Much like last week my predictions for the weekend just gone was a bit of a dog’s breakfast!
Once again I got just 50% correct, which sounds marginally better than 3 out of 6.
The three I managed to get right all ended up as try bonus point wins, whereas my errors each landed a losing bonus point for the side on the wrong side of the scoreboard. This, I think you’ll concede is a lot better than getting a try bonus score wrong.
Let’s get the pain over with first – I have yet to get one of the Sale Shark predictions right – this week they took the sting out of Wasps by creeping home 26 – 22 – having seen the black and yellows come back from 23 -10 down to within a point late in the second half.
The most telling feature of the game was the appearance off the bench by Danny Cipriani in the 23rd minute – he lit up a dull game to remind everyone (and maybe even Lancaster) about his undoubted talent. He’s had a checkered career to date including his less than perfect period with Melbourne Rebels – but if he is really back then both Farrell and Burns could be looking over their shoulders in the Autumn Internationals.
Andy Goode again missed a late penalty which would have taken the lead but Cipriani’s last kick would have taken the points anyway. Neither team are likely to challenge for a top 4 place – but they won’t be scrabbling around to avoid relegation in April either.
I also had London Irish over Exeter Chiefs and was feeling pretty smug into the second half when they led by 11 points including another try from the prolific Yarde. Both sides managed two tries apiece but Gareth Steenson booted 19 points to give The Chiefs a good win on the road. Brian Smith, the Irish director of rugby will not only regret losing a game they could easily have won but also Topsy Ojo with a hamstring injury.
My third mistake came when Gloucester took out Northampton Saints with the last kick of the game.
It was a highly controversial penalty that came after the 80 minutes was up and just a minute after a storming try had given the Saints back the lead.
In one of the best games of the weekend both sets of backs were full of running and soft hands. Gloucester’s backline at last had ball to run with and Billy Twelvetrees (what a great name!) and Trinder looked very sharp – as did Sharples!
Simpson- Daniel ran brilliantly all afternoon and a searing break and sumptuous off load for Stooke’s try made you wonder why he hasn’t got more caps – it may be too late to add to his tally but if there were injuries on the wing – he certainly wouldn’t let Stuart Lancaster down.
Former All Black Jimmy Cowan sniped all afternoon and set up Twelvetrees for his try with a snappily taken snap penalty.
For the Saints George North lived up to every inch (and there’s a lot of them) of his start billing with ben Foden another bright spark.
Up front the forwards dogged it out and honours were about even.
Stuart Lancaster has a wealth of talent at his disposal and they are all firing at once – all he has to sort out now is who the hell can stop George when they play Wales! Warren Gatland will have a big grin on his face when he watches the Saints this season.
So – that’s the three I got wrong – and it could just as easily have been three correct predictions but for late kicks (although I would say that wouldn’t I).
The three I was on the money for – were all impressive wins for three of the sides that will almost certainly end up in the top 4 come April next year.
Harlequins travelled to Worcester Warriors and brushing off their reversal to saints last week disposed of Dean Ryan’s team without too much trouble – scoring four tries in the process. The Warriors only had a penalty try and penalties to show for their efforts and it looks like a long hard season for Dean Ryan’s men.
Danny Care looked especially sharp and it was his try at 6 -6 that set the Quins on the way – again Lancaster has an embarrassment of riches at scrum half.
Normal service was resumed at Leicester after they took a Bath last week.
They scored four good tries including one from Kiwi Thomas (the tank) Waldron. But the most welcome sight was Manu Tuilagi storming through the Newcastle defences – on this form he’s not a long way behind North when it comes to making space for others to benefit from!
Manu was in the news for the wrong reason all week – but bunny ears? – oh please!
In the 70’s an official Millwall team photo had one player with his old man hanging out – now that’s really funny!
Anyway Manu ended the week on the right note sticking those two fingers up to his detractors (if the cap fits Brian!)
The final match on Sunday was really the old cliché – a game of two halves. Saracens stormed out of the blocks and had the bonus point wrapped up by half time with tries from Strettle (2), Alex Goode and Matt Stevens. Stevens looked like an NFL quarterback diving over a ruck to touch down (he’s a different shape obviously). Ashton again made me eat my words and looks anything but ready to surrender his England shirt.
Second half Bath came back from 31-3 after 40 half-time to be the only ones to trouble the scorers in the second 40 minutes. Mark McCall sent on George Ford and Dave Attwood and the team came out of the blocks like Usain Bolt pinning Saracens in their 22 and own half for the first 20. When Saracens did relieve the pressure and threatened to add to their tally an ambitious pass from the energetic Goode was picked off. The athletic Rokuduguni raced 75 metres to touch down under the posts.
George Ford led the team like a veteran and Attwood added a second try after Bath again applied pressure. Unfortunately bath had put the plug in too late!
Having said that, Saracens head the table tonight with a maximum of 3 wins and 3 try bonus points – it will take some team to prevent them steamrolling their way through this season. With forwards like the Vunipola brothers, Brits and Burger they will take some stopping.
Results for R3
Worcester Warriors 13 v. Harlequins 37
Sale Sharks 26 v. Wasps 22
Leicester Tigers 31 v. Newcastle Falcons 6
Gloucester 26 v. Northampton Saints 24
Saracens 31 v. Bath 17
Table after first 3 Rounds looks like this:
A final thought – is it just possible that James O’Connor might head north to put himself back on track? – it might be worth a punt. If Danny Cipriani can re-ignite his international prospects maybe James could benefit from time away from the media – and get his head right for 2015. He’d already be here and wouldn’t have to worry about the airport!
There would almost certainly be a queue of English, French, Irish and Welsh clubs more than happy to offer him a lucrative contract. His talent is too big to ignore and he shouldn’t waste it getting wasted.