Get a 24-pack in the fridge, pizza-man on speed-dial and strap yourself into the couch because the global rugby season is firing on all cylinders! In a weekend where the Six Nations, Super 14 and the World Sevens Series are vying for our attention the Premiership struggles to make the headlines but when you’ve got mouth-watering clashes like Wasps v Leicester going on there are bound to be some fireworks.
With no Saxons players required this weekend, the English clubs were bolstered by the return of their international fringe players. Newcastle in particular will have been pleased to see Noon return to their backline for their vital clash at the memorial stadium in Bristol. The match was billed as a last chance saloon for Bristol but they didn’t so much let the chance slip by as strap a jet engine to it and merrily send it on its way. They ended up losing 35 – 3, gifting a try bonus point to Newcastle in the process. Coach Richard Hill was dumbfounded by his club’s lack of determination, he made the right noises about looking to pick up points elsewhere but the club does seem to have a resigned air about its fate.
Four matches were played on Saturday with Northampton continuing their remarkable unbeaten home run, stretching back the whole of this season and the last! This time it was the turn of Eddie Jones’ Saracens to be put to the Franklin’s Gardens sword but they gave it a good effort, eventually losing out 20 – 15. England’s loss was certainly Northampton’s gain as Foden supplied Reihana with the try-scoring pass that was the difference between the two teams. Saints are yet to play Sale, Gloucester and Irish at home so there are still some challenges to come but it would be quite some feat if they can carry this through for two full seasons.
London Irish were the architects of their own downfall at home to Harlequins as their hooker, David Paice, was sent off in the 22nd minute for heatedly questioning his yellow card – whilst we’re all happy that dialogue can flow between players and refs in our glorious game, we never want to see it go the way of the round ball so if the referee deemed there was enough venom in Paice’s words for a red card then so be it. Quins struggled when faced with 14 men and credit to Irish for defending stoically and earning a losing bonus point, eventually going down 14 – 9.
Carlos Spencer was thrown straight into the mix for Gloucester against Sale, helping the cherry and whites win 24 – 17. The signing was a damning indictment for Ryan Lamb and taking his place off him straight away provides further indication that Dean Ryan does not think he is capable of managing a game. Gloucester extended their lead at the top of the table as Irish failed to keep up.
Bath kept their chase up, and will lead the table if they win their games in hand, with a hard-fought victory over Worcester, 34 – 17. Worcester were leading at the break and were in the match until the last minute when Andrew Higgins scored his third try of the day to send Bath clear.
Sunday brought an intense clash between Wasps and Leicester at Adams Park and the return to club action for Danny Cipriani. The match was as fiery and passionate as any of the Six Nations fixtures so far and just a bit lower on skills. Both teams played expansive rugby, Cipriani again showed some touches of class and Wasps should have won this with a four try bonus point. Instead, two second half sin-bins and a lapse in concentration in injury time gave Leicester two bonus points to help them in their play-off challenge.
This weekend two top-table clashes are on the menu – Harlequins v Gloucester and Bath v London Irish. The Premiership continues to dazzle and impress so grab another beer, plaster another slice with tabasco and enjoy it.