Another round of scintillating rugby from the Aviva Premiership, here is my round up of the round 16 action.
How did your predictions go?
Here is a link to my predictions.
6 from 6, which is my second clean sweep in 3 weeks!
Northampton Saints 17 v 13 Harlequins
It took a while before the deadlock was broken, when Evans got the first points on the board form a penalty after 26 minutes. That got things and Saints responded with a converted try to take a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. With Quins playing better than they have in a while they managed to reduce the gap to just 7-6 at half time.
In the second half Quins had even more of the territory and possession but Saints relied on their defence and the Quins conceding penalties to keep the lead. Saints managed to stretch their lead with two unconverted tries in the second half as Quins kept on trying. Eventually all that Quins effort paid off with a converted try at the death, but that was only enough for a LBP.
Key Stat: Penalties conceded (Freekicks) Saints 9 (1) Quins 17 (3)
You can’t give up that many attacking opportunities and territory even if you are challenging the opposition lineout.
London Welsh 12 v 50 London Irish
This game probably is the best illustration of the difference between Welsh and the rest of the league. Many of us suggested that this was their best chance of getting a win this season and they were no where near that. Irish had two tries in the first five minutes but did momentarily let Welsh back into it with a converted try. But Geraghty quickly scored two more tries which he converted himself to get the TBP by the 28th minute. Two more converted tries before half time led to a 7-38 lead and the game was already well over.
Irish made a number of changes at half time which robbed them of fluidity but even so they were the first to strike again with another converted try. A yellow card helped Welsh grab a try back as the second half didn’t live up tot the first. But another try near the end for Irish brought up their half century.
Key Stat: Possession (1H/2H) Welsh 20% (14%/33%) Irish 80% (86%/67%)
Irish had a dominant first half where they were much more clinical and wrapped up the game.
Leicester Tigers 28 v 8 Sale Sharks
Tigers showed some of their best rugby in the first half where the pack laid the foundations for the team to play. After an initial swapping of penalties Leicester took control. A converted try followed quickly by a penalty opened up a ten point gap. Whilst Sale survived the sin binning of Ascott, the yellow card to Lund yielded a penalty try and 20-3 lead at half time.
Sale were much better after the break and did get the first points on the board with an Arscott try when Tigers were down to 14 men. That’s all they managed as a Burns penalty stretched the gap again and a late Tigers try sealed the game.
Key Stat: Clean breaks Tigers 15 Sharks 0
Tiger married some good attacking play with a solid defence. Tigers are coming good at the right time in what is a very tight table and Cockerill started his mind games “We have been rubbish all season but we are still in the mix. Let’s see who blinks first.”
Saracens 22 v 17 Newcastle Falcons
Falcons jumped into the lead with a very early try but Saracens countered quickly to go up 10-5 after the first ten minutes. Falcons managed another try to even things up after 20 minutes. With 20 points scored in the first quarter there was no way that this scoring could continue as it proved with only a single penalty to Saracens in the rest of the half. Towards the end of the half Saracens lost their 9 and 10 and it’s testament to this side that they survived this setback.
Falcons got an early converted try to talk back the lead but weren’t able to add to that. Saracens in contrast were able to patiently keep adding to their score with penalties and a perfect kicking display took over the line.
Key Stat: Penalty goals Saracens 5 from 5 Falcons 0 from 0
Discipline in key areas of the pitch and perfect kicking was what won the day in the end.
Exeter Chiefs 16 v 6 Bath
The Bath scum earned the penalty that drew first blood. It was a half that was short on scoring opportunities and Exeter managed a penalty soon afterwards. Bath however led at half time with a late penalty of their own.
In the second half with the breeze behind them Exeter soon drew level and another penalty with 13 minutes to go got them into the lead of the first time. Finally in the last ten minutes we got the first try as Chudley nipped over from close as he saw a small gap between close in defenders.
Key Stat: None
This was much closer than the scoreline suggests and only a split second of magic or lack of concentration was the big difference. But you have to play yourself into the areas of the pitch to take advantage of that so it’s not luck that brought the win but lots of hard work to all for that moment.
This was a massive win for Exeter historically as Bath were the only team they had not beaten in the league.
Wasps 32 v 21 Gloucester Rugby
Gloucester were on top in the first half and went out to an 10-0 lead in the first quarter. Wasps did pull a converted try back but a Hook penalty looked to have Gloucester heading into the interval in the lead. But Wasps are a side that will finish off half chances and two late tries meant a 17-13 lead at half time.
A Wasps converted try right at the start of the second half gave them a two score lead. Gloucester tried to get themselves back into and a penalty and try got them within 3 points heading into the final quarter. But Wasps managed to close it out with a penalty and try in quick succession with ten minutes to go.