As one heroic winning run came to an end at the World Cup, another one – slightly less heroic but impressive nonetheless – also came to an abrupt halt.
Gloucester were beaten by a spirited London Irish side on Sunday by 15 – 10. Boasting a star-studded back-line containing Tindall, Paterson and Balshaw Gloucester were unable to carry on the form they had shown in the previous five matches. Dean Ryan might have a Mourinho-style problem on his hands with Gloucester’s current squad – how do you pick a back-line from all those stars whilst keeping everyone happy? I would imagine Ryan Lamb will find himself benching next week having been sin-binned in an altogether forgettable performance on Sunday.
On Friday night, Sale pulled off another shock by beating Saracens 34-30 at home. Having seen Gloucester’s result on Sunday, Sarries will be kicking themselves at not closing the gap on the leaders having had opportunities to win this match. A leaky defence conceded four tries with Scotland’s Rory Lamont, fresh from some excellent performances at the World Cup, amongst the scorers.
On Saturday Wasps revealed that last week’s win against London Irish was a flash in the pan by losing 26-25 to Harlequins at the Stoop. Wasps will be heartened to see the same Irish team they defeated then went on to beat Gloucester but they may already be too far behind the leaders to close the gap on a play-off place – if their returning World Cup stars find the determination to carry on their efforts in the Premiership they might be in with an outside chance. Quins keep the pressure on the top three with this win.
Also on Saturday, Leicester managed to keep within touching distance of the top teams by beating Worcester 28-20. England’s forgotten centre, Ollie Smith, scored the try to take Leicester away from Mike Ruddock’s bottom-of-the-table strugglers. Leicester have ex-Argentina coach Marcelo Loffreda to take over from Richard Cockerill for the rest of the season. If Loffreda can make Argentina the 3rd best team in the world, it is scary to think what he might be capable of at a club with Leicester’s resources.
There were two other matches on Sunday, Bristol beating Leeds 39-13 with a bonus point and Bath also gaining a bonus point victory over Newcastle, 33-20. Bath have only lost once to Leicester this season and are now hot on the heels of Gloucester, Bristol are sitting comfortably in the middle of the table. Now that Gloucester have been beaten it looks like this season might be a closer fought contest than at first anticipated. It’s all about to get very exciting now the World Cup is over.
By Jon Hobbs