No-one can defy the laws of gravity. What goes up must come down. For the last half decade it seemed that Wasps couldn’t stop winning when it mattered most.
Well, it matters right now and they can’t seem to find a way to win. Their self-proclaimed mission was to “define an era” – they’ve been close at times but haven’t ever become the all-dominant force they wanted to be. Is their moon on a permanent wane? Doubtful. Form is temporary, class is permanent. However already it is clear that it will take a massive effort to turn this season around.
This weekend it was the turn of Northampton Saints to deny Wasps their first win. They did so deservedly, outscoring the Londoners by three tries to one. If an element of complacency had crept into the club before they were relegated, that has been washed clean away and replaced by a hunger and desire to prove their worth. The mix of experienced flair (Spencer, Reihana) and brash youthful exuberance (Hartley, Ashton) is combining to elicit decent results. On Saturday they defeated Wasps 24-20.
Earlier on in the weekend, Sale had edged out another tight one against Bristol by 9-6. Luke McAlister slotted all 9 of Sale’s points with kicks and they managed to maintain their record of having conceded no tries this season. All is not harmonious in the Sale camp mind you, they have only scored one try themselves and a three point victory is not spectacular against one of the relegation favourites.
The coaches took the limelight at Kingsholm on Saturday as Gloucester took on Harlequins. Dean Richards can be accused of stirring the pot from time to time but you could be forgiven for thinking he’d swapped his spoon for an electric whisk with his suggestion that his counterpart Dean Ryan had directly influenced referee Rob Debney to change the way he officiated the second half.
As it happened, the penalty count in the second half was 8-0 in favour of Gloucester so Richards may have had a point. Regardless, we don’t want our beautiful game turning into the slanderous merry-go-round that is football so he should be advised to make those comments in private in future. Gloucester won the match 24-20 with tries from Olly Morgan and Alasdair Strokosch.
Missed kicks proved costly for the Exiles as they went down to Bath at home by 16-20. Both Hickey and Hewat were to blame as they let the West Country men off the hook. Bath are keeping pace with the leaders and don’t seem to be missing their two talismen, Barkley and Borthwick.
In another tight match, Leicester eked out an away win at Sixways against the ever-improving Worcester by 19-17. New scrum half Julien Dupuy scored and converted the winning try to keep up Leicester’s unbeaten record and see them top the table alongside Sale.
To round things off Saracens thrashed Newcastle 44-14 – it could have been more had Saracens not loosened their grip in the last 10 minutes.
One of the great things about last year’s competition was the fact that anyone on their day could beat anyone else, and it looks like this season will carry on in much the same vein.
The next ten days sees a bumper crop of matches with each club playing twice. Highlights include the top vs bottom clash between Leicester and Wasps. Four defeats in a row is unthinkable but there is no harder place to win than at Welford Road.
By Jon Hobbs