Harlequins win their first Premiership match at Welford Road while Northampton are back to winning ways
The Aviva Premiership and RaboDirect Pro12 takes a fortnight’s break after Round 6 for the opening matches of the LV=Cup, allowing players coming back from the World Cup to have a rest before the leagues get going again on 28th. But who finished this first stage of the season brightly and who didn’t?
It has taken 14 matches but finally Harlequins came away from Welford Road victorious in an Aviva Premiership game against the Tigers. It was stand out fly-half, Nick Evans, that led the way once more for Quins, scoring 12 points with the boot and only missing once all evening. It was Leicester that started the better of the two sides as they went over for a try from a driving maul, courtesy of prop Boris Stankovich, with just three minutes on the clock. But anything Leicester did, Harlequins fought back just as well, showing why they are sat pretty at the top of the table and unbeaten so far this season. In what was a nerve-wracking and close game for both sets of fans, Harlequins sealed victory late on in the match as Joe Marler went over the line from short range to make the final score 27-18. Tigers fans will be disappointed to have seen Mathew Tait going off early in the match but they will look forward to having their internationals back as they plan on getting back to winning ways.
Having lost four matches on the trot, Northampton have gone into the league break finishing on a high as they beat Exeter 33-3 at Franklins Gardens on Saturday. The Saints started as they meant to go on as James Downey went over the line with barely three minutes on the clock, with Ryan Lamb adding the conversion. Exeter’s Ignacio Mieres got the Chiefs on the scoreboard shortly after as he slotted the penalty and reduced the gap to four points. However that was to be the away side’s only points in the match as Northampton ran riot from there on as tries from Paul Diggin and Scott Armstrong, plus the boot of Lamb secured a vital four points for the Saints.
Tom Homer led the way with 22 points as London Irish ran in a 42-24 victory over Worcester Warriors. The first half was a close affair, as the sides exchanged converted tries: Steve Shingler for Irish and Miles Benjamin for Worcester. The boot of Homer kept the Exiles in front as they went in at the break. The second half was more frenetic as four tries were scored within 20 minutes, three to the home side through Chris Hala’ufia, Jonathan Joseph and Homer, plus one for the Warriors winger Marcel Garvey. With the win pretty much in the bag for Irish, Adam Thompstone went over late on for Irish’s fifth but this was equaled by Garvey’s second, a consolation for Worcester.
Wasps moved level on points with Bath as they won 27-24 on Sunday afternoon. Fly-half Nick Robinson was back in the home side’s starting line up and performed well, scoring 17 points with the boot, while the in-form winger Christian Wade scored his sixth try in as many matches. It was a close, but entertaining match as attacking and running rugby was the key for the day. Robinson and his Bath counterpart Tom Heathcote kicked for goal well to keep both sides in touch with one another. Bath will be disappointed with the losing bonus point after the late pressure in Wasps’ half and a try from flanker Guy Mercer but it was the men from High Wycombe who came away with the win.
There were also wins for Saracens at home to Newcastle as the champions moved up to second in the table, winning 25-5. Luke Fielden was the only name on Newcastle’s side of the scoreboard. Sale Sharks narrowly beat Gloucester 13-11 at home with a missed conversion to Henry Trinder’s try making the difference between the two form teams.
Leinster stage an impressive fight back against Connaught while Ospreys win at Thomond
Leinster beat Irish rivals Connaught in a contest where they had to come from behind to win 30-20. With two tries a piece from both sides, the difference came from the boot as Fijian fullback Isa Nacewa slotted four penalties. Ospreys continued their winning ways as they came from behind to beat Munster 17-13 at Thomond Park. Treviso made it three wins in a row as they beat Ulster 23-12, helped by 18 points from the boot of Kristopher Burton. Sadly for Ulster an Achilles injury to former Auckland Blues fullback Jared Payne means that he will be out for a number of months. There were also wins for Glasgow over Newport-Gwent Dragons, Scarlets over Edinburgh and Cardiff away at Aironi.
Try of the Weekend goes to Miles Benjamin of Worcester. It was a try created by veteran fly-half Andy Goode who got past London Irish’s defence to put Benjamin over the line.
This weekend’s Hero is Wasps’ Dai Young. In a different touch this week, we commend a director of rugby who has turned Wasps from the beleaguered side of last season into an exciting prospect once more. Okay so some of the results haven’t gone Young’s way but the improvement in the side is evident already.
The Villain for the weekend is Sale Sharks’Henry Thomas. In what was a close match between Sale and Gloucester, the sinbinning of the Sharks’ tighthead prop could have made the scores look a lot different due to Gloucester’s strengths in the scrum. Thankfully for Thomas, and Sale, this was not the case.