Leicester and Bath produce thriller
Plaudits should go to Welford Road after Leicester and Bath both served up a cracking match in the Premiership yesterday. George Ford was Bath’s master as he played superbly against his old club, but Leicester got the last laugh as Jamie Gibson scored in the last play of the game – only Owen William’s missed conversion meant that they didn’t take the full spoils. Miles Benjamin opened up the scoring early on for Leicester but Bath soon raced ahead with tries from Anthony Watson, Francois Louw and Jonathan Joseph. Thomas Waldrom and Jamie Gibson’s late scores meant the game finished 27-27.
Wasps secured a late win at home to Exeter as Andy Goode’s experience shone through when he landed a vital drop-goal at the death to seal a 16-13 win. Goode played poorly for most of the game though and it was his opposite man – Henry Slade, making his first Premiership start – who kicked eight points to add to Dave Lewis’ try to give Exeter an early 13-3 lead. Kicks from Goode and Elliot Daly clawed Wasps back and Joe Simpson’s try helped them get within reach before Goode’s drop-goal. Exeter will be a bit peeved, though, as Henry Slade looked to get a maiden try before being ruled out by the TMO.
On Saturday bad-boy James O’Connor scored all of his side’s 22 points during their victory over Worcester Warriors. He scored his first try for the club and kicked 17 points to cancel out three penalties from Chris Pennell. Elsewhere, Gloucester’s embarrassment continued as they were taught a lesson by league-leaders Saracens. Neil de Kock, David Strettle and Alex Goode all crossed the line to secure an 8-29 victory with Matt Cox getting a consolation try for the home team.
Northampton kept in touching distance of Sarries with a 23-9 win over Harlequins, who never looked like beating the Saints. George North and Dylan Hartley both scored and Stephen Myler kept the scoreboard ticking over. Tom Brady’s try helped Sale beat northern rivals Newcastle who could only manage a penalty from Phil Godman and a try from Andy Saull. Danny Cipriani and Nick Macleod were both successful with the boot to give Sale only their second Premiership win at Kingston Park.
Ulster gaining league momentum
It was rival round in the RaboDirect this week and Ulster gave Munster only their second league defeat of the season with a 29-19 victory. Ruan Pienaar kicked 19 points, missing only one attempt all night, to add to tries from Darren Cave and Jared Payne who gave Ulster an impressive early lead. Munster hit back with tries from Ivan Dineen and Dave Kilcoyne either side of half-time, and James Coughlan also scored, but ill-discipline meant that Pienaar was able to keep the win well out of reach.
Glasgow and Edinburgh’s 1872 match was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch at Scotstoun and Zebre were able to record their first-ever home victory in the league with a 14-12 victory over Italian rivals Treviso. Mat Berquist kicked all Treviso’s points but it wasn’t enough as Luciano Orquera nailed three penalties and Guglielmo Palazzani scored a try.
Will Harries scored the only try in the Cardiff Blues-Dragons match, but it couldn’t secure an away victory as five penalties from the ever-reliable Leigh Halfpenny and one from Rhys Patchell, plus a drop-goal from Gareth Davies, wrapped up a 21-13 win. In the other all-Welsh match, a try each from Ashley Beck and Aisea Natoga gave Ospreys a 17-12 victory over the Scarlets who got all their points from the boot of Rhys Priestland.
A controversial late try from Gordon D’Arcy was enough to edge a Leinster victory over Connacht. It seemed that the pass to D’Arcy was forward, but not according to the TMO who awarded the try and smashed Connacht hopes. The men in green got on the board through a try from Fionn Carr and a penalty from Jack Carty but Jimmy Gopperth and Ian Madigan added to D’Arcy’s try to see Leinster win 8-16.
A brilliant counter-attack sees Darren Cave claim Try of the Week in Ulster’s victory over Munster. Jared Payne broke away after a Munster knock-on before giving the ball to Andrew Trimble who held the ball up beautifully for Cave to score.
Now I’m not one to criticise officials – in fact I hate saying this – but the Villain(s) of the Week have to go to the TMOs. Henry Slade looked to have scored, which would have given him a dream first Premiership start, but it was wrongly ruled out. Gordon D’Arcy’s late try should have been ruled out, though, as the pass he received was quite clearly forward. George Clancy should take some of the blame due to his wording: ‘can you tell me if the last pass was clear and obviously forward’. It was.
A case could be made for James O’Connor who scored all of Irish’s points, but George Ford, in his last audition before England’s Elite Performance Squad is announced, put in a sublime performance against Leicester and wins our Hero of the Week award. His kicking was superb and it seems he was in the right place at the right time whenever a Bath player broke the line, so that he could link the ball to fellow support players to cross the whitewash. A mature performance from the young man, who is surely next-in-line for Owen Farrell’s England shirt.
By Calum Gillon (@C_Gillon)
Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images