Irish and Exeter send out shockwaves as Sale’s sorry run continues

What a weekend of rugby the Aviva Premiership has just served up for us! With the season beginning to fall into a pattern of mild predictability, week six gave the neutrals exactly what they were hoping for, exciting rugby and even more exciting results.

Perhaps the most startling result of all was the previously stuttering London Irish demolishing the unbeaten Northampton Saints 39-17. The Exiles were simply magnificent, which is not something that could previously have been said of them.

Inspired by a majestic performance from Jonathan Jospeh, in a timely performance for the England selectors, the Exiles scored 18 unanswered points after a scoreless opening quarter to lead at the break.

They went even further ahead to lead 33-3 with only a quarter of the game left, their backline finally resembling something like the exciting, cohesive unit that Brian Smith was brought back to create.

To Northampton’s credit though, they never gave up, and two late try’s gave the scoreline a respectable air. It will not be of much consolation to Jim Mallinder though, the Saints coach was livid afterwards saying: “We embarrassed ourselves.”

Over in Devon we were treated to another game full of shocks and excitement as Exeter shocked Harlequins to win 42-28. Connor O’Shea’s side looked a shadow of their early season selves.

It was a match that many expected to be a low scoring niggly affair, but both sides exploded out of the traps, sharing 34 points in the first half as Quins edged into the changing rooms 18-16 up.

Exeter then accelerated away in the second half, adding three more try’s to more than secure their bonus point. It was a disastrous result for Harlequins, with Connor O’Shea describing his side as “rubbish”. Exeter, meanwhile, have now defeated both Saracens and Harlequins and are demonstrating once again that they are on of the toughest away trips on the fixture list.

The weekend of rugby began on Friday night in Salford though, as Leicester made their only trip North of the season. Sale showed some early signs of promise, and the excellent Rob Miller danced over early on to give the Sharks the lead.

An inability to cross the gainline began to affect Sale though as they lost momentum, eventually succumbing to a 20-8 defeat. Tigers and England fans would all have been happy to see a try scoring return to action from Ben Youngs though, still short of his best, Youngs was nevertheless a threat.

The West Country derby was rather overshadowed by results elsewhere on Saturday, but it looked as though it was the game to watch early on as Stephen Donald raced over from 40 metres to put Bath ahead after a minute.

Gloucester came back strongly though to win the game 16-10, doing well to stay composed after two dubious disallowed try’s by the TMO. It caps a good weekend for Gloucester, who’s stadium, Kingsholm, was named on the shortlist for Rugby World Cup venues, the only rugby stadium other than Twickenham and the Millenium Stadium on the list.

London Welsh hosted Saracens on Sunday afternoon in their third game against semi finalists from last season in the opening month. The away side had fly half Charlie Hodgson to thank as he scored all of Saracens points in a 28-23 victory. Hodgson was taking the kicking duties, despite Owen Farrell starting alongside him at 12, but dispelled any doubters with his points haul.

London Welsh gave a debut to Gavin Henson after injury, and the Welshman turned in a decent performance, scoring 13 points, including a couple of trademark long range kicks.

The final game of the weekend saw Wasps defeat Worcester 10-6 in a somewhat underwhelming performance at Adams Park. The hosts always looked the better side, but a period of sustained pressure at end of the game from Worcester saw a few nervous faces in the stand before the referee mercifully blew his whistle.

As for Fifteen Rugby’s predictions, it was not a weekend for guessing too many correct scores, though four correct winners was a slight surprise!

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