With all eyes and ears distracted by the World Cup, which teams have been using the first couple of rounds of the Guinness Premiership to their advantage? Full points are being awarded for wins regardless of the fact that the top teams are being penalised by having their world class players taken away for a couple of months. Some squads are being severely stretched so we could see a strange-looking table come the end of October.
On Saturday Leicester finished strongly to see off a spirited Bath challenge at Welford Road. The scores were drawn with 10 minutes to go but late tries from the lesser known Murphy + Smith in the Tigers’ squad (Johne + Matt) sealed the win, sans bonus point, 26-16. If Leicester are able to keep stringing wins together they will be very strong contenders for a play-off place even before the year is up.
Having started sluggishly (again), Wasps looked to have wrapped up a hard-fought win at Sixways against Worcester with the clock counting down in the second half. Mike Ruddock’s men had different ideas and the former Welsh coach rallied his troops to pull off an unlikely 24-24 draw, having been 24-10 down at one stage.
Harlequins thrashed Leeds at the Stoop, 39-15. The squad’s up-and-coming youngsters, Jordan Turner-Hall (pictured) and Tom Guest, were amongst the scorers. Dean Richards always manages to put together competitive squads and Quins are my tip for a surprise play-off place, i like the cut of their jib.
London Irish used the good weather to their advantage to beat Newcastle, without allowing the northerners to score a point. Geraghty has fully recovered from the hamstring injury that hamstrung his hopes of a world cup place to star in the victory. London Irish won the match 19-0.
As predicted, Saracens v Gloucester was the tie of the round, the cherry and whites eventually outscoring Sarries 38-31. It’s not all doom and gloom for England’s future prospects as Gloucester’s stable of young English backs including Lamb, Allen and Morgan stole the show.
Surprisingly, Bristol could not recreate the form of last season against Sale, losing 20-6 at Edgeley Road. A commanding performance in the wet by Charlie Hodgson was the difference between the sides. The Sale fly-half controlled the game well, mixing up a decent kicking game with some deft hands to put Bristol to the sword.
Gloucester and Harlequins sit pretty at the top of the table; worrying early season starts for Leeds, Bristol, Worcester and Wasps mean those teams have a lot to do over the next couple of weeks to make up ground.
That’s 4 correct predictions out of 6 for our Guinness Premiership reporter Jon Hobbs – not a bad start, let’s see how he gets on over the course of the season.