Best of the Weekend: Heartbreak and upsets across the World

Joe Marler

Saracens score late to get their first win at the Stoop since 2014
The Twickenham Stoop has been a bogey ground for Saracens of late, the defending Champions haven’t won a game there since the 2014/15 season and until the closing minutes on Saturday night it looked as though Quins had pulled off another coup. But Owen Farrell’s boot kept the pressure on the hosts before man of the match Billy Vunipola crashed over to give Saracens another win. It was the first time Saracens had failed to score a bonus point this season but Quins fans will be distraught that they came so close yet ultimately so far from victory.

Tigers spoil Saints’ party as they win gutsy encounter at Twickenham
This was another upset few people saw coming, especially in the day that Saints were going to win for Rob Horne. Well in the East Midlands Derby, Tigers were not going to let that happen and they were relentless, especially in defence and in the scrum. Leicester just played the conditions better than their opponents and their defence in the red zone was mightily impressive. And while Northampton will rue missed conversions, that wouldn’t have won them the game anyway with the penalties from George Ford and two excellent counterattacking tries created by fullback Jonah Holmes. The Tigers are just gathering momentum going into Europe and they have a stern test at Ravenhill against Ulster whilst Northampton have a chance to reset in the Challenge Cup.

Exeter get the 5-pointer from a tough physical encounter at the Rec
Under the Friday night lights of the Rec, the home side really rattled the Chiefs, an impressive Dave Attwood led defence denied Exeter gainline for much of the match and flanker Tom Ellis was a nuisance in the lineout, however the away team’s bench made far more impact. Late second-half tries from Jack Nowell and Ian Whitten sealed the deal for last season’s table toppers. Chiefs will be worried about how easily they let Bath rattle them in the second half, but at least they will be content with the fact that they are now at the top of the table.

Gloucester sting Wasps at the Ricoh Arena
The Cherry and Whites responded in some style to get an unfancied win over Wasps at the Ricoh. Danny Cipriani ran the show as he showed his former employers what they’re missing with a wonderful try assist and an all-round impeccable display. Charlie Sharples is now looking close to his best as he bagged another 2 tries alongside scores from Ben Vellacott and and the bonus point score from flanker Lewis Ludlow. Despite being weakened in the front row, Gloucester’s pack were more dominant than their opponents and that allowed the Cherry and Whites to get a quite unexpected victory that stands them in good stead going into Europe next week at home to defending Top14 champions Castres.

Sale Sharks bruise past the Newcastle Falcons
A second away win for Dean Richards’ Newcastle would have heaped more pressure on Sale’s head coach Steve Diamond. The Falcons started the brightest with captain Will Welch driving over but the Sharks made the most of a yellow card for Newcastle prop Logovi’i Mulipola as they scored through lock James Philips. Then the Falcons were down to 13 men with scrumhalf Michael Young sin-binned too, Sale pounced with Springbok Rohan Janse van Rensburg bursting his way over from the midfield and then the ball was spun-wide to former All-Black Bryn Evans who slid over. Newcastle could never reply and are now bottom of the table going into a very difficult Champions Cup opener against Toulon.

Worcester brutal as the Bears are sent packing
Going into the Sunday fixture, casual observers thought this game could go either way, I had backed Bristol to nip this game and from the off it looked as though it would be that way with prop forward Yann Thomas bundling over to open Bristol’s account in the 3rd minute. However that would be the Bears’ final score of the game, with the Warriors irresistible for the rest of the game. Nearly every time Bristol granted them the opportunity, the Warriors took it and with some style. Even when Worcester went a man down due to a red card, Bristol still couldn’t score. A bonus point victory will send their home fans through the roof, but what is also so great for them that it’s their biggest-ever Premiership victory in terms of points scored and margin. Well done Worcester.

My Premiership Team of the Week
1. Greg Bateman (Leicester)
2. Jack Singleton (Worcester)
3. Harry Williams (Exeter)
4. Dave Atwood (Bath)
5. Gerbrandt Grobler (Gloucester)
6. Marco Mama (Worcester)
7. Don Armand (Exeter)
8. Billy Vunipola (Saracens)
9. François Hougaard (Worcester)
10. Danny Cipriani (Gloucester)
11. Josh Adams (Worcester)
12. Kyle Eastmond (Leicester)
13. Joe Marchant (Harlequins)
14. Charlie Sharples (Gloucester)
15. Jonah Holmes (Leicester)

Meanwhile in the Pro14…

It’s beginning to look like Ulster’s lightning start to the season was a little misleading, with Connacht getting the second consecutive win away at Ravenhill, that’s quite an upset considering that’s Connacht’s first win in Belfast since 1960. The away team showcased a threatening attacking style and were simply too powerful for a lacklustre Ulster who lost flanker Marty Rea for a red card at the beginning of the 2nd half. Ireland centre Bundee Aki again was at the fore for the men in green as his 2nd half try was crucial to their victory. This is bad news for the Northern Irishmen who aren’t in good form heading into their Champions Cup opener against Leicester next weekend.

Edinburgh put in an improved showing to oust a spirited Cheetahs side with a colossal display from Number 8 Viliame Mata ensuring that the home side got a consecutive bonus point victory but a lot of improvement is still required when they face Montpellier next weekend. Meanwhile the Glasgow Warriors put in a ruthless second-half performance to defeat Zebre 36-8 which cements their place at the top of Conference A.

A Leigh Halfpenny penalty was all that separated the Scarlets from their Welsh neighbours the Ospreys. Cardiff Blues got their 3rd consecutive win in the league over the woeful Dragaons. An important win for Leinster as they defeated big rivals Munster 30-22 with George Lowe showcasing his stardust ability and the Leinster pack dominating their counterparts. And finally two penalty tries enabled Benetton Treviso to get a decent bonus point win at home over the Southern Kings.

What happened elsewhere
Oh my word, what another test match from South Africa and New Zealand. In front of a packed out and very passionate Loftus Versfeld, the Springboks were 90 seconds or so from a famous double over South Africa as Jesse Kriel, Cheslin Kolbe and Damian de Allende had crossed to give them a 30-13 lead but the All Blacks were relentless and Ardie Savea powered his way over the whitewash and Richie Mo’unga converted to give the All Blacks a thrilling win which left New Zealand in raptures and South Africa in tears.

Australia bounced back from a 31-7 deficit at halftime to win the game 34-45 at the end to avoid an embarrassing Wooden Spoon finish in the Championship. Doubts and concerns will still be raised by Australian fans over Micheal Cheika’s job as the Wallabies were desperately poor in the 1st half and to be quite honest, the complacency of the Pumas let them win the game. Plenty of work to be done before their tour of Europe in November.

In the Top14, Lyon got a crucial victory away from home at Racing 92, La Rochelle beat leaders Clermont and Grenoble beat Bordeaux. On Sunday, Montpellier beat big-spending rivals Toulon which continues the French Rugby giants’ joke of a start to their season and will look to improve things when they face another struggling side next week in the Champions Cup, Newcastle. Currently Clermont still are top of the shop in the table with Lyon only 4 points behind in 2nd.

Key Talking Points
– Do we need to see more of Billy Vunipola’s sportsmanship in Rugby?
– Do the Falcons need to buck their ideas up or is still too early to worry?
– Will the English teams do better in the Heineken Champions Cup this season?
– Should Charlie Sharples be recalled onto the England scene?
– Is Cheika still going to be the Wallaby coach going into the World Cup next year?

By Jacob Bassford (add me on Twitter @jacob_bassford and subscribe to my Youtube channel @FlyingG_Sports)

29 thoughts on “Best of the Weekend: Heartbreak and upsets across the World

  1. Regarding big Billy, simply ,yes,we do.
    Charlie Sharples has been off the radar for quite a while but i always rated him. His big problem is May, Nowell,Watson,Cokanasiga etc…… but if he continues to produce the goods then yes, but I can’t see EJ being so bold.
    Surely Dave Attwood must be a contender for and England place? Nearly nineteen stone, loves a tackle and he can play. I think both he and Ewers would bring a physicality that we are definitely lacking at the moment.




    1
    1. +1 on Attwood & Ewers.

      Attwood partnered with Itoje & a back row of Billy V, Ewers and either Underhill or Curry would lend that area some serious grunt. SR/back row ‘Finishers’ could be Launch, Courtney & Robshaw. Although I do like the look of Kvesic this season. I think there are too many other options with more established club credentials though for MK to nudge his way in to the EPS.




      2
      1. Kvesic is & has been an experienced out & out openside for some time now, but has been & continues to be, ignored by England. Something’s wrong here unless there is an unknown stack of outstanding 7’s straining @ the leash waiting to fill a long standing problem position for England.




        4
    2. Not disagreeing with yr opinion about Attwood (or Ewers). Others have also backed yr views. However, are you suggesting that the ‘w class’ Itoje or Kruis should be ejected?




      0
      1. I would partner Itoje with Attwood ( as per my original post) and have SR cover on the bench with Launch & Courtney, who as we know can cover a couple of pos. I haven’t seen much of Kruis this season to make an informed opinion, but I think i’d rather have the Launch in the squad regardless. It’s a shame Jonny Hill is injured and is not in contention.




        0
        1. Well hasn’t Kruis been described as such in these very columns & elsewhere in the not so distant? My t in c comment might ? whether he ever was. Or perhaps even the much vaunted Itoje for that matter. Didn’t look it in SA. May also call into ? the old addage about form being tempory & class being permanent?




          1
          1. I always thought that adage utterly absurd. There is only form and form is temporary – and in terms of an international career, generally fleeting.
            You can have as much class as you like but it ain’t going to help if you lose your form – just ask Eric Bristow or any pro golfer who has had the yips.
            Kruis and Itoje were at one point perhaps only second to Whitelock and Retallick as a locking partnership – and were described here by me and many others as approaching world class if not yet there. Unfortunately Kruis lost his form and has yet to regain it.
            As far as Itoje is concerned, he is only 23 and yet I’d quite happily say he is the top 10 locks in the world (when EJ isn’t playing silly buggers and selecting him at blindside). That to my mind makes him world-class. Not best in the world – Retallick takes that mantle – but definitely world class. And let’s see where he is in 4 years when he reaches Retallick’s current age, assuming he can stay fit – and on form….




            0
      2. Withe regards to “super” Maro, I wonder if we are seeing a situation similar to that which has dogged the national football team for years, whereby they don’t play for their country with the same freedom and attitude they do for their club?
        His int’l debut season was excellent but in the last year or so he has struggled in a white shirt.
        Maybe it’s Eddie (again) or just a temporary blip .’m more concerned with the back row. The balance is just not there and I fear that it won’t be long before Billy is out injured again if he is the only heavyweight carrier in the three. Ewers, Armand, Wilson should all be in the squad imo to take some of the weight ( no pun intended) off our Bill.




        2
      3. IMV Don, Itoje is not yet world class. He gives far too many penalties away in kickable positions and is too easy to wind up. Kruis proved on tour last year that he lacks grunt against big men. To me, Launch is the best second row in the country. His work rate is phenomenal and his defensive positioning and tackling excellent. Maybe doesn´t make quite enough yards carrying, but at least when he does go to ground he always makes the ball available. It would be interesting to see how much change any combination of the top four (Itoje, Kruis, Launchbury and Lawes) would get out of Atwood and Slater. Not much, I reckon. I actually have some sympathy with EJ. I don´t think he has any more of clue what the best team would be than any of us armchair selectors. Watching the Premiership each week I am staggered by the strength in depth in some positions and my views on a pecking order in most positions change from week to week. I do however have three certainties. 1. Ben Youngs is NOT the best English 9, Farrell IS the best English 10 if Cipriani is not going to get a look in, and Hartley is not even the best hooker at Saints.




        1
        1. I’ve ?ed his credibility & ‘WC’ has been so freely bandied about him in the recent past. He’s athletic enough etc, but most would look good in a Sarries pack. I think this can lead to an ‘over cooking’ of his abilities, especially when he, along with others, didn’t really front v SA IMO. It’s in adversity when players need to stand up, not just when their team is winning. Ditto with Kruis. Maybe they both lack a bit of ‘grunt against big men’/ Whatever, but I agree about Launchbury. He also has good hands & seeks to off load rather than die with the ball. An intelligent player. Maybe he & the neglected Atwood would make a good combo? Or Slater? You’ll know him better than me. Agree. Youngs is only ok. Maybe Care, Robson? I personally liked Joe Simpson (Perenara like?) , but he’s ‘disappeared’. Afraid I have little sympathy for Jones. A blagger (ask the Irish or Scots), who talks a good game, but has never won anything & has far from making ‘England the best in the world’, he’s taken down the pan. He doesn’t know his midfield or flankers. 2 long term problem posi’s for England, from the days of Lancaster.
          Cipriani (4th choice!? Eh?) is a must for England, but he won’t happen under Jones. Farrell is better where he is IMO. If you get rid of Hartley, you’ll need a new, appropriate captain. Bit late to change now, what the other aforementioned issues England have. Jones ought to know his team, style of play by now. It’s been 3 yrs now. He needs a good AI series probably more than the team does?




          3
          1. Actually the above comment was made by me. Dunno how ‘Jones’ got into the name slot, but that EJ does get around by all accounts.




            2
  2. No Robshaw in the team of the week? I’d find a place for him and Ribbans too.
    On the talking points –
    1. Ideally yes, but Billy knew the knock on would be identified by the TMO.
    2. Yes they do. You only get so much for being close and Falcons do need to start getting some results.
    3. Maybe. I’m not sure anyone other than Exeter and Saracens have the depth and quality to make it to the QF’s, but most will probably produce the odd good performance.
    4. No. There are better players ahead of him.
    5. I think so. Winning in Argentina should mean he’s secure.




    0
    1. For balance on your first point Steve; ‘knowing’ that a try has not been scored does not usually stop players feigning ignorance on the chance that the TMO pictures are not conclusive.

      Agree wholeheartedly with all of your other points. I think it is a shame for Sharples, but even with the present injuries England are not short of decent wingers.




      0
  3. As you have him as the cover photo for this article, I was expecting to see a key point about Joe Marler. Something like, how many metres will he concede for his team by mouthing off in front of the ref?




    1
    1. That’s unnecessary. I chose the pic because Harlequins lost disparingly to Saracens. While the photo in question is a couple years old, it still reflects the emotion suffered at the final whistle this weekend.




      0
  4. In the interest of balance & objectivity, I was extremely disappointed not to see JB’s headline here stating; ‘NZ shock the Springboks in their own backyard’.




    0
  5. Posted this previously on ‘Predictions’, but due to time lag of this post, ‘Best of the W/end’, it’s more relevant being ‘tidied’ & re-posted here.

    Well, the author almost got it right with his 2 pt win prediction, although I had the AB’s by 12. Must have been a typo. 1 punter here reckoned that SA deserved their win in NZ, with only 25% possession, being gifted 2 intercepts & Barrett’s missing 4 . So conversely, did NZ deserve to win win similar possession stats (until into the last 1/4 anyway), away from home? What say you Blub? Well, I didn’t think so, @ least for most of the game. SA beat NZ @ the breakdown & so denied them ball & turned them over plenty. The AB defence fell over again @ times, missing a couple of try scoring tackles. Additionally their line out too fell away. The scrums seemed fairly even, but even here NZ ball was sometimes under pressure & untidy. Moreover, Barrett kicked wantonly, or too long, too often for me. As did Parenara near the end, just after NZ had hauled themselves back into it but, but they were still 5 down! Fortunately for them, they got good line out possession following a Mounga boomer & Savea finally scored. RM converted to unbelievably snatch it. Stats evened out to c. 60/40% in SA’s favour, but NZ still outscored them 4 tries to 3. So if SA deserved it last up, then maybe the same applies to NZ? Although, how they won this 1 is still baffling. It’s as though SA suffered from altitude sickness, not the ABs, as they surely chucked this 1 away. Or did they? They were @ home, had most of the play, but perhaps forgot about the fat lady. And no, I’m ‘talking’ about the Saffa dignitary, although if they’d brought her on up front late on, THEY might have done the snatching! As an aside, I was concerned that Hansen didn’t appear to recognise the very real issue @ the breakdown for NZ! For me nothing changed after 1/2time either. He needed his loose forwards to flood this area in order to counter SA possession, yet he did nothing! Bit worrying as this seemed a fundamental issue that went unheeded?! Got away with it this time, but what about the next time? Surely others , like Joe Schmidt for example, will have taken note of this area of AB deficiency?




    0
    1. Did New Zealand deserve their win? Yes of course, I don’t see why not. For precisely the same reasons that I tried to detail in the reverse fixture.

      I must admit, I only saw the highlights of the second half of this game, and based upon that, yes they finished the game far better than South Africa did and pipped them at the post.

      I understand that South Africa were vastly superior in the first half. BUT, they were all square at half time (6-6?). So whilst they may have held the ball, and whilst they may have held it in attacking parts of the pitch, they were not good enough to score more points. Thats the reality.




      0
  6. I’ve ?ed his credibility & ‘WC’ has been so freely bandied about him in the recent past. He’s athletic enough etc, but most would look good in a Sarries pack. I think this can lead to an ‘over cooking’ of his abilities, especially when he, along with others, didn’t really front v SA IMO. It’s in adversity when players need to stand up, not just when their team is winning. Ditto with Kruis. Maybe they both lack a bit of ‘grunt against big men’/ Whatever, but I agree about Launchbury. He also has good hands & seeks to off load rather than die with the ball. An intelligent player. Maybe he & the neglected Atwood would make a good combo? Or Slater? You’ll know him better than me. Agree. Youngs is only ok. Maybe Care, Robson? I personally liked Joe Simpson (Perenara like?) , but he’s ‘disappeared’. Afraid I have little sympathy for Jones. A blagger (ask the Irish or Scots), who talks a good game, but has never won anything & has far from making ‘England the best in the world’, he’s taken down the pan. He doesn’t know his midfield or flankers. 2 long term problem posi’s for England, from the days of Lancaster.
    Cipriani (4th choice!? Eh?) is a must for England, but he won’t happen under Jones. Farrell is better where he is IMO. If you get rid of Hartley, you’ll need a new, appropriate captain. Bit late to change now, what the other aforementioned issues England have. Jones ought to know his team, style of play by now. It’s been 3 yrs now. He needs a good AI series probably more than the team does?




    0
  7. Quite simply, England has become the new France. Great competitive league to watch week in week out, lots of stars(??) on show but come International time too many stars(??) to choose from leading to muddled and confused selection.




    0

Leave a Reply