The Premiership leaders will be looking over their shoulders this week watching the mid-table playoff hopefuls clawing their way up the table as a result of this weekend’s matches.
Nick Evans continues to impress
A clear gap has emerged between the top six and bottom six as Harlequins and Leicester notched impressive victories to heap the pressure on those above them whilst easing away from the other sides to cement 5th and 6th place respectively.
The most impressive result of the weekend was Quins’ defeat of Gloucester at The Stoop, 14-9. Orchestrated by Nick Evans and finished off by Chris Malone after Evans was withdrawn at half time, the Quins team underlined their credentials as challengers on both the European and domestic circuit. Whilst they are by no means a one-man team, the success of Quins’ season may well depend on Evans’ form and fitness for the remainder of the year which is a measure of the stunning impact the man has had since his move over to these shores.
Leicester’s victory pales a shade in comparison in that it came against Worcester, rather than table-topping Gloucester, but their late 4-try bonus point brings them right back in the hunt for the play-offs having faltered in recent weeks. Worcester now look ahead to some must-win fixtures against Wasps, Northampton and Bristol to help their lowly league status.
Two matches were played under the floodlights on Friday night (who says Friday night rugby doesn’t work?!), as Newcastle took on Saracens and Sale faced Bristol. Newcastle continued their run of good form and Saracens continued their run of poor discipline to help the Falcons to a 13-9 victory.
Sale heaped more pressure on Bristol with a bonus point victory by 32-13, which put them joint top of the league for a while. Sale didn’t have it all their own way though as Bristol went into an early lead by 6-0 only to be completely outplayed and end the match with nothing. Out of the top six, Sale are in as good form as anyone and will be setting their sights on a home play-off from here on in. As for Bristol…even the coach has had enough it seems as a trip up to Sale to see his side lose again was too depressing for Richard Hill to even bother with. Sad, sad days.
Aiding the congestion at the top of the table was a draw between two of the top guns, London Irish and Bath, 20 points a piece. In a classic comeback from the Irish they went 17 – 0 down in the first half then produced a scintillating second half display to clinch the draw with a Topsy Ojo solo effort and a Shane Geraghty conversion. Bath will be steaming at this result especially given Gloucester’s slip up.
On Sunday, Wasps continued their unconvincing revival with a tense home victory against Northampton, 9–5. With Saracens in their sights you still can’t write off the West London boys, especially given the added emotion this season of a team about to have it’s core stripped out, but whilst the wins have been coming their way the performances certainly haven’t. Northampton probably now have just too few games left to catch the play-offs but will still be looking for a Heineken cup spot.
Another full programme of matches this weekend means the English clubs must slug it out without their International colleagues for another week. If it remains this tight until the end of the Six Nations, we should see some sparks fly in the spring!