Gallagher Premiership 2019/20: Round 5 Talking Points

Maro Itoje

The Premiership got back underway this week with wins for Sarries, Chiefs, Saints, Worcester and Quins with a draw between Bristol and London Irish. We return to Europe this weekend in what is a somewhat disjointed Premiership season with another fixture not till 20th December, but nonetheless here are some talking points from the weekend.

Normality resumed for Saracens

Whatever your view on the salary cap it can’t be denied that when at full strength, Saracens are still the best team in Europe, but they ground out a win this weekend despite not playing their best rugby with some uncharacteristic errors from big players. The squad has been somewhat disrupted by returning World Cup players perhaps leading to the high error count and lack of discipline but they still never looked like losing. It’s hard to envision a team of this quality being relegated and if they keep grinding out wins like this they will be sure to stay in the Premiership. Bath will be disappointed not to have gotten anything out of this game and errors on their side prevented them from making a real impact which will frustrate both the players and management.

Woeful Wasps and Terrible Tigers

If you take a look at the Premiership table after round 5 it’s an unfamiliar picture. Two giants of the English game are sat in 10th (Wasps) and 11th (Leicester) with only the points-deducted Saracens below them. It’s great to see the Premiership more competitive than ever but do these big clubs that are struggling need to shake their game plans up? Leicester’s usually solid defence and set piece is letting them down more often than not and if you watched the East Midlands derby, Northampton fully exploited that; its a problem that needs fixing quickly if they want to avoid a real relegation dogfight.

Another real issue for them is try-scoring, this Saturday was no exception with again only 1 try being scored, taking them to a total tally of 5 for the season, it’s a tough read for Tigers fans. They are lacking in a clear game plan with kicks from hand not finding space but ball in hand doing the same. The likes of May, Ford, Tuilagi and Holmes all have the ability to unlock defences but it’s only useful in the right areas. Their next game is at home to Exeter which could serve as a real turning point if they can turn over this year’s favourites.

Wasps have scored some great tries but not enough of them. Watson and Kibirige out wide have provided the X-factor we are used to seeing from this Wasps side but they are yet to get a try bonus point this season and looked very average against Exeter on Saturday. Breaks were scarce and when Carr was set off down the wing they failed to score at a crucial time which would have seen the teams go level; this lack of clinical finishing could really hinder them this season. The team need to rally together through this rut as they certainly don’t lack the players to be challenging for top 4 and Quins in the next round will be a good test of where they are at mentally.

Proctor leads the way

A number of players stood out this weekend: O’Flaherty was excellent for Exeter in both attack and defence; Danny Care looked back to near his best for Quins and Cornell Du Preez put a real shift in versus a good Sale side for Worcester.

It was Northampton’s number 13 Matt Proctor however, that really stood out for me on his first Premiership start. The once capped All Black showed his ability to find space within defences with the speed and power to be able to exploit them, combined with Hutchinson on his inside it was too much for the Leicester defence to handle. He’s a great footballer which you can see in the lines he runs and awareness of others when he’s on the ball, both of which lead to tries for Northampton one of those scored by Proctor. He’s everything you want and need in an outside centre and expect him to offer much more this season.

By Tim Lloyd

5 thoughts on “Gallagher Premiership 2019/20: Round 5 Talking Points

  1. ‘Envision’, ‘gotten’? Aren’t these Americanisms, even biblical in latter case? Anyway, unfortunately long standing Sarracens’ shenanigans seem to have paid off with their current form. Bath are becalmed. Already agreed Wasps, Leicester ‘worful’, ‘terrible’ indeed! Maybe the Boyd induced Matty Proctor will play for England by the nxt WC & sort out their midfield conundrum?

    1. I think without the points deduction sarries would be 2nd or 3rd which is no surprise really. I believe in proctors case as he has played for the all blacks so you can’t play for another country after that, although this could change if the rules are relaxed anytime soon!

  2. So as a Sarries supporter I just want to take the medicine and move on but I have to admit I’m utterly confused about what happened.

    Is my understanding correct that the only thing that has changed is that the “co-investments” have now been declared and are therefore now above board. If that is the case has this been much ado about nothing?

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    1. The co-investments were never above board and have now stopped. It was the co-investments that were above the salary cap so with these stopping Sarries are within the cap.

      One question is how this has affected the players directly involved. It could mean they have affectedly had a pay cut for this season or (which I suspect) they have been allowed to keep the withdrawn funds from the investments (as they have already been counted as part of the investigation and the club penalised accordingly).

      So not much has changed for Sarries this season (apart from the penalties applied) but next season players might choose to leave for better pay elsewhere.

      I think some people have missed the point on this. I’ve seen some people comment that only a handful of players were involved who may well have stayed with the club even if big offers came from elsewhere. But the picture is a bit bigger than that. The co-investments saved the club a fair bit of money on those players which meant they could spend more elsewhere. So with less to go around next season Sarries may well keep their stars but lose some of the squad players to balance things out.

      For example Sarries signed Singleton from Worcester, he was first choice at Worcester, breaking into the England set up and highly rated. I doubt he would have come that cheap even with the incentive of playing for a more successful club. The question is could Sarries have afforded him if it wasn’t for the co-investment money. Maybe/maybe not. I don’t suppose we will ever know. But they might not be able to afford players like that in future when the books get re-balanced.

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