Aviva Premiership Review: Rd 5

The Icarus Moment

Last week I managed to get all 8 of my predictions right – I know not half as surprised as I was!

I was flying high as Cassandra and to pursue the Greek analogy this week I flew too close to the sun and fell like Icarus!

What a come down – my predictions were based on gut feeling rather than form (which had served me so well the previous week) and today I’m feeling rather sick.

Having said that there was some fantastic rugby – not least in the final games of the Rugby Championship – more of those two later!

In the Aviva I predicted 3 home and 3 away wins – in reality there were 3 home, 2 away and a draw. I would have been alright except I got 2 each of the home and away results wrong!

My final tally was just one and a half points out of the 6 available – the half being for the draw. That’s a pathetic 25%. About the only thing I can say in my defence was that there was only one game that didn’t have a losing bonus point – so virtually all the games were close!

Here’s what happened;

Friday night was a bit of a clue, I had Bath winning away at Sale Sharks. I’ve now got 4 out of 5 predictions wrong for games involving the Sharks and they are now sitting just outside the top 4 and I will have to pay them more respect in future.

Danny Cipriani continues to impress and is repaying Steve Diamond’s faith in spades! His kicking and attacking play showed he is almost back to his best and the tackle on the big Samoan Alafoti Fa’osiliva saved a try that could have changed the game. Bath, led well by George Ford attacked right to the end but were continuously repelled as the Sharks showed their teeth.

Saturday saw the best game with Northampton Saints at fortress Welford Road. They almost stormed it too – but for a final flourish that saw Leicester snatch a late draw to the sighs of relieve from the Tigers faithful. The game was punctuated by the continuous whistle of Mr J P Doyle who managed to penalise the Saints almost three times as often as the home team (19 – 7). To say he didn’t have a great day is like suggesting that I was spot on with my forecasts. In addition to a suspect yellow for Luther Burrell, the lineout leading to Leicester’s equalising try was not exactly straight – if it had been a few inches further left it would have gone straight to Toby Flood at fly half!

In the end Jim Mallinder will just have to accept the two points – which is more than most will get from a trip to Welford Road. Paul Burke fanned the flames of the rivalry by suggesting that while his side would improve the saints wouldn’t get any better. Look out for fireworks when these two meet again – probably more than just in the return game as I see them both in the play-offs. There were plenty of candidates for the autumn internationals on show and Lawes, Corbisiero, both Youngs and the revelationary Sam Dickinson will have done their chances no harm if Stuart Lancaster was watching. Neither would Luther Burrell have done except he was forced off early in the second half with his arm in a sling!

Further South London Irish made light of the Harlequins reputation as well as my prediction that they would lose. Quins have now lost three of their first five games and will need to pick up if they are to challenge for the title they won a couple of years ago. They already look off the pace and the Exiles exposed them with their belligerent defence. Nick Evans missed with what are usually routine penalties for him and Chris Robshaw retired early nursing a shoulder injury. The Exiles are confounding those who thought they would be entangled in the relegation dogfight in April.

Saracens who continue to top the table but were less than convincing this week against a Wasps team who held out for long periods despite having far less of the ball. The home team started with Alex Goode at number 10 in favour of Farrell on the bench. Mark McCall seems to be sticking with a rotation policy – one which could have backfired. Owen Farrell was introduced in the second half and had an immediate impact.

Desperate defence and poor Saracens execution kept Wasps close and a Christian Wade try brought them to within 5 points before Farrell slammed the door with his expert kicking. For Wasps, Andy Goode had a surprising off day with the boot.

Chris Ashton continues to impress and looks likely to be holding onto the England shirt for November.

In the West Country I predicted that Worcester would get a first win against promoted Newcastle Falcons – I just hate to be right all the time!

Newcastle stormed to a 13 – 0 lead almost before the Warriors had tied their boots and whilst the home side fought back they were still behind by 10 points at the break. At half time Dean Ryan brought all five replacements on giving back row Cameron Goodhue from Auckland Blues his Warriors debut.

They fought back to 13 -11 before Falcon’s replacement Phil Godman landed the killer penalty.

I still think relegation will be between these two sides but for now Newcastle look to be favourites for another season in the premiership.

For Sunday’s final game of round 5 we stayed in the West for Exeter Chiefs visit to Gloucester. Right from the kick- off I was pretty sure that I was on another loser – the Chiefs looked more like the home side and dominated upfront with some storming performances from Tom Johnson, Dave Ewers and former Wallaby Dean Mumm.

Gareth Steenson started by missing 3 of his first half shots at goal – unusual for one of the most reliable kickers in the league. Gloucester led briefly through a fine try from Martyn Thomas but Exeter were never really in trouble.

In the second half Mumm virtually sealed the win with a storming try and although Gloucester scored through replacement Jonny May, Steenson had by now found is range and normal service was resumed. A fine win 29 – 12 on the road for Exeter and if Gloucester are to challenge for honours this season they have to make Kingsholm a much tougher place to visit.

 

Results

Sharks 19 – Bath 13

Irish 18 – Quins 13

Saracens 19 – Wasps 12

Worcester 11 – Falcons 16

Tigers 19 – Saints 19

Gloucester 12 – Exeter Chiefs 29

 

Table after R5

Pos

 

Team

Pl

W

D

L

Pts

1

 

Saracens

5

5

0

0

23

2

 

Northampton Saints

5

3

1

1

17

3

 

Leicester Tigers

5

3

1

1

17

4

 

Bath Rugby

5

3

0

2

14

5

 

Sale Sharks

5

3

0

2

13

6

 

Exeter Chiefs

5

3

0

2

12

7

 

Harlequins

5

2

0

3

11

8

 

London Irish

5

2

0

3

9

9

 

Newcastle Falcons

5

2

0

3

9

10

 

Gloucester Rugby

5

2

0

3

9

11

 

London Wasps

5

1

0

4

9

12

 

Worcester Warriors

5

0

0

5

2

 

One final game to mention – Toulon dogged out a 25 – 19 win against Clermont on Saturday in a repeat of last season’s Heineken final. With Johnny on the bench Matt Giteau took over the kicking duties landing 6 penalties and a conversion. Clermont will be hoping that Nonu can pull on the blue and yellow shirt sooner rather than later I imagine.

There’s no Aviva next week so I’ll be predicting the first round of what may prove to be the last ever Heineken Cup. Should be interesting – if only to see if I can re-wax my wings!

 

About David Shute

Shutey’s obsession with all things rugby far exceeds his ability on the pitch during his playing days as his blog (www.rugbyoldbloke.wordpress.com) certainly testifies.
He lives in England and can be caustic about the progress of his team since his mate Clive resigned – this is reflected in his writing about the state of Northern Hemisphere rugby. You can follow Shutey on twitter but only if you seriously have nothing better to do.

Comments

  1. Chris hi,
    Many thanks – you should write a blog – second most fun with your clothes on! After rugby obviously
    I really enjoy my blog and try to add something (however stupid) every day
    Cheers
    David
    http://www.rugbyoldbloke.wordpress.com

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