Now that round 3 is done and dusted, here is a look at how accurate my predictions were and my thoughts from the third round.
First up how did the predictions go?
4 out of 6 again, I got the Quins v Wasps close game wrong and didn’t see Baths’ dominant display coming. But I called the Gloucester v Exeter game right which was the other 50:50 game.
Gloucester Rugby 22 v 25 Exeter Chiefs
Exeter will be happy to come away with a win and this was all down to being more organised during the first half. But they will know that there is plenty to work on including defending with 14 men when 2 tries went in but also playing against 14 men where they failed to capitalise. Also a worrying trend is letting first half leads slip, last week a 4 point lead turned into a 4 point loss and this week a 10 point lead was whittled down to 3 by the end.
For Gloucester it’s another week and another second half fight back. This time they couldn’t quite get the win but it’s all part of the learning process. Having so many key new players and new coaching staff, their game will take time to find its groove, this time it was the defence that didn’t quite click.
Both sets of fans will question some of the decisions by their captains, such as Exeter taking a scrum rather than kicking a goal and Gloucester kicking a goal rather than kicking to the corner. But it’s always easy to make these calls away from the heat of battle and would they have worked out anyway?
Key Stat: Half time score 12-22
By the end Gloucester were either on top or just about had parity on most of the stats. With more possession and more territory and only 2 more penalties conceded. But Exeter got out to too big a lead in the first half. That Exeter had 80 more meters run with ball in hand is a sign of how they are happy to run out from their own 22.
Sale Sharks 46 v 8 London Welsh
First win of the season for Sharks and wasn’t it needed, Saracens, Wasps and Saints to finish the first block of Aviva Premiership games it’s not going to be any easier than this. Not a great performance but a bonus point win that will be good for the confidence. 2 TBP already is a good sign for the attacking side of things but the defence needs to be tighter.
Another big loss for Welsh and even though it was below 50 points there wasn’t much visible improvement. More combative at times but still falling off tackles and they really need to get the stuff in order by the 11th of October, which is when the face Newcastle for the first time. Already bottom of the table with only 1 point they need to keep Newcastle in sight or it will be over very quickly. Luckily for Welsh, Newcastle are on along loosing steak and also only on 1 point at the moment.
Key Stat: Not available
Harlequins v Wasps
Quins will be happy to register a win after last weeks’ disastrous performance. The intensity was back and the goal kicking was also much improved, are Nick Evens days numbered? Quins were still below their best and this was a close win. A different bounce, better hands or no trip and this could have gone the other way. So a confidence boosting win but still a long way to go.
Wasps will be disappointed to have got so close again. But they should be happy with 6 points from the first 3 games against Saracens, Saints and Quins. With Falcons next up it gets a little easier and it will be interesting to see if they can keep up their intensity against a lower table team.
Key Stat: Not available
London Irish 32 v 36 Saracens
Saracens win another close one to make it 3 from 3 and be one of 2 unbeaten teams. They will be marching out onto the pitch knowing they are going to win which is a great position to be in. The team will still be playing full of confidence even when they are down and time is running out.
Irish will be kicking them selves, to have come back from 13 points down and leading this going in the last few mins. But it shouldn’t have been this close, as it was penalties that kept Saracens in this one. Irish out scored them 4 tries to 3 and remember one of those was right at the death. Irish will take lots of positives from this but they could also have taken 5 not 2 points.
Key Stat: Not available
Bath v Leicester Tigers
Wow where did that come from? A lot of people predicted that Bath would win this one but it’s been over a decade since Tigers have not scored a point in a premiership game and they have never lost a premiership game by this margin. You have to feel a bit sorry for Irish trying to build on the momentum of taking Saracens close, because Tigers will be looking to make a statement next week. Tigers do have a lot of injuries but that seems to be a recurring story for them now, so they are going have to find a way to fix it or overcome it.
Bath will clearly be over the moon and 3 from 3 to leave them top of the table is a very good start to the season. A but you need to keep a bit of realism, so far they have played Sale, Welsh and an injured Tiger (missing both first choice centres for example). Clearly they are a side heading for the top half of the table but are they going to go one step further than last year and make the payoffs? We have to wait and see, whilst next week against Saints could give us a better idea we will still be less than a quarter of the season gone. It’s a matter of maintaining that level for 9 months, keeping the players fresh both in body and mind as well as dealing with injuries and international call ups when they happen.
Key Stat: Meters run with the ball, Bath 677 Leicester 316
Bath may have had less of the ball and territory but boy were they effective with it and without it. I could just as easily chosen defenders beaten 23 v 11 or clean breaks 19 v 2. Those low numbers for Tigers are also explained by only 11 missed tackles from 132 by Bath where as Tigers “only” made 98 tackles but missed a whopping 23. Those meters were made by the hard work of winning the collisions.
Newcastle Falcons v Northampton Saints
A fairly routine 5 point win for Saints, they won’t have learnt much from this but will be happy that Hooley stepped in well for the injured Myler. Also it’s good to get some match practice on the artificial surface that they will also have to cope with when they travel to Saracens.
For Newcastle that’s 19 losses on the bounce which has to be a worry. They are already in the bottom 2 with Welsh and 4 points adrift the next team. The 2 games against Welsh are going tone curtail but so are any LBP that they can pickup on the way. For that they are going to need to do score more points.
Key Stat: Possession 61%:49%
Yup Newcastle had lots of the ball but could do nothing with it even though they were in Saints territory for 60% of the time. Two things here, Newcastle were toothless and need to change that but Saints were comfortable without the ball. If you already have a lead it’s easier to be so but they made nearly 50 more tackles which is surprising for such a dominant score.
I will add in a key stat for a bit of fun where I can get the information, if you know where the stats for all games are available please let me know below.