Aviva Premiership - Round-up: Irish up to second
Ryan Lamb punished his former club with an immaculate goal-kicking display as London Irish climbed to second place in the Aviva Premiership with a 23-16 win over Gloucester.
The Exiles fly-half booted 13 points through a five from five return, condemning Gloucester to their second defeat in three starts this term.
Hooker James Buckland and number eight George Stowers, who was sent off during last weekend's narrow loss at Bath, added tries in each half to leave Irish three points behind unbeaten leaders Northampton. Irish once again look title play-off material, even at this early stage of proceedings, yet Gloucester could find themselves facing a long, hard winter.
Lamb and Nicky Robinson exchanged early penalties but Irish looked dangerous from the outset, cleverly mixing their running and kicking games before Gloucester's defence was unlocked after 19 minutes.
Precision passing by the Irish backs stretched Gloucester in all directions before flanker Declan Danaher delivered a scoring ball to Buckland and Lamb converted for a 10-3 lead.
Robinson cut the deficit through his second penalty soon after and he completed his penalty hat-trick at the beginning of the second half, while Lamb's strike after Irish's forwards were held over Gloucester's line restored a four-point advantage.
Irish eagerly attempted to inject some urgency, sparked by scrum-half Paul Hodgson's darting breaks in front of watching England attack coach Brian Smith, and with Gloucester's discipline showing signs of fraying, another Lamb penalty made it 16-9.
Seilala Mapusua stormed into Gloucester territory, and when quick ball was rifled out to the Irish backs wing Johnathan Joseph found an unmarked Stowers, who blasted through Robinson's challenge.
Lamb added the extras, and with Irish safe on the scoreboard they began to rediscover the attacking enterprise that has become a trademark under their coaching team of Toby Booth and Mike Catt.
Gloucester, in contrast, lost their shape and composure despite the consolation try as the pressure is now inevitably cranked up on head coach Bryan Redpath prior to next Saturday's appointment with Wasps.
David Strettle marked his first start for Saracens with a try as Brendan Venter's side claimed a 26-14 win over bottom side Leeds Carnegie, who registered their third-successive defeat.
Strettle, 27, touched down in the 26th minute with a clinical effort to register his second try for the club following his summer move from rivals Harlequins.
Replacement hooker Schalk Brits added a late second and fly-half Derick Hougaard weighed in with 16 points with the boot in a largely uninspiring encounter.
A penalty from Hougaard put Saracens ahead in the the third minute but the initial response from Leeds was impressive.
However, the hosts could not make their dominance pay and were hit with a vicious sucker-punch in the 26th minute when Saracens claimed the only try of the first half. Hougaard collected a pass from De Kock and flighted a teasing grubber kick into the right corner, where Strettle arrived to touch down.
Hougaard added the extras and converted another penalty before half-time to give his side an interval lead of 13-0.
Yet Leeds hit back six minutes after the break through a penalty from Lewis-Pratt to at least put some points on the board. However, he finally succumbed to injury in the 53rd minute and was replaced by Leigh Hinton.
Hinton kicked a penalty to cut the gap to seven points shortly before the hour mark but Hougaard gave Saracens further breathing space moments later with a long-range three-pointer.
Eight minutes later another penalty from Hinton got Leeds back into the game at 16-9 but Saracens grabbed a killer second try in the closing stages when Brits touched down after the visiting pack drove him over the line.
Hougaard converted and although centre James Tincknell replied for Leeds in the left corner, Hinton failed to add the conversion before Hougaard added another penalty for Saracens.