Best of the Weekend: Chiefs shock the Tigers

For the second week in a row, the Exeter Chiefs are at the top of our ‘Best of the Weekend’ list as Ben Coles looks back at the highlights.

Chiefs shock the Tigers

Predicted widely by most as a walkover, Exeter proved last weekend’s win against Gloucester was no fluke, and they really will threaten anyone, anywhere. Not many teams go to Welford Road and have Leicester worried but Exeter certainly did, and their tries were fantastic; Philip Dollman’s second one especially stood out. It all means that sides like Newcastle and Leeds really will be looking over their shoulders, and sets us up for another nail-biting relegation dogfight.

Luck off the post

Surely one of the luckiest things that can happen to you in a rugby match is going for a penalty, missing, but picking up a try as a result. This happened not once, but twice this weekend. Firstly up at Kingston Park on Friday night, Tom Varndell’s pace was there for all to see as he latched onto Van Gisbergen’s penalty attempt, the ball falling wide of the left post, and Varndell being the quickest to the ball to touch down. Bizarrely enough, this happened again at Kingsholm where Gloucester faced Leeds. Christian Lewis-Pratt’s penalty came off the left post; madness ensued as Gloucester failed to recover the bouncing ball and Luther Burrell leapt to score. You could safely bet that it will not happen again this season.

Stowers harshly sees red

The sending off against Irish Number 8 George Stowers in real time looked like a good call from referee Dave Pearson. But from a replay, whilst careless, there appears to be no malice or bad intent. Thankfully Abendanon was ok enough to carry on and eventually score the winning try. With luck on review, the Disciplinary panel will see this was the case, and make sure that Stowers does not receive a ban. It was certainly a penalty and a yellow card, but a red seems too much.

New Zealand do it again

They have won with ease, come from behind and edged out sides both home and away. The victory against Australia in Sydney marked a clean sweep for New Zealand is this year’s Tri-Nations, and the first since the tournament was expanded to its 9-match format. The title may have been already won, but that didn’t mean they took their foot off the gas. Trailing 22-9 with 13 minutes left, they fought back to clinch victory at the death through Kieran Read’s try. It was a performance of class from the best team in the world and the All Blacks look so good that surely, surely, the World Cup is there’s next year. Right?

Try of the weekend this time goes to Wasps’ Ben Jacobs, who was on hand to finish off a scintillating break from within the Wasps half. Richard Haughton’s gas down the wing opened up the defence and the switch inside to Varndell, followed by good hands from Simon Shaw sent Jacobs over for a great try.

This weekend’s Hero title was a hotly contested affair, Lachie Turner put his hand up for the Wallabies with a great tackle of Mils Muliaina after the full back looked all but away in the Bledisloe contest. Another contender was Nick Abendanon, who seemed to recover from being nearly knocked out to latch on to Michael Classen’s bouncing grubber behind the Irish defence.

But the winner is Nicky Robinson, who rescued Gloucester from a rollicking from coach Bryan Redpath with his last gasp-penalty kick to edge out Leeds 22-21 at Kingsholm. He showed excellent composure and will no doubt hope to re-create the form that he showed in his last season at Cardiff Blues in order to not only get Gloucester into the play-offs, but knock on the door for the Wales No.10 shirt. An excellent effort.

And as for the Villain, not so much a villain singular, but plural: empty seats. There were plenty on view at the Rec, Vicarage Road, Kingsholm and Kingston Park, and so early on in the season it doesn’t bode well for the clubs mentioned. Prices too high? People not interested? What’s going on?

Let us know what caught your eye this weekend.

By Ben Coles (@bennycoles)

Photo: Patrick Khachfe/Onside Images

10 thoughts on “Best of the Weekend: Chiefs shock the Tigers

  1. One accolade missing is the comeback of the weekend must go to Newcastle Falcons. Having gifting 14 points they ensured that wasps didnt score in the second half and took a well earned win.

  2. Exeter’s excellent start to the season has livened up the premiership already. Along with Newcastle’s win and Leeds nearly overturning Gloucs, the minnows are punching well above their weight. Although those at the bottom of the league are often the ones who can’t convert the narrow losses into ‘W’s, it’s encouraging that they’re doing in at places like Kingsholm and Welford Road.

    I haven’t watched any games on ESPN yet – what’s the coverage like?

  3. Yes, that’s true Iain. Most people expected Wasps to win, and I had written off the Falcons after a good start by Wasps. An important win for them given the Chiefs’ good start to the season.

  4. ESPN coverage isn’t bad – I quite liked the way they set up camp by the pitch at Twickenham on the opening weekend. Not so keen on Austin Healey’s highlights show, and the ITV4 highlights look pretty good in comparison.

    Early days though, and generally loving more live rugby each weekend!

  5. ESPN coverage is fine. Austin Healey is over the top, as always and bring no value to the programme. The little stage at the corner of the pitch is a novel idea, what will they do when the weather closes in and gets cold!

  6. Surely there is a correlation between the increase in television coverage and the increase in empty seats? We’ve seen in football for a few seasons now, I hope attendances at rugby games don’t start to suffer as well.

  7. Bath have upped their capacity by 600+ seats and were very keen to spread the word that they had availability for their match v Irish as they often suffer from the perception that trying to get tickets at the Rec is impossible. Empty seats are always a shame but some matches are still oversubscribed – the word is that there wont be a seat free at the Madejski for L Irish v Munster in the H-Cup. That’ll be over 24,000. Cant wait!

  8. Having lived in Exeter and now living in Christchurch, New Zealand, I subscribed to the Rugby Channel on Sky TV New Zealand as they were showing the game, what a great game and it was amazing to see the Chiefs give the Tigers a run for their money, a real shame that the Chiefs didn’t get a bonus point out of the game for their troubles, also good to see Scott Hamilton and Thomas Waldrom, I regularly saw them plying their trade at AMI Stadium for the Crusaders.

    Also other highlights was seeing the All Blacks and Canterbury scrape through with some narrow wins and some great assistance by Sonny Bill Williams with the 3 tries for Canterbury, it was just the tonic the people of Christchurch and Canterbury needed after the last week and half we have all had to endure since the 4th September, but the main highlight for me was the way the Exeter Chiefs are not going to roll over and let the big guys dominate, exciting stuff.

  9. ESPN coverage looked good at the ground Saturday, not sure if the stream of people trying to get on the tv in the background would distract if you’re viewing from home. (Sadly I set the sky+ and it decided not to record the game – equally sad as both my boys were pitchside running the mics but there).
    Austin and Ben looked happy to be at Tigers again.
    Exeter came to play rugby and did it so well that they were unlucky not to get anything from the game. With 60 mins gone they could have had the win and a 4 try BP looked on the cards. Glad Tigers woke up. Really hope they wake up for the Wasps game too.
    I hope the Chiefs carry this sort of display on as it underlines the need for promotion and relegation.

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