Ben Coles brings us his usual round-up of weekend talking points – what were yours? This is the place to discuss the weekend’s events, so please let us know your thoughts below.
Big wins means a big gap in class
It’s not a coincidence that there were three big defeats for clubs labelled as relegation candidates. Newcastle, Leeds and Exeter all went down heavily and now for all three clubs, how they react will be crucial.
Exeter should not be too deterred by what happened at the Stoop: their performances so far have shown they have enough spirit to stay up, and they are set to be bolstered by some excellent new players like Jason Shoemark and Sireli Naqelevuki.
Newcastle, if they perform as they did against Wasps a few weeks ago, should also be ok, just. But it is Leeds who are the real concern for me. No wins so far this season, and the longer the wait goes on the worse it will get for them psychologically.
One great thing about the weekend was the number of tries scored – eight at Welford Road and Kingston Park meant there was plenty for the spectator to cheer about, although it must be said what a difference the weather makes. All five games on Saturday enjoyed relatively good conditions and produced entertaining displays, but Sunday’s match at Vicarage Road was played in foul weather, and as a result there wasn’t much for those watching on ESPN or at the ground to cheer about in terms of tries or slick back play. It was however, an excellent display of Derick Hougaard’s goal-kicking ability, and his drop goal was particularly impressive.
The return of Mapusua
London Irish’s Samoan centre put in a man of the match performance up at Newcastle in a performance that marked his return to form. Having struggled with injury for much of last season, the 2009 PRA Player of the Year looked back to his destructive best. His backhand flick for Dan Bowden’s try was classic Mapusua; bashing through three Newcastle players, and then showing wonderful dexterity. When he’s on form, Irish are up there with the best.
Rugby League mourns Terry Newton
News emerged late on Sunday afternoon that former Great Britain Rugby League player Terry Newton had been found dead after taking his own life. Newton, who was currently serving a two year drugs ban, played for Leeds, Wigan, Bradford and Wakefield before the ban came into effect. He made 15 international appearances for Great Britain in a career spanning all 15 seasons of the Super League. His loss will be deeply felt throughout the whole sport.
Try of the weekend had a fair few contenders this week. Topsy Ojo’s second against Newcastle was an absolute beauty, but Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu takes the prize: his individual effort against Wasps was special. Cynics might point to the dreadful Wasps tackling, but the centre showed awesome pace, followed by a big hand-off on Dom Waldouck to race for the line. Well played.
This weekend’s Hero title saw a former winner putting his hand up again, with Nicky Robinson’s last minute penalty from 53m edging Gloucester past Wasps. The winner though is Hougaard (pictured above) for holding his nerve In miserable conditions. Brendan Venter may see Alex Goode as the future at 10, but if Saracens are going to win the Premiership, then they need an experienced fly-half in charge. His goal-kicking was perfect, whereas Geraghty’s was erratic, and that is what wins titles.
The Villains this week are those guilty of throwing interception passes. Two up at Newcastle saw Alex Tait drop one into Topsy Ojo’s lap, and Jonathan Joseph also crossed over. Matt Carraro also sniped one as Sale tried to counter-attack down at the Rec. On all three occasions they came from the respective sides either trying too hard in attack, notably Newcastle, or just a lack of concentration. The tries just go to show how damaging they can be.
By Ben Coles (@bennycoles)
Photo: Patrick Khachfe/Onside Images