1. Chiefs will be kicking themselves
The Exeter Chiefs have had a monumental season. They progressed out of the Champions Cup’s toughest group and made their first ever Premiership Final but you get the feeling that they may have left Twickenham with an nagging feeling of regret on Saturday.
If you give Saracens a lead then they very rarely let it out of their vice-like grip. Give them 17 points with 40 minutes to play and you may as well not come out for the second half.
The Chiefs did come out, though, and how. Two quickfire tries and they were back in it. Momentum had swung, Saracens looked tired, and they needed to catch the kick off, reset and go again.
This was not the case, however, as they let in a relatively soft try – albeit very well worked from Sarries – to put the final nail in their own coffins.
The regret will come from the fact that when they did start playing, they looked like Champions, but like their West Country rivals Bath a season before, allowing Saracens that sort of head start makes life very difficult.
2. Welsh worries
It was meant to be a confidence-boosting game at Twickenham before setting off to the land of the long white cloud for Wales, but what ensued turned out to be nothing short of a disaster.
20 missed tackles and 23 errors/turnovers conceded are just two stats that will leave the Welsh public gasping for air.
We don’t need to dig too deep into the stats to see where the problems lie though. Defensively, their big name players just didn’t turn up. Jamie Roberts missing tackles is one thing but getting sat down by the giant hand of a static Courtney Lawes in the build up to Marlon Yarde’s try was a sight to behold.
In attack it seemed like two or three passes in a row to hand was asking too much. Disjointed would describe it well. The word rusty could be used but if there is one place in the world where that word will be shown absolutely no sympathy then it’s New Zealand.
On the flip side, if there are two coaches in the world that will be hungrier than ever to piece it all back together it’s the scowling duo of Warren Gatland and Shaun Edwards. Not quite crisis time, but not far away, either.
3. The Fords need to grow up
Without hashing over the inept kicking display of the George Ford at the weekend it seems that the only thing sadder than his performance was his father Mike’s reaction to it all.
Since being sacked by Bath recently Ford Snr has become a one man promotional band wagon as he always seem to be on one national radio station or the other talking about himself and how his sacking has affected his son’s performance.
To blame Ford’s wayward kicking on his sacking is the perfect example of why George now needs to step out of his protective shadow and concentrate on one thing – his rugby.
In all honesty, the Bath fly-half should take a break from it all but the sooner he loses the tag of ‘Mike Ford’s son’ and becomes simply George Ford then the more chance we have of seeing the exciting attacking talent of two seasons ago.
4. England’s second row stock continues to rise
The rugby fraternity have spent a lot of the season purring – rightly – over the second row partnership of Maro Itoje and George Kruis after their superb performances for Saracens and England this year.
The assumption was that this would be the impenetrable partnership for years to come but on Sunday we witnessed a second row master class from Joe Launchbury whilst Courtney Lawes also showed signs that he is heading back to top form.
Launchbury was one of the clearest Man of the Matches that you could ever wish to see, on the same ground in which he was bemusingly awarded the same honour in the World Cup horror show against Australia. This time, there could be no arguments. 18 out of 18 in the lineout is testament to what Steve Borthwick has achieved as a coach but most of these lineouts went through the Wasps man.
In the loose he linked well but in the tight his best work was done. Spoiling and stealing ball like a snuffling pig hunting truffles, Launchbury put England on the front foot time and again.
Let’s not forget that before the appointment of Dylan Hartley as captain there were many campaigning for the armband to be handed to Launchbury, and on this sort of showing you can see how he would lead players into battle and why they would follow him with vigour.
5. Adeolokun gains sweet revenge
The Nigerian-born Connacht flyer was once again the star of the show in the Pro12 final at Murrayfield on Saturday with a classy finish to match his solo effort the week before against Glasgow in the semi-finals.
At the age of 25, Niyi Adeolokun has risen to prominence quite late compared to others but this season he has burst onto the professional scene after many a year in the wilderness.
He somewhat fell into rugby at school after trying other Gaelic sports but he still managed to gain a place in the Leinster Academy.
At U19 level though Leinster dropped him, but what sweet revenge he can now take as he scored one of the most memorable tries that a Pro12 final has scene in many a year against the men that saw his talents as surplus to requirements.
6. Folau hits Izzy new heights
Israel Folau’s talents have never been doubted but his best position certainly has. Full Back, wing or centre?
Most would suggest full back would be his choice due to his imperious ability in the air but at the weekend he had by far and away his best game in the number 13 shirt for the Waratahs.
With two tries, including a length of the field, interception, Folau was involved in everything good about the Sydney-siders at the weekend, and considering he was playing against a potentially large contingent of the All Blacks starting back line it just makes his performance even more impressive.
Michael Hooper also grabbed a brace whilst Bernard Foley also converted all six tries. A warning shot to England if they ever needed one.
By Andy Daniel
Follow Andy on Twitter – @scrum5ive
Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images