Best of the Weekend Domestic: The Return of the LV= Cup

The first round of the LV= Cup starts with a pair of hat tricks

It’s that time of the year again where the domestic leagues take a break and the Anglo-Welsh domestic cup: The LV= Cup, becomes the centre of attention. The structure of the tournament remains the same as in the past couple of seasons, where the teams in Pool 1 play those in Pool 4 and Pools 2 and 3 play against each other. Each Pool consists of three Aviva Premiership sides and one of the Welsh regions.

Ollie Lindsay-Hague

Pool 1 vs Pool 4

In what is usually a match to savour in the Premiership, Northampton v Saracens in the LV= Cup wasn’t the close battle that the fans are used to as both sides rested first team players to mix some youth in with the experience. Having returned from the Rugby World Cup, Russian winger Vasily Artemyev scored a hat trick on his debut for the Saints, scoring the first of his three with his first touch of the ball. Fellow winger Jamie Elliot scored the only other try of the match as Saracens could only respond through two penalties from scrum-half Ben Spencer, making the final score 36-6.

Bath ran rampant at Rodney Parade against Newport-Gwent Dragons, winning 46-16. The away side scored seven tries, including one from returning England player Matt Banahan, and fly-half Tom Heathcote continues to impress as he scored 11 points. The Dragons’ only try came from South African international Tonderai Chavhanga, who was on debut for the side. There was sad news from the match as Bath scrum-half Mark McMillan was stretchered off and taken to hospital with what looked like a serious head/neck injury.

Worcester narrowly beat Wasps 20-19 at Sixways in what should have been a bigger win for the home side given their dominance throughout the match. The Warriors opened the scoring as Tom Arscott went over the line for his first try of the match following immense pressure from the pack. Wasps responded in the first half through penalties from Ryan Davis and an impressive long-range effort from centre Elliot Daly, who also scored a try in the second half. Arscott went on to score the try of the match, in a move that started from Worcester’s 10 metre line. Wasps kept the pressure up towards the end as Alex Cheeseman scored on 70 minutes but Worcester’s good defence gave the home side victory.

Harlequins continued their early season form into the LV= Cup as they beat local rivals London Irish in a close 26-19 battle. Quins opened the scoring with a try as centre Ben Urdapilleta went over the line early on in the match. Tom Homer and his impressive kicking boot kept London Irish in touch as the sides went in 10-6 at half time. Irish finally took the lead with 6 minutes to go as replacement David Sisi went over the line but Ollie Lindsay-Hague kept up Harlequins’ unbeaten streak in all competitions with a converted try as his side kept the ball alive past the 80 minute mark to send him over.

Pool 2 vs Pool 3

Reigning champions Gloucester got their campaign off to a flying start with a seven try home victory over the in form Sale Sharks. Fly-half, Freddie Burns led the way for the Cherry and Whites, scoring 26 out of the team’s 58 points. It was a match to savour as it was all square an hour in with the score at 27 all before Gloucester stepped on the gas, scoring four tries in the last 20 minutes to seal victory. Sale played well and fought hard, even though three of their players made visits to the sin bin at various points during the game, but it was Gloucester’s day, proving that it is as hard to win at Kingsholm in the LV= Cup as it is in the Aviva Premiership.

Scarlets heaped more misery onto Leicester Tigers as they ran in a convincing bonus point win, 31-3. The Tigers, who have used this tournament in the past to give their younger players first team experience, appear to have adopted the same tactic for this season’s tournament. The star of the show was Scarlets’ Number 8, Kieron Murphy, who was a huge presence on the pitch as well as scoring two of the home side’s five tries, with Liam Williams, Matt Gilbert and Jordan Williams scoring the others. Leicester could only get onto the scoreboard through a first half penalty from 18-year-old fly-half George Ford.

In a contrast to the Scarlets v Leicester match, Newcastle provided almost the same result against Cardiff Blues, beating them 33-3 at Kingston Park. Having lost last season’s final, Newcastle started well in their attempt to go one better as full-back Greg Goosen scored a hat trick of tries to go with ones from Mark Wilson and Michael Mayhew as they gained a try bonus point. For the inexperienced Blues side, their only points came from a Rhys Patchell penalty in the second half.

Exeter recorded an impressive 35-9 home win in their first ever match against Ospreys. The Chiefs showed off their big forwards power as collapsed scrums gave them a penalty try in the first half, followed up by one from lock James Phillips. Ospreys were on the back foot throughout the game, as three penalties from Matthew Morgan could not keep the former champions in the match. The second half was all about the backs as tries from Phil Dollman and Josh Tatupu sealed the bonus point and the victory for the Chiefs.

Try of the Weekend goes to Tom Arscott of Worcester. There were two to choose from but it was the second that was the stand out one as the flyer ran in from his own 10 metre line to get the try that won the game for the Warriors.

This weekend’s Hero is Northampton’s Vasily Artemyev . Continuing his heroic efforts for Russia in the World Cup, the winger has brought that form back to Northampton with a hat trick on debut. The Saints fans and management will be hoping the form lasts all season now.

The Villain for the weekend is Wasps’Jeremy Castex. The prop was sent to the sin bin just before half time for punching and in what was a very close match, how much of a difference would it have made if he hadn’t had that rush of blood to the head?

What are your thoughts on the weekend’s action?

by Rachel Simmonite