Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Premiership roundup : Anglo-Welsh Cup Week 1

by Kristian Ross


Worcester 31-25 Bristol (Fri):

Worcester extended Bristol’s unbeaten run yet again after a turbulent weekend for the away side saw head coach Andy Robinson sacked on Monday. The former England chief who had been suspended by the board of directors was giving his marching orders after Bristol made it ten defeats in all competitions this season. Despite Bristol leading 13-5 at one stage and taking a three-point advantage into half time, braces from Max Stelling, Josh Adams and a score from Michael Dowsett saw the Warriors come away with a six-point win.

Bath 20-21 Leicester (Fri):

Bath succumbed to Leicester at on Friday night after a 13,000 strong plus turned out at The Rec. Despite both teams playing weakened sides full of academy prospects, a packed ground saw a hugely entertaining game that had the Tigers in front 15-8 at half time. Leicester’s tries came from George Catchpole and Luke Hamilton with Freddy Burns adding the extras and despite scores from Jack Wilsom, Jeff Williams and Dan Bowen, Bath fell just short.

Sale 17-13 Wasps (Fri):

Sale provided a decent performance as they outshone Wasps at the AJ Bell Stadium on Friday evening. Despite both teams flying high in the Premiership, either squad was unrecognisable with youth being blooded via each dressing room. Wasps regular Guy Thompson and substitute Jacob Umaga got the scores for the away side, however full back Tom Arscott provided seven points which was enough to give the Sharks the win alongside scores from Mark Jennings and Sam Bedlow.

Gloucester 36-32 Saracens (Sat):

A brilliant Saturday afternoon provided an Anglo-Welsh Cup classic as Gloucester and Saracens shared ten tries at Kingsholm. The Cherry and Whites produced a stunning comeback after being 25-5 down against the Premiership champions. Ironically, the game was hugely reminiscent of Leicester’s huge fight on the opening day of the season against Gloucester. The home side scored six tries, including two from David Halaifonua and one from the referee’s whistle as Joe Mullis, Dan Thomas and Henry Purdy also got on the scoresheet. Sarries centre Tom Griffiths was the star man for the High Barnet club after his two tries and conversions along with scores from scrum-half Ben Spencer and out-half Tom Whiteley. 

Harlequins 29-15 Exeter (Sat)

Harlequins fielded a mix bag of a squad as a host of regulars and young talent was enough to see of Exeter at The Stoop. Quins who had an 11-5 lead at half time never looked like relinquishing their lead, Aaron Morris, Charlie Walker and Adam Jones all finishing up on the scorecard by the final whistle. James Short and the wonderfully named Elvis Taoine made it over the line for the Chiefs in a game that included Will Hooley and Ollie Devoto, but the away sides efforts weren’t enough as Harlequins opened their Anglo-Welsh Cup account with a W.

Newcastle 16-24 Northampton (Sun):

Northampton made the best possible start to their Anglo-Welsh Cup campaign with victory over Newcastle in the only game of Sunday afternoon. The Saints who like the rest of the big clubs over the weekend had fielded a youthful side, took on a Falcons team that had both academy prospects and experience at Kingston Park. However, despite the slightly more well-known faces of the home side, Northampton led 13-6 at half time with Mike Delany keeping the North East outfit in it via the kicking tee. But tries from Rory Hutchinson and Tom Collins coupled with the capable boot of Sam Olver saw the Saints head back to the Midlands with a very well earned win.

THE WINNERS:

Sale – It would be easy to say that Sale’s win over Wasps was huge at the weekend, but both teams were unrecognisable to any but the hard-core rugby fan. However, Sale are currently riding the Premiership wave well in fifth position and will also feel that with the bigger clubs having more proverbial fish to fry in the league and the Champions or Challenge Cup, this could be a competition they could win.
Gloucester – Gloucester have been chastised the last few years for not winning enough at home and after a humiliating defeat to Newcastle earlier in the season, the fans at Kingsholm haven’t always had a lot to shout about. However, Saturday’s three o’clock kick off provided the best entertainment of the weekend and no less provided a spectacular comeback that any team would be proud of.
Leicester – Yes, it was two academy teams essentially, but the Tigers will have been very happy with a win over Bath at The Rec on Friday night. With a Premiership top four spot likely, it must be said that might be as far as it will go this season, personally I can’t see Leicester winning either the Premiership or the Champions Cup and some fans may agree, this may well be their best shot of silverware this year.

THE LOSERS:

Bath – Bath make it into the loser’s column this week despite not playing that badly against Leicester on Friday night. But unfortunately they make it in for three reasons. The first is that Todd Blackadder actually took charge of the game, unlike some previous bosses in the past during the Anglo-Welsh Cup who ultimately see it as a B competition. Blackadder said he wanted to take the competition seriously and with The Rec becoming a real fortress, he will have been mightily disappointed to lose. Secondly, the game had 13,000+ people at it, a hugely impressive total. It can’t be argued that this completion doesn’t bring in the crowds. Unfortunately for Bath, the big majority of the 13,000 was their own fans who saw them lose. Finally, the game was broadcast live on BT Sport, the first ever Anglo-Welsh Cup match on the channel. Bath had this displeasure of being the first ever team to be beaten on their coverage… which may end up as quiz question in the local pubs one day.
Saracens – Not very often you will see Saracens in this section over the course of the season, but they make it in this week for one simple reason, the fact that they relinquished a twenty-point lead at half time. Absolutely criminal.
Bristol – You can’t have much to smile about if you watch rugby at Ashton Lane. A defeat to the Warriors at the weekend to ensure an eleventh competitive loss stretching back to May was the least of their worries in seriousness. The real question was should Andy Robinson have been sacked? An excellent point on BT Sport was made during the Bath-Leicester coverage after Sarah Elgan posed the question that rugby may be becoming similar to football. Either way, Robinson is out the door and the club now must move on and hope their torrid season cannot get any worse.

@Kristian7Ross - 22, Geordie, part time journalist and Irish Rugby fan.

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