The form team of the moment, Newcastle Falcons, continued their stunning run of victories this weekend with an away win at Edgeley Park, home of the Sale Sharks.
Sale had won their last 6 home matches which was a record they would have been keen to keep until the end of the season but they only needed to have looked at Northampton last week to see that Newcastle are in no mood to respect other teams’ winning runs. Newcastle secured a winning bonus point with a fourth try 2 minutes from time to take it 32-25.
In the televised Sunday match, Wasps took on London Irish and bounced back from their loss to Worcester by grinding out another tight victory, 21-16. Stifling Irish’s free-scoring backs is no mean feat and a stingy defence can get you far come the play-offs. For me, Wasps are just too far out of touch to make it this year but London Irish will now be getting worried that their early season form will come to nothing as they slip down the table.
In Saturday’s West Country derby, Bath rather spoilt the spectacle by being far too good for a Bristol side who seem to keep getting poorer, losing this one 45 – 8. Bath managed 6 tries with braces from Maddock and Crockett and this bonus point victory brings Bath right back into contention in the congested top 6 positions.
An excellent kicking display from the ever-improving Julien Dupuy saw Leicester defeat Gloucester at Welford Road by 24-10. Seven Dupuy penalties and a Geordan Murphy drop-goal accounted for Leicester’s points with Balshaw scoring the only try of the game for Gloucester. With Richard Cockerill singing his scrum-half’s praises, it will be an interesting battle to see who gets the nod between Ellis and Dupuy for the remainder of the season. This win reins Gloucester in at the top of the league with Leicester now just four points behind and a game in hand.
Harlequins continued their run of very tight wins with victory over Saracens by 21-15. Danny Care put his England shocker behind him to score one try and set up another to help Quins through. Eddie Jones described the Saracens play as headless and said the emotions of the players are getting the better of them. His is a tough job for the remainder of the season to convince the players they need to keep performing as a team rather than individuals in the shop-window. Luckily they’ve already done enough to make sure they won’t be battling it out with Bristol for relegation.
Having lost their home record against Newcastle, Northampton broke a different one this weekend by defeating Worcester away from home by 22-12. It was the Saints’ first away victory this season and was well deserved, with tries from Gray, Diggin and Ansbro. Northampton were bolstered by the return of their two England squad members, Foden and Hartley, and will be keen to finish the season strongly with 6th place still a possibility.
With international matches dominating the fixture list again this weekend we could see some more unexpected Guinness Premiership results. An in-form Newcastle at home to a Quins side shorn of Danny Care could well halt the Londoners’ progress up the league.
By Jon Hobbs