We are past halfway and It’s down hill from here on in. Here’s my review of the 12th round of action.
So how did the predictions go?
First up here is a link to my predictions.
5 out of 6, so close and yet so far, a one point win is all that separated me from a clean sweep.
Northampton Saints 39 v 31 Newcastle Falcons
Falcons came out of the traps faster but were unable to take advantage, Saints then showed them how it was done by scoring with their first opportunities. Falcons came back to even things up but fell behind before the break to trail by 7. A yellow card for Falcons helped Saints to get another try and fourth came just before the hour mark. At that point it looked like Saints were going to cruise home with the TBP win. Falcons though staged a comeback with two converted tries. They were still two scores behind and a try each meant that Saints did come away with the TBP point win and Falcons also picked up a TBP but missed out on the LBP.
Key Stat: Kicks from hand Saints 34 Falcons 44
Perhaps more interesting than Key, but anyway that’s a lot of kicking and you would imagine that there was some kicking tennis. But 47 of those kicks were from the halfbacks, the back three were more than happy to run the ball back. The top 5 runners with ball in hand were all back three players,
Saracens 22 v 6 London Irish
Irish stared both halves well but were not able to take advantage of the wind in the first half as Saracens managed to keep Irish out and take an 11 point lead. Whilst Irish got on the scoreboard at the start of the second half Saracens used the wind to camp in their half.
Saracens on the other hand will be kicking themselves, they got two tries and were well on top. But their inability to get anything from the last quarter of the game means that they missed out on the TBP.
Key Stat: Territory (1H/2H) Saracens 60% (50%/72%) Irish 40% (50%/28%)
Saracens managed the first half well against the wind and then dominated the territory in the second half to comfortably win even if they failed to push on for the TBP.
Exeter Chiefs 25 v 26 Gloucester Rugby
Basic errors and goal kicking let down Exeter in their 100th premiership game. Gloucester edged a quiet first half with two penalty goals after Exeter knocked on with a try begging. The second half was a much more exciting affair with the lead changing 6 times. First Exeter come back with two tries before Gloucester edged back ahead. Then penalties changed the lead before England number 8 Ben Morgan crossed to take the lead for the final time. But there was still more drama as a missed conversion was all that stood between Exeter and victory.
Key Stat: Kick at goal success Exeter 67.0% Gloucester 100.0%
Exeter left 5 points on the pitch and that in the end was enough for Gloucester to sneak home. Looking at the other stats Exeter were ahead or equal for example 13 clean breaks to 1 or 34 defenders beaten to 12 but just weren’t able to turn these into the most important stat, points.
Leicester Tigers 17 v 8 Bath
Tigers came out on top in this forward orientated battle, which historians will tell you they normally do. Clearly Bath have been getting to Cockerill “Bath have talked themselves up and talked about being the new Leicester in the forwards, but it takes more than a season and half to take over the mantle of what this club has built up over a long, long time.” Sometimes winding people up works as they don’t make the right decisions but other times it just makes them perform more. But clearly Ford is happy to have a war of words “We know that rugby can be played in one or two ways maybe three or four ways and they picked a certain way today and it worked for them.”
Either way that’s all off the pitch and fun for us supporters to listen too and not take too seriously. On the pitch Tigers managed to stay in control of the only stat that matters which obviously is the scoreboard. This was off the back of some strong and disciplined defence making 91% of their tackles and only allowing Ford junior two shots at goal.
This is the first time that Bath have not picked up at least a LBP from a game this season, but that was only due to a missed kick at the death. There shouldn’t be any alarm bells going off for Bath, losing away to Tigers is nothing to be ashamed of. However away form does show an area that they can improve which is scary for the rest of the league.
Tigers are coming good as their players return from injury and are fully in the fight for the playoff positions.
Ket Stat: Scrums on own feed Tigers 6 won, 6 lost (50.0%) Bath 1 won, 0 lost (100.0%)
If your scrums not totally solid then don’t knock the ball on. Save your forwards energy to areas of the game that they can make an impact. In reality the 91% tackling success rate is the key stat but this one jumped out. 1 knock on/forward pass to 12 is a big difference and goes some way to explain Bath’s lack of results in attack. Also the difference in styles of play as Tigers kept it tighter and Bath tried for width in conditions that weren’t helpful.
Wasps 41 v 16 Sale Sharks
The scoreline suggests a dominate win and so it was, especially when you realise that Sale scored their one try only in the last 10 minutes once Wasps had lost a man to the bin. It’s still early days days it it looks like Wasps have managed to transfer their home form to their new home. Also a crowd of 15K is a big improvement on Adams Park and 5-7K.
I was expecting this one to be much closer but when you see who Sharks were missing it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise. The return of Braid from injury was the catalyst for Sharks improved performances and he was missing today. Also Cusiter, Cipriani and Cueto were all on the bench so a lot of leadership missing.
London Welsh 13 v 24 Harlequins
Job done but it was harder work than some of the stats would suggest. 818 meters run with ball in hand for Quins against 379 for Welsh. Add in Welsh having to make three times as many tackles as Quins and you would have expected the flood gates to open in the last quarter. It didn’t and that was down to both poor execution from Quins and Welsh gritting it out.
Key Stat: Turnovers conceded Welsh 16 Quins 21
It’s hard to maintain your attacking flow when you’er loosing the ball every 4 minutes or so.