Aviva Premiership Review: Rd 9

Five out of Six ain’t Bad

I thought I’d made a pretty aggressive call with my predictions this week – going for 3 away wins (four if you count the Australia game at Cardiff).

In fact I was being conservative (with an Infinitesimally small c) – there ended up being an almost unheard of 4 away wins in the premiership plus, of course the Wallabies.

It started on Friday night with Leicester Tigers at Gloucester – you could have almost thought we were a few miles north watching ‘A Comedy of Errors’

The kicking from both England squad fly halves was poor, although Toby Flood did recover his form to end up with 17 points as he guided the Tigers to a much needed win.

For Gloucester it was their fifth straight defeat in the Premiership and leaves them only two from the bottom – although they have a substantial cushion and they are very unlikely to have to worry about relegation this season.

Gloucester did cross twice and if there was a competition for ‘Softest Try of the Season’ both would be contenders – and both left Leicester with very red faces.

The Tigers will have been delighted however to get four away points and will be hoping that their misfortune with injuries does not continue. Few other clubs would be able to cope with 15 front line players being unavailable.

What a contrast on Saturday when Exeter went to Bath. In the best game of the season so far it was a shame that one side had to lose – a draw would have made it just perfect. The pace, skill and physicality made it look like an international match and just 5 points separated the teams when the final whistle went to give the combatants a well -deserved respite from the action. The two back rows were outstanding and both coaches will have been delighted with the performances and commitment.

Bath triumphed thanks to the immaculate kicking of George Ford who scored all their points – the young fly half also led his line well and is sure to be in Stuart Lancaster’s thoughts for the future – maybe near future.

The Chiefs scored the only two tries – and what crackers they were! Both came from the second row – Damian Welch collected a fine pass from Matt Jess but still had some way to go and some Bath players to go through to reach the line. He brushed all aside and then used his considerable reach to score one of the best tries of the season.

In the second half it was Wallaby Dean Mumm’s turn to shine – he showed remarkable speed to follow up his own kick ahead and to beat several of the Bath backs for the touch -down.

But it was not enough and Bath duly finished on top thanks to young Ford.  

There were three other games on Saturday – Sale almost upset leaders Saracens and led for much of the game. Danny Cipriani continues to shine for the Sharks and completed a full house with a try, conversion, penalty and drop goal.

They were still ahead as the match entered the final 10 minutes but Saracens are not top for nothing and they scored a converted try and a penalty to take the game 24 – 19 and leave Sale with just a bonus point.

Second placed Northampton made hard work of beating bottom club Worcester – as the game went into the final quarter the Warriors were leading 10 – 9 and a real upset looked possible.

But the Saints pulled themselves together and thanks to tries from Samua Monoa, Tom Collins and Tom Wood they won comfortably in the end and crushed the home side by 33 – 10.

But Jim Mallinder won’t be that happy – on successive weekends he will have wanted – even expected – to come away with bonus point wins against teams at the bottom of the league. They will still finish in the top 4 – and with probably a home draw in the play-offs – but they left 2 easy points on the park against Newcastle and Worcester and will be eyeing up the form of Bath who have skated into third.

Saturday’s other match was at the Madejski where Wasps defied my prediction to take the points against London Irish with a good away win. After last week’s home loss to Bath where Wasps were, by their own admission, dreadful it was a complete turnaround in fortunes.

It wasn’t a classic game and was punctuated by poor handling on both sides

Topsy Ojo was playing his 200th game for Irish which is some achievement in these days of club hopping and it was a shame for him that it wasn’t celebrated with a victory.

A penalty try for Wasps was the difference on the score board – awarded for a deliberate knock on by James O’Connor as Eliot Daly looked likely to score.

Christian Wade back from injury suffered again with an ankle and limped off to give Stuart Lancaster and Dai Young some more sleepless nights.

The final game on Sunday was an improvement – Harlequins arrived and played the game at pace – racking up 35 points and a try bonus point.

The Falcons persevered and tried to match the tempo but their execution was lacking. For Quins Danny Care and Nick Easter were always prominent – Care got one try as did Tom Williams – the other two went to Sam Smith who made the most of the opportunity afforded to him by Ugo Monye’s injury.

 

The full list of results are –

Gloucester 17 – Leicester 22

London Irish 12 – 19 Wasps

Saracens 24 – 19 Sale

Worcester 10 – 33 Northampton

Bath 21 – 16 Exeter

Newcastle 9 – 35 Harlequins

 

And the table after R9 looks like this –

 

Pos

 

Team

Pl

W

D

L

Pts

1

 

Saracens

9

8

0

1

36

2

 

Northampton Saints

9

7

1

1

34

3

 

Bath Rugby

9

7

0

2

30

4

 

Harlequins

9

6

0

3

28

5

 

Leicester Tigers

9

5

1

3

26

6

 

Exeter Chiefs

9

5

0

4

23

7

 

London Wasps

9

4

0

5

22

8

 

Sale Sharks

9

4

0

5

20

9

 

Newcastle Falcons

9

3

0

6

13

10

 

Gloucester Rugby

9

2

0

7

13

11

 

London Irish

9

2

0

7

12

12

 

Worcester Warriors

9

0

0

9

2

 

There’s now a two week break for the next games in the Heineken Cup and I’ll be posting my predictions later in the week.

So – five correct predictions out of six this week – and six out of seven if you count my forecast of a Wallaby win at Cardiff.

Maybe I’ll invest in a lottery ticket!

 

 

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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