The run in has started and with the cup competitions coming to the knockout stages the season is going to become very disjointed as we jump between competitions. Here is my review of round 17.
How did the predictions go?
First here is a link to my predictions.
3 out of 6, so not very good even though there was a draw. Unfortunately my pick of an upset didn’t happen.
Bath 12 v 3 Sale Sharks
This was a battle of the defences with Sale being the equal of Bath in most ares except the scrum. Bath dominated he first half with 79% territory but could only take a 6-3 lead into half time. In the second half it was much more even but Bath were able to get an early penalty to make Sale think about tries. With only another penalty to Bath troubling the score board so that Sale left without the LBP.
Key Stat: Penalties conceded (Freekicks) Bath 10 (1) Sale 16 (1)
Discipline in the right areas of the pitch and a couple of penalties from scrums was the difference on the day.
Exeter Chiefs 74 v 19 London Welsh
For the first 20 minutes Welsh were in this, well actually winning with two tries. But after that Exeter got their game working and it was one way traffic until Welsh grabbed a try at the death. During that opening 20 minutes Chiefs did kick 2 penalties to show that they were prepared to build their score. But they didn’t need to kick anymore as tries came on a regular basis and the TBP was secured before half time.
Exeter came out quickly from half time to start adding more tries that eventually totalled 10 including two more to Thomas Waldrom. Waldron is still on track to be the most surprising top try scorer for some time, 12 so far means he is 4 clear of the chasing pack.
Key Stat: Metres run with ball Exeter 741 Welsh 276
Exeter didn’t make many more runs (106 v 92) but were so much more effective.
Harlequins 26 v 20 London Irish
Quins applied the pressure early and Evans, boot punished Irish poor discipline close to their line. By 24 minutes Quins had kicked themselves to a 12-6 lead, from there Irish improved and didn’t give away anymore easy points. But still Quins were the first to use their passing game to get Care over the try line. Irish were finding it tough to break Quins down and it took a kick off run over ball for their first try. Quins let it bounce and Irish were quick to garb the loose ball and run it in to be 6 points down at half time.
Quins again used their offloading to get another try early in the second half to open up some breathing room. Another turnover and then spinning the ball wide got Irish a try and led to a nervy last fifteen minutes.
Key Stat: Penalties conceded Quins 9 Irish 12
Those early penalties close to their line cost Irish as they managed to hang in there against Quins who were the more dominant side.
Gloucester Rugby 33 v 33 Northampton Saints
Saints got the better of the start with 2 penalties but after that it all went wrong. Between Gloucester getting 3 penalties they had a great opportunity which was knocked on. Then Hook danced through the defence and then put a kick for the first try of the game. Gloucester weren’t finished and another sweeping move led to a close line out. A catching drive gave them a 23-6 lead after just half an hour. Saints grabbed a penalty back but were well behind at the break.
But Saints are champions and clear at the top of the table for a reason and came back in the second half. An early move wide with a clever chip through led to Saints first try. Gloucester initially managed to respond with a try of their own. But to finish the frenetic ten minutes Saints ran from their own 22 with lovely offloading to score again and close the gap to seven points. Gloucester had a try disallowed for a knockoff and swapped penalties meant it was a seven point gap going into the end. A catch and drive led to Saints equalising try.
Key Stat: Metres run with ball Gloucester 312 Saints 281
There wasn’t actually that much running the game and as the stats show was fairly even with Gloucester probably having the slight upper hand but unable to close out the game.
Wasps 17 v 26 Saracens
Wasps burst out of the blocks and within the first 20 minutes had scored two converted tries to lead 17-3. But Saracens stuck to their game plan and worked their way back into the game. The Saracens pack based their way through Wasps to create two tries of their own and a penalty gave them 3 point lead at half time. In the second half Saracens managed the game perfectly dominating territory and whilst it only led to two penalties was enough to see out the game.
Key Stat: Kicks from hand Wasps 39 Saracens 49
This game was played the way Saracens wanted it to be played not Wasps, especially the second half.
Newcastle Falcons 12 v 16 Leicester Tigers
Falcons had a great first half with an early try from a catch and drive giving them the led. The powerful Tigers pack and some indiscipline allowed Burns to knock over two penalties to keep in touch. A late scrambled try though gave Falcons a nice 12-6 lead at half time. In the second half Tigers game management told and an early penalty cut arrears. Even though Tigers controlled the game it looked like Falcons were going to cling on until a late try from a cross field kick into the goal area gave Leicester the lead.
Key Stat: Penalties conceded Falcons 9 Tigers 11
It’s not just how many penalties you give up but where on the pitch. Falcons gave away a couple too many kickable penalties that allowed Tigers to stay in touch and not have to chase the game too much.