The dust has settled on round 4 so let’s look at how my predictions went and my thoughts from the round.
So how did your predictions do?
5 out 6 is a good result when there is a big upset, I got the 50:50 game right so happy this week.
London Welsh 10 v 46 Gloucester
Groundhog day for the Exiles, competitive for the first 63 minutes but then letting in a host of points late on. This time the catalyst was a yellow card but the underlying problem is fitness. I remember reading some comments after the first game of the season that Welsh were puffing early and you have to wonder if they had to spend too much time preseason on getting to know the game plan and not having time for the fitness side of things.
For Gloucester they’ll be happy to have the 5 points but they were made to wait and work for it. Finally the floodgates did open but other opponents will go toe to toe for the full game. At least it’s another 80 mins of game time together, but there are still plenty to do and questions to answer. Do you have Hook at 10 or 15? Who should be kicking because 64% success rate isn’t good enough?
Key Stat: Score at 63 mins 10-15, score at full-time 10-46
How much are the other stats influenced by that last 17 or so minutes? Sure there were plenty of missed tackles (32) again by Welsh, Gloucester made 567 meters running with ball in hand which was more than twice Welsh but I don’t know how much of that happened at the end.
Leicester Tigers 19 v 22 London Irish
It has been a great start to the season for Irish. Brian Smith mentioned momentum and Irish have it, so far they have taken points from every game. It should have been a much easier win but their lack of execution meant a couple of tries were butchered. Even so they can look up the table rather than sitting in no mans land just above the relegation scrap this season which is a good step forward.
Tigers could have stolen this one, a bad day with the boot from Burns prevented that and they didn’t deserve it. It’s been a poor start to the season and yes they do have injuries but that’s been going on for over a season. There have to be questions about recruitment and the fitness staff. Also I hope Cockerill gets pulled up and told to stop blaming the referees for his side losing.
Key Stat: Not available
Saracens 40 v 19 Sale Sharks
A comfortable win for Saracens leaves them clear at the top and still unbeaten. They’ll be happy to have put a TBP win on the board for their first home game of the season. Did we learn much? Not really, Saracens are a ruthless side but we know that already. Bath up next week will be a real challenge.
Sale have not really got going this season, even if Cipraini has looked great. They need to capture the form of last season if they want to end up in the top 6. There are no concerns with relegation but that’s not where they want to be.
Key Stat: Not available
Northampton Saints 31 v 24 Bath
Bath taste defeat for the first time this season. Mike Ford has it right both at the club and with his comment “showed what a good side we are going to be.” Bath are showing that they are top of the chasing pack but they are still part of that chasing pack. Next weekend they have Saracens at home which will be another big test.
Saints were always in the lead, clearly helped by the yellow card and penalty try. Got a bit nervy towards the end but they’ll be happy with the win and TBP. There was talk that Wasps showed teams how to beat Saints, but if a pack that bossed Tigers can’t do it, then Saints don’t have too much to worry about.
Key Stat: Second half score 14 v 14
The send half was a draw but Saints only had 36% of possession, that’s a whole bunch of defending especially by tired players in the second half. There is lots of focus on Burrell, Pisi brothers and North as a powerful attacking threat. But defensively they are equally strong across the whole squad.
Exeter Chiefs 36 v 13 Harlequins
Exeter will be really happy with this home win. Whist teams talk about Sandy Park being hard to travel to Exeter have been better away from recently. They couldn’t push for the TBP but at least the opportunity was there. This win was off the back of a strong defensive effort with Exeter having conceded the fewest points in the premiership so far.
Quins are one of those teams that have not got going this season. They turned the ball over too much, that was in part to the rush defence. As O’Shea said this season could slip away quickly if they don’t improve. This first block of 6 games is the longest in the season and is a quarter of the season so you can understand what he means.
Key Stat: Scrums 13 v 6 and turnovers conceded 11 v 19
O’Shea was bemoaning the number of turnovers that they conceded which is backed up by the stats above. But they are only numbers, they don’t tell you what caused them. This is going to be a case of who you listen to for Quins fans will say they are not executing and Chiefs fans will say these were forced errors by the high sped defence. The truth is somewhere in-between.
Wasps 35 v 18 Newcastle Falcons
Wasps wrapped up the weekend with a TBP win over Falcons. They went at their best but clearly good enough and not too big a drop after 3 big weeks. Sitting top of a congested mid table they’ll be happy having played 3 of the big 4 but need to keep the consistency which has eluded them in the past.
Fairly predictable from Falcons who are on one of the longest ever loading streaks. As Dean Richards says at least they are scoring tries but they are already more than a TBP win adrift of tenth. The first of their 2 leg “cup final” comes up in 2 weeks so that will be their target.
Key Stat: Not available
So have we learnt anything about how the season is going to pan out?
Well you have got very long odds on Tigers and Quins being in 8th and 9th at this point of the season. Seeing how these two have struggled and how well Bath, Exeter and Wasps are going (Irish will say they should be in the list too) it does look like there’ll be a new team in the top 4. It has been the same four teams in the playoffs for the last 3 seasons but it looks like that could be broken this year.
At the other end it’s looking like a straight shoot out between Welsh and Falcons which was fairly predictable.