Aviva Premiership Review: Rd 7

Up, Up and Away!

We have a saying – ‘you wait ages for a bus then 4 come along at once!’

Well that was just what it was like over the weekend in the Premiership – after last week’s 6 home wins and my assertion that winning on the road is very tough in this league, there were suddenly a whole batch of away wins that made a mockery of the concept of home advantage!

In all, 5 teams won on foreign turf with only Saracens claiming a home win with the stuffing of the Newcastle Falcons.

You might recall that I thought I was pretty bullish in predicting 3 wins away from home – that turned out to be conservative in the extreme and although I was right with my three (I could hardly have been wrong given the final results) I miscalculated badly when looking at Harlequins and Wasps.

Both London clubs picked up valuable points and silenced the crowds at Welford Rd and Kingsholm.

It had started so well for me on Friday night

Bath comfortably beat bottom club Worcester by 6 – 21 with young George Ford again prolific with the boot. Bath fielded a back line that is full of internationals (past, present and future) – and last night teenage full back Anthony Watson was called up to train with the England squad for Saturday’s game against Argentina. He’ll be released back to Bath for the weekend of course but it’s good to see England at last bringing in younger players to the squad – if only for training. The Southern Hemisphere sides have always gone with the maxim ‘if you’re good enough, you’re old enough’ – and it hasn’t done them much harm!

Also on Friday Exeter Chiefs took 4 points up at Sale Sharks. The final score-line of 16 – 18 looks closer than it was with Sale’s Mark Cueto getting a try in the 78th minute to ensure they at least picked up a losing bonus point. Cueto showed his experience by diving into his tackler as he crossed the line to ensure he wasn’t shoved into touch.

The Chiefs were not at their best and needed the reliable Gareth Steenson to kick 6 penalties for their win – their third on the trot in the premiership and one that sees them leapfrog more fashionable teams into the top 4. They were helped massively by Sale picking up 3 yellow cards and having to play against only 13 men at one point.

With two of my away picks I was feeling confident late on Saturday – particularly after England managed to get past Australia.

But then a rampant Harlequins arrived at Welford Rd and completely destroyed the myth of that great ground’s invulnerability.

Quins pretty much played all the rugby with Nick Easter, now at lock, charging around like a 20 year old and Danny care snapping at the base of the scrum – and indeed everywhere else – mad no doubt at not to have been required at Twickenham earlier in the day.

It was reported that Leicester Director of Rugby was livid after last week’s defeat – that will be nothing to how he will be at training this week. Leicester failed to get over the line from at least 3 close range efforts and when they finally did get across Ugo Monye heaved Louis Deacon back into play before he could touch down. Cockerill will also be annoyed at how easily Matt Hopper and Nick Easter scored at the other end!

The one consolation for the Tigers was picking up a losing bonus point from a penalty try in the last minute – but the loss sees them fall to 6th in the table and they will be desperate to get back their International and injured players as soon as possible.

There was yet another away win on Saturday evening when Wasps closed out Gloucester by 30 – 32 in a match which swung back and forth late in the second half. Wasps led 10 – 17 at the break following tries by Hughes and Christian Wade before Gloucester clawed their way back to pinch the lead by 23 – 20 with less than 10 minutes to go. Thompson and Wade then scored tries for Wasps with Cook replying with his second to at least give the home side both a losing bonus and 4 try bonus at the death.

So we went into Sunday without a home win and this pattern was continued when the Saints arrived at London Irish who paraded debutant James O’Connor at full back.

The Saints continue to look good and even with a cartload of players required for the autumn internationals they came home (or rather away) with a 14 – 19 win.

Both sides scored just the one try – James Wilson for Saints and Sailosi Tagicakibau for the home side.

James O’Connor demonstrated why he’s picked up 44 international caps for the Wallabies and looked a class act with the ball in hand. He manufactured the Irish try drawing Ken Pisi before giving Tagicakibau a free run in to the line.

If the Irish can keep their new fullback away from the Guinness bar he will be worth the price of admission on his own and will help the Exiles stay comfortably clear of relegation worries.

In the end it was Stephen Myler’s continued consistency with the boot that made the difference but the losing bonus point moved Irish 9 points clear of bottom club Worcester.

The final game of the weekend at last saw a home victory – Saracens demolishing new boys Newcastle by 40 – 3 in a five try romp.

Charlie Hodgson, returning from injury, contributed 18 points including a try, whilst David Strettle picked up a couple and Alex Goode and Jamie George crossed for the others.

Down only 10 -3 at the break Dean Richards must have harboured hopes of at least coming away with something but the second 40 belonged to Saracens as they stretched away both on the score board and in the table.

Despite the loss Newcastle will be happy, that after 7 rounds, they sit at 9th in the table – a full 11 points clear of relegation.

Saracens on 28 and Saints on 26 points are beginning to move away from the rest of the chasing pack and it would be a brave man who bet against either of these teams being in the play-offs. It is also hard to look further than one of them claiming the championship come the end of May at Twickenham.

This week’s results -

Worcester 6 – 21 Bath

Sale 16 – 18 Exeter

Leicester 16 – 23 Harlequins

Gloucester 30 – 32 Wasps

London Irish 14 – 19 Northampton

Saracens 40 – 3 Newcastle

 

Table after R8

League table 

Aviva Premiership

Pos.

Team

P

W

D

L

-/+

BP

Pts

1

Saracens

7

6

0

1

101

4

28

2

Northampton Saints

7

5

1

1

77

4

26

3

Bath Rugby

7

5

0

2

40

2

22

4

Exeter Chiefs

7

5

0

2

24

1

21

5

Harlequins

7

4

0

3

31

3

19

6

Leicester Tigers

7

3

1

3

30

4

18

7

London Wasps

7

3

0

4

12

6

18

8

Sale Sharks

7

3

0

4

-27

2

14

9

Newcastle Falcons

7

3

0

4

-81

1

13

10

Gloucester Rugby

7

2

0

5

-51

4

12

11

London Irish

7

2

0

5

-43

3

11

12

Worcester Warriors

7

0

0

7

-113

2

2

 

In the final analysis I called 4 out of the 6 games and all three of my away predictions were right.

Had I forecast the 5 aways last week you would have thought it was me who needed analysis!

There’s a two week break now before the Premiership returns on the 22nd November. Later this week I’ll preview the 6 international games taking place at the weekend.

 

 

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.

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