Best of the Domestic Weekend: Quins stay top after late win

Harlequins continue their winning streak while Leicester concede a half century at home

Four weeks have gone since the start of the 2011-12 Aviva Premiership season and it appears to be business as usual for the clubs in the top and bottom halves of the table.

Harlequins kept up their unbeaten start to the season with a narrow 17-15 win away at Worcester. The Warriors were dominant for the first hour of the game with four penalties and a drop goal from the boot of Andy Goode, including a penalty from inside Worcester’s half! Quins finally turned up to the game as Sam Smith ran 30 metres for the line and a late penalty try while Worcester flanker Jake Abbot was in the sin bin sealed victory for the Premiership leaders.

Saracens have shown that the opening weekend defeat to London rivals Wasps was just a blip on the radar as they won their third consecutive match at Welford Road in fine fashion against a World Cup and injury plagued Leicester Tigers side. It was the Charlie Hodgson show as the fly-half scored a try, three penalties and three conversions in a 50-25 bonus point win for the current champions. It could have been worse for Leicester, who are without 16 first choice players, but a late try from flanker Ben Woods and tough conversion from Billy Twelvetrees saved it from being a heavier defeat. With the World Cup knock out stages starting soon, the Tigers will be hoping to get players such as Martin Castrogiovanni back to bolster their side.

Bath’s aim to win two West Country derbies in two weekends did not turn out well as they faced an excellent forwards display against Gloucester at Kingsholm. The Cherry and Whites dominance at the set pieces proved decisive as they kept ball in hand for their backs to take advantage of while their defence remained strong throughout, even when down to 14 men when Lesley Vainikolo saw yellow late on in the match. Gloucester won 23-6 as Bath’s mixed fortunes continue.

Sale continued winning ways this time at home against a Northampton side who went down to 13 men in the second half. The Saints dominated the first half through the boot of Stephen Myler but it was the Sharks pack once more that had the final say in the second half, giving the home side a 29-21 victory and Northampton their third defeat on the trot. There were also wins for Exeter at home to Wasps as the Chiefs bounced back after defeat against Bath last weekend, while London Irish centre Jonathan Joseph stood out with two tries in a 46-29 win over bottom place Newcastle Falcons.

Italian sides do well in Scotland as Ulster lose their 100% record

The World Cup doesn’t appear to have had as big an impact on the RaboDirect Pro12 as it has done on the Aviva Premiership, as there were wins for Connaught, Leinster and Munster at the weekend. The big wins were up in Scotland though as Aironi beat Edinburgh and Treviso beat Glasgow, with the latter seeing an impressive kicking display for Kristopher Burton who scored all of Treviso’s points in a narrow 15-13 victory. Ulster lost their 100% record in the competition away at the Liberty Stadium where the boot of Dan Biggar proved the difference as the Ospreys won 32-14.

Try of the Weekend goes to Sam Smith of Harlequins. It was the catalyst that Harlequins needed to fight back for victory as a sweet pass from Nick Evans enabled him to sprint 30 metres for the first try of the match.

This weekend’s Hero is Saracens’ Charlie Hodgson. The fly-half showed why he was in England’s World Cup training squad as he marshalled his troops around Welford Road, scoring 20 of the 50 points for the men in red and black.

The Villain for the weekend is Northampton’s Phil Dowson. With his side already down to 14 men it should be a captain’s time to show his strength and leadership, sadly Dowson was sent to the bin for kicking the ball away and Sale dominated the game after that.

by Rachel Simmonite

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