Premiership rugby returned last weekend with something more akin to an explosion than a bang, but what does the second round of fixtures hold? After a moderately successful first round, here are my SuperBru predictions for this weekend.
The first game of the weekend sees the architects of that stunning comeback, Harlequins, take on new boys London Welsh on Friday night at the Stoop. Welsh showed plenty of pluck and grit in their loss to Tigers, but it is hard to see them coming away with anything from this match. Quins will be on a high after their heroics at Twickenham, although Conor O’Shea will no doubt have read them the riot act after their capitulation in the first half. Quins should take it with relative ease.
Bath vs Wasps is one of the tougher ones to pick. The Rec is not an easy place to win for travelling teams, but Bath didn’t set the world alight last week in sneaking past Worcester. Wasps, on the other hand, played probably their best 60 minutes of rugby of the past couple of seasons, only to see their 27-point lead dissolve in the face of a Nick Evans-led fight back. It will be a real test of Wasps’ mental strength to see how they react to that, but there are so many positives for them to take from the performance that I can see them bouncing back with a narrow victory here. Bath, for all their newly-employed quality behind the scenes, don’t look to have enough on the pitch to register anything more than another lower-middle table finish.
Leicester vs Worcester is an easier one to call. Worcester have won just once on their travels since 2009, at Wasps on New Year’s day this year. Fortress Welford Road has had its air of invincibility restored in recent times, after the tough start the Tigers had last season. They have won their last 12 games there in all competitions. Last season’s fixture was probably most memorable for the return of Andy Goode to his old stomping ground, only to be sent off in the first half for a dangerous shoulder charge on Tom Croft. They will need him on the field for the full 80 here, with his metronomic boot ticking over, to stand any chance of points. However, I would imagine that even the most one-eyed of Worcester fans will have difficulty seeing their team coming away with anything here.
Both London Irish and Gloucester suffered disappointing defeats last weekend, although the Cherry and Whites weren’t humbled in the same way the Exiles were. This fixture last season was a dead rubber in the final round, which saw Irish win by over 30 points. I can’t see that happening again here, and with all the changes during the off season in Reading, I think Gloucester will sneak this one. The Burns-Twelvetrees axis didn’t quite gel last weekend, but they still almost registered a victory. Their forwards should be able to secure more ball against an Irish pack that is vastly less imposing than the Saints’, and if the outside backs can be released there could be plenty of tries in this game.
After predicting a Sale win last weekend, I was left with egg on my face when they were mauled 43-6 at the hands of Exeter at Sandy Park. This week won’t be any easier for them, with Sarries making the visit to the Salford Stadium, which becomes the 32nd venue to host a Premiership encounter. Sarries themselves were infinitely more impressive, destroying London Irish as they did at Twickenham. Everything points to a big win for the Londoners, but I think it will be closer than expected. Sale will hopefully perform better in front of their home crowd, the fans eager to see their new signings in action. Having said that, Sarries should have enough to win, coming of the back of such an impressive performance last weekend.
The final game of the round sees Exeter make the journey north to Franklin’s Gardens to take on the Saints. Both teams registered victories in the opening round, although Exeter’s was rather more convincing. Home advantage should be enough to see Northampton through here, although they will be very wary of an Exeter side that continues to spring surprises. The Pisi brothers will be looking to cause havoc out wide again, and with plenty of try-scoring potential in both teams this could be a corker. The Saints should have enough to make it two from two.
Harlequins vs London Welsh: Harlequins by 18
Bath vs London Wasps: Wasps by 3
Leicester Tigers vs Worcester Warriors: Tigers by 22
London Irish vs Gloucester: Gloucester by 5
Sale Sharks vs Saracens: Saracens by 7
Northampton Saints vs Exeter Chiefs: Northampton by 10
Do you agree? How do you see this weekend unfolding?