Another weekend of scintillating rugby with upsets and good wins, here’s my review of the action.
Gloucester Rugby 23 – 19 Sale Sharks
Harlequins 38 – 7 London Irish
Worcester Warriors 20 – 29 Leicester Tigers
Bath 11 – 13 Northampton Saints
Wasps 27 – 41 Exeter Chiefs
Newcastle Falcons 3 – 38 Saracens
5 form 6, I should shave had faith in my team.
Gloucester were only side in the bottom half of the table to win this week and this climbed them to 7th. In a to and fro battle Gloucester struck first with a try from Cook when Sale ran out of defenders. A wonderful chip through led to Sale taking back the lead but poor discipline allowed Twelvetrees to knock over 2 penalties for a narrow half-time lead. Early in the second half Cipriani levelled things up before a try gave Sale the lead. It was looking good as Sale were breaking more tackles. But Gloucester came back with two tries around the hour mark and held out Sale for the win.
An early penalty gave Quins a small lead but it took them until nearly half-time to get their first try. In the second half though they ran rampant scoring 4 tries. They ran for more than twice as many meters with ball in hand as Irish missed plenty of tackles. Irish did manage to get a try and their only points of the game right at the death but the game was long gone by then.
Warriors started game strongly backing up a penalty with two converted tries to take a 17-0 lead. Then the wheels fell off as O’Callaghan was yellow carded for collapsing a maul. Tigers took advantage to narrow the gap to 10 points at half-time. O’Callaghan then picked up a second yellow meaning a red card early in the second half. Another yellow reduced Warriors to 13 men and Tigers scored another try. Warriors managed to stretch their lead with a penalty only for Tigers to quickly get one themselves. Then a penalty try at scrum time put Tigers in the lead and Warriors back down to 13 for the last 8 minutes. Tigers pushed on for the TBP and denied Warriors anything for all their hard work.
The first forty minutes of endeavour only yielded 3 points for Saints. Bath even survived receiving a yellow card unscathed and just after half-time evened things up. A Burrell try put Saints back into the lead but Ford quickly narrowed the gap with a penalty. Then on the hour mark forgotten England man Rokoduguni scored a try to put Bath 1 point ahead. A late penalty was just enough to see Saints home as they had their pack to thank for a hard day at the office. Four of Northampton’s pack made double figure tackles with 17 for Harrison leading the way.
Exeter laid down big marker in the first half as they were clinical with their play. For a side that’s had line out issues in the past losing only 1 of 17 was impressive. Chiefs used the rolling maul well as they racked up 4 tries and the TBP by the 34th minute as Wasps only managed 2 penalties. A late try did narrow things to 13-27 at half-time. Wasps have had some very big games recently and did very well to raise themselves to score two converted tries to even things up. After letting such a big lead slip Exeter heads could easily have dropped. But the pack stepped up again to score two more tries and seal a very impressive win.
Saracens produced a dominating performance to see off Falcons. An early try settled any nerves and Hodgson’s boot opened up a 3-13 half-time lead. Falcons kept Saracens out until the hour mark when Tompkins try sealed the win. The Saracens machine wasn’t finished and two more tires in the last 10 minutes also gained the TBP. Saracens ran an amazing 646 meters with ball in hand as booth sides were happy to put boot to ball with over 30 kicks each.
Saracens remain undefeated and top of the table 3 points clear of Chiefs. Irish and Falcons have now both given up over 100 points and there is an 8 point gap to Warriors in 10th.
Cardiff Blues 20 – 16 Connacht Rugby
Ulster 14 – 7 Edinburgh
Benetton Treviso 20 – 22 Scarlets
Zebre 22 – 39 Ospreys
Newport Gwent Dragons 22 – 6 Munster
3 form 5, 2 bottom half teams beat top 3 teams and I didn’t see that coming.
Scarlets went back to top of the table as Connacht stumbled. The Italian teams are now more than a win adrift at the bottom of the table.
Section Paloise 15 – 15 Racing Metro 92
Toulon 53 – 23 Agen
Castres 34 – 19 Montpellier
La Rochelle 33 – 16 Grenoble
Stade Francais 21 – 24 Bordeaux Begles
Toulouse 53 – 23 US Oyonnax
Brive 21 – 26 Clermont Auvergne
Toulon continued their revival and are now equal on points with Toulouse just one point behind table topper’s Clermont. At the other end Pau opened up a 5 points lead over Agen and Oyonnax.