Best of the Weekend Domestic Round-Up: Newcastle finally win this season

Newcastle seal their first victory of the season, while London Irish nearly win at Kingsholm

Week Five was the last round before some of the players on Rugby World Cup duty return to their clubs. Some have done well without their internationals, such as the unbeaten Harlequins, others like Leicester have struggled not only with international call ups but injuries too. It will be interesting to see the changes in the table as the players come back to action.

Jimmy Gopperth

Newcastle finally managed their first victory of the season, and first in 11 matches, as they hosted Wasps on Sunday. Jimmy Gopperth was the hero of the day as his five penalties managed to secure the win 15-10. Newcastle’s defence is also worth of a mention as it held strong for the majority of the game, after Christian Wade sprinted down the touchline for the match’s only try in the 6th minute of the match. While Gopperth was excellent with the boot, it wasn’t a good day for his opposite number, Ryan Davis, who missed crucial penalties that would have sealed victory for the away side.

London Irish nearly pulled off a surprise win at Fortress Kingsholm against Gloucester on Saturday afternoon. Irish started brightly as the up and coming back rower, Alex Gray, went under the posts for the opening try in the first minute. 15 points from Irish fullback Tom Homer and Gloucester fly-half Tim Taylor showed that the two sides could barely be separated. With the score at 23-17 at the break, the second half started like the first as Homer slotted a penalty followed by a try minutes later from centre Steve Shingler to give Irish the lead once again. This lead lasted barely three minutes before Gloucester replied with a try of their own, through hooker Darren Dawidiuk. A further penalty from Homer made the scores level once more before Freddie Burns sealed victory for the home side with a penalty on 62 minutes.

Harlequins and Sale entertained the crowds at the Stoop on Saturday in an 89 point thriller in which 12 tries were scored. The home side managed to get their four try bonus point by the end of the first half as they lead 38-17. Sale fought back in the second half, as they left the Stoop with two points: through scoring 4 tries of their own last on in the game, after a 10 minute injury break for Sharks outside centre Will Addison, and losing 48-41, gifting them that final bonus point. Harlequins maintain their 100% record, but Sale will return to Stockport with their heads held high.

Leicester showed a significant improvement from last weekend’s drubbing against Saracens but narrowly missed out on a win against old rivals Bath, losing 26-25. In his first start of the season, fly-half Jeremy Staunton impressed as he scored all of the points for the away team and could have won the game for Leicester with the last kick of the game, which unfortunately went to the right hand side of the posts. Both sides showed indiscipline at times but it was Bath’s day through tries from Dave Attwood and Matt Carraro.

There were also wins for Worcester at home to Northampton as the Saints continue their poor run of form, losing 12-3 in a game where the boot was the only option. Owen Farrell scored a try in the first five minutes for Saracens to give the reigning champions a dream start as they beat Exeter in a close 17-13 encounter at Sandy Park.

Mixed fortunes for the Welsh sides as Ospreys go top and Scarlets lose their fourth on the trot.

Ospreys went to the top of the RaboDirect Pro12 after a narrow 26-21 victory over Connaught at the Liberty Stadium on Friday night. Tries from Barry Davies and Hanno Dirksen in the first half for the home side made the difference as Connacht never gave up during the 80 minutes. Scarlets slumped to their fourth defeat in a row, losing 20-10 away at Treviso. There were also wins for Glasgow over Cardiff, Leinster against Aironi, Edinburgh and Newport-Gwent Dragons.

Try of the Weekend goes to Jeremy Staunton of Leicester. It was an excellent interception try early on in their match against Bath, and it set the tone for the rest of the game.

This weekend’s Hero is Harlequins’ Nick Evans. In what was a weekend for the kickers, the New Zealander was the best of the bunch with a haul of 20 points. He is easily the best fly-half in the Premiership at the moment, and Saturday’s display showed us all why.

The Villain for the weekend is London Irish’sChris Hala’ufia. Having been sent to the bin with 10 minutes left before the end of the first half and Irish with the momentum, Chris Hala’ufia’s influence at the back of the scrum may not have gifted Gloucester with a penalty try before half time.

by Rachel Simmonite

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