A welcome return to Premiership action lead to plenty of talking points. Here’s my review.
How did your predictions go?
5 out of 6, that sounds good but I went with my heart rather than head for the Sale v Exeter game and really should have got the full 6.
Sale Sharks 18 v 11 Exeter Chiefs
Sale were in control of this game from the start and much more than the score line suggests. With over 70% of possession and territory they should have been more than 3 points ahead at half time. Exeter did really well to stay in the game and also survive the two yellow cards they collected.
The second half was much more of an even affair but Sharks executed better and watching the game always looked more in control.
Key Stat: Territory (1H/2H) Sale 62% (77%/49%) Exeter 38% (23%/51%)
Sale should have taken a bigger lead from the first half even if they were fighting against the wind. This was a big win for Sale as they put one over one of the other improving teams trying to break into the top 4. For Exeter this has been the part of the season where they have struggled in the past, with Bath next week it doesn’t get any easier.
Harlequins 15 v 7 Newcastle Falcons
Falcons lost this one through a lack of execution and ill discipline. They were able to break the Quins defence several times but only once managed to get over the white line. A lack of discipline then allowed Quins to kick themselves back into it and onto the win.
Quins remain unconvincing and O’Shea saying things like “We will have a purple patch; we always do” makes you wonder if he has lost it, you only have a purple patch if you make it happen, it’s not inevitable. Flacons continue to perform better than last year and whilst they got nothing from this game they will have learned a lot.
Saracens 78 v 7 London Welsh
Saracens handed Welsh their biggest loss of the season so far. With the TBP wrapped up after only 31 minutes it was always only a question of how many. Did we learn much? Not really Saracens are one of the top teams and Welsh aren’t. With Irish up next week Welsh need a result but it does look like it’s all over already.
Northampton Saints 23 v 19 Leicester Tigers
Saints were dominant in both possession and territory and to have only won by 4 points shows good defence and taking of opportunities by Tigers. But they were the outplayed by Saints for the majority of the game and are lucky to have come away with anything.
There are people saying the Hartley should only have got a yellow card and that the other player over reacted. But he should know that he can’t swing his arms around at head hight as any contact is going to get him into trouble. I do remember one of the southern hemisphere pundits saying that he is the one player that could lose England the world cup due to his discipline.
Key Stat: Possession (1H/2H) Saints 70% (66%/72%) Tigers 30% (34%/28%)
The only way that you can take advantage of having more players on the pitch is if you score and you can only score if you have the ball. Saints played exactly how you need to being a player down and that’s to keep your hands on the ball.
Gloucester Rugby 16 v 39 Bath
Good defence by both sides turned the first half into a kicking duel, Ford’s great accuracy and Gloucester ill discipline lead to a 6 point lead at half time. Another penalty early in the second half meant that Gloucester were chasing the game. They were unable to breach Bath’s defence who were forced to make nearly twice as many tackles.
Key Stat: Penalties conceded Gloucester 13 Bath 7
Bath’s defence was good enough to keep Gloucester out and gain enough penalties to keep the score board ticking over in the first half. Then in the second those penalties led to the yellow card and Bath powered on from there.
Wasps 48 v 16 London Irish
The scoreline suggests a Wasps romp in their new home but it wasn’t all plain sailing. Whilst Wasps scrum was dominating they were unable to score any tries and Goode’s boot only gave them a 2 point lead at half time. There was an early try in the second half but it wasn’t until a yellow card just before the hour mark that Wasps took control on the score board. Three tries in the last twenty minutes sealed a convincing victory
Key Stat: Penalties conceded Wasps 6 Irish 20
Those penalties plus missing 22 tackles really let Wasps run wild with 11 clean breaks and 22 defenders beaten. Irish will have to vastly improve these two areas if they are to climb away from the bottom end of the table.