Lions Watch: Hogg, Nowell and Simmonds among Chiefs to impress
Stuart Hogg, Jack Nowell and Sam Simmonds were among a number of Exeter Chiefs to impress in a huge victory over Worcester Warriors as a slew of potential British & Irish Lions laid down a marker in the English Premiership and PRO14.
Hogg and Nowell formed an all-Lions back-three along with 2013 tourist Alex Cuthbert as runaway Premiership leaders Exeter continued their march to the semi-finals with a mammoth 59-7 win.
The Chiefs scored nine tries in all, with two-time Lion Hogg crossing 30 seconds after half-time when Cuthbert released him to score in the corner.
Nowell scored one himself when he demonstrated incredible power to drag three defenders over the whitewash with him before creating another by evading two Worcester defenders and feeding Jonny Hill to race over.
That was one of three tries scored by Hill – who became the first lock to score a Premiership hat-trick since three-time Lion Simon Shaw did so for Wasps back in 2003 – while England international back-rower Simmonds also grabbed a treble of close-range tries.
Elsewhere in the Premiership, former England internationals Chris Ashton and Chris Robshaw both scored for Harlequins in their 30-17 victory over fellow top-four hopefuls Northampton Saints, with 2017 Lion Joe Marler also putting in a strong performance in the Quins front row.
2013 Lion Manu Tuilagi showed what he can offer in the centres when he powered through multiple tackles to set up a simple score for Faf de Klerk during Sale Sharks’ 40-7 thrashing of Bristol Bears.
With England prop and 2017 Lion Kyle Sinckler among those rested by Bristol, Sale took advantage with England international winger Marland Yarde dotting down, while compatriot Ben Curry was once again superb in the back row.
Uncapped Ollie Thorley was the star turn as Gloucester overcame Leicester Tigers 46-30, as the 23-year-old winger intensified calls for a first England cap with four first-half tries.
Meanwhile, the PRO14 played its final round of regular season action – with Leinster v Munster and Edinburgh v Ulster confirmed as the two semi-finals for next week.
A much-changed Leinster side extended their 16-month winning streak in all competitions with a 28-10 victory over Ulster, while Tadhg Beirne was sensational as Munster confirmed their semi-final spot by beating 13-man Connacht 49-12.
Ireland international Beirne – playing at lock, although equally comfortable in the back row – scored one try, set up another and was his normal jackalling self at the breakdown.
Munster’s numerous other Lions hopefuls also shone as Conor Murray pulled the strings from scrum-half, Keith Earls threatened with ball in hand and Peter O’Mahony and CJ Stander were all over the pitch.
Connacht’s chances of victory were scuppered by two red cards but Ireland centre Bundee Aki did score a consolation try after appearing off the bench.
Scotland hooker Fraser Brown was the man who pressed his Lions claims hardest in Glasgow Warriors’ 15-3 triumph over Edinburgh at BT Murrayfield, with the game being used to pilot the return of fans to rugby.
The 31-year-old was making his 100th Glasgow appearance and marked the occasion with a try as well as being reliable at the set-piece and making hard yards in the loose.
Wales winger Josh Adams’ try helped Cardiff Blues beat an Ospreys side containing the likes of three-time Lion Alun Wyn Jones, two-time Lion Justin Tipuric and 2017 tourist Rhys Webb 29-20.
And as we wrote about earlier this weekend, 2017 Lions hooker Ken Owens made his 250th appearance for Scarlets – leading to tributes from the likes of All Blacks legend Kieran Read – in their convincing 41-20 triumph over Dragons.