Leicester power past Northampton in front of a sell-out crowd
Northampton may have been very successful in recent times at hustling and bullying their opposition into submission, but their local rivals Leicester showed the Saints that when it comes to raw power, they are still the best. Northampton’s early score through Ben Foden gave the visitors a huge boost early on, but as the game progressed Leicester completely dominated. There’s no doubting that these two teams are the best in country, but Leicester looked streets ahead of Saints. Their aggression in the scrum especially blew Northampton away. Add to that the big performances from the back row unit of Thomas Waldrom, Craig Newby and Jordan Crane, along with Marcos Ayerza and Alesana Tuilagi, and what we saw on the boggy Welford Road pitch was a statement from the Champions to their closest contenders.
Northampton were unfortunate to lose their two England stars, Courtney Lawes and Chris Ashton, early into the game. But the way they squandered so much lineout ball, 8 being the final dreaded number, didn’t help their chances. In the final few minutes when they were chasing for the bonus point, they lacked the precision to even get out of their own half, let alone threaten the scoreboard. There were times were they achieved parity in the scrum, but the departures of Soane Tonga’huia and Brian Mujati with plenty of time left on the clock may as well have been a white flag. It has been a rough couple of weeks for the Saints, and they will hope that the injuries to Ashton and Lawes, along with a suspected fractured eye socket for Shane Geraghty, do not affect their plans too severely over the next two rounds of Heineken Cup games. Leicester on the other hand, are simply rampant.
Post match reaction from Nick Heath (@rugbymedia):
Tigers’ Richard Cockerill: [podcast]/Podcasts/Cockerill.mp3[/podcast]
Saints’ Jim Mallinder: [podcast]/Podcasts/Mallinder.mp3[/podcast]
Gloucester smash Exeter at home
Producing their best performance in recent times, Gloucester took revenge on Exeter for their opening day loss down at Sandy Park by running in five tries and giving the home fans plenty to cheer about. A scintillating performance from James Simpson-Daniel led the way for the Cherry and Whites, once again re-opening the debate as to whether he should be included into the England set up. Gloucester’s second try was an absolute beauty, a length of the field effort starting from on their own try line, with Mike Tindall, Simpson-Daniel and Olly Morgan all turning Exeter inside out. Their try count could have been six, had Haydn Thomas not illegally turned over the ball with Gloucester threatening on their try line towards the end of the first half.
After the loss to Leicester last weekend and now this big defeat, you would think that Exeter would have reason to be concerned. But the way they performed towards the end of the match, scoring three tries after being 25-6 down, was another example of their great team spirit and determination. However Saturday was all about the home team, and the Kingsholm faithful will be praying this is the start of a decent run.
Quins move into the playoffs at Wasps expense
Harlequins produced a strong first half, scoring three tries, to force their way into the play off places. After beating London Irish and then the impressive win away at Northampton last weekend, Quins are finding themselves in a good run of form. They exploited the left hand side of pitch three times, with Joe Marler, Mike Brown and Nick Easter touching down. As for Wasps, they will no doubt feel let down by their defence in the first half. Playing Riki Flutey at fly-half was an interesting experiment with Dave Walder left on the bench, but the playmaker’s best position is definitely at inside centre.
Try of the weekend goes to Nick Abendanon for his great run against Leeds at the Rec. Quick lineout ball and then a lovely inside flick from Butch James sent the Bath flyer through the gap, and his pace took him all the way up to the last defender and beyond, as Leeds full back Cieron Thomas was left rooted to the spot. Great gas and swerve from the England Saxon.
Hero of the week for me is Thomas “The Tank” Waldrom. Whilst watching the second half a friend turned to me and said that he just simply didn’t look like a rugby player. He sure as hell plays like one though. When it comes to hard yards, this season Waldrom has been one of the best so far. His strength and determination when he drives his legs fit nicely into the Leicester ethos of power and precision, and there has not been one defence so far that has been able to suppress him. He has been a wonderful addition to the Premiership, and with performances such as the one he produced against Northampton, let’s hope he stays for a long time.
Villain of the week is Dan Biggar, whose five missed kicks cost the Ospreys a possible victory away at Leinster. His miss from 10 metres, which should give you something to smile about this morning, was an absolute shocker. When you compare him to Stephen Jones, it is not hard to see why Warren Gatland and his coaching staff prefer to go for Jones’ reliability with the boot as opposed to Biggar’s slightly more erratic attacking style. There is no doubting his talent, but to become Wales number one fly half he will need to produce fewer bad days at the office.
by Ben Coles