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5 lessons from the opening round of the Aviva Premiership

The opening round of the Aviva Premiership has been completed, so lets take a look at some of the things that we have learnt over the weekend:

Bath’s pre season hype might be justified:

If there was a set of conditions and a location that one might have predicted that Bath would struggle in then it was a long away trip to the North is wet and wild weather.

That Bath actually dominated Newcastle in those conditions at Kingston Park, winning 21-0, and that their tight five was particularly dominant was a marked difference from last year.

If that is a sign of things to come rather than a one off then Bath will be a true force to be reckoned with. Their weakness has been, oddly given the personnel, a lack of physicality in the tight five, but that was not in evidence at all on Friday night. Paul James was particularly impressive.

So is Northampton Saints’ by the look of things:

It is praise of the highest order but watching the video Northampton Saints this weekend stirred memories of two performances in recent times; Wales’ demolition of England in the Six Nations, and the Lions in the 3rd Test against Australia.

Sure they were not quite at the same level as those performances but the use of brutal physicality followed by fast, swift and accurate handling was certainly reminiscent of those performances.

If they can produce that type of performance against the likes of Saracens and Leicester then our 3rd place prediction may have to be revised.

Sale look more like the 2011/12 version of themselves than the 2012/13 version:

2012/13 was a season to forget for Sale but as Steve Diamond pointed out at the weekend, just a season before they qualified for the Heineken Cup with largely the same group of players.

In beating Gloucester at Kingsholm Sale looked far more like the top six finishing side than the relegation threatened one. They are still likely to find themselves scrapping around at the foot of the table but if they continue to play with that type of intensity and determination then they will find themselves feeling a lot more relaxed than last year.

Gloucester meanwhile will just be hoping that this was just their usual slow start to the season otherwise their high hopes for the year might as well be dashed now on that evidence.

No complaints so far with the scrum:

The scrum generally seemed to be ok this weekend under the new regulations and proper implementation of the laws. A few scrums still had to be reset but that will always be the case, even in the ‘good old days’ scrums had to be reset every now and then.

Hookers were hooking and the old tactics such as moving the number 8 between the flanker and second row to quickly secure fast ‘channel 1’ ball under pressure began to re-emerge; it was a pleasure to see.

Some of course have adapted faster than others, but it is a year long trial so a degree of patience must be applied.

Goal kicking is a lonely occupation:

It was Kurtley Beale in the Lions 1st Test, Leigh Halfpenny in the 2nd Test, and now Wasps’ Andy Goode in the London Double header.

At 16-10 down against Harlequins and in the final play of the game Tom Palmer scored in the corner for Wasps to make in 15-16, leaving Andy Goode, that old Leicester Tigers hero, with a touchline kick to win the game.

Goode settled into the routine that he must have practiced a million times out there on the training field on his own, he crept up to strike the ball as cleanly as ever but heartbreakingly it just glanced off the inside of the post and dropping harmlessly on the wrong side of the crossbar to leave Harlequins with the victory.

As Wasps’ Director of Rugby Dai Young said: “Unfortunately it’s the curse of the kickers, you’re either a hero or a zero.”

Who’d be a goalkicker?

By Angus Savage

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