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Northampton Saints start Premiership season with big win

Champions Northampton Saints opened the new Premiership season in style with a 53-6 thrashing of Gloucester.

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Northampton " who beat Saracens 24-20 after extra time to win their first Premiership title last year " could not have wished for a better start to the season as they aim for back-to-back successes.

George North was the star of the show for Saints on Friday and crossed for three tries. Luther Burrell added a double while George Pisi, Kahn Fotuali'I and Jon Fisher also scored tries for Northampton.

And Stephen Myler picked up where he left off last season, kicking four conversions and one penalty as Gloucester " who trailed 24-6 at the break " had no answers for their opponents.

Piri Weepu made his return to rugby but saw London Welsh hammered 52-0 by the Exeter Chiefs on Sunday in their first top-flight match since promotion.

Weepu suffered a stroke in February and doctors later found a hole in his heart that required surgery.

But the 2011 World Cup winner for New Zealand has made a full recovery and started for Welsh at the Kassam Stadium.

Things did not go to plan for Weepu's team, though, as Exeter ran in six tries, with Thomas Waldrom scoring twice.

Weepu started and played 62 minutes before being replaced by Robert Lewis.

Welsh replaced the Worcester Warriors in the Premiership after winning promotion from the Championship last season.

A last-gasp David Strettle try was required to give Saracens a 34-28 win over Wasps in front of more than 66,000 fans at Twickenham on Saturday.

The match " the first of a double-header that also saw Harlequins beat London Irish 20-15 " went right to the wire despite a strong start from Saracens.

Chris Ashton and Strettle crossed in the first half as they took a 20-9 lead into the break but Wasps, led by Christian Wade, hit back strongly.

Strettle scored his second try of the game in the 61st minute, though, and he completed his hat-trick by diving over in the corner in the 78th minute to give Saracens a dramatic win.

The other match at Twickenham saw Irish unable to recover from a 20-6 half-time deficit.

Shane Geraghty kicked five penalties but a try proved elusive as Harlequins, semi-finalists last term, hung on for victory.

Leicester Tigers saw their run of nine consecutive final appearances ended last season but started brightly with a 36-17 win over the Newcastle Falcons at Welford Road, while Bath edged Sale Sharks 29-20 in the first round's other match.

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