Tight games see shake-up in Premiership
The Midlands derby was played in frenetic fashion considering the conditions, with Wasps grabbing a last minute try to make a game, which was poised on a knife edge, theirs. Tigers started the better, with a purposeful sequence of attacks that resulted in a converted Tom Youngs try, as well as a George Ford penalty. Then Wasps seized the initiative. Nizaam Carr claimed a vital score and Dan Robson ghosted around the fringe defenders at a ruck to make the score 14-10, with Elliot Daly sweeping over a long-range penalty before the break. The pace didn’t let up, with Tigers hammering at the door, but Wasps’ robust defence making them work for every metre. Eventually they got the breakthroughs they needed, with Jonah Holmes on the end of a patient attacking move and then intercepting a wild pass for a brace to claim the lead. Jimmy Gopperth and Ford got a penalty apiece, with Elliot Daly whizzing down the wing for a try. The scores were level and the match could have gone either way. It looked like it would finish in a just draw, but Kearnan Myall latched on to a well-timed Danny Cipriani pass to claim the full five points. Wasps leapfrog Tigers and seem to have consigned their early season woes to the past.
Franklin’s Gardens welcomed Newcastle Falcons for a fixture between two sides looking to get their seasons back on track. Both Saints and Falcons had come out storming in the opening games of the season and threatened to surprise everyone and challenge for the top four. This game had the markings of a vital one, with one destined to battle out at the top and the other left lagging with the also-rans. It may have had the tension you would expect, but it also served up the tries. Northampton had built a 22-17 lead, but could not hold out as Newcastle scored a final play converted try to steal the victory 24-22.
Yet another game was decided in the dying stages. The London derby between Harlequins and Saracens ended with a deserved 20-19 victory for Quins, who starved their rivals of meaningful possession throughout. It looked for all the money in the world like Saracens were still going to walk away with the win, but a third Danny Care kick inspired try – this time falling for Tim Visser – sent the crowd into raptures with less than a minute to go. It is Saracens’ third league loss on the bounce.
Bath managed to rescue a try-scoring bonus-point in a convincing defeat at Exeter. The hosts stretched out their lead at the top of the able with a dominant performance spear-headed by a phenomenal back-row. Exeter were well ahead with 10 minutes to go, with Bath only having a Jonathan Joseph try to their name. However, a storming finale saw substitute Matt Banahan get the all-important fourth try in a 43-29 result.
Worcester’s winning run came to an end in a game they should have won. Sale were with 14 men after Byron McGuigan was dismissed and were down 14-11, but they scored a late try through Mark Jennings to take the game 18-14. Gloucester solidified their position in the higher reaches of the table with a bonus-point win over 14-man London Irish. Billy Burns got two of his side’s five tries in a 39-15 win.
What went on elsewhere?
Wales edged a topsy-turvy game 24-22 against South Africa, with debutant Hadleigh Parkes bagging a brace in a Man-of-the-Match performance. Neither team looked particularly convincing, and it will be interesting to see where the Springboks go from here.
Glasgow kept up their perfect start in the Pro14, with Leinster, Zebre, Edinburgh also picking up wins, whilst Ulster and the Dragons drew. In the French league, La Rochelle edged Montpellier in a top of the table clash.
Villain of the week
Sometimes it can be tough for a chronically indecisive person to pick these awards, but between Byron McGuigan and David Paice it was an easy one this week. McGuigan must have had a rush of blood to the head when tip-tackling when he was already on a yellow, whilst the same could be said of Paice when he shoulder charged the head of Willie Heinz off the ball. Does choosing two count as being decisive?
Hero of the week
Perhaps not normal to give it to a team who were soundly beaten, but Bath’s resolve to go for a bonus point that seemed impossible against the champions was refreshing to see and a ringing endorsement of the bonus-point system.
Try of the week
A wonderful first phase strike move paved the way for Elliot Daly to streak down the wing from 40-metres out. The dummy line from Christian Wade and the timing of the passes made it an almost-impossible one to defend.
Elliot Daly at high speed = one outcome. Fantastic try by Wasps.
Keep an eye on that Christan Wade decoy run…? pic.twitter.com/mN3uFzC9vy
— BT Sport Rugby (@btsportrugby) December 2, 2017
Is that officially the end of Wasps’ early season struggles?
Was Dan Robson’s off-feet steal of the ball the most blatant un-penalised in Premiership history?
What ingredients have made Gloucester a team looking at top 4?
As we encroach upon Christmas, how do you rate your team’s season so far?
by Joe Large