Big guns but no fireworks in Guinness Premiership Round 1

No way through

This could be one the most exciting premiership seasons yet. The world-class talent on show is spectacular: Chris Latham playing for Worcester; Carl Hayman playing for Newcastle; Nick Evans playing for Harlequins. Add to that the best that England has to offer and the result is mouth-watering. All we need now is for the big players to perform on the day.

Unfortunately this weekend we were denied any classic matches largely due to the weather and early season rustiness – well, no-one likes to shoot their load too early.

The London double header kicked the weekend off and, to the surprise of many, Wasps were soundly beaten by a Brian Smith-less London Irish team. One of the world stars who has had a season to settle in, Peter Hewat, orchestrated this much deserved victory as the Exiles took it 26 – 14.

The second match at Twickenham saw Saracens take on Harlequins. From the first minute when Strettle scored from an ELV-enhanced 5 metre scrum the game went back and forth. Late on a Quins penalty from Luveniyani proved just enough as they ran out 24-21 winners. It’s too early to judge any of the teams but winning this match shows that Harlequins know what it takes to eek out tight victories – a skill they would have wished they had developed for their final game last season.

Northampton began their re-emergence in the Premiership with an impressive victory at home to Worcester by 21 points to 13. A second half substitution by coach Jim Mallinder proved decisive as Dylan Hartley came on and scored a try to make the difference. Hartley showed enough promise in National One to be included in the full England training squad named in the summer and he will be hotly tipped to play against the world’s best in the autumn.

Bath defeated their West Country rivals Bristol away from home by 33 – 20. Another world beater, Butch James, was accurate with the boot in the second half to pull away from a 17-17 half time score and Jonny Fa’amatuianu’s try sealed the win.

In the Northern stakes Sale edged out Newcastle on what must have been a proud day for the Tait family, brothers Mat and Alex lining up against each other. It looks like Mat Tait might have made the right decision by switching to Sale as they defeated the home team 14-9. A back line with Hodgson, McAlister and Tait will be exciting to watch throughout the season and they’ll score a lot of tries on drier pitches.

In the battle of the big guns at Kingsholm, Gloucester lived up to their big time bottler tag having had the match in the palm of their hand only to lose it 20-8. The score line doesn’t tell the story of the match as when Gloucester were just five points down they had the try line at their mercy time and time again. Time and time again they butchered their opportunities and with the clock running down, Simpson-Daniel threw a desperate miss pass which Toby Flood picked up to canter through under the post from 50m out.

The highlight of next week’s fixtures could be the TV match between Bath and Gloucester at the Rec. Given the inevitable tirade of abuse Dean Ryan will have dished out after the Leicester match you can expect Gloucester to be supremely pumped to prove their worth.

By Jon Hobbs