With all the World Cup excitement at the weekend, it’s easy to forget about the Guinness Premiership, but Jon Hobbs is here to ensure that doesn’t happen…
The highlight of round 4 of the Guinness Premiership was Gloucester’s visit to Welford Road to take on the depleted, but no less ferocious, Leicester Tigers. Leicester began the better of the two teams, dominating the breakdown and the territory. For once, however, Leicester’s Andy Goode could not find his kicking range and early missed penalties cost the Tigers. Gloucester scored an interception try soon after through Leon Lloyd and never looked back, eventually running out comfortable winners 30-17. How long Dean Ryan can keep down-playing his side’s ability and title contention is up for debate, on this showing they will be firm favourites come the New Year.
That match was sandwiched in between the two glorious World Cup quarter-finals on Saturday, but there had already been 3 matches on the Friday night. One such match was Wasps’ visit to Sale, a must-win game for both teams already losing track on the early pace-setters. Sale controlled proceedings from start to finish, Wasps continued to fire blanks in attack and conspired to lose without scoring a point – the first time that feat had been achieved by Wasps since the premiership began. Sale won the game 16-0 and serious questions are being asked of Wasps’ ability to challenge for premiership silverware this season.
Also on Friday night were two very tight matches, both won by two points – London Irish lost at home to Bath 20-22 and Newcastle beat Leeds Carnegie 21-19. Tom May was star of the show for Newcastle, scoring an outrageous 60m try and adding to his points tally with a beautifully struck late drop goal to seal the deal. Bath have England’s forgotten lock/thug Danny Grewcock to thank for being on hand to dot the ball down from a rolling maul to win it for the west country men.
On Saturday a brave Worcester were undone by a magnificent Richard Haughton solo try after looking like they might record their first win of the season against Saracens. Haughton, in my opinion, should only ever be allowed to play sevens because he is magnificent at the shortened form of the game and there just isn’t enough room on the pitch when 30 players are on it. Same goes for Varndell. Saracens won 21-16.
Harlequins carried on their assault of the top half of the table by beating Bristol 24-18. Steven So’oialo perfomed markedly better than his Kiwi namesake by scoring two tries and dominating a tight game at the stoop.
Gloucester sit pretty at the top of the table with the chasing pack of Quins, Sarries and Bristol hot on their tail. Unless Gloucester race away, this premiership could be the most competitive for a fair few seasons, but Gloucester will be aware that finishing top counts for little when the knockouts begin.