A real mixture of games as we end this block of games and head into Europe. Here is my review of the weekend’s action.
So how did the predictions go?
First up here’s the link to my predictions.
6 from 6, a clean sweep at last. Very happy with that as it included a good win for the Chiefs.
Bath 25 v 6 Harlequins
Everybody had their Burgess is superman and Burgess can’t cope stories at the ready. Yes he did make it on, passing once, running twice for 4 meters and beating 2 defenders and offloading once. Interestingly no tackles though. But this wasn’t the story and so back into the draft folder for all those pieces.
Bath scrummed Quins off the park and were dominant in the set piece from the start. Bath had 2 tries in the first 20 minuets, but then were held at bay for the next 40 minutes or half a game. During that time Quins lost 3 players to the bin including 3 minutes with them all off. Both sets of fans can’t understand how the referee didn’t give a penalty try. Two more tries did come along to get Bath the TBP, including one whilst there were still 2 Quins players off the pitch.
Connor O’Shea is still sounding very upbeat even though Quins have already lost 5 games and we are not half way through the season yet. Last season Quins lost 7 games and just squeezed into the playoffs but over the last few seasons forth has lost 8 games. So Quins have to go win at least 10 out of the next 13 games to have any chance of saving their season. Personally I can’t see it happening and I think we will be having at least 1 name that we haven’t seen in the playoffs recently.
On a side note it’s good to see one of the players from England’s 2013 junior world cup winning squad getting opportunities at senior level. Devoto looks to be developing well at Bath and it’s good to see him getting starts with Ford begin away with England. Clearly he needs to improve his goal kicking as 33% is very poor at this level.
Key Stat: Scrums on own feed Bath 11/0 100% Harlequins 4/4 50%
This shows clearly Bath’s dominance at scrum time and helped lead to Quins conceding 22 penalties to Bath’s 4. Bath wanting the TBP meant that they only kicked at goal twice and ran the ball as much as possible knowing that they had the set piece dominance to fall back on if anything went wrong, which it didn’t.
Leicester Tigers 18 v 16 Wasps
This game was a real lesson in the advantage of having a long-range accurate kicker. Wasps found that they couldn’t put a foot wrong anywhere within their own half and even into Tigers. Normally you don’t have to worry too much in the oppositions half or even slightly into your own. So even though Wasps dominated the first half they went in at half time trailing. Then even though Wasps got the only try of the game from a charge down they transgressed enough times to allow Tigers to take the game.
Tigers will be happy with the result and getting some of their injured players back but this wasn’t a vintage performance. Wasps should also be disappointed that they couldn’t force the issue more with an under performing Tigers side.
Key Stat: Not Available
Exeter Chiefs 27 v 19 Saracens
Take difficult conditions, add in the 2 most accurate kickers in the premiership and this is what you get. 13 penalties and the only try scored at the death to make it a little more even that it was. Chiefs pack dominated, particularly in the first half, giving Steenson the platform to run the game and kick 9 penalties. Chiefs will be over the moon to have come out of this set of games with 3 wins which included both the Premiership finalists from last season.
Saracens will be disappointed to have been so out competed especially in the scrum. A draw and two losses from this set of games has seen them drop to 4th. There is still plenty of the season to go but they will be looking to get better results over the christmas period when they have all their internationals back.
Key Stat: Not Available
London Irish 9 v 21 Gloucester Rugby
Gloucester will be very happy with this victory after losing the last two and in danger of losing touch with the midfield pack. In a game littered with errors, both skill and decision-making, Gloucester took a 3 nil lead into halftime. Early in the second half they too control with try from nowhere and whilst Irish produced a mini fight back never really looked like closing the gap.
Irish really need to regroup during this European break and come back fighting over christmas or this season is going to drift away. There isn’t any real pressure as Welsh aren’t looking like they can string together the performances needed to survive relegation, but it would be another season going nowhere.
Key Stat: Territory (1H/2H) Irish 46% (31%/58%) Gloucester 54% (69%/42%)
Gloucester were unable to turn their territorial advantage in the first half into points and the game really turned on a couple of moments of good play. Gloucester did have the upper hand overall but there were so many errors on both sides that it didn’t eventuate to much.
London Welsh 14 v 43 Northampton Saints
Saints were already in control with 2 tries before Welsh lost a player to the bin. During that time Saints helped themselves to the TBP and went on to win quite comfortably. Welsh did cause Saints some problems with ball in hand and could have scored more than their two tries. Welsh’s only bonus point so far has been a TBP and it’s strangely looking like TBPs might be more likely than LBPs.
Saints will be happy to be top of the table going into the second round of European games. Welsh will be going away trying to figure out how they are going to get the twenty to thirty points they need for survival.
Key Stats: Not Available
Newcastle Falcons 13 v 18 Sale Sharks
This was a game with lots of attacking intent with over a kilometre of running with ball in hand. Also plenty of kicks at goal were turned down for territorial pressure. Is the new 3G pitch up there leading to exciting rugby?
Sale had most the territory and possession in the first half but Falcons were able to come out a head 10 – 8. In the second half it looked like both sides were going to nullify each other until a moment of inspiration from Cipriani opened up Falcons for a wonderful try. Whilst this will be the headline Sharks work by the back row in particular is what laid the foundations for this win.
Falcons will be disappointed to lose as they were leading until Cipriani’s intervention. However they should be happy with 5 points from these three games pulling them away from Welsh. Sale really have got into their stride after a poor start and are climbing the table. They would have liked more Premiership action but now they have to carry their form through the European games.
Key Stat: Meters run with ball Newcastle 475 Sale 534
With tackle percentages high and all those running meters this was entertaining rugby and shows a real change in how Falcons are approaching the game.