by Kristian Ross
Sale 3-21 Exeter (Fri):
Exeter continued their recent resurgence as they dismantled Sale at the AJ Bell Stadium on Friday night. Despite an improved Sale this season, the home side provided little spectacle as Rob Baxter’s team made short work of the Sharks with all the points scored in the first half from either side. Will Chudley, James Short and a sharp blast of the referee’s whistle saw the Chiefs register a three try tally at the interval with AJ MacGinty’s solitary penalty giving Sale their only score of the match. A drab second half saw neither team live up to expectation as Exeter missed out on the bonus point, but come away with a very comfortable and albeit easy win.
Bath 14-11 Saracens (Sat):
Bath recorded a huge statement of intent as they provided Saracens second defeat of the season at The Rec on Saturday afternoon. The away side who had only been beaten twice in the Premiership since March were behind 11-8 at half time, after an entertaining first forty minutes that saw Max Clark and Sean Maitland trade tries either side of penalty kicks from Tom Homer and Alex Lozowski. Lozowksi brought the score level in the second half with a drop goal before Homer restored the three-point advantage for Todd Blackadder’s men. But despite a great season so far for Lozowski, it was a moment to forget as his penalty attempt at the end drifted wide as Bath kicked for touch to register a hugely important four points.
Gloucester 26-18 Bristol (Sat):
Gloucester made sure of a second consecutive home win as they beat winless Bristol in front of just under 15,000 at Kingsholm. Following a narrow defeat to Saracens in Round Nine, it was a slow start for the Cherry and Whites as Bristol led 6-0 at half time courtesy of two penalties from Jason Woodward. Interim boss Mark Tainton may have thought it was going to be a first win of Bristol, but the second half proved that incoming Connacht coach Pat Lam will have it all to do when he arrives next summer as the home side scored four tries with three of those coming inside a twenty-minute spell Willi Heinz, Matt Scott and a penalty award. Henry Purdy secured the bonus point, but not before Bristol had a late rally of their own with five pointers from James Wallace and Luke Arscott. However, the eight-point differential was enough to see the visitors come away with anything as David Humphrey’s outfit collected a maximum haul in their quest to climb the table.
Leicester 19-11 Northampton (Sat):
Northampton were consigned to a second Premiership defeat in a row as Leicester made it five on the bounce in all competitions with a well-earned win at Welford Road. However, the game was marred as George North was caught late in the air and subsequently spent a lengthy period on the turf as questions about concussions were raised once again following the Wales wing being allowed to return to play. In a narrow East Midland’s clash, it was Adam Thompstone who seized the initiative for the home side first, with Mikey Haywood scoring for the Saints with Northampton going into the break just two points behind. However, a poor second half from Jim Mallinder’s team saw them not register a point as Owen Williams and Freddie Burns added penalties to make sure the Tigers would receive the spoils. Luther Burrell was also binned in the first half in a match that will no doubt be remembered for the smashes and bashes as opposed to the result.
Worcester 12-26 Wasps (Sun):
Worcester’s miserable run in the Premiership continued as their losing streak extended to five games as high flying Wasps made short work of the Warriors at Sixways. All twelve points for the home side came in the first half and from a single player, as Jamie Shilcock nailed four penalties as former Leinster face Brendan Macken had given the away team the lead with his try after less than a minute on the scoreboard. Dan Robson scored the only try of the second half, as stand in out half Rob Miller added the extras as well as four penalties of his own as he provided excellent cover for the injured Jimmy Gopperth. Despite controlled dominance, Dai Young’s side were unable to get a sniff of a bonus point, but still managed to keep their tally ticking over in the Premiership table on what was yet another afternoon to forget for Worcester.
Newcastle 38-32 Harlequins (Sun):
Newcastle produced a stunning win in what was the Premiership result of the weekend, as they made it back to back victories with an excellent display against Harlequins. Dean Richard’s side crossed the whitewash six times as they led 21-8 at half time after Juan Pablo Socino, Mark Wilson and Micky Young all went over with the only decent Quins response coming from a Rob Buchanan score. In a truly epic second half battle, Socino put the Falcons seemingly out of reach before Karl Dickson went over twice as Harlequins came within a whisker of the men in black. Canadian international Evan Olmstead and Great Britain gold silver medallist Marcus Watson wrapped it up for the Falcons to secure a massive five-point bonus bonanza, but Tim Visser rescued a second bonus for Quins who left Kingston Park with a couple for their efforts.
- Newcastle – If I could give all three winners spots to Newcastle this week, I probably would. Following a huge win last week in Northampton, Dean Richards side made it back to back wins and deservedly so in a devastating attacking performance. For the Falcons who have struggled so much in the last five years, this was a massive day for the club and the fans, pundits and players clearly thought so too. It means Newcastle have the same amount of Premiership wins as last season with less than half the season played, with a likely comfortable mid table finish expected as opposed to the usual relegation battle.
- Bath – After a few dodgy displays over the last few weeks, questions were perhaps starting to be asked but they have responded wonderfully with Saturday’s win over Saracens. The result is a massive achievement, with Mark McCall’s team easily the best side in Europe at the current point in time, but the context of the four points gained is massive too, with it all getting very tight at the top of the table.
- Leicester – Another win for the Tigers who are slowly but steadily gaining ground each week. Perhaps not the forgotten team as they are always up there, but Leicester have just one win less than the top three sides of Saracens, Wasps and Bath and if any of those clubs start dropping points, it could be Cockerill’s lot who take advantage, especially as they are current form team.
- Sale – A very disappointing week for Sale. No zest, no flair, nothing of note. A huge shame considering they’ve looked a top six side at certain points this season with some very big results, but they were disastrously poor on Friday night and deservedly came away with nothing.
- Worcester – It was mentioned last week, but Worcester just keep on losing, whereas bottom side Bristol haven’t won a match, they have looked slightly better in the last few weeks, as opposed to this Warriors side that currently looks abject. Meanwhile, with an eight-point gap to make up, who is to say that the Warriors will be catching up with the rest of the pack anytime soon.
- Saracens - Saracens ultimately didn’t play that badly at the weekend, but it’s the consequences of the result that have them fall into the bracket this time around. A big game against Bath goes begging, a penalty at the end missed (but let’s face it, you can always sew games up before those kicks are needed) and of course the gap between them and Wasps is now just a single point. Expect to see a big response next week against Sale at Allianz Park.
@Kristian7Ross - 22, Geordie, part time journalist and Irish Rugby fan.
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