Aviva Premiership Review: Rd 12

The Late Late Show

I came within a whisker of getting a full house again this weekend – going into Sunday’s games I was 4 for 4 and for most of the two final games it looked like I would end up with a perfect forecast. It was not to be as Leicester grabbed a draw with the final play and Wasps grabbed the win with the last kick of the game. C’est la vie as serge Blanco would say!

There were two matches on Friday night – the Sharks won away at Newcastle (only their second ever win in the Premiership at Kingston Park) – but it was closer than the final score-line of 16 – 8 and the Falcons were denied even a losing bonus point in the end.

Danny Cipriani kicked a conversion and a couple of penalties but he missed others and that will not help his case for an England recall against the very consistent kicking of Owen Farrell.

What was supposed to be the big game with Harlequins travelling to Northampton turned out to be a drudge of a first half but livened up for the second 40. The Saints deservedly coming out on top with George North and Dylan Hartley both showing their international credentials in scoring tries.

Stuart Lancaster and his coaching team were in attendance but will not have learned a great deal from their evening out.

On Saturday London Irish piled more misery on Worcester with Wallaby Johnny O’Connor scoring all 22 of the Irish points to pull them well clear of any relegation worries. It looks like O’Connor is heading to Toulon for a short time before heading back to Super 15 in time to be in contention for Australia’s World Cup bid. On this form he has a chance of making it too! Irish would love to keep him until he heads home but they can’t compete with the financial muscle of the current Heineken Champions

The Kingsholm crowd were treated to a New Year nightmare as Saracens looked in a different class to the home side. Gloucester were once renowned for their uncompromising and aggressive forward pack that were rarely bested – on Saturday they were beasted.

Saracens dominated the set piece and won comfortably with tries from Neil De Kock, David Strettle and Alex Goode – their one regret is not getting a fourth try bonus even though they had more than half an hour to cross the line again. Owen Farrell contributed 14 of the Saracens 29 points and is in good form ahead of the 6 Nations.

My aggressive predictions for Sunday’s games was two away wins – both were against current form but I was pretty confident of upsets. With 79 minutes on one clock and 80 on the other it looked like I should also buy a lottery ticket. But then it all went wrong.

Bath came to Welford Road and despite going behind to an early Miles Benjamin try they looked like they were the home side. They shot into the lead with tries by Anthony Watson and Francois Louw – both excellent scores that George Ford had more than a hand in. Ford converted both and added another penalty. He also managed a long range penalty to send Bath in ahead by 20 – 14 at half time.

The second half saw Bath extend their lead to 27 – 17 with Jonathan Joseph scoring under the posts from a lovely short off load from Ford.

That third try may paradoxically have been Bath’s undoing – in going for a fourth they spurned two very kickable penalty opportunities to go instead for the corner.

You don’t give Leicester opportunities like that – they stormed back and took advantage of Stuart Hooper’s yellow card to set up camp on the bath line for Thomas ‘the tank’ Waldron to chug over.

Bath remained ahead until the final minute when Jamie Gibson squeezed into the corner to grab a share of the points for the Tigers.

I hope Lancaster saw the game and has pencilled in both Watson and Ford for his squad announcement on Thursday – they both have a touch of class that is missing in the injury ravaged England backline at the moment.

So I was 4.5 out of 5 at that point and the game at Wasps was drawing to a close with Exeter level.

Exeter had been in front for much of the game thanks to a Dave Lewis try and the kicking of Henry Slade (another to watch for the future). But Andy Goode lived up to his name and as the clock turned red he slotted a perfect drop goal to steal the points for Wasps.

I was not too disappointed in the end the two away wins I’d predicted for Sunday came very close!

 

The full results –

Newcastle 8 – 16 Sale

Northampton 23 – 9 Harlequins

London Irish 22 – 9 Worcester

Gloucester 8 – 29 Saracens

Leicester 27 – 27 Bath

Wasps 19 – 16 Exeter

 

And the table after R12 –

 

Pos

 

Team

Pl

W

D

L

Pts

1

 

Saracens

12

11

0

1

50

2

 

Northampton Saints

12

10

1

1

47

3

 

Bath Rugby

12

8

1

3

36

4

 

Harlequins

12

7

0

5

32

5

 

Leicester Tigers

12

6

2

4

32

6

 

London Wasps

12

6

0

6

31

7

 

Sale Sharks

12

6

0

6

29

8

 

Exeter Chiefs

12

6

0

6

28

9

 

Gloucester Rugby

12

4

0

8

21

10

 

London Irish

12

3

0

9

17

11

 

Newcastle Falcons

12

3

0

9

14

12

 

Worcester Warriors

12

0

0

12

3

 

For the next two weeks the Heineken Cup takes to the stage as we enter the last Pool games and sort out the qualifiers for the quarter finals.

My predictions will appear her in a day or so.

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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