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?