Week three of the Aviva Premiership and the gifts just keep on coming. So much rugby, so many tries, red and yellow cards, and maybe even a citing. Pay attention as we whistle through it; there was many a talking point. First up, the Friday fare; Sale took on Gloucester and within fifteen minutes we were all ordering a second pint and settling in for a try fest. Sam James was looking tidy and Billy Burns was picking holes like a bored teenager. It didn’t quite materialise, Gloucester built a lead and then strangled the game (rather novel for them of late) and I was left with a somewhat unnerving and difficult to answer question - why wouldn’t Greig Laidlaw be a good choice as Lions scrum half? Some Cherry and White fans certainly think so.
To Saturday and something a little romantic down in Bath. Leroy Houston touched down with his old mates and was straight back out on to the pitch, such are the Rec’s back row problems. And the party atmosphere seemed to send Bath off in the wrong direction. Worcester popped balloons with a first half lead and looked good for it. Jamie Shillcock, a Worcester debutant, having a hand in both tries. But a canny Ford operation in the second forty put pay to any West Country worry; Bath romped home, Houston himself amongst the scorers, the love flowing freely. And I tell you who is playing really well at the moment: Matt Banahan. Stick that in your England pipe.
To Allianz Park and Saracens pushed hard in an ill tempered game. Northampton took the scrap to the champions but ultimately couldn’t live with the speed and togetherness of Barnet’s boys. Alex Waller seeing yellow for a rather daft upending of Jamie George but most contentiously, Waller was then involved with Ashton. The Splasher turning Gnasher as gum shield bore down on the prop’s forearm. My guess is the former Saints winger got a large amount of ‘chat’ throughout the afternoon; still, you can’t let ‘em see you’re rattled. One for the commissioner me thinks; Ashy loves a suit and tie.
Saturday’s final instalment: Exeter v Harlequins. Bottom of the table Chiefs had to relight their fires and did so through a neat combination of forward grunt and sublime handling. Luke Cowan Dickie bagged a hat-trick thanks to two rolling mauls and an overthrown ‘Quins line out. And then the try of the weekend. Citizen Watches usually run a competition but I’ll tell you the winner now - Lachie Turner finished off a nigh length of the field effort for the Chiefs, go and have a look at it online; the backhander from Olly Woodburn is so good FIFA have been in touch to offer him a high ranking position. ‘Quins rallied late on but you do kinda worry about them; just not enough firepower.
Something Wasps have in the bucket load. Bristol visited the Ricoh only to ricochet around the hoardings and take a lot of restarts. To think that the Coventry outfit still have Beale and Le Roux to add to their back line makes you think things might be a tad unfair. The game possessed a somewhat unusual try to boot. Cipriani’s cross field kick bounced into the corner flag and then back in field; Wade and defender flew past it allowing Elliot Daly to swoop in and dot down. Wasps didn’t need that sort of luck. But they got it anyway. Bristol will need to put this result to one side. A late rally showed they can produce rugby of their own. They will have other fish to fry.
In the final game, Leicester travelled up to Newcastle for some late September sun and, in truth, returned mighty lucky to have claimed a win. The standout moment coming late on when the Falcons not only butchered a good try scoring opportunity (by not giving a massive Fijian the ball) but allowed Joel Hodgson to try a drop kick. Fifteen yards out and right in front of the posts, Hodgson inexplicably pulled it wide. It was the stuff of nightmares. Leicester won when they shouldn’t have (we all know they’ll be top four come April.)
Next week’s fixtures:
Bristol Rugby v Exeter Chiefs
Gloucester Rugby v Newcastle Falcons
Harlequins v Saracens
Northampton Saints v Wasps
Worcester Warriors v Sale Sharks
Leicester Tigers v Bath Rugby
Team of the Week
15 Lachie Turner (Exeter Chiefs) 14 Olly Woodburn (Exeter Chiefs) 13 Elliot Daly (Wasps) 12 Juan Pablo Socino (Newcastle) 11 Christian Wade (Wasps) 10 George Ford (Bath) 9 Greig Laidlaw (Gloucester)
1 Jake Cooper Woolley (Wasps) 2 Luke Cowan Dickie (Exeter Chiefs) 3 Henry Thomas (Bath) 4 Mike Fitzgerald (Leicester) 5 Matt Symons (Wasps) 6 Michael Rhodes (Saracens) 7 Schalk Burger (Saracens) 8 Leroy Houston (Bath)
Written by Sam Roberts for The Rugby Pod