The Sunday afternoon fixture between defending champions Saracens and the much-fancied Gloucester was well-hyped pre-match, especially given the head-to-head between fly-halves Owen Farrell and Danny Cipriani.
However the game was very much a one-sided affair, Saracens were just a class apart with the Wolfpack laying down the platform for the likes of Farrell, David Strettle and Sean Maitland to excel. Maro Itoje was also in good form, with the Lions international bagging two tries. Unfortunately for Cipriani, he was denied the ball and the platform to really to show anything and despite Gloucester getting two scores there’s still a long way to go for Johan Ackermann’s side if they are to be genuine contenders this season.
Exeter get the win over a resilient Falcons on Friday night
In a frantic first half, both sides struggled with composure as it was a messy affair with a lot of penalties, scrums and lineouts. Falcons started brightly with Zach Kirbrige scoring a wonderful counterattacking try after a stunning offload from centre Johnny Williams. But Sam Simmonds responded in style to his recent England squad omission with two tries from close range and Chiefs added to that with a try from Matt Kvesic, however in the second half the game became even more scrappy with chances begging for both sides. Newcastle’s losing bonus point was very nearly wasted by Joel Hodgson missing touch but Exeter couldn’t capitalise and leave the far-North with four points.
Wasps power their way to their first win at the AJ Bell
Sale has never been a happy hunting ground for Wasps, they haven’t won away in Manchester since 2010 when the Sharks were at Edgeley Park. It looked as though that worrying losing streak would continue in the first twenty minutes with the recently on-fire Nathan Hughes binned for a technical offence in the opening minutes and Sale capitalised. However the Sharks struggled in the front row (an area I had highlighted as a concern in my Key Summer Transfers Part 3 article earlier in August) and the destructive ball-carrying of Ashley Johnson and a rejuvenated Hughes (who himself powered his way through four defenders to score) laid the platform for the win. The Sharks will rue missed opportunities and their weakness in the scrum whereas Dai Young’s Wasps will be relieved with a bonus point victory.
What a surprise, Harlequins lose away again!
Harlequins again struggled away from home, despite starting brightly with another Danny Care score. A fantastic try from Piers O’Conor put the Bears in the lead and Irish flyhalf Ian Madigan eased the nerves with 5 wonderfully struck penalties to give the home side a crucial 20-13 home victory with a losing bonus point the consolation for Quins. The alarm bells don’t need to be rung yet, but there’s still plenty to work on from Paul Gustard’s perspective, especially given the three yellow cards that were given out during the game.
Bath hold on for 1st home win
A typical Freddie Burns intercept paved the way for a opportunistic and first win at Rec this season with Joe Cokanasiga scoring again from a lovely skip pass from in form lock Elliot Stooke. Northampton struggled immensely with set piece and the home side just played the conditions better than their opponents. Despite a late Tom Collins score, Bath held on for a crucial win.
Another refereeing controversy as the Leicester Tigers are beaten by Worcester at home
The Tigers are not exactly feeling the love by Premiership officials at the moment, but they will be more concerned about their defence. Leaky doesn’t do it justice, Leicester have conceded the most points out of all teams so far this season. The Warriors burst out of the blocks to get a 30-11 lead at halftime, echoes of déjà vu rung round Welford Road after Worcester beat Tigers last season. The Tigers did rally, led by the again-excellent George Ford, and they drew level at 37-37 but Worcester’s debutant Ted Hill finished well in the corner to give the Warriors their 1st win of the season and Tigers have another two points but will no doubt be quite embarrassed by their performance.
The game again was mired in controversy, where the Warriors second try looked to have came off a forward pass and the referee Luke Pearce not stopping the clock despite Jimmy Stevens lying unconscious on the floor. This meant that the clock was dead when Duncan Weir converted, denying the Tigers the chance to level the game again in the last play.
My Premiership Team of the Week
1 – Ben Moon (Exeter)
2 – Harry Thacker (Bristol)
3 – Vincent Koch (Saracens)
4 – Elliott Stooke (Bath)
5 – Maro Itoje (Saracens)
6 – Ashley Johnson (Wasps)
7 – Sam Underhill (Bath)
8 – Sam Simmonds (Exeter)
9 – Jack Maunder (Exeter)
10 – Ian Madigan (Bristol)
11 – Sean Maitland (Saracens)
12 – Owen Farrell (Saracens)
13 – Johnny Williams (Newcastle)
14 – Bryce Heem (Worcester)
15 – Simon Hammersley (Newcastle)
Meanwhile in the Pro14
It was the weekend of upsets and unpredictable results in the Pro14 this weekend. A cool and controlled Billy Burns conversion lead to a stunning draw in Bloemfontein between the Cheetahs and Ulster. Man of the match Cheetahs winger Rabz Maxwane thought he had done enough for victory with a 73rd minute score but Ulster scored in the last minute and Burns under a lot of pressure converted for each side to take 3 points.
Cardiff Blues responded in some style with a bonus point win over a decent Munster side, Kiwis Willis Halaholo and Nick Williams were a crucial part of an 80-minute effort from the side and they never let Munster back into the game, meaning they took a full five points to the jubilation of the Cardiff supporters.
Heavily unfancied Kings stunned the Glasgow Warriors with a 38-28 victory over last season’s table toppers. The Scots were complacent but the Kings were ruthless, scoring fine tries through winger Yaw Penxe and flyhalf Martin du Toit. Warriors did get a try-scoring bonus point but they had left themselves too much to do. Leinster were just too strong for Edinburgh as they got a bonus point win in Dublin, a Sam Davies masterclass led Ospreys to their third win of the season against Benetton, the Dragons got a crucial first victory over Zebre and a Bundee Aki-inspired Connacht got a surprise victory over the Scarlets, who are in need of bucking up their ideas at the moment with the Champions Cup looming.
Key Talking Points
– Should Halaholo play for Wales when he qualifies on residency?
– Should Harlequins fans be worried?
– Are Gloucester genuine contenders this year?