This 1 is a bit late as the festive period means that games were spread out over a long weekend. Here’s my review of all the action from the Aviva Premiership and Pro12.
Northampton Saints 24 – 5 Sale Sharks
Saracens 21 – 6 Newcastle Falcons
Wasps 40 – 26 Bath
Exeter Chiefs 31 – 10 Leicester Tigers
Bristol 28 – 20 Worcester Warriors
Harlequins 28 – 24 Gloucester Rugby
6 from 6, a nice little Xmas present.
Despite their poor form Saints picked up the expected win over Sale who are also in poor form. It was a case of getting the early scores and letting the scoreboard pressure do the work. Saints had to put in twice as many tackles to defend that lead but it was enough in the end as they were also denied 2 tries (correctly) that got called back. Mallinder is sounding a little delusional though “We’ve got Gloucester next week and then Bristol at home. These are games we are capable of winning and if we do we can move up the table.” Being 7 points behind Tigers assumes that they will be dropping points. Dimond on the other had looks to have given up on this season “We’ve got to keep plugging away but our recruitment is in place for next season when we will have four or five new players.”
Saracens got the win but it’s the kind of game that they should be looking to pick up the TBP. That they didn’t is testament to how well Newcastle are playing at the moment. They had the opportunities and pressure but couldn’t break the Saracens defence. I do like Richards comments after the game as he didn’t blame the ref “We were our own worst enemy. We can moan about the referee’s decisions but we had chances that we didn’t take.”
Wasps v Bath was a good game & saw Wade back to scoring ways with a hat-trick. That puts him top of the try scoring table with Waldrom. This game was about taking your chances and turnovers. Wasps turned to turnovers into tries in the first half and that laid the platform. Bath showed good character to come back and get the TBP but never were really in it for the win.
Exeter got 3 first half tries and they all came from the platform of a lineout drive close to Tigers line. You can’t be giving up that kind of field position to Exeter and Waldrom hasn’t been top of the try scoring charts for the past 2 seasons for no reason. There was no coming back for Leicester and I’m really disappointed with Cockrill’s post match comments “I thought the referee had a really poor game, scrum he was poor, and refereed the two sets of mauls differently.”
Bristol showed real character to win against Worcester despite losing Pisi to a red card after 13 minutes. He knows that he has to get into the air or he’s risking something like this happening so there can’t be any complaints. Worcester lost their fly-half in this incident and at this level the teams don’t have the depth to cope with that. Varndell is back to his finishing best with 2 tries to take him within 1 of Cueto’s all time record of 90 tries.
You can listen to me talking with Geoff Peters on talkSPORT after the first 5 games here (2:30-3:00 from 18:57).
Harlequins maintained their 100% home record with a tight win over Gloucester at Twickenham. Quins got into the lead and whilst Gloucester came back and could have won it at the end they really need to improve their tackling. Only making 72% is going to really hurt you at this level.
Have a watch of my thoughts about the Aviva Premiership table at the mid point of the season.
Benetton Treviso 23 – 12 Zebre
Ulster 23 – 7 Connacht Rugby
Cardiff Blues 27 – 16 Newport Gwent Dragons
Edinburgh 12 – 25 Glasgow Warriors
Munster 29 – 17 Leinster
Ospreys 19 – 9 Scarlets
5 from 6, I just missed out on the Italian prediction.
At the halfway stage Munster top the table by 2 points from Ospreys who have really impressed with their improvement this season. Leinster have slipped to third with Ulster rounding out the playoff places. Ulster still have to replay their away game with Zebre and will need the points as they are only ahead of Scarlets by points difference. At the other end Treviso climbed off the bottom but Zebre do have 2 postponed games to replay.
This is Zebre’s 4th season, if you keep changing the teams in Italy they will never improve. Remember that established teams often have 5 year plans to get to the top of the table.
Grenoble 26 – 22 Toulouse
Brive 22 – 6 Lyon
Clermont Auvergne 46 – 10 Stade Francais
Bayonne 17 – 42 La Rochelle
Bordeaux Begles 16 – 18 Pau
Racing Metro 92 23 – 10 Castres
Montpellier 33 – 29 Toulon
4 from 7, a bad day at the office.
Clermont stayed top of the table with La Rochelle and Montpellier in hot pursuit. Racing took advantage as Toulon, Bordeaux and Toulouse who are around them in the table all lost. At the bottom Lyon is dropping into danger being just 6 points above Grenoble with Bayonne a further 2 points back.
Join the #RugbyChat on twitter for an hour of discussion about the action this weekend. If you can’t make the hour then you can still give your view as the conversation keeps going over the following day.
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