With the EDF Anglo-Welsh Cup taking the attention of three English sides, there was a reduced fixture list in the Premiership this weekend. This allowed Bath and Harlequins the chance to steal a march on their top of the table rivals and they took the opportunity gladly.
On Friday night teams at the lower end of the table were in action as Leeds took on Newcastle at Headingley. Leeds kept a flicker of the hope of survival alive by beating Newcastle 16-15, with Lee Blackett scoring the fastest try in Premiership history after 8.2 seconds. Leeds are now 10 points behind Worcester so will still need to win at least two or three more matches from their last five to have any chance of staying up but while it’s still mathematically possible they will carry on fighting. Newcastle’s season is going from bad to worse – after the dismissal of John Fletcher they have lost two from two matches.
On Saturday while Leicester and the Ospreys were sealing their final berths in the EDF cup, Bath took on London Irish at the Recreation Ground. Bath ran out winners by 19 -16 and claimed the top spot in the Premiership in the process. After a mid-season run of form, Irish are now struggling to make a play-off spot.
On Sunday, Harlequins put in another strong performance to see off Bristol with a bonus point away victory 28 – 15. Quins are now right in the play-off mix in fourth place, only 5 points away form the leaders Bath. Bristol have cemented their reputation as a strong premiership club and are gaining experience every time they play but they need to bolster their squad again if they are to challenge for Heineken Cup rugby next season.
Looking forward to the coming weekend there are a couple of excellent fixtures that catch the eye. On Friday night, Sale play Bath at home and on Saturday there is the Leicester v Wasps rematch which the Londoners will be desperate to win after falling short to the Tigers in the cup last weekend. There are now seven realistic contenders for the four play-off places and every match is a must-win for the challengers.
By Jon Hobbs