Weekend Rugby Review – 26 September

The internationals might have taken a week off but it was all go on the domestic front around the world. Here’s my round-up of all the action.

Aviva Premiership

Bristol 17 – 41 Exeter Chiefs
Gloucester Rugby 13 – 18 Newcastle Falcons
Harlequins 17 – 10 Saracens
Northampton Saints 15 – 20 Wasps
Worcester Warriors 34 – 34 Sale Sharks
Leicester Tigers 34 – 14 Bath

2 from 6, had a bit of a shocker this weekend even if there was a draw thrown in there.

Exeter racked up the TBP win over Bristol as expected. They got off to a quick start and even when they lost a player to the bin outscored Bristol. The stats show that the Chiefs had 74% possession and ran with the ball more than twice as far as Bristol. Exeter did win this with something to spare but Bristol are improving. Their defence had more structure and their maul got working in the second half. Still with Worcester and Newcastle having good starts to the season their ability to cope with the pressure is going to be tested.

Falcons got an early try after the Gloucester turned over the ball in their own half from a  lineout. But the Cherry and Whites quickly replied with a try of their own and after an exchange of penalties it was 10-10 at the break. In the second half Newcastle inched away with a penalty and unconverted try. That try came from some good running by the backs after the lineout maul was stopped in midfield. Gloucester did pullback a penalty but it was too little and they came up short. Looking at the stats Gloucester had 22 lineouts which is high and shows that Falcons were kicking to touch so that the Gloucester back 3 couldn’t run the ball back. October 2014 was the last time Falcons won away which shows you how much of an upset this was.

Talking if upsets, Quins repeated they heroics of last season by beating Saracens at home. The intensity was much higher from Quins this weekend and we saw that early on when their line speed created an intercept try. Their second came from repeated pressure on the Saracens try line and under advantage they spun the ball wide. That game them a 17-0 halftime lead even though Saracens had their chances. In the second half an early try via some individual brilliance by the winger Ellery made it look like a comeback was on the way. But even though Quins lost a man to the bin late on they kept Saracens out.

Saints v Wasps was one of those games where the stats lie or the only stat that matters is the score. When North scored an early try it looked like Saints were back to their best with strong carries by the forwards opening it up for the backs. But when you’re playing a team like Wasps who can score under the posts form a scrum on their own 5m line it’s going to be the moments that matter not necessarily pressure. Kicking also played it’s part, only making 67% of their kicks meant that Saints never got their noses back in front and the scoreboard pressure was always against them. They had the opportunities but knocked on too many times whilst Wasps took their chances.

This is the second home draw for Warriors and having score 5 tires to 4 will feel this is one that got away. Lamb missed 2 conversions whist AJ hit all of his and that’s the narrow margin between winning and drawing. Sale built up a 12 point lead in the first quarter of the game. Warriors did well to take control of the game and not only come back with a 2 point lead at half time but to build that out to 31-17 midway through hate second half. Sale weren’t done though and 2 tries in 10 minutes led to the game ending in a draw.

Tigers put in an impressive performance to dominate the game against Bath. This was a traditional performance of getting in front and keeping the scoreboard ticking over. The score board then adds to the pressure that the chasing team are under and errors happen. Even when Bath did score a try in the first half with was from a miss kick by Ford who had  poor game. Some of the stats were even in this game such as meters run with ball but you can see the pressure telling in the penalty count of 7 vrs 15 and that’s how Tigers got the win here.

This means that Wasps are the only remaining unbeaten side and they top the table from Saracens, Bath and Leicester. Falcons have made a good start and sit in sixth conversely Saints have had a poor start and sit in tenth.

Pro12

Benetton Treviso 27 – 11 Newport Gwent Dragons
Leinster 31 – 19 Ospreys
Glasgow Warriors 17 – 22 Ulster
Munster 28 – 14 Edinburgh
Zebre 21 – 23 Cardiff Blues
Scarlets 17 – 8 Connacht Rugby

4 from 6, I don’t think many people saw Treviso picking up a win.

Ulster and Cardiff Blues maintained their prefect records and are tied at the top o the table on 17 points. We are starting to see the table take shape with 5 points separating the top 6 teams with Ospreys, Leinster, Munster and Glasgow chasing the leaders. Then there is a 7 point gap to Dragons who lead the lower half of the table where most sides have won just 1 game. Connacht are still struggling and haven’t picked up any points so far.

Top 14

Castres 31 – 23 Racing Metro 92
Grenoble 38 – 39 Pau
La Rochelle 34 – 17 Bayonne
Bordeaux Begles 32 – 10 Lyon
Toulouse 23 – 18 Stade Francais
Montpellier 42 – 13 Brive
Toulon 23 – 21 Clermont Auvergne

4 from 7, didn’t pick any of the upsets so maybe I was a bit too conservative this weekend.

La Rochelle lead the way but Montpellier and Clermont are only 1 point behind. At the other end Bayonne and Grenoble are 5 points adrift from Lyon. The mid-table is very tight with eleventh only 3 points behind fourth.

Currie Cup

Boland Cavaliers 26 – 48 Blue Bulls
Pumas 10 – 52 Cheetahs
Griquas 31 – 52 Western Province
Eastern Province Kings 7 – 71 Lions

3 from 4, I had too much faith in Griquas.

This was the penultimate round and as there are an uneven number of teams it means that the Blue Bulls have played all their regular season games. They have down enough to make the finals and they have to sit back and see if they will get home field advantage. Cheetahs go into the last round knowing that they will be seeded first and get home field advantage what ever their final result. Sharks, Western Province, Lions and Griquas will fight it out for the final 2 places.so it should be an exciting round of games.

At the other end the Kings are odds on to come last but as they are a Super Rugby province they will avoid relegation.

Pos Team Pts
1 Free State Cheetahs 34
2 Blue Bulls 30
3 Cell C Sharks 25
4 Western Province 23
5 Golden Lions 22
6 Griquas 20
7 Boland Kavaliers 10
8 Pumas 5
9 Eastern Province Kings 1

Mitre10 Cup

Southland 20 – 16 Bay of Plenty
Northland 21 – 29 Wellington
Counties Manukau 35 – 26 Waikato
Canterbury 45 – 34 Otago
Taranaki 30 – 19 Manawatu
Hawke’s Bay 29 – 36 Tasman
North Harbour 30 – 14 Southland
Bay of Plenty 38 – 44 Auckland

7 from 8, Southland getting their first victory of the season upset the apple cart!

Canterbury returned to winning ways and remain top of the Premiership closely followed by Taranaki and Counties who have played 1 more game. Waikato, Tasman and Auckland are bunched behind and can close on the 2 chasers if they win their game in hand. Hawke’s Bay are looking destined for relegation.

Otago lost their first game of the campaign and if Wellington win their game in hand will close within a point. It looks like Manawatu, Boy of Plenty and North Harbour are fighting it out for the remaining finals slots. Northland are the only team that is still looking for a win this season, they didn’t manage it last season and their last win was on the 3rd of October 2014.

NRC

NSW Country Eagles 48 – 24 Perth Spirit
Western Sydney Rams 50 – 46 Queensland Country
University of Canberra Vikings 44 – 60 Melbourne Rising
Brisbane City  32 – 38  Sydney Rays

3 from 4, Melbourne got a good unexpected win over the Vikings.

We have 2 more rounds of the regular season after this weekend and it’s looking like the top 5 are fighting it out of the finals spots. The Rams on 7 points aren’t mathematically out of it but with only 1 win from 5 games it’s hard to see them picking up enough points to catchup. The Eagles still top the ladder with a perfect record of 5 wins. It looks like the Ray swill join them and that the Rising, Vikings and Spirit are fighting it out for the last 2 places.

It’s been a real falling from grace for Brisbane who won the first 2 seasons of this tournament but have only managed 1 win far this season.

#RugbyChat

Join the #RugbyChat on twitter for an hour of discussion about the action this weekend. If you can’t make the hour then you can still give your view as the conversation keeps going over the following day.

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