Guinness Premiership Report: Round 7

All hail the mighty Leeds Carnegie!

Having toiled valiantly for 6 rounds of Premiership action they have finally got a win on the board. Sunday’s victory is worth so much more than the four points because it was away from home and against one of the early-season’s high flying teams in London Wasps.

Regardless of the atrocious quality of the match overall, they should now have the confidence to pull off similar results in fits and starts during the season to make a real go of it. Leeds and Wasps scored all their points through kicks and the match ended 15 – 9.

One team who will be nervously looking over their shoulder as a result of Leeds’ shock victory will be Gloucester whose season looks like it might be over before it has really begun. On Friday night they went to Edgeley Park and lost against Sale but at least picked up a bonus point, the score was 28 – 23.

Gloucester had Tindall retire in the first half due to injury and Charlie Sharples sent off for a dangerous tackle so perhaps a losing bonus point was a good effort. However, hearing Brian Redpath speak after the match you’d have thought all was rosy in the Gloucester garden when quite clearly it isn’t. Gloucester fans must be hoping that behind closed doors he is giving them a bit of the old Dean Ryan treatment because the passion and desire seems sorely lacking.

On Saturday an injury-ravaged Leicester took on Northampton at Welford Road. Northampton’s stand-in fly-halves in the absence of Geraghty, Steven Myler + Barry Everitt (yes he’s still playing!), had performances to forget as they both tried to force play and let in soft interception tries.

Northampton had the upper hand for most of the match but Leicester retain the canny nous that has kept them close to the top for over a decade, even denying Northampton a bonus point with a 29 – 15 victory. A special mention must go to Bruce Reihana who remains one of the best back-three players in the league. His linking with the electric Chris Ashton in this match was fantastic and a joy to behold.

Following Warren Gatland’s comments about the quality of the Premiership being the poorest he’s seen since he arrived on these shores, none of the teams this weekend did much to alleviate that assertion. In a dour, try-less encounter on Saturday Harlequins and London Irish shared the spoils with a 9-all draw. The points meant more for Harlequins than Irish and means that despite Wasps’ loss they stay within striking distance of the top of the league.

Saracens’ astounding run of tight victories continued on Saturday with an away win at Bath, 12 – 11. Another struggling fly-half, Ryan Davis, failed to capitalise on a late try by Michael Claasens as the conversion went well wide to keep the Sarries bandwagon rolling on. Saracens have developed a reputation for a kick and chase team who just capitalise on penalties. Against Bath they showed plenty of attacking verve, especially from hooker Schalk Brits and scored their points through two tries and a conversion.

It has to be said that Saracens do seem to be the only team around at the moment with that hard-nosed edge, taking the field with purpose every week and playing the rugby that Gatland has bemoaned the Premiership for lacking.

Newcastle picked up a tidy victory on Sunday against Worcester for their second victory of the season, one which keeps them sitting mid-table and well away from the relegation mire I predicted they would be a part of! Three Gopperth penalties and a Rob Vickers try sealed the win, 14 – 3.

Two weekends of Anglo-Welsh Cup action are scheduled but attention will be drawn to the international teams hitting these shores, kicking off tonight with Gloucester against Australia. Lips are being licked all over the land in anticipation of some fine rugby.

By Jon Hobbs