stuff in attack I thought, some real cutting-edge stuff with great support play.
"But to be totally honest I thought we lacked some energy in defence especially first half.
"We looked like a team that was on the back of two very tough European games then a six-day turn-round," added the 49-year-old former Wales prop.
Friday's match had seen Northampton ease to a 24-5 victory over Sale and at least end the week on a good note having been at the centre of the George North storm.
The club was criticised but not punished for allowing the Welsh wing back on the pitch against Leicester earlier this month after he appeared to be knocked out.
© 2016 AFP