Best of the Weekend: I Need Your Help

Twickenham

Good morning! I’m afraid I need your help for this week’s Best of the Weekend column – Joe Large is still away, I forgot to line someone else up, and I haven’t watched any Rugby.

Naturally I was glued to the Masters during any spare moments this weekend, but I’m also slightly preoccupied as today is the due date for my third child…wish me luck.

So, how did the weekend go?

I normally check through the Superbru results to give me an idea of performances over the weekend if I haven’t been able to watch the games, and here is the critical information:

Superbru

Quins’ capitulation at home to London Irish is the standout result here, but then Worcester also won to maintain the daylight between the sides. It looks like we might be set for a slightly more exciting relegation battle than previously expected though.

Saracens pumped Northampton for a third time this season – poor Northampton – whilst Exeter also won very comfortably, and it looks like the top two is fairly well established now. Leicester upset Bath’s big day out at Twickenham to secure the ‘away win’, whilst Wasps lost at Sale yet again.

What were the main talking points from the weekend? Can London Irish survive? Will Newcastle make the Top 4?

26 thoughts on “Best of the Weekend: I Need Your Help

  1. Wasps are starting to make me really nervous. Two late one-point defeats have derailed our hopes of a home semi completely. Our next two games are at home to Worcester and then Saints, so we should win those and at least make top 4. I’m not hopeful away to Exeter or Sarries though…

    I wonder if anyone can stop Leicesters charge? Dark horses to take the title?

    1. Wasps were their own worst enemies after a stunning start where they played error free rugby for about 20 minutes and looked like proper title contenders.
      It was, however, really disappointing to see the ref not penalise Ross for leading with his head into the head of Cooper-Wooley at a ruck and then a minute before the final decisive score a Sale player absolutely KO’d Josh Bassett nowhere near the ruck. It looked like a head high clear out but for some reason there were no replays and no action from ref or assistant. Only saw Bassett being led off the pitch looking groggy and with his nose bleeding.

        1. Good find.
          Does this look worse than it actually is? Contact is on the top of the shoulder, yet Basset flails his arms around like a rag doll. Maybe I’m being overly cynical.

            1. The ERTV one? Angle from behind Basset, contact imo on the top of the shoulder. Comment above also stated bloody nose, which I agree with, yet no contact was made with his face in the clip.

    2. I was thinking Exeter v Leicester final. The pack looks formidable, and I think both Mapapalangi and Kalamafoni look decent. The front row has also rediscovered its spark. Even if Youngs is fit, Harrison has been playing really well and is getting Leicester moving very quickly. Add in Tuilagi and I think they will be very tough to beat if they make the final. What a turnaround from a few months ago.

      1. I have advocated Harrison as a lively, aggressive scrum half with a rapid pass for some time Jake. Robson clearly showed this weekend why EJ isn´t keen on him when he got completely outplayed by Faff du Plessis, and given that nobody else is really putting their hand up I would like to see Harrison get a chance at international squad level. He certainly has a far better pass than Youngs and Ford seems to enjoy playing with him.
        Quins are in real trouble. Their international players are not in good form (Brown and Marler in particular, and Robshaw looks exhausted), and there is an urgent need for a change in DR and defence coach. Of all the teams in the Prem they are the group of players performing furthest below their potential, and they will be candidates for relegation next year if changes aren´t made.

  2. As a Sarries fan the weekend was great!! It’s actually the fourth time Sarries have beaten Saints this season, each one by more than 50 points (apologies to any Saints fans for rubbing it in), totalling 237 points over the four games!!

    For Sarries this was a good game to get back on track after the European disappointment. Nice to have players like Taylor coming back from injury at this time of the season and, hopefully he is the first of a few.

    Saints were competitive in the first half but, completely fell apart in the second half and Sarries made the most of every knock on or breakdown error from Saints. The Wyles try really summed up Saints afternoon, despite Tuala’s (should have been try saving) tackle just short of the line.

    1. I think i overheard the commentator mention Saracens has scored roughly 30 tries against Saints this season…comical.

      1. I bumped into Lee Dickson on Sunday morning and he said there were going to be a raft of changes at the end of the season.
        Looks like you may be in transition for a while but hopefully will be better for it.

        I think that was the worst I’ve seen Saints play against us. Too many handling errors and no real leadership to try and turn it around.

        1. Though Saints have been/are in a transition period, they have still been able to lure big signings like Biggar and Naiyaravoro to the club. This may have been prior to the recent deterioration in form but Northampton have seemingly still been able to attract big names.

  3. I was at the Bath Leicester game and it was a thoroughly enjoyable match as a Leicester fan. I am not sure what percentage of the 60,000 people there were ‘home’ Bath fans but it felt pretty dominant, so to win, and with such an impressive second half, was brilliant. I must admit I had all but written of Leicester’s chances of taking a place-off place based on our form earlier in the season, but they have been excellent recently – not perfect by any means (and the game on Saturday had its fair share of errors) but some exciting attacking play which is great to see. Kalamafoni has been a brilliant signing, giving the go forward we so badly missed since the likes of Waldrom left. Veianu is one of the players of the season for the Premiership let alone Tigers. Biggest development for me at the weekend is how good Genge looks in the scrum. We always knew what a aggressive ball carrier he is, but he looks to have massively improved his scrummaging while out injured and this is two weeks in a row he has dominated his opposite number – definitely back in contention for England. Having said that, Obano also looked good for Bath, and so did Alec Hepburn for chiefs. Would pick all three over Marler at the moment.

  4. In contrast to Henry’s post above, as a Bath fan at the game I left very disappointed. Not so much by the scoreline, as Bath didn’t deserve to win, but by the real lack of energy, intent and ambition shown by the team. I’m not sure what is going on at Bath but it is troubling how much the performances have deteriorated this season. Since Tabai left, we haven’t seemed as dangerous in attack. There is a real lack of ball carrying threat in the backs and with Roko and Watson both injured, it is even worse. I appreciate the financial issues resulting in Banahan’s departure from the club, but losing him is a really big blow considering he can cover most of the backline. Obano is one shining light in an otherwise poor season and should be called back up to England.
    The Sale-Wasps game was great for a neutral, Faf commanding the team exquisitely and some nice attacking play shown by both sides. Wasps found wanting up-front imo, Sale were relentless in sending runners straight at the line. I did also think Ross got away with one, but there were a few calls that could have been given against both sides. Not awarding the penalty try is also debatable, Gopperth was clearly offside and was blatantly trying to prevent a try.
    The Exeter game for me was pretty poor viewing in spite of the scoreline. Gloucester made far too many errors, and lacked any sort of gameplan. Trinder and Atkinson showed some nice touches but once Heinz went off, they looked pretty rudderless. Exeter were clinical and dominant without being amazing. Good to see Nowell back, Hepburn with a great all-round performance. I did think Exeter got away with quite a few forward passes, and a couple of infringements – Nic White tripping a player – that could have maybe had an impact.

    1. As an Exeter fan, I would concur with Exeter’s luck with a number of calls – I counted three forward passes, and then a trip as well (was he obstructed by the ‘supporting’ player? Still a yellow, either way). Thankfully, all these errors were out of the way by half time, and while they still weren’t as crisp as they could have been, they seemed to be building up good fluency until the glut of subs came on and the final 10mins went largely flat. But Baxter quite candidly did say that after the last few weeks of Anglo-Welsh etc rotations, the team was going to be a little unsettled and it would be a question of how quickly they got back into the groove. A better side than that Gloucester one could have caused the Chiefs a great deal of trouble in the opening 20, but it didn’t happen, and I think Exeter are now lining up a consistent teamsheet for the next month or so to build up steam into the final rounds of the competition. If it works according to plan, it would once again show just how good Baxter is in managing the squad!
      In short – yes, they got a bit lucky, but they got the result, and I expect form to build from here to the knockouts. A lot of rugby still to play, though.

      1. As a Glos fan, I thought Exeter were lucky with a few calls, but I really can’t say that they had any impact on the result. Exeter were far and away the better team, even disregarding Gloucester’s ability to self destruct on pretty much any occasion they got the ball. My game ball would go to the Exeter pack for a fantastic group performance this week. Playing like that they are going to be very hard to beat in the remainder of the season.

        1. Exeter’s pack did work great – but you’re definitely right that Glos’s ability to self-destruct was behind the massacre on the score-sheet. I expected a much closer game than that, with the far more consistent and impressive Glos that has emerged this season continuing to do good things. Instead, a shadow of it turned up, and got thumped (hence my earlier comment about ‘that’ Gloucester team). Which was pretty surprising, and more than a little disappointing. I hope for the team’s sake it doesn’t derail an otherwise strong season!

          1. Not the first time that we have sunk without trace away from home this season. Thank goodness we have managed to make Kingsholm more of a fortress again this season. Still hoping for top 6 but in the balance I’d say.

  5. Cant see thew top 4 changing. Exeter, Saracens, Tigers and Wasps will contest the play offs. Right now they are the best teams and their closing fixtures should see them gain the required points.
    Newcastle will make top 6, assuming they beat Sale this Friday, and will be joined by Gloucester who have two very winnable home games to come.
    Irish will have to win 2 of their remaining games to have a chance of staying up. As that includes Exeter and Saracens, I think relegation is pretty much assured.

  6. I was heartened by the ovation given to the departing Schalk Brits by Saints fans.

    It was astute if the coaches to substitute him before the customary evacuation of Saints fans when their deficit reaches 40 points!

  7. Just wondering what has happened to Wayne Barnes. He used to apply a bit of common sense to refereeing but that´s two weeks running he has made poor errors. What was Thompstone supposed to do with a player leaping at him from fifteen feet away with their boots travelling straight towards his head at high speed.? He did what all of us would do and ducked to take evasive action, for which Barnes yellow carded him. Why not penalise the jumper for reckless and dangerous play? Players jumping for the ball should have some regard for their own safety and that of others, which was clearly not the case here. Fortunately it didn´t swing the result, but it might well have done.

    1. Thompstone made no attempt to play the ball, turning his back and putting a player in the air at risk. I agree with you that there is common sense to be applied in these situations, but if Thompstone isn’t going to compete in the air then he shouldnt be making contact with an airborne player.

      1. I take the point from Jake, and it’s currently enshrined in law with the current rules, but I’m with Andy on the point about studs-out jumping in particular. Didn’t see the act in question, but have seen numerous dodgy jumps over the last decade or so – really ‘savvy’ play from some such as Lee Byrne, who had worked out that jumping with one studded leg raised towards oncoming competition was a good way to keep them at arm’s (leg’s) length.
        I’m not faulting any player for playing within the rules, but I wish there was some way to protect the player on the ground from jumpers who are leading dangerously with the boot at speed, at chest or even head height. The refs have quite enough to look at these days, but I’m afraid if a static player was grounded waiting for the catch, and ended up ‘tackling’ a soaring player in the air whose boot makes contact with their face, I would be calling for a yellow for the jumper who led recklessly with studs as if it were a kick to the face, rather than have the guy below sent off for ‘tackling’ in the air.
        The problem with any laws in this area is that the players will still have wiggle-room to make it play to their advantage, and ‘intent’ is a very squishy and problematic thing to try and monitor as a ref whatever, but still, I feel that not enough is done to protect grounded competitors in defence against jumping attackers who have the luxury of arriving with momentum. It is as much the jumper’s responsibility, for putting themselves up in the air and thus temporarily losing control of their impetus, as it is the grounded player who touches them whilst in the air – see CJ Stander and the red vs Pat Lambie. The law is currently too skewed to the jumper for my liking, at present.
        On the plus, when both players are jumping, refs are getting pretty good at letting play continue, even when the clashes look pretty brutal, because it was ‘fair’ competition.

  8. Bristol Rugby confirmed their Premiership status for next season after thumping Nottingham and Ealing suffering a shock reverse at Doncaster.

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