The bell has rung for the end of round 5, here’s a look at how my predictions went and my thoughts from the round.
So how did your predictions do?
2 out 6, I had an absolute shocker. I had a feeling that I could get a few wrong this week but not 4. Ah well let’s see how the weekend panned out.
Bath 21 v 11 Saracens
Another big result for Bath and they are turning the Rec into a fortress this season. Most of the mainstream press are anointing them as title contenders and we are only just into October, May is a long way away. The game wasn’t even over when there was a thread on the Bath fans forum getting “worried” that Ford, Eastmond and JJ would be called up for the AIs. He forgot to mention man of the match Roko as well! Whilst I can’t see it happening, he has touched on the issue, we have to wait and see how Bath cope with losing players to international call ups (both AI and 6N) as well as injuries. At the moment they certainly look top 4 but taking that final step to champions is a big step as Saints will attest to. Don’t get me wrong it’s a great improvement on last season and they are certainly a club on the rise.
For Saracens it’s their first defeat of the season and they have dropped to second in the table. They were never going to go through the season undefeated and this is going to be one the hardest three or four games of the premiership season so no disaster. They have Gloucester at home next weekend which is a good game to bounce back with, difficult enough that there will be no complacency but one that they should win.
Key Stat: 8 v 2 clean breaks and 33 v 18 defenders beaten
There is an argument that the yellow card is the key stat as 10 points were scored then and that was the gap at the end. But that ignores the fact that Saracens had 60% territory and 59% possession getting up into the 70s in the second half. This was a game won as much by defence as by scintillating running rugby. But not only defence by Bath but also Saracens missed tackles, all 33 of them, when’s the last time that Saracens have only made 73% of their tackles?
Bath had less passes, runs and meters with ball but clearly were very effective with what they had.
Harlequins v London Welsh
Conor O’Shea was all fighting talk after the game:
If people thought we were going to go away they will have to think again, to write us off after only four games was insulting.
But to suggest everything is rosy at the Stoop after a win against Welsh is a bit of a joke. Job done and all that but have they really learned that much about themselves? Putting in a performance against Tigers next week before the 4 week gap in Premiership fixtures is much more important. The real ray of sunshine will be Evans kicking performance from tee, 7 tries all converted and a penalty.
Welsh will be disappointed that they didn’t put up more of a fight, this wasn’t like the last couple of weeks where they have been competitive until the last 20 mins or so. They will also be disappointed that they were nilled for the second time. Not the kind of preparation they were hoping for ahead of next week against Falcons and the first of 2 “relegation finals”.
Key Stat: Not available
London Irish v Northampton Saints
Irish have now played all four of the playoff teams from last season and have at least a LBP from every game. Even though they lost this one they will be happy that they were competitive and what ever the result next week will be happy with their return from the first block of games. To be 7th in the table and already clear of the relegation scrap is a good improvement on last season.
Saints will also be happy after that game, Irish are much improved and pushing everybody clause so to get the win one the road is a good result. Going top of the table is just icing on the cake. With the lowest number of points conceded and 3 TBPs you can see that this is built on both defence and attack.
Key Stat: only 366 meters run with ball by both teams
This was not Champagne rugby but attritional stuff and the kind of game when we look back people will say is the sign of champions.
Gloucester v Leicester Tigers
Tigers are in turmoil and the more Cockerill says otherwise the more obvious it becomes:
"The result is my responsibility. We are going to stick together as a club and work through the issues, and when we come out the other side we will be better for it. "The club needs to pull together - players, coaches, supporters - we need to stick together, ride the storm and come out the other side. "I am always under pressure for results. Am I under any more pressure than normal? You will have to ask the chairman."
Yes they have a lot of injuries but the way he is talking shows that the pressure of being in the wrong half of the table is beginning to tell. Tigers are famous for slow starts but 3 lost already is the same number as Saracens lost all last season. Tigers only lost 5 last season so with not even a quarter of the season they have already lost more than half of last seasons total. The way the Bath especially, but several other mid-table teams have stepped up this season, does mean that it’s looking more competitive but even so Tigers know that they have lost too much ground already.
Gloucester will be over the moon with that win, the only thing tempering it will be that they didn’t push on and get the TBP. Being 3 tries to the good by half time and they not getting that fourth will annoy them but not much. On the flip side they have managed to put in a first half performance. In too many games this season they have left themselves chasing the game and having to fight back, sometimes making it and others not.
Key Stat: First half territory 65% v 35% and half time score 30-9
This was all over as a contest at half time, clearly there was plenty of work to do in the second half so that Tigers didn’t come back, but boy what a first half.
Sale Sharks v Wasps
As Diamond said afterwards, there was relief as they needed to win this one. It should have been easier than it was and they are not going to away with a 43% kicking display in other games. This though was a team that wasn’t going to get beaten and put in an immense amount of work for one another.
Dai Young blaming squad rotation and being in the top tire european rugby competition was a bit disingenuous. I think behind closed doors the talk will be very different. This is one where the attacking stats say Wasps won, but when you miss more tackles than you opposition when they make twice as many as you, it’s all your own fault. Also isn’t that 2 weeks on the trot where Wade has fumbled the ball to give away a try? Think he’ll be having some personal training this week.
Key Stat: Tackles made/missed 163/26 v 83/27
Sharks may have only had 38% possession and made about half as many meters running with the ball against Wasps but they tackled their hearts out. They are going to be knackered today and recovery is the name of the game for them this week. It appears that they have finally got up to speed and are really playing for each other.
Newcastle Falcons v Exeter Chiefs
A deserved win by Newcastle, first up with their hard tackling and then turned by their substitutions in the last 20 mins. Hard defence and good penalty kicking in bad conditions kept Falcons in the game and then their bench came on with 20-15 mins to go and turned the game with 2 tries. The perfect result with Welsh coming up next week where a win could really open up some daylight between 11th and 12th.
For Exeter 3 tries in the first half against the wind and going in 1 point up. You would have thought that with the wind at their back they would have gone on to win this one but they let themselves down. Poor tackling up the middle and game management leave them with plenty to work on over the next week. Clearly it’s not all doom and gloom as they are still 4th in the table but this is a reality check and they have not played the top 3 yet.
Key Stat: Not Reliable
Whilst there are some stats available I can’t believe that Chiefs had 0% possession in the second half.