Aviva Premiership Round 19: 5 things we learned

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1. Derby day disgrace

The West Country derby is one of the great games in the sport – the emotion, the tradition, the rivalry, it is all part and parcel of a great fixture. The game is always full-blooded, but usually manages to stay on the right side of the law. Enter Tavis Knoyle. Something clearly got under the bonnet of Gloucester’s reserve scrum half as he let loose several blows on Bath no.8 Leroy Houston to take a game that always simmers to full blown boiling over. You had to feel for referee Tim Wigglesworth – yes, he may have been overly pedantic on previous occasions in a game that was never allowed to flow, but to the letter of the law he got most of the decisions right. Knoyle and Puafisi find out their fates today – the former, at least, can expect a fairly sizeable ban for what looked like an unprovoked attack on Houston.

2. The importance of a home semi-final

Northampton’s comeback to grab a losing bonus point at Allianz Park could prove to be vital. Saracens have all but locked down top spot, so it is likely to be a straight shoot-out between the Saints and the Tigers for the second home semi-final spot, and while Northampton did beat Saracens away at that stage last year, that was an anomaly, not the rule. The Tigers, too, would travel to Franklin’s Gardens having already won there this season, but will still desperately want to be at home. Three points ahead and with a preferable run-in, the ball is very much in the Saints’ court.

3. Nervous Newcastle

Newcastle look to be playing as if they decided long ago that they had done enough to stay up. Had a couple of Worcester’s near misses gone in their favour in recent months, the Falcons would have slipped to bottom spot – that is how poorly they are playing. Basic errors and what looked like a lack of desire let them down again against London Irish, who completely blew them away. This is the team sitting above them in table, as well, not one of the top four. To concede so many points and tries to the team one spot above you does not scream that you belong in this league. They should still have done enough to keep themselves up, but with a sensible outlook on transfers unlikely to see them sign many big names and moneybags Bristol gunning for promotion, next season they may not be so lucky.

4. Propping up the bench

Amongst the brawls and sendings-off at Kingsholm there was another unwelcome sight for the final third of the match – uncontested scrums. After replacement loosehead Sia Puafisi was sent off, Gloucester argued they had no one capable of playing there, despite Dan Murphy, who had done so for London Irish, sitting on the timber. Scrums might be messy and half the time we might not really have a clue what is going on in there, but they are a cornerstone of the game and when they are uncontested the game starts to look a lot like sevens. The replacement laws were changed to avoid precisely scenarios like this, and while they are undoubtedly less commonplace than they used to be, it would be worth looking at further changes to eradicate them completely.

5. Scrap for seventh

With the details of next season’s European competitions being confirmed this week, seventh place has all of a sudden taken on new-found importance. With the top six – the old Heineken Cup places – confirmed, there wouldn’t have been a great deal left to play for for Exeter, Wasps and Gloucester over the course of the last three games. But with the seventh-placed team now entering a play-off game to take one of the last spots in next season’s European Rugby Champions Cup, they will all be desperate to finish there. Three points separate the teams so any one could technically still make it, but it certainly lends greater importance to this weekend’s ‘The Stinger’ between Wasps and Gloucester at Twickenham. What would previously have been a fun day out and no doubt an entertaining game of rugby suddenly has serious implications for the league – which is no bad thing.

By Jamie Hosie
Follow Jamie on Twitter: @jhosie43

Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images

14 thoughts on “Aviva Premiership Round 19: 5 things we learned

  1. As far as I’m aware, only Knoyle and Puafisi will appear before a disciplinary panel. Where did you hear that Houston has been cited?

    Abendanon and James were also cited, both players received post-match yellow cards but their cases will be taken no further.

    1. You’re right Geat, I obviously wasn’t paying close enough attention to the press release. I’ve amended.

      Post-match yellow cards amuse me – do the players have to take a 10 minute time out from whatever they are doing when they find out?

      1. Well, it’s reasonably relevant. The level 1 citing counts towards your yellow card count and too many in a season and you get a ban (think Chris Ashton last season). Also, when it comes down to mitigation, it’s another incident on your file that makes it harder to mitigate a good disciplinary record. That said, I’ve seen some people with terrible disciplinary records told that they’ve got a few weeks off their ban for their record.

  2. Leroy Houston isnt cited so will have no ban! Only the gloucester 2 have citings that will have a hearing whilst James and Abendanon had yellow card citings which dont mean anything!

  3. I’m assuming that the person Puafisi replaced was unable to return to the pitch?
    It does seem very convenient that Gloucester have never trained with Murphy at loosehead, despite the fact he has played there for his previous two clubs. Maybe they should start training with him there in the future, because I suspect we haven’t heard the last of this.

  4. The thing about the Dan Murphy saga is that he has never played tighthead for Gloucester – even when we had a prop crisis at the beginning of the season that led to us releasing Tim Molenaar from his contract so we could sign Puafisi! If he was able to prop on the right then surely he would have done so rather than force Gloucester to release a decent centre (and we now have a slight centre crisis due to Ryan Mills and Henry Trinder being injured quite a lot, and Burns’ form going to pot!).

    1. Do you mean loosehead? I’m sure that’s the position that was needed. I think the question is if you have a prop who is capable of playing on both sides, why has he never trained on both sides at the club? Or maybe he has, but they just didn’t want him to play because of the advantage Bath already had in the scrums?

      1. Nah, we were ok for Loosehead because even when Nick Wood was suspended we had Dan Murphy and Yann Thomas. It was at tighthead where Shaun Knight was injured and Rupert Harden had a catastrophic drop in form that we needed bolstering.Murphy had been on the bench at 16 (backup hooker) in recent weeks, they were trying to convert him/train him at hooker, and so I would be surprised if he was training at loosehead, hooker AND tighthead in the weeks leading up to the match.

  5. Am I the only one who thought Houston instigated the whole ruckus? After the try, he prodded Knoyle in the chest 6 times too many and then knelt on his chest as he was getting up.
    Knoyle shouldn’t have reacted but I have no doubt in my mind that Houston knew exactly what he was doing, which was being an antagonistic arse.

    1. I have not seen it in any detail, but would imagine that you are spot on. The thing is, whilst his punches may have been a reaction to Houston’s actions, is this necessarily the instigation?

      Perhaps it had been going on from before that – after all – Scrum Halves are very, very good at winding up the opposition. Indeed, to take your description of the Bath No8, many would argue that “antagonistic arse’s” often make for very effective Scrum Halves.

      Do you know that Knoyle had been innocently minding his own business up until that point.

      I am not suggesting otherwise, but merely opining that it is not often the case that these things happen “out of the blue” after 80 odd minutes.

  6. Houston ‘instigating’ the punch up by winding someone up is completely irrelevant. Any rugby player knows that getting into the opposition’s head is a huge psychological advantage. You cannot justify taking the law into your own hands and start swinging because someone was being an ‘antagonistic arse’. Houston’s actions may not have been particularly sporting or respectful but that’s standard behaviour in rugby, winding players up (particularly obnoxious little scrum halves). Knoyle deserves a ban for his behaviour and Houston does not. Think of the Stringer v Troncon incident years back. Stringer wound him up by being irritating, Troncon lost his head and floored him and proceeded to be sent off. To clarify, I’m not condoning Houston’s alleged antagonistic behaviour, but I genuinely think it should have absolutely no relevance or impact on how long Knoyle is banned/punished for.

    1. There’s also a certain degree of irony in a scrum-half not being able to take being wound up, when they’re the most gobby players on the pitch.

    2. But the antagonism wasn’t the only thing. A 118kg player using your chest cavity as a pseudo step ladder isn’t going to be painless, is it? Especially when you’re 3/4 of that weight.
      I too do not think that Houston’s actions should lessen any punishment Knoyle gets. I just don’t like the notion that Houston is a victim of an unprovoked attack.
      He’s a victim of putting his face directly above a jack in the box whilst his ego simultaneously worked the crank.

      To be fair, (regarding Blub), I don’t know if that was the start of it. There could have easily been some irritating behaviour or perhaps premature gloating from Knoyle prior to the incident. But I’d expect a player, any player, to rise above that in the event of scoring. It seems that professionalism has become overrated, and that saddens me.

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