We had a weekend of upset and poor conditions. Here is my review of all action.
Northampton Saints 8 – 3 Exeter Chiefs
Gloucester Rugby 27 – 14 London Irish
Newcastle Falcons 19 – 14 Bath
Saracens 26 – 6 Leicester Tigers
Sale Sharks 15 – 9 Wasps
Worcester Warriors 20 – 24 Harlequins
4 from 6, Falcons win has shaken things up and I missed 2 out of the 3 upsets.
The highlight real for Saints v Chiefs doesn’t take very long at all. In poor conditions both sides were happy to put boot to ball. Saints had the better of the first half and after a knock on denied them a try they eventually got a rolling maul going to score one. Then on half an hour Chiefs strayed offside and it was 8-0. In the second half Exeter had the upper hand but conditions didn’t help attacking rugby and they only managed a penalty to claim a LBP.
Another game where both teams were happy to put boot to ball with nearly a century of kicks. Gloucester did strike first from a Hook penalty but Irish had the ascendancy in the first half. Both Irish’s first half tries were by their backs but they were earned by their forwards from driving mauls first. That meant Irish were on track for their second win of season leading 6-14 at half time. In the second half though Gloucester turned the screw taking the lead after their forwards gave Hook three opportunities to kick at goal all of which went over. The win was then secured with two late tries first from another driving maul and then a rare back move in the wet conditions. Hook had a good game only missing that last conversion.
Bath got the early try from a catch and drive near the line but this was going to turn into a kicking duel. Bath gave up 14 penalties to 10 but crucially half were in kicking distance. Falcons did miss three in the first half but still managed to land two to add to their pick and dive try. That meant Falcons went into half time 13-8 up and Bath had a man in the bin. Falcons weren’t able to take advantage of their numerical advantage and with Bath back up to 15 men then they took the lead via two penalties. Falcons showed good resolve to not all Bath to score anymore points and picked up two penalty gaols to win the game. Bath ran for an impressive 412 meters which was more than twice Newcastle’s total, but it didn’t lead to the points to win the game.
Tigers got the first points on the board from what was to be a rare penalty, Saracens only gave up 5 penalties all game. In a sign of things to come Saracens responded with a penalty try when Tigers collapsed a catch and drive that included 13 Saracens players. But in a fairly even first half Tigers got another penalty to only trail by 1 at half time. In the second half Saracens dominated first they got a try from a driving maul and then they picked up two more penalty tires from scrums. That secured the TBP and a dominating victory in which Tigers gave up a massive 23 penalties. Saracens could afford to turn the ball over 21 times, in wet conditions, that would normally be fatal and shows this dominating side has room for improvement.
Sharks dragged Wasps into a kicking duel and their greater discipline won the day. It looked like it could be different when early on Wasps had a wonderful break only to lose the ball over the line. Sharks were already 3 points up at the time and it wasn’t until the half-hour mark that Wasps could even things up. A drop goal to end the half meant that Wasps went in the sheds 3-6 up. Sharks worked themselves into the lead with two penalties but Wasps evened things up with ten minutes to go. Sharks held their nerve and forced a penalty backed up by a drop goal to win a game that will be quickly forgotten.
Some wonderful feet and offloads allowed Walker to break through early on to open the scoring. Warriors did manage a penalty before Quins scored their second through a catch and drive to lead 3-17 at half time. Anther try by Walker early in the second half from turnover ball meant that it looked like Quins were going to run away with the game. Warriors had other ideas and instead of Quins going for the TBP they were defending against a fight back. A catch and drive try was the immediate response, then a yellow card for Jamie Roberts gave Warriors a numerical advantage. First they forced a penalty try from a scrum on the hour mark. Then just before Roberts returned Warriors took advantage of the extra man to kick through and score a try to narrow the margin to 4 points. They might have been a little lucky as the Quins player had his shirt held as they scrambled for the ball. In the end Quins survived the last ten minutes to pick up the win. Warriors managed an impressive 485 meters running with the ball compared to 217 by Quins but in the end the two missed conversions were the difference.
After a wet weekend we really need to look at the clubs improving their surfaces. You can only play expansive rugby if you have sure footing. I think it’s time for the Aviva Premiership to get all it’s clubs to have either hybrid or 4G pitches. I know traditionalists will say that muddy conditions are part of the game but it doesn’t produce the kind of rugby that wins World Cups.
Ospreys 12 – 7 Newport Gwent Dragons
Cardiff Blues 29 – 27 Scarlets
Leinster 13 – 0 Connacht Rugby
Ulster 7 – 9 Munster
Glasgow Warriors 11 – 14 Edinburgh
Benetton Treviso 8 – 18 Zebre
4 form 6, didn’t pick the two “away” upsets but did get the Blues one at least.
With the top tow from last week losing the table has really tightened up. A TBP win could be enough to put 6th on top of the table and the top of the table is only 9 points away from 8th. Scarlets hang on at the top but Leinster in second have a game in hand. Treviso are clear at the bottom with Dragons and Zebre fighting it out to see who comes second bottom. Blues are in a bit of no mans land between the contenders and the bottom group.
Agen 16 – 33 Clermont Auvergne
La Rochelle 25 – 21 Castres
Grenoble 42 – 17 US Oyonnax
Racing Metro 92 23 – 18 Bordeaux Begles
Brive 19 – 18 Montpellier
Toulon 21 – 17 Section Paloise
Stade Francais 18 – 17 Toulouse
The top of the table is very tight with Racing, Clermont and Toulouse all on 38 points and Toulon only 2 points behind. There is a gap opening up to the chasing pack lead by Bordeaux. At the other end Agen are losing touch and Oyonnax are only hanging on by their finger nails.