Week five of the Aviva Premiership and the hits just keep on coming. Some of the games became ‘purist’ affairs, with defences elbowing their way towards the front, sitting down and blocking everyone’s view but, conversely, we also saw a genuine contender for try of the season (Hutchinson for Saints). But let’s leave that ’til last. Here are the talking points for that water cooler moment you share with your rugby loving boss.
Bath travelled to Gloucester and the West Country duo produced the sort of dire match you take your mates to, having spent the whole week telling them just what a good sport rugby is. Gloucester’s defence smothered Bath’s attacking intent and then, when it was their turn to attack, turned the pillow on themselves. Laidlaw couldn’t hit the proverbial barn door early on and despite all of their tackling, there are just too many fundamental errors for Gloucester. Bath exploited space (and one missed tackle) down the left hand touchline to score both their tries and the influential John Afoa limping off rubbed a fine pinch of salt into the derby wound. Bath win ugly and the Cherry and Whites are starting to turn in on themselves; senior ex-players are taking to twitter to air their grievances. Tick tock goes Humphreys’ crocodile…
Talking of forever young, let’s head up to the AJ Bell where Mike Phillips rolled back the years to open Sale Sharks’ account against Leicester. The try kick started a first half that scintillated; Peter Betham struck back with a neat double for the Tigers, and then Sale winger Paolo Odogwu hot-stepped his way over against the club he left in the summer. Jonny Leota grabbed a Sharks’ third to sneak the home side in front at the break but the second half didn’t live up to the first. Much of that was due to resolute work from Sale’s defence but the Tigers couldn’t get going. Cockerill bemoaned defensive lapses (it’s the third time this season they’ve shipped thirty plus points) but they really didn’t look a threat in the second forty. A second half Halani Aulika try meant Steve Diamond’s men gobbled up all five points, they head to Bath next; Leicester go home to face Worcester.
Also leaving with a full compliment of points, but perhaps slightly less surprisingly, were Saracens. The went down to Ashton Gate and blew away Bristol whose nilling is a deafening confirmation of the struggle they face this season. Two well taken tries from Alex Lozowski complemented this week’s England call up, Wyles snaffled a neat one, and George Kruis rounded off a solid team performance with a score of his own. There’s not a huge amount of nice things to say about Bristol this week, so I won’t. Andy Robinson’s men go up to Kingston Park next week; people are starting to whisper phrases like ‘must win’.
Speaking of Newcastle, their Sunday afternoon bromance with Worcester was somewhat awkward but ultimately handed the Warriors a long over due win. Sixways will have seen better matches but very few home fans will care. Their pack did a job on the Falcons’ scrummage and their younger backs continue to sizzle when given the chance. Newcastle will feel aggrieved about a call on a forward pass that would have seen Will Welch in but too many simple mistakes are being made. The Falcons couldn’t build on last weekend’s Kingsholm heroics but, really, next Saturday, they should be too strong for Bristol.
Wasps held onto their unbeaten record, opening up last week’s watertight Harlequins with ease. Such is the pace and power they can attack with, the Ricoh Arena outfit can make sides look a little silly. In truth, ‘Quins started well and were in touch at half time but the home side possess a couple more gears than most and many of their tries are worthy of their own highlight reel. Dan Robson rounded off a beauty and Guy Thompson and Sam Jones continue to impress in the best back row in the country. Three late scores, including one for Kyle Eastmond meant the Coventry side were well out of sight by the end and ‘Quins find themselves second from bottom in the table. Saracens at the Allianz next weekend for Dai Young’s men; I need you all present and correct for that one please.
Our final call is at the Gardens, as Northampton clawed their way back to seal a memorable victory over Exeter. The Chiefs started in double quick time; a really well furnished Olly Woodburn try and two Gareth Steenson penalties had the visitors thirteen nil up in as many minutes. But back roared Northampton and, to be precise, George North. Having rounded off a neat move for his team’s first score, the Wales winger regathered the restart and jumped on his horse. Galloping through and around the Chiefs’ defence (this is sounding like a Western) he’d cleared the sixty metre mark before firing the ball inside to Nic Groom, who in turn found Rory Hutchinson. Saints sucked on an orange one point to the good, and two penalties apiece in the second half (one heart in mouth effort from Harry Mallinder) meant that that was how the score stayed. Exeter lose again, Saints triumph at home for the first time this season; they are away at the Stoop next week, Exeter are at home to Gloucester.
Team of the Week
15 Jamie Shillcock (Worcester Warriors) 14 Paolo Odogwu (Sale Sharks)1 3 Elliot Daly (Wasps) 12 Matt Banahan (Bath) 11 George North (Northampton Saints) 10 Alex Lozowski (Saracens) 9 Kahn Fotuali’i (Bath)
1 Val Rapava Ruskin (Worcester Warriors) 2 Ashley Johnson (Wasps) 3 John Afoa (Gloucester) 4 Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints) 5 George Kruis (Saracens) 6 Cameron Neild (Sale Sharks) 7 Schalk Burger (Saracens) 8 Louis Picamoles (Northampton Saints)
Written by Sam Roberts for The Rugby Pod