Saints stun Tigers to get Derby Double
On a lovely Saturday afternoon (the 1st in a while), the Northampton Saints spoiled Tigers’ party as they beat them 27-21 at Welford Road. Despite a horrible head injury sustained to Captain Rob Horne 18 seconds into the match, the Saints were a determined and hungry outfit. Definitely having the rub of the green with offsides aplenty and being allowed to do anything at the breakdown, Saints hung on to win the game in a tense affair. Tigers looked to have won the game with a try but it was disallowed for obstruction. A derby double means that most diehard fans will merely forget their 10th place ranking while Tigers have shot themselves in the foot and are in peril of being the 1st Leicester team to not qualify for the playoffs.
In an entertaining opening game on Friday night, Newcastle Falcons looked to have beaten Sale resoundingly after leading with a bonus point 25-14 at halftime before the Sharks responded remarkably with 16 unanswered points to go into a 30-28 lead. A close-range try at the death from stalwart Rob Vickers secured victory at the death and kept play-off hopes alive for the Falcons as well as continuing their 4 and a half months unbeaten streak at home. Sale will be pleased at their comeback and their losing bonus point ensures that Top 6 and Champions Cup qualification is definitely still on the cards.
Harlequins’ worrying demise continues as they were beaten heavily away from home once again. Desperately hanging in there for the first half, Gloucester come out in the second half as an unstoppable force and got the bonus point in the last few minutes. If that wasn’t enough heartbreak and disappointment for Quins fans, England international Jack Clifford suffered a very nasty injury as he tore his hamstring straight off the bone and is now out for the season.
Wasps got back to winning ways with a bonus point win over Worcester Warriors at home. Joe Launchbury bundled over from close range then Christian Wade continued his impressive strike rate against the Warriors with two tries to his name before replacement Josh Bassett sealed the deal with the bonus point try.
A Sam Simmonds hat-trick resulted in the Exeter Chiefs cruising past London Irish to all but confirm their opponents’ relegation as well as a home semi-final for the defending Champions. Prop Ben Moon bundled his way over to start proceedings as Exeter significantly outclassed their opponents before the England No8 got his hat-trick. Mitch Lees bundled over to get the bonus-point and Jack Yeandle finished things off. Joe Cokanasiga did a get a late consolation but it seems now that Exiles cannot avoid a quick return to the RFU Championship.
Saracens put on the afterburners as they trounced all over struggling Bath. Schalk Brits drove over from the back of the maul to start the 1st of six tries as Saracens resembled their old best as they pounced on multiple Bath errors to score. The only thing that the West Countrymen could respond with was with a few penalties and that now leads Bath out of contention for both Top 4 and Top 6. Will Blackadder get the axe? I’m quite sure of it, European 2nd Tier is certainly not in Bruce Craig’s plans. Meanwhile Saracens have secured their place in the Top 4 and will want to press for a home semifinal to give them a better chance of going through to the final.
What happened elsewhere?
Quite a lot on and off the pitch has happened this week, Gallagher Insurance have announced a new deal with Premiership Rugby which sees them replace Aviva Insurance as the main sponsors from 2018/19 onwards.
In the Rugby Sevens of the Commonwealth Games, England’s Women won a bronze medal in the tournament debut for the Women’s game. They qualified runners-up in their group after beating Fiji and Wales but losing to hosts Australia, then lost to New Zealand in the semifinal. However they emphatically beat Canada 24-19 to win the bronze medal. New Zealand beat hosts & Olympic champions Australia to win the gold.
Meanwhile in the Men’s Rugby Sevens, England qualified at the top of their group by comfortably beating Australia, Jamaica and Samoa but then lost to New Zealand in the semifinal 12-17. In the bronze medal match they were up against hot favourites South Africa who had been ruthless in their group but had been stunned by defending Olympic champions Fiji, South Africa raced to 0-14 lead before England gnawed back to win the game 21-14 and bring home a bronze medal, their 1st in rugby sevens since 2006 (that England team had a young Mathew Tait playing for them). New Zealand beat Fiji 14-0 to win the gold and complete the double in the Rugby Sevens.
In the Pro14, a Conor Murray monster penalty kick decided a tight affair between the Irish Province and the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein where Munster had to come from 17-7 at halftime to win 17-19. Glasgow profoundly beat Connacht with a bonus-point at home in Scotstoun as they continue their dominance at the top of the table. In a less enthralling encounter, Jacob Stockdale scored the only try as Ulster slugged past Ospreys away at the Liberty Stadium. Edinburgh smashed a 2nd string Scarlets side. Cardiff beat South African strugglers 44-12 in Port Elizabeth. Finally, it was an amazing weekend for the Italians as Benetton created history by beating a much-fancied Leinster at the RDS Arena and Zebre edged the Dragons in an enthralling game of rugby.
In Super Rugby, Ben Lam continued his impressive form as the Hurricanes powered past the Chiefs in an entertaining affair, whilst the Blues came from behind at halftime to get a bonus-point win over the Sunwolves in Tokyo. The Rebels continue their struggle with reality as they lost at home to the Jaguares, whilst a Warrick Gelant hatrick resulted in a easy victory for the Bulls over the Sharks, the Waratahs beat the Reds comfortably and the Highlanders smashed the underperforming Brumbies 43-17.
After winning the Championship and securing a return to the Premiership, Bristol have become franchised NFL-style and will now be known as Bristol Bears. While Brown bears have not graced the streets of Bristol for some tme, this will bring a lot of money and attention to the Premiership returnees and the name has quite a nice ring to it.
Some fans are up in arms about it though. What do you think?
Try of the weekend
Both Northampton and Tigers scored crackers while Wasps ran riot at the Ricoh but my try of the weekend goes to Jason Woodward’s effort versus Harlequins, a scintillating counterattack with both pace and skills ripped Quins to shreds as the fullback dotted mid-air in the corner to score an absolute cracker of a try.
Hero of the weekend
My hero of the weekend will go to Newcastle stalwart Rob Vickers who sealed the win for the Falcons two minutes from time after bundling over from close-range. He has given some much to the Northeastern club and how befitting and possibly crucial his contribution will be if Falcons make their 1st playoffs in well over a decade.
Villain of the weekend
Dishonourable mentions go to both Tom Youngs and referee Matthew Carley for their respective performances in the East Midlands’ Derby however I thought that it might have been a tad too personal as well as harsh to make them the villain. Therefore my villain of the weekend goes to Rhys Priestland who as Welsh international should do better under pressure rather than throw stupid passes, three of which resulted in tries for Saracens, and kick aimlessly all day.
– Should the assistant referees being doing more to police offsides?
– Should that try in the East Midlands derby have been disallowed? Was there an obstruction?
– What’s your opinion of the new deal between Gallagher and Premiership Rugby?
– Do you think that Ben Lam will play for the All Blacks?
– What’s your opinion of this Bristol Bears franchising and is bad for Premiership Rugby?