The return of international stars from the Six Nations promised an exciting weekend of club rugby, and this certainly proved to be the case. Here is your weekly round-up.
Unbeaten home record ends for Wasps in a snowy thriller at Adams Park
Northampton Saints took a big stride towards securing their playoff place with a 26-24 victory over London Wasps, in what was certainly the match of the weekend, if not the season. An archetypal try from Tom Varndell set the game’s pace early on, but complete dominance at the driving maul was enough to earn the Northampton the win, with Wasps losing three players to the sin bin for maul-related infringements alone. The victory, secured by a Christian Day try on the very last play of the game, ended Wasps’ unbeaten home record this season, and also extended the Saints’ winning streak over Wasps to eight games.
A comfortable 27-12 win for Saracens over fellow title challengers Harlequins, and a tense 12-9 victory for Leicester Tigers against the Exeter Chiefs, helped shed some light on what the playoff picture could look like come the end of the regular season. Both teams will be grateful to their recently returned fly-halves, Owen Farrell and Toby Flood, both of whose accuracy with the boot were critical in their victories.
Things go from bad to worse for London Welsh
If all eyes weren’t on the battle at the bottom of the Aviva Premiership before the weekend, a hard-fought 14-13 win for Sale Sharks over Bath on Friday night certainly ensured they would be for the rest of the weekend. In addition to being a source of huge relief for Sale, the result was arguably a mortal blow to any hopes Bath had of making the playoffs.
London Irish, keen not to give up any ground to Sale is their campaign for Premiership survival, recorded a comprehensive 26-6 victory over Worcester Warriors. Tries from Matt Garvey, Halani Aulika and Christopher Hala’ufia helped secure the win, and London Irish fans will be quietly confident that they have found form at the most important part of the season.
Unfortunately for London Welsh, this was the end of winning ways for the teams at the bottom of the table, as 12th placed Welsh suffered a heartbreaking 15-14 loss to Gloucester at Kingsholm. Five penalties from Freddie Burns was enough to win a scrappy game for Gloucester, who had trailed Welsh for the majority of the game. The loss leaves Welsh five points adrift of Sale at the bottom of the Premiership, although they’re currently appealing their recent points deduction.
Leinster move top, Ospreys surge, Toulon and Clermont fall short
A surprise loss for league leaders Ulster against Edinburgh opened the door for the winner of the top of the table clash between Leinster and Glasgow to move into first position. Thanks largely to a virtuoso performance from Ian Madigan – who scored all of Leinster’s points in their 22-17 victory – the Pro12 swapped one Irish side for another at its’ summit.
Elsewhere there was a big win for Ospreys, as they sent the Newport Dragons packing with a 52-19 thumping, capping off a good couple of weeks for the likes of Alun Wyn Jones, Justin Tipuric and Dan Biggar, although it was not quite the end Toby Faletau will have been hoping for.
The Top 14 also bore witness to some surprise results with the two top placed teams, Toulon and Clermont, losing to Bayonne and Biarritz respectively, with both teams seeming to struggle with much of their Six Nations contingent still missing from their starting line-ups.
The Try of the Week goes to Elliot Daly of London Wasps. The centre showed great strength and tenacity to power through three tackles, all of which were made with his feet just inches from the touchline, and he had the composure to expertly place the ball down in the corner.
Tom Brady of Sale Sharks earns the Hero of the Week accolade for his game-winning try in the second half of his side’s game against Bath. Nothing spectacular about the try from the second half substitute, but it could well be a pivotal moment in Sale’s campaign to avoid relegation.
The Villain of the Week goes to Chris Ashton. On the back of a disappointing Six Nations performance, Ashton lost his cool and used a high swinging arm in a tackle. He may have only been yellow carded, but this could quite easily have been a red on another day.
by Alex Shaw (@alexshawsport)