Given the weather we were quite lucky to see four out of the six scheduled fixtures take place this weekend. Only Bath v Wasps and Quins v Worcester were cancelled due to frozen pitches and even those were close to happening.
Of the fixtures that took place, the biggest shock was high-fliers Gloucester losing to second from bottom Newcastle at Kingston Park. Converted tries from Danny Williams (Newcastle) and Rory Lawson (Gloucester) kept the teams locked together only to be separated by a Tom May penalty as Newcastle took it 10-7. Glos had a strong team out so Dean Ryan couldn’t be accused of underestimating Newcastle but as we keep seeing in the Premiership, if your players are even slightly off the boil then form can be turned on its head.
The other shock of the weekend (although not for Saints home fans) was Northampton defeating Leicester 17-13. Saints coach Jim Mallinder was again singing the praises of Ben Foden after a stunning performance at 15 then 9, capped with a try. Olly Morgan’s hand injury should clear a path for Foden to take a squad spot in the Six Nations at the very least. Northampton winger Paul Diggin was also on the score sheet twice with Flood scoring all of Leicester’s points. Leicester will be kicking themselves that they didn’t capitalise on Gloucester’s slip.
Onto more routine business as Saracens despatched Bristol with a bonus point victory, 37-13. Glen Jackson scored an impressive tally of 15 points and Eddie Jones is pushing for his inclusion in the England squad – no offence to a great player but I think not.
If an experienced 10 is needed for England’s six nations squad Martin Johnson will be seriously considering Charlie Hodgson. Although he’s been given multiple chances at International level without ever grabbing one, he is playing some excellent rugby for Sale and was instrumental in their defeat of Premiership leaders London Irish, 14-8. Another England hopeful, Mark Cueto, scored yet another crucial try to further press his claims for inclusion.
Due to the shock Newcastle result and their own dismal loss, Bristol are now in danger of losing touch with the rest of the Premiership. On Friday the 13th of February, as the country braces itself for calamity, Newcastle will make the long trip down to Bristol and could potentially seal their fate.
For the next two weeks our attention returns to the Heineken Cup, another competition which I’m sure will have its fair share of surprises before the fortnight ends. Expect more disruptions to your beloved Premiership teams after that as the Six Nations kicks in. This season more than ever it seems the uncapped squad players will have a big say as to who’s still in the melting pot come spring.