In a Premiership weekend of few surprises, Saracens and Leicester both confirmed home playoff semi-finals with wins over Gloucester and Newcastle respectively. Both matches were completed with rather routine ease, but it was the Saracens win that would hold more weight.
In-form Gloucester travelled to North London fresh off the back of an encouraging home win over the Northampton Saints. But against Saracens they came up far too short. The decision to rest key players suggested that perhaps Bryan Redpath had accepted Gloucester’s fate long beforehand, though the manner in which Saracens ruthlessly dispatched the West Country side will reverberate for weeks beyond. This could be significant considering that there’s a large chance the two will face off in the Premiership semi-final.
A variety of tries from Schalk Brits, Ernst Joubert, David Strettle and the fast-improving Matt Stevens showcased Saracens’ ability to score across the pitch and director Mark McCall would have been very pleased with some of the performances of his side. Should these two face off in a Premiership semi-final then Saracens will no doubt face a markedly different side, though this loss would have hurt Gloucester.
At Twickenham on Saturday, Bath ruined Wasps’ St. George’s Day celebrations with a crushing 43-10 victory. Wasps’ youthful side had completed a promising victory over Leeds the previous weekend, but here a side bolstered by returns across the pitch were on the reverse of a victory of similar dominance. Errors were a key feature of this Wasps performance and Bath punished Wasps with a clinical edge not often seen. Tom Biggs helped himself to three of Bath’s 6 tries to claim the man of the match award.
Down under, the Danny Cipriani could not prevent his Rebels side going down to the Blues. Fluctuating form has characterised the Rebels performances so far, although sadly for Rod MacQueen’s men, the one thing that doesn’t seem to fluctuate is the Melbourne side’s appalling defence. MacQueen and vice-captain Gareth Delve have acknowledged that this is a key issue which will be dealt with individually, and expect Cipriani and Cooper Vuna to be on the end of some stiff talks.
A last minute Ronan O’Gara penalty helped Munster consign the Ospreys to defeat, which also left their play off hopes very slim. The requirements for the Ospreys to snatch a playoff place are wide-ranging and involve a few teams, but the Welsh side’s fate lies largely out of their own hands.
Try of the weekend goes to the previously unmentioned Chris Ashton who helped himself to a try that shared similar hallmarks to his great effort against Australia in the Autumn. Jon Clarke began the counter attack before sending Ashton on a straight run for the line.
Bath boy Tom Biggs wins hero of the week for his three-try haul in the victory over Wasps. The pick of Biggs’ tries was his third where he brushed aside some weak Wasps defence, but he also had a great involvement in Matt Banahan’s second try, sending through an exceptional grubber kick from the sidelines.
This week’s villain was only decided rather late, but it came courtesy of a late pull-up of a cowardly Delon Armitage punch on Stephen Myler, which you can see here, courtesy of RugbyDump:
The referee missed it, even the commentators missed it, but don’t expect the citing commissioner to be so unsighted.
That’s pretty much it for this long weekend. As thoughts turn to the next weekend of rugby, where Mike Tindall and Martyn Williams will lock horns at Westminster Abbey, let me know what your highlights were from the past few days.
By Tom James