Best of the Weekend: Northampton win absolute thriller

Courtney Lawes

Northampton Saints were unfancied when they faced the Bristol Bears on Saturday afternoon as their opponents had won both their home games this season. The game itself was a showcase of supreme rugby with both traditional pick-and-go tries, then equisite cross-kicks and brute power all on display. In the end Saints won as they, on balance, were the better performing pack with England captain Dylan Hartley and England hopeful Ehren Painter especially impressing. But the Bears emphasised further proof that they are here to stay with the belief and determination to secure 2 bonus points in the last minute from winger Alapati Leiua. Definitely the game of the weekend, BT are missing a trick by not showing all the matches on the X channels.

Falcons desperately unlucky to lose against Wasps
At one point winger Sinoti Sinoti was carving Wasps to shreds and just looked unstoppable but Wasps brought on the cavalry with the likes of Dan Robson and Nathan Hughes in the second half to change the game. Falcons thought they had the match-winning score from replacement Tom Penny after a stunning break from loosehead Adam Brocklebank but to the despair of the home crowd, Penny’s foot was in touch when he grounded the ball. But flyhalf Lima Sopoaga missed a penalty and the Falcons went after the win but then threw a forward pass so Wasps had hung on. They now have completed a famous pillaging of the northeast in these last two rounds.

Relentless Saracens dominate a weakened Bath at the Allianz Park
Pre-match, the game was dogged by selection controversy as Bath were accused of chucking the towel in by making 13 changes to the team that beat Northampton, however the away side didn’t buckle easily and scored 3 tries of their own. The sublime running of the untouchable Alex Goode inspired the defending champions to hit the next level, bagging yet another 5 bonus-point win with a Liam Williams hatrick. The worrying thing for other Premiership and European teams is that Saracens believe that they’re not close to top gear yet.

Harlequins get their 1st away win in over a year
Sunday 17th September 2017 was the last time Harlequins won away from home against Wasps at the Ricoh Arena (a game infamous for Joe Marler’s and James Haskell’s new definition of “Watergate”). It was a stat that has horrified Quins fans, but this Saturday Paul Gustard’s men edged a tight affair at Kingsholm. Charlie Sharples thought he had the match-winning score but the Harlequins “gamechangers” won a huge scrum against the Cherry and Whites and up stepped flyhalf Marcus Smith to nail a 77th minute penalty to secure an unlikely victory.

Chiefs keep the heat on Saracens with a bonus point win over Worcester
After a stunning win away from home at Welford Road, Worcester came into Sandy Park thinking they could pull off another win especially since they won there famously last season. Unfortunately for the Warriors, the Chiefs had other ideas and were brutally physical over their opponents with club captain Jack Yeandle and Dave Ewers (twice) bundling over before England international Harry Williams got the bonus point score. Warriors only got a minor consolation through replacement Ted Hill who has now scored 3 in his 2 appearances. For Chiefs, it was business as usual for Exeter whereas the Warriors suffered a reality check.

Scrappy affair as Tigers get a much-needed win over Sale
Heading into the game, Leicester and the Sharks were both desperate for a win. It was very much a stop-and-start game with a lot of scrums and lineouts, this suited the home side especially in the scrum as they won crucial penalties for George Ford to convert (including a 52 metre banger). Sale actually outscored the Tigers 3-1 but with AJ MacGinty pulling out, the Northerners had no real kicker on the pitch and missed 9 points which would have won the game for them. The Tigers will be relieved with the win, however a tricky affair lies ahead of them with the East Midlands Derby at Twickenham next week, an encounter made even more feistier by all proceedings going to Rob Horne who of course retired due to a life-changing injury.

My Premiership Team of the Week
1 – Titi Lamositele (Saracens) Played at 3 on the weekend but can play loosehead
2 – Dylan Hartley (Northampton)
3 – Ehren Painter (Northampton)
4 – Will Rowlands (Wasps)
5 – Tevati Cuvabati (Newcastle)
6 – Dave Ewers (Exeter)
7 – Lewis Ludlam (Northampton)
8 – Guy Thompson (Leicester) Played 7 on Sunday but can play 8
9 – Danny Care (Harlequins)
10 – Lima Sopoaga (Wasps)
11 – Sinoti Sinoti (Newcastle)
12 – Will Hurrell (Bristol)
13 – Alex Lozowski (Saracens)
14 – Liam Williams (Saracens)
15 – Alex Goode (Saracens)

Meanwhile in the Pro14
The Cardiff Blues got their second win in succession as they fought back to get a victory over the currently winless Toyota Cheetahs. With multiple close calls favouring the attacking side, the South Africans got to a 21-10 lead after scores from in-form winger Rabz Maxwane, lock Walt Steenkamp and winger Bernard Janse vans Rensburg but the Blues hit back with scores from flanker Olly Robinson and from Lloyd Williams to clinch the game.

Edinburgh continue their shaky form as they only just beat Benetton at home. They raced into the lead in the 1st half but Benetton fought back with a hatrick from winger Luca Sperandio, however the Italians were off the mark from the tee which meant Edinburgh luckily clung on for a nail-biting win.

Munster give fellow Irishmen Ulster an absolute 64-7 mauling with flanker Tommy O’Donnell getting a brace and Keith Earls amongst the scorers. The Northern Irishmen will be incredibly disappointed with the embarrassing manner in which they lost to one of their closest rivals, especially given that Ulster had a flying start to their 2018/19 Pro14 campaign. Meanwhile Glasgow Warriors rectified last week’s defeat and got the job done with a 29-13 victory over the Dragons, Scottish internationals Huw Jones and Alex Dunbar amongst the tryscorers.

Flyhalf Sam Davies inspired Ospreys to a hard-fought win over Zebre in Parma, while champions Leinster were severely tested with a 3-20 victory over Connacht and Scarlets looked a bit more like their old selves with a thumping 54-14 victory over Southern Kings, a try-scoring and man-of-the match rewarding return for Lion Jonathan Davies will the most pleasing aspect for the Llanelli and Welsh faithful.

What happened elsewhere?
South Africa now press on to finish 2nd in the Rugby Championship after beating the hopeless Wallabies in Port Elizabeth. The Boks again showing amazing defence to shut down Australia’s primary ballcarriers and raced to a quick start with a 38-second intercept for Aphiwe Dyantyi and a try from Faf de Klerk. The Wallabies fought back but their discipline was their own downfall as Handré Pollard kicked the 3 pointers to ensure the Springboks recorded a 23-12, win but it wasn’t enough to prevent New Zealand from getting the title.

The All Blacks had to win by a bonus point in order to secure the Championship a round early, and on the hostile Argentinian soil that’s no easy feat. It was a physical game, but the Kiwis just had the better skillset, the more dominant pack and were more clinical than the home side and they won 19-35 so they took the Championship to the heartbreak of South Africans, who will rue their loss to the Pumas in Round 2.

In the Top14, the highlights were Castres beating Toulouse away from home, Clermont defeating an ominous Toulon and Bordeaux continuing their good form to beat La Rochelle.

Key Talking Points
– Were Wasps lucky to get the win at Kingston Park? Should Dan Robson have been penalised for killing the ball?
– Can the Springboks do the double over New Zealand?
– Where will Northampton finish in May?
– Will Sale get relegated?

By Jacob Bassford (add me on Twitter @jacob_bassford and subscribe to my Youtube channel @FlyingG_Sports)

28 thoughts on “Best of the Weekend: Northampton win absolute thriller

  1. I didn’t see the Bristol, N’thampton game, so it’s impossible to comment on that. However, 1 point struck a chord with me from JB’s summary. He saw this match as ‘..a showcase of supreme rugby with .. pick & go tries, ..exquisite cross kicks & brute power’, so I wonder whether he conversely exposed an underlying issue within English rugby by omitting any mention of inventive or constructive try scoring back play?

    1. “inventive or constructive try scoring back play?” was on show at Allianz Park!! The game which was shown On BT sport.

        1. Indeed it was, still great to watch if you’re a Sarries fan though! 🙂

          I’m still not sure they got out of third gear though and made a lot of silly errors. Also boring, boring Sarries didn’t take one penalty kick at goal when on offer.

      1. Didn’t see it either. However, as Sarries have the dominant pack in England aided by their policy of hoovering up internationals (& being periodically rumoured to have broken the salary cap in the process. No smoke, no fire?) & especially S’thern Africans, then it’s relatively easier to score the tries you mention. They bulldoze through their forwards & suck in defenders until the latter run out. Therefore, they then out number & outflank their opponents, so it’s try time. Fair enough, so long as the opposition play ball (or not), so to state. However, if held up front, they then require a bit more guile, which, was presumably lacking in the Euro cup comp last year?

        1. I think there were a few factors at play with regards to the Euro cup last season. Injuries being one, a few players being burned out after the Lions tour with little rest and, yes you’re probably right, a lack of guile and nous when under pressure in key games. Hopefully if we can keep key players fit this season could be a different story?

  2. Whether NZ can beat SA away next Saturday remains to be seen. However, with a dominant, albeit ‘B team pack’ v Argentina, according to 1 observer here, B. Barrett slotting 100% this time round with his boot & 5 tries away from home, I venture that the omens are looking a bit better than they were 2 weeks ago. The AB’s need to keep a tight defensive grip, but also play their normal game with quick, accurate possession. They’ll also have to be aware of & cut down their error rate. I think Hansen is aware of these needs well enough & although it’s been reported that he’s playing ‘experimental teams’ on tour in this R Ch’ship to expose the ‘dirt trackers’ to pressurised environments as WC prep, I expect him to recall a couple of the more experienced players up front, like Kieran Read, for this encounter. He’ll likely leave the back line alone, although it’s possible that Aaron Smith will also feature. Should be another tough contest, they usually are, but this time NZ will be pretty darn determined to, as they’ll see it, right a wrong. So, NZ by 12? I hope.

  3. A very interesting Premiership 15 this week. Lamositelle had a stormer for Sarries on Saturday. With Koch away with SA and Figallo injured I suspect he may get a few games in. I also thought Tomkins had a good game when he came on for Barritt.
    Goode was the architect for Sarries this weekend though. Taking the pressure off Farrell, linking up superbly with Williams and slotting in to the attacking midfield with ease.

    Haven’t seen too much of the the other games so can’t comment on those.

  4. Come on Eddie, get Ewers in the squad. The man is a monster. He can carry, tackle, is quick for his size and could double as an eight and a six.

    1. I’m a huge fan of Ewers and it’s good to see him back fit and firing and pick up from where he left off two seasons ago before injury. He may well be in with a shout for England particular with EJ’s current penchant for all things non-indigenous English in the back row, with the notable exception of Armand of course.

        1. Yes, I know. The original point was that EJ appears to have a liking for non-indigenous English back row players, which would include Armand had he been picked.

          1. Yes. Realised that only after posting my prev response & then having re-read yr one. Thanks. Heard good things about Armand, don’t know much about him. Much like EJ it seems.

          2. To be fair, you couldn’t compare Ewers to Brad Shields for example. Ewers came here as a boy to escape the Mugabe regime. to my mind that makes him a sight more “ours” than Shields and yes, I don’t like Eddie’s selection policy much either.

            1. if that is aimed at me you are absolutely wrong. I didn’t vote either way. Let’s keep politics off here eh? i’m here for the rugby.

    2. Totally agree with this – he also has good hands and is great in the ruck, something England are badly missing

    3. Agreed! He was at his rampaging best before he got crocked a couple of years back. An able replacement for BV. A heavy carrier with a good turn of speed and good hands.

      1. Like the look of Ewers and hope he can stay fit. Someone who never gets a mention as a possible International is Jack Yeandle who is as hard as nails, does the basics well and is in the sort of form that seems to be keeping LC-D on the bench. Also undeniably has good leadership skills.

        1. Basically, we should base the England team around The Chiefs! i like Yeandle too, very under rated and would offer more than George right now.


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