This is the week when a clear gap appeared between the top 7 and the rest. Here is my review of round 15.
How did the predictions go?
First here is a link to my predictions.
4 from 6, that’s fairly good when there has been a draw.
Newcastle Falcons 23 v 23 Wasps
Falcons got off to a good start after a poor game least weekend. A try and a penalty within the first 10 minutes gave them a 8-0 lead. Just after the twenty minute mark Wasps had a purple patch with a penalty and two unconverted tries to take the lead. Another Catterick penalty for Falcons just before half time closed the gap to just 2 points at the break.
Falcons were again the first to strike after half time with an unconverted try but Goode evened things up soon afterwards with a penalty. With just under twenty minutes to go Falcons again took the lead with the first converted try of the game. But another piece of quality play with Daly involved grabbed the equalising converted try soon after ward for Wasps and that’s how it stayed.
Key Stat: Defenders beaten Falcons 26 Wasps 26
Both side will want to tighten up their defence after being beaten so many times.
Sale Sharks 14 v 10 Saracens
Saracens took first blood with a penalty but Sale took control of the half after 20 minutes with their first try. Saracens then managed to survive their first yellow card but the second one of the half helped Sharks pick up their second try and take a 14-3 lead at half time. Saracens battered away to Sale for the whole the second half but weren’t able to break though until the final moments. Sharks were also down to 14 men in the closing moments when the Saracens converted try earned them a LBP.
Key Stat: Half time score Sale 14 Saracens 3
Saracens did miss a couple of penalties but it was Sales first half performance that over powered Saracens and then they held on for the win.
Gloucester Rugby 48 v 10 London Welsh
Welsh were in this for the first 10 minutes where an exchange of penalties left the score 6-3. Gloucester soon imposed their authority on the game with 2 quick converted tries. A Welsh yellow card didn’t help their cause as Gloucester added a third to have a comfortable 27-3 lead at half time.
Welsh started the second half much better and scored a try of their own but it was short lived and Gloucester re-established their dominance with a try. Two tries in the final 5 minutes added a gloss to the score line.
Key Stat: Clean breaks Gloucester 14 Welsh 4
Gloucester were comfortably more incisive their their play.
Harlequins 21 v 32 Exeter Chiefs
Quins started the brighter of the two sides and were helped by Exeter’s poor discipline. Evens knocked over the first penalty whilst the was one chief in the bin and helped himself to a try when there were two there. However even before Exeter were back up to 15 men they had claimed the lead with a penalty and converted try. Exeter stretched their lead to 5 points at half time by kicking two penalties to one.
Early in the second half Slade ghosted over and converted his own try to make it a 12 point lead. As Quins began to chase the game by running the ball from their own half Slade kept kept the score board ticking over with penalties. Eventually Quins did score a try after an Evens penalty but that only closed the gap to 8 points and a final penalty with about ten minutes to go by Slade sealed things.
Key Stat: Metres run with ball Quins 722 Chiefs 292
As Quins were forced to chase the game they had to play too much in their own half and gave away too many penalties to allow Slade to keep the scoreboard ticking over. This was a real display of a golden generation of players coming out of the Chiefs academy. Hooker Cowan-Dickie, flanker Ewers, flyhalf Slade and centers Hill and Nowell have all grown up playing with each other. BTW It’s interesting seeing Nowell playing 13 as he is normally considered a back 3 player.
Bath 13 v 21 Northampton Saints
Bath started strongly with a converted try and penalty to open up a ten point lead. Saints then worked their way back into the game with tries from Wilson and Haywood to take a slim 2 point lead into half time. In the second half Saints used their greater experience in their half backs to play in the right areas of the pitch and let their defence do the talking. With Myler keeping the scoreboard ticking over with three penalties and Homer only able to kick one in reply.
Key Stats: Territory (1H/2H) Bath 45% (48%/42%) Saints 55% (52%/58%)
Homer did miss 4 kicks at goal but in reality Saints were able to strangle the game especially once they had the lead in the second half.
London Irish 6 v 12 Leicester Tigers
A wet afternoon turned this into a kicking competition and a game for the forwards to grind out. Irish had all the possession and territory but Tigers were very disciplined and their pack showed their greater power. Burns created a 0-9 lead with two penalties and a drop goal before Irish pulled on back to go in 6 points down at half time. From a scoring point of view the second half was just a penalty each as Tigers did nothing with the ball but their defence was able to keep Irish out.
Key Stat: Scrums on own feed Irish 3 won, 3 lost (50.0%) Tigers 9 won, 0 lost (100.0%)
Tigers pack dominated Irish and the whole side maintained it’s discipline in defence.
Note – The Table
The table is set nicely for the run in, Saints are 9 points clear and will have a home semifinal. Bath behind them still have their destiny in their own hands but only have 3 point lead over a big chasing pack.
2 points then cover the next five sides who should make up the final 2 playoff contenders. Those five sides are Saracens, Exeter, Sale, Leicester and Wasps. Gloucester and Harlequins are 8 points back and whilst they could make top 6 it’s unlikely.
Newcastle and Irish are a further 9 points back and in no mans land waiting for next season. Welsh are 22 points further back and should be planning for life in the Championship.