Round 6 and the first block of games are over, here’s a look at how my predictions went and my thoughts from the round. Also a quick review of where the teams stand after this first block of games.
So how did your predictions do?
4 out 6 again. Nice to get a decent results after last weeks disaster but would be really nice to get a clean sweep sometime soon. With the break in premiership games though I’m going to have to wait a while.
Leicester Tigers 22 v 16 Harlequins
Both sides aren’t where they would like or expect to be come the end of the first block of games. Tigers won this one with a retro performance that many of the long-standing supporter will recognise by squeezing the game with their forwards. This one was all about the result and not the performance and getting some confidence back going into the european games. Tigers are mid-table with a 3 won 3 lost record which isn’t the end of the world this early in the season. A few wins on the bounce will see them climbing back up into the playoff spots but they can’t afford any more losses if they want a home semifinal. Not the kind of scenario you’d expect from all the doom and gloom in the press.
Quins are in just about the same position. But I don’t think that the outlook looks so good. For Tigers you can see the playoff winning team getting off the treatment table and back onto the pitch. Quins just don’t have the strength coming back and whilst they do have plenty of internationals in that pack is the engine room beefy enough against the top sides?
Key stat: Turnovers conceded 6 v 12
How many games are we going to see this seasons where the team with less possession and territory wins the game? It’s happening time and time again and whilst I don’t think it’s from South African defend and kick rugby, clearly defence is going to go a long way to deciding the Premiership this season. Anyway back to the stat, you aren’t going to win much rugby if you cough up the ball that much.
London Welsh 3 v 23 Newcastle Falcons
Justin Burrell might say that the premiership relegation battle wasn’t decided today but his side have left themselves a mountain to climb. 8 points behind Newcastle and at the rate they are scoring points so far they are only going to end up with about 4. The really disappointing thing is that they weren’t even close in this one only getting 1 penalty. At least they have 4 weeks away from the premiership now to work on things but it is looking bleak.
The upturn in fortunes for Newcastle has been very timely, their defence has improved and whilst there is still a very long way to go they have already gone a long way to claiming that 11th place. The main thing for them now is to not get carried away, they really need to work on securing their survival as soon as possible. This is so that they can recruit better for next season. But they can come out of this initial set of Premiership games with a ranking of job done, points in the bag and much more attacking threat than last season.
Key stat: Not available
Exeter Chiefs 44 v 24 London Irish
A great way for Exeter to bounce back from last weeks defeat away to Newcastle. A TBP win against was exactly what the club needed. Exeter plan their season by blocks of games and I think that they will be coming out of this thinking job done. Maybe not the way they expected, losing to Newcastle and beating Quins but still job done. There is a word of caution for Exeter, yes they are in the top 4 but they have not yet played any of the 3 form sides this season. They say there are no easy games in the Premiership but you would have to say Exeter have had a light fixture list so far.
For Irish a bit depressing, they are playing much better than last season but they come out of these first 6 games with just 2 wins. This is the first game that they have not got at least a LBP though and hopefully they can see the silver lining. They have had a hard fixture list so far and it’s a matter of keeping the moral high and fighting for that winning feeling. Getting an away win at Tigers should have helped with that.
Key stat: Not available
Saracens 28 v 21 Gloucester
Saracens will be happy with where they are, only 1 loss and only 3 points off the pacesetters even though they are not playing at their best. This isn’t the part of the season to be hitting top form, it’s the part to be getting results so you are still playing for something at the end of the season. Seeing off a much improved and tenacious Gloucester sets them up well for the european games which are equally important to Saracens.
To give credit to Humphreys he has said all a long to judge them after 6 games. Well a 50:50 win loss ratio and sitting in the top half is not bad considering the number of new players and a new coaching setup. It does sound like things are starting to settle down and that they have turned the corner. Perhaps these 4 weeks off have just come at the wrong time or will it mean they come back even more in sync?
Key stat: Not Available
Northampton Saints 43 v 10 Sale Sharks
Saints put in a mighty performance to go top of the table, 4 TBPs from 5 wins shows that they are on top of their game and relishing being champions. They always say it’s harder to stay there than to get there, having never got there I have no idea. Clearly they will be riding the crest of a wave as they head into the european games. More than job done and a great answer to the press who said that they had been found out against Wasps and that if you fronted up you could beat them. Well it maybe true but none else has been able to.
Sale really are having a hard time of it. I thought that they had got their season going last week with that win over Wasps. This result really has brought them back down to earth with a bang. Diamond didn’t even attend the after game press conference as he was still talking/shouting to the team in the dressing room he though they had performed so badly. For a team with top 6 aspirations this has been a bad start to the season. Where other teams can go away and rest players as they are in the second tier european competition, Sale don’t have that luxury. This could go a couple of ways, either the players front up and get back to the level of the end of last season or they get more ground down. It’s a fresh problem for Sale, Wasps and Bath this season and it will be interesting to see how they deal with it.
Key stat: Meters run with ball 444 v 168
The immediate reaction is wow how great Saints were at running with the ball, but it’s also a reflection of how good their defence was at restricting Sales running. To have over twice as much meters with only 50:50 possession and territory is a remarkable statistic. Also I said above that you won’t win many games coughing up ball here was the exception to the rule, 15 v 7 turnover conceded! That would normally spell disaster.
Wasps 29 v 22 Bath
Wasps managed to put off field distractions to one side and get an important win. They will be worried though how they went from 29-0 after 50 minutes to 29-22 at full time. Dai Young has already been blaming the pressure of top-tier european rugby and it hasn’t even started yet. This is the team that at the start of the season I though was going to struggle the most with the extra games and we will see how that affects them over the coming weeks. At least on the premiership side they can be relatively happy as they are leading that mid table pack even if it is only on points difference.
Bath will be very upset with their discipline, having 3 players off the pitch at the same time with yellow cards is just inexcusable. Against a kicker as good as Goode you can’t be giving away 3 points all the time. A magnificent fight back at least got them the LBP but they can’t be letting themselves get so far behind. At least they will be out of this set of games full of confidence with big wins over Tigers and Saracens, but if they do have aspirations of the playoffs they are going to have to sort out their away form. Whilst they are sitting 4th in the table, the table has not settled down and a couple of losses on the trot could see any team drop a long way down.
Key stat: 29-0 at 50 mins
Just was too much for Bath to claw back.
A quick overview of the first quarter of the season
Yes a quarter of the premiership season has already been played! It still feels like early season and it is but that big block of games first up means that a large chunk of the premiership games are already played. This season though the table does not look settled at all.
The top 2 are no surprise and whilst they are only 2 points a head of Exeter and Bath because they have only lost 1 game each you can see Saints and Saracens being there come the end of the season.
Next up you have Exeter and Bath who for differing reasons don’t look so secure. Exeter have no faced the other 3 teams from the top 4 yet and Bath are two teams in one, at home mighty but away not looking so convincing.
Then there is the very crowded midfield with only 1 point separating 4 teams. All 4 will be aiming to push for a top 4 spot, Tigers who are last in the group are probably favourites to do so as their players come back from injury. Quins have question marks about the beef of their pack especially the second row but have the knowhow and experience to get back up there. Gloucester are settling in and the question marks are how quickly/well will that continue. Finally the top of the group with Wasps are the one that I’m expecting to fade due to the extra pressure of european rugby and can they put any consistency together?
Heading up the bottom of the table who are Irish that are much improved this season but have only managed 2 wins. That is going to be heart breaking as they have been so close but not quite getting there. Only once have they not finished with a score when losing and that takes a toll on the physiology of the team. But they will be safe if a bottom half team this season. Sale really have had a bad start to the season, having come 6th last year they would have wanted to target that end of the table not the bottom 4. Like Wasps the pressure doesn’t ease so much as they have top-tier european rugby coming up but Diamond really needs to get his troops firing or it will be a disappointing bottom half of the table season.
Finally the bottom two, Newcastle will be very happy. They have been scoring tries and have the points in the bag with a healthy 9 point cushion over Welsh. You can see them only winning a couple more games all season but that’s probably enough. It’s amazing that I can say they are happy with such an outlook but that’s the difference in expectations. Welsh have all sorts of problems and they really need these 4 weeks off to start sorting some of them out. They need to become harder to beat and at least sniffing LBPs or it all could be over before February. A few bonus points in the bag and beating Newcastle on the 11th of January are essential. The problem is that even if Welsh do survive they won’t know until very late in the season. That makes recruitment for next season very difficult and as Leeds found out, can lead to getting relegated in their second 2 season.