Best Of The Weekend: Movers And Shakers In Premiership

Elliot Daly

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.

Discussion points

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

19 thoughts on “Best Of The Weekend: Movers And Shakers In Premiership

  1. Not sure it is our place to question events that the ref sees and chooses to ignore. There were many things he ignored to let the game run at the high pace it ran. I was listening on reflink and he clearly said he saw it and it was OK by him (as he did with other things, telling the TMO to just let him get on with it). In this beautiful game of ours, we cannot question a ref in this way without going down a dark road that the round ball game took to total disrespect for the sirs. His decision appeared to be that there was no ruck and no tackle made at that point.

    1. Trevor N
      Don’t see why refs shouldn’t be ?ed. What is their job other than to officiate by applying the rules. If they were CONSISTENT in doing so, then everyone ought to be clearer & know where they stand. Is it a ref’s job to ‘make’ a game flow? And I recall the yellows applied to the recent SH teams v the NH in the HI’s, in respect of consistency? I hope that all games flow, but 1/2 the time it seems to me that refs are arbitrary in what they ‘choose’ to ‘see’ or not. They also appear to spend much of their time ‘coaching’ players not to transgress. Tricky job for sure & I’m not sure I’d like to try it (might end up giving myself a yellow for abusing the b******s!), but OTOH no one puts a gun to refs’ heads to make them do the job. WR don’t help with pointless tinkering; e.g. whereby the 1/2 now stands adjacent to his fr row to ensure continued crooked feeds!? What’s the point, but that’s another story? if the refs warrant respect, then the captains only should ACTUALLY address them.. & this could be adhered to by refs’ awarding continued 10 yrd pens until the transgressors shut up?

      1. On the pitch, it should be the two captains only. However … that assumes that the captain is anywhere near the ref. I recall one game where a player asks the ref to stop the game, the ref replies only the captain speaks … to which the unlucky player replies, that’s him on the ground over there, spark out.

        It’s a hard call, but the rules are quite clear, for now; the ref’s decision is final. After the game, I guess the ref is open to criticism, but ask Steve Diamond how well that goes.

        If we stop for all infractions, as some refs do, the game will be stop/start and last an hour longer. Welcome to American Football, who decided to make it even worse with a ton of refs, causing more stoppages, all for the sake of advertising revenue.

        What we want is equal treatment of both sides. That often does not happen, as one side may be ‘playing the ref’, or for any other reason.

        Now, don’t get me wrong, I have seen some appalling sirs in my time, sadly some are still AP refs. One can hope that quality will come through, like Christophe Ridley, who had a great first match two weeks ago. More of that please.

        1. “if the refs warrant respect, then the captains only should ACTUALLY address them.. & this could be adhered to by refs’ awarding continued 10 yrd pens until the transgressors shut up?”

          I don’t often agree with Don P but he’s hit the nail bang on the head here.

          It’s no coincidence that the increase in the questioning of the ref has come about at the same time as the amount of 10yrd penalties awarded for backchat has decreased.

          It’s a rot that has set in over the last few years, with refs seemingly allowing questioning by all and sundry and even in some cases, reasoning with players who complain about decisions, rather than laying down the law. Too many refs are treating the players like their mates rather than the teams they are meant to be adjudicating.

          To a large extent it’s a mess that the referees have made themselves.

          If WR wants to do something useful it can instruct the refs to follow Don P’s advice. Multiple 10yd penalties (with yellow cards for persistent offending) given against the likes of Aaron Smith, Owen Farrell, Dan Biggar, etc, etc would put a stop to it sharpish .

  2. Another question worth asking; are Gloucester finally a force? It feels like most seasons you see their signings and start thinking they’ll be in the mix this year, before going on to completely underwhelm.

    But, 2nd in the table with 7 wins from 10 games is as good of a start as I can remember in recent years. Top 4 contenders for once?

    It looks more competitive than ever this year. For the past few years there has been really just 5 teams each time thinking they can actually get to the play offs come January. Looking now though at the table, there is probably more like 8 sides thinking they can?

    1. Jacob. Gloucester have certainly got their act together this year == good coaching (and Exeter have kept the mojo they had at the end of last year). One might ask why the teams behind them are not doing so well with 10 rounds gone. The only other team that slowly seems to be clicking is Wasps, who started badly (despite the early two wins, in which they played quite poorly). There are (excluding Wasps, Irish, Worcester, Gloucester and Exeter) seven teams who simply are not consistent. Ask why? I think the new breakdown rules have caused a lot of problems. They have hurt teams like Northampton, Saracens and Bath particularly hard. Where players like Itoje used to get up to all sort in the ruck, they now can’t, and that starves their backs of ball, and when they do get the ball, they now face a more populated wall of defenders. In particular, and Kudos to them for doing it, Gloucester quickly adapted over the summer and have built on the strengths they do have to make this new style of game ‘theirs’.

      I am sure the other teams will adapt, but to do so, you need a newer style of player in the ruck. We are going to see teams bringing in players like Wasps have. New youngsters like Jack Willis, signings like Carr and Shields. Nathan Hughes has changed his style already. These are faster, more mobile back rows, but also capable of big hit tackles in defence. Across the Prem, we are going to see these newer model of back rows scoring tries regularly. Just look at Nizaam Carr for Wasps. Hardly any training with the team (relatively speaking), he slots in and scores 3 tries in four games and gets a MOTM. When Jack Willis comes on as a replacement, he has an electric effect. Gloucester have this now. I see the top 4 this year as Exeter #1, Sarries #4 and Wasps and Gloucester in #2 and #3. As to which way around? I will decide after they play in other in round 11, on 23 December. That is going to a match to watch.

      1. I’m not sure it is totally down to the breakdown rules but I see your point. Sarries should start getting their mojo back once all their Englands guys are back in and clicking. I can’t help but think those Sarries/England/Lions stand out players have just been a big flogged at the moment!

        Saints I think just had a pretty average squad to be honest – their back line lacks direction and their pack lacks carriers. Leicester have new 10/12 pairing and their back row also lacks ballast which is affecting their consistency.

        Realistically, I just think that there are 8 sides going into the season believing they can be in the top 4 so you’re consistently on a string of tough fixtures.

        On the top 4, I don’t disagree but I wouldn’t discount Leicester or Quins at this point.

  3. What went on elsewhere: Coventry RFC continue their dominance at the top of National League 1 making it 14 from 14 with an away win at Rosslyn Park RFC.

    Including last season that makes an impressive 22 competitive game winning streak for Coventry.

  4. Villain of the week could have been Clive Lewis for disallowing a perfectly good Quins try and not referring to his TMO. However, as a Quins fan I thought the hassle he got from the players for that poor decision was completely unacceptable and should have been penalised. Trevor is
    right, we do not want players acting like footballers. The new scrummage law is predictably turning into complete farce with scrum halves standing next to their own prop and still feeding it crooked. If the scrum cannot be made a fair competition there is not much point in having it. We can all play rugby league instead. Straight feed down the middle and both hookers striking to win the ball would be refreshing.

    1. Totally agree Andy, in a recent game I saw the ref pinged one side for feeding the scrum, yet it wasn’t any different to any other scrum during that or any other game played in living memory.

      1. I thought that the way Farrell was in the ref’s ear all game was appalling. He was totally out of order doing that.

        However, one thing when the ref sees something and makes a decision, but no way could he see whether it was grounded or not, so 100% should have gone to the TMO. But, at the end of the day, that’s how it goes. It is rugby and you move on. No Steve Diamond-esque hissy fits.

  5. Glos look like they are going to be the real deal this season. Interesting points made regarding back rows. At the start of this season Glos starting back row was Rowan (traditional 7), Moriarty (traditional 6 (albeit injured)) and Morgan (traditional 8). They are now playing Ackermann, Ludlow and Polledri who I all maybe somewhat erroneously think of as 6.5 clones. Huge number of tackles with some good runs thrown in for good measure. All very mobile. Is this the new breed of backrow forward? Not doing Glos any harm at the moment. Average age 22 as well. There are good arguments to say that none of the first three would be first choice anymore. However having said all of that, it is Ackermann senior who has made the difference with good coaching and man management.

    1. Precisely so. I like the description. All play 6.5. That does indeed appear to be the key, coupled with highly mobile locks.

    1. I think we are already seeing the less heavy more mobile locks in players like Launchbury and Itoje, and others like them. But they never quite seem nimble enough. But getting that way. Having said that, assuming he appears at some time in the future, Wasps have acquired a prop who plays both tight and loose, and is tall enough as a lock; Langley. He was 6’3″ when he was 22, but he is still growing I think (might be 6’4″ or 6’5″ now, who knows?). Looks like a Pacific Islander, but hails from Essex. Handy in the lineout, scrum and agile enough to defend the channel around the scrum. Interesting to see how, as the game evolves, so do the players being picked.

      1. Launchbury is hefty 19st 3lbs, so not sure I’d count him as less heavy. Still need the weight for the scrum. Got an amazing engine though.

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