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Rhiannon’s Aviva Premiership Round 5 review – big weekend for Bath & Gloucester

The Aviva Premiership round 5 booted up with a boom under the Friday night lights at a packed Rec of 13,314 fired up fans and spotlights on the enormous expectations riding high on Bath and Saracens.

The key question was; will this be a night of firsts? Will Bath replicate their ‘wrecking ball’ performance against Tigers and be the first team to beat first placed Saracens this season?

Well it was a weekend of firsts – little did we know!

Burgeoning Bath set out their stall early, displaying their ever-improving credentials, leap-frogging Sarries in the table with a 21-11 victory; their first win over Sarries since 2010. Bath’s pumped-up pack and dazzling backs silkily outplayed and outclassed the visitors and if George Ford’s kicking had been more accurate, the winning margin would have been 14 points greater. But Bath powerfully pierced the pod that has so far remained indomitable. The dynamic duo of Jonathan Joseph and Kyle Eastmond bulldozed through and skirted round the Pack to score Bath’s tries while Chris Wyles crossed for Saracens in a gripping encounter.

The all round strength, speed and skills of Semesa Rokoduguni earning him the accolade, Man of the Match. Bath coach Mike Ford said: “We missed a few kicks at goal but our defence was awesome and we scored a couple of good tries. It’s a great scalp for us.”

Saracens Director of Rugby Mark McCall said, “We gave a lot of set piece penalties which affected the momentum of the match. We found it hard to break them down. Bath deserved the win. The game was definitely bossed by Bath.”

Showcasing fantastic speeds and rip-roaring rugby and there will be more eureka moments to come – Sam Burgess – this ship is sailing – welcome aboard!

Northampton Saints are the new League leaders after round five, thanks in the main to their kicking metronome, Stephen Myler. He kicked four penalties and a conversion as they beat London Irish 19 -12 at the Madjeski Stadium.

The only try of the game came from Northampton’s England centre Luther Burrell just before half time, his strength enabling him to beat two tacklers to score in the corner and finish an attack launched by Ken Pisi from inside his own half. Saints led 9-0 at the interval and then Myler and Shane Gerahty played penalty ping-pong in the second half. A little bit of rugby tedium. But on the positive side, looking to the future, London Irish Director of Rugby, Brian Smith observed, “You’ve got to be in the contest at the back end against these big teams and then you need to be able to put them away and that’s the next step we need to take.”

Jim Mallinder said about their opponents, “They played well today, particularly in the second half and put us under pressure. We learnt some lessons from the Wasps defeat that we need to keep building pressure particularly when you are away from home.”

This is a game that could have gone either way – not a convincing win by any means – but a testament to the fact that several teams are rapidly improving, week on week and London Irish are one of them.

It’s been a long time coming but at long last Newcastle Falcons and their faithful fans really have something to celebrate! The Falcons recorded their first win of this season when they welcomed Exeter Chiefs to Kingston Park on Sunday and just as importantly, their first win in 21 Premiership matches in a see-saw match, which ended 29 – 24.

The Chiefs were quick off the mark with one of this season’s stand out players, Thomas Waldrom scoring after just four minutes and subsequently Ben White adding to the try count before Sinoti Sinoti went over for the Falcons. Reliable Henry Slade gave Exeter their third try, but Newcastle countered with three penalties from Juan Socino to make it 14 – 15 at half-time. Socino and Steenson traded penalties after the break, but the decisive moments came in the last quarter of this electric game, Catterick went over for Falcons, with Socino converting and then 11-minutes from the end when the Falcons’ winger Noah Cato scored in the corner to send the home fans home jubilant.

Man of the Match was Ally Hogg who kicked into the stand from a scrum, onto the Newcastle line, which was to lead to the end of the Falcons losing streak. Exeter Chiefs must have been more than smarting on their flight home to Exeter.

Dean Richards, the Falcons’ Director of Rugby was delighted. “People say is it relief or whatever, but it is not relief. This has been coming for a little while…this is a side which is moving forward, and now at last we have some results to back up the improved style of play we have been showing. It will be a real confidence-booster to the players and it is a very different changing room.” The Falcons visit bottom of the table London Welsh next week. Now this will be an interesting and pivotal match. But whatever the outcome, fantastic form Falcons!

Three tries and superb strength in defence saw Sale Sharks beat Wasps 25 – 14 in a shock result at the AJ Bell Stadium on Sunday. Sharks led 12- 7 at half time, thanks to patient teamwork enabling Tom Arscott to dive over and quick thinking opportunism from Chris Cusiter as he pounced when Christian Wade fumbled behind the whitewash; charge down tricks now growing in prevalence throughout the Premiership. Danny Cipriani added the extras being the only successful kick out of five in the first half.

Wasps’ response was in exerting pressure in their driving game and for 20 minutes they dominated. The reward being when Nathan Hughes powered over from close range. In the next 40, Cipriani widened the lead with a drop goal and penalty and then Wade redeemed himself by scrambling through the Sale defence to set up a tense finish. But in response, four minutes from the end, a quick lineout saw the ball spun along the Sale line for Tom Brady to dive over in the corner; Cipriani’s boot now obeying. Just what the Sharks need before they head to meet Premiership Champions Saints in round 6.

Dai Young’s men let Sale in at the scrum and coupled with infringements, they lost the game. Similar to George Ford on Friday, Cipriani kicking the points needs practice but there is still everything to play for. After the match Steve Diamond, Sale’s Director of Rugby said, “There was a relief in the changing room as we needed the win; what we’ve tried to do is not stress the team and put them under too much pressure. But there is a time when the talking has to stop and the lads have to go out and deliver. And even though we didn’t have much territory, we deserved the win.” Tom Arscott is now the Premiership’s leading try scorer. Sale Sharks have left the harbour.

It was a glorious day in Gloucester on Saturday as the Cherry and Whites welcomed Leicester Tigers to Kingsholm. There seemed an air of determination and intent from both teams and a brilliant buzz around the ground. It was a battle of the boot for the majority of the first half with both Greig Laidlaw and Owen Williams slotting three penalties apiece. But once the home side

settled, a surge set in on the attack like a school of Piranhas, darting and diving and weaving through a passive Tigers defence.

With sparkle and pizzazz from none other than Charlie Sharples and Jonny May, we saw the excitement escalate, with both players injecting pace and skill into the game and crossing the white-wash to a hearty roar from the Shed. True to recent form, Leicester just couldn’t cut the mustard and it didn’t look promising for the visitors as they trailed 30-9, going into half time.

The second half proved no different. Laidlaw added a fourth penalty kick to his tally but nothing changed significantly in Leicester’s lacklustre performance. It was a dismal display by the visitors with a yellow card shown to Niki Goneva and David Mele’s last minute try only managing to dilute the bitter taste of Leicester’s third consecutive defeat. That said, what a solid foundation for Gloucester, winning 33-16. It can only add to their momentum and growing confidence going into next weekend’s game against the Saracens.

Gloucester’s Director of Rugby, David Humphreys said, “Saracens…it’s a tough ask but having come off the back of a 33-16 win, of course we’re in a good place but Saracens will pose us a very different challenge. It’s something at this stage of the season we can now go there and play and hopefully produce some of the form that we showed in the first half.”

After the game, Leicester’s Director of Rugby Richard Cockerill said, “…There will be some positives at the end of it, in twelve months time when we sit here and we’re doing well it’ll be because of the strength the lads find now… and sometimes you have to galvanise and you have to use the negatives that are pushed at you to make you stronger, that’s an experience…” Well Tigers are not even jockeying for position at the moment but as for Gloucester – They are galvanising.

Harlequins blew away the cobwebs and London Welsh all in one go on Saturday to send their fans home ecstatic after a few worrying weeks. They scored seven tries at the Stoop to win 52-0. The result means the Welsh Exiles have now conceded 249 points in just five matches and will have to win against Newcastle next week to be in with a chance of avoiding relegation.

The irrepressible Mike Brown got the Quins’ scoreboard ticking over after just three minutes. Danny Care added to the tally and with Nick Evans converting both and kicking a penalty the score stood at 17-0 at half time. Quins even stepped up a gear after the break, with two tries from Marland Yarde, one each from Matt Hopper and Karl Dickson and a penalty try to boot for a high tackle on Dickson by Seb Stegmann. Nick Evans confidently converted them all.

Another demoralising loss for Justin Burnell’s men, who said after the game, “We saw a very good Quins side and we were constantly under the cosh in every area of the game.” Conor O’Shea said, “There’s lots we can improve on. This is a brutal league and the margins are small. We’re going to fight tooth and nail.” Great to hear because after next week, round 6, we will be a quarter of a way through the season and I’m beginning to think that the Welsh need a sixty minute Snickers stop to stem the tide of fatigue that seems to overwhelm them.

Aviva Premiership Round 5 Results:

Bath 21-11 Saracens

Gloucester 33-16 Leicester Tigers

London Irish 12-19 Northampton Saints

Harlequins 52-0 London Welsh

Newcastle Falcons 29-24 Exeter Chiefs

Sale Sharks 25-14 London Wasps

Aviva Premiership Table – Round 5

Pos

Team

Won

Drawn

Lost

BP

Points

1

Northampton Saints

4

0

1

4

20

2

Bath

4

0

1

3

19

3

Saracens

4

0

1

2

18

4

Exeter Chiefs

3

0

2

3

15

5

Gloucester

3

0

2

2

14

6

Harlequins

3

0

2

1

13

7

London Irish

2

0

3

4

12

8

Sale Sharks

2

0

3

3

11

9

London Wasps

2

0

3

3

11

10

Leicester Tigers

2

0

3

2

10

11

Newcastle Falcons

1

0

4

1

5

12

London Welsh

0

0

5

1

1

By Rhiannon Chandler-Day

@RhiannonCDay

You can see more from Rhiannon at: http://rhiannonsrugbyunionblog.blogspot.co.uk

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