Weekend Rugby Review – 4 April

The 6 Nations is a distant memory as we emerged ourselves in a deluge of domestic action. Here is my round-up.

Aviva Premiership

Bath 10 – 30 Saracens
Exeter Chiefs 50 – 12 Worcester Warriors
Harlequins 46 – 25 Newcastle Falcons
London Irish 15 – 30 Sale Sharks
Leicester Tigers 35 – 30 Gloucester Rugby
Wasps 28 – 6 Northampton Saints

6 from 6, a perfect round in what was a fairly predictable week.

Saracens put in a commanding performance with Bath only about to get on the score board  with a penalty right on half-time. By then Saracens had already scored two tries and were clear. The really talking point though came early in the second half. Watson was red carded for taking out Goode in the air which sounds simple. However his path to challenge the ball was blocked by Ashton. There was a lot of talk about intent but that’s not in the laws and the referee was technically right with the red card. Personally I don’t like Ashton’s running and shoving of Watson after the incident and it was clearly a very feisty affair. Bath then soon after lost a player to a Yellow card as well but even though the survived that ten minutes only conceding a try the game was effectively lost.

After an opening where neither side scored Warriors picked up their first of three yellow cards. During those ten minutes the game was lost as Chiefs ran in three tries and took a 17-0 lead. To be fair to Warriors they did fight back to 17-12 at half-time however Exeter scored straight away in the second half to reassert their authority. Warriors survived their second yellow without conceding any points but soon after the flood of another four tries started leading to the Chiefs half century.

Quins dominated the first half and stretched out to a 21-6 lead, that was extended early in the second half to 28-6. Things were looking easy but then Falcons staged a comeback that was helped by a yellow to score nineteen unanswered points and get to 28-25. However things fell a part in the last twenty minutes as Falcons picked up two yellow cards and conceded eighteen unanswered points as QUins picked up the TBP as well.

Irish led early on in this game through a Maitland try. He was one of the names signed during the offseason that made many of us think that Irish were pushing on not heading for relegation. Sale struck back and at the break it was Cipriani’s boot that was the difference between the two teams at 8-13. In the second half it remained close and was a 1 point game going into the last ten minutes. Then Sharks pulled away with two converted tries. 40% kicking for Irish certainly didn’t help and could cost them games but this one was about more than that.

Tigers had to show their character in this game as Gloucester recovered from conceding a couple of early tries to lead 13-27. The Tigers second half comeback started early with Manu’s second try. Even though Tigers kept picking up points Gloucester were still leading  28-30 with ten minutes to go. However they couldn’t hang-on as Tigers got one more try to get them over the line.

Wasps will be happy with the points they scored but even more so keeping Saints, who are playoff hopefuls, try less. The first half was tight with Wasps building a 10-3 lead, that 7 point margin was still in place with fifteen minutes to go. During that time Wasps scored a point a minute whilst keeping Saints out to seal what was in the end a comfortable win.

Super Rugby

Highlanders 32 – 20 Force
Lions 37 – 43 Crusaders
Blues 24 – 16 Jaguares
Brumbies 23 – 48 Chiefs
Kings 33 – 28 Sunwolves
Bulls 23 – 18 Cheetahs
Waratahs 17 – 21 Rebels

3 from 7, an absolute shocker as home advantage was thrown out the window.

The Highlands kept the pressure on the Chiefs at the top of the New Zealand conference. The Force managed to stay in touch until the last quarter of an hour despite missing an amazing 32 tackles. This was a relatively poor performance by the Landers who turned the ball over 23 times but still closed out the win.

After a first half where the sides matched each other score for score the Crusaders pulled away after halftime. Perhaps they took their foot off the pedal too early though and had hold off a late comeback by the Lions that earn them a LBP. When the Lions review the stats on Monday they must have wondered how they lost this. What we are seeing from the Kiwi sides is how to clinically strike especially from turnovers.

The Jags had all the early possession but couldn’t break down the Blues defence even when they were reduced to 14 men. With their first real foray into Jags territory Blues put had good enough ball retention to score a try. Blues better structure meant that they could hold the Jags at bay and pull away with another try before half time. The second half was very bitty with plenty of kicking with the Blues doing enough to kick themselves to victory.

In another game where most of the stats were even the Chiefs laid down a marker with a  big win over the Brumbies. The only stat that hints at the route is nineteen line breaks to ten. The Brumbies were still in this at the hour mark after reducing a 13 point deficit to only 6 points. The Chiefs though blasted away in the last twenty minutes with three unanswered tries. This result meant that all the Kiwi sides won in the round yet again.

The Sunwolves had their best opportunity of the season to get their first win as they faced the only other side to have previously lost all their games. In the end though it was the Kings that came out on top. They came out of the blocks fast scoring at nearly a point a minute. The Sunwolves came back and it was a 3 point game at half time. The second half was a much tighter affair with scores being swapped and it was only a late try that won it for the Kings and even then the Sunwolves came back to get the LBP.

The Bulls took full advantage of a first half yellow card to the Cheetahs to take score two tires and build a lead that they wouldn’t relinquish. This built a 10 point half time lead that  was enough of a buffer in a low scoring second half.

The Rebels also made a big statement in the Australian conference by beating the Tahs away and putting them on the same points as the fancied Brumbies. The win was built of a dominant first half where they racked up a 3-21 lead. It perhaps should have been more as they only got two penalties whilst Folau cooled his heals in the bin. The Rebels didn’t manage any points in the second half but their defence was strong enough to come away with the victory.

Pro12

Newport Gwent Dragons 20 – 26 Ospreys
Edinburgh 29 – 0 Zebre
Ulster 18 – 10 Connacht Rugby
Scarlets 22 – 28 Cardiff Blues
Benetton Treviso 16 – 38 Glasgow Warriors
Leinster 16 – 13 Munster

4 from 6, an average performance picking wise as the Scarlets are stumbling at the wrong end of the season.

Leinster went top of the table as Ulster and Scarlets slipped up. Glasgow are in 4th and with their last catchup game against Zebre this weekend should put daylight between themselves and Ulster in 5th. At the other end Dragons, Zebre and Treviso are adrift but obviously can’t be relegated.

Top 14

Montpellier 19 – 3 Brive
Castres 15 – 9 Toulouse
La Rochelle 21 – 18 Stade Francais
Agen 26 – 33 Section Paloise
US Oyonnax 20 – 27 Grenoble
Bordeaux Begles 20 – 28 Racing Metro 92
Toulon 18 – 19 Clermont Auvergne

Toulon’s loss to Clermont means they slip to 4th in the table, however the top4 of Clermont, Montpellier, Racing and Toulon are still clear of Bordeaux. At the other end Oyonnax and Agen are still some way behind and it doesn’t look like changing for the rest of the season.

World 7s Series

Both the men and ladies are back in action next weekend. The men will be playing the Hong Kong 7s which is the oldest and biggest stop on the tour. At the same time the Ladies will be playing in the Atlanta 7s in USA.

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