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Rhiannon’s Aviva Premiership Round-Up

Fizz and fireworks were not the order of the evening for kick off of Aviva Premiership round 6 under the Friday Night Lights, as Leicester Tigers welcomed the Harlequins to a 21,510 crowd at Welford Road.

The players had to deal with slip, slide and a serving of squelch as our traditional English weather reliably dictated the conditions once again. But with a refreshing and much needed score for the home side, 22-16, Tigers’ players and fans weren’t left with another damp squib.

This match was set to be a barometer, with difficulties in both teams. Tigers have been plagued with injuries and despite the resounding win against London Welsh last week, Quins haven’t found true form. However with England centre Manu Tuilagi returning after injury, prop Marcos Ayerza back after Argentina duty and lock Brad Thorn and prop Michele Rizzo making home debuts, Richard Cockerill must have been feeling optimistic.

On the flip side for Harlequins, Dickson replaced Danny Care whose partner gave birth earlier in the day and Will Collier started in the front row. Well the Tigers were 7-0 ahead after just three minutes. They played the ball out of their own 22 and quick hands resulted in Blaine Scully touching down under the posts. Owen Williams converted and then exchanged penalties with Quin’s Nick Evans but only a superb try-saving tackle by Matt Hopper on the Leicester winger Vereniki Goneva prevented the Tigers from being more than 16-6 up at half-time.

Both kickers then added more penalties after the break before some good pick-and-go work by the Quins’ forwards enabled Karl Dickson to dart over with nine minutes to go. Evans converted to make it 22-16 and that’s how it ended. Conditions were awful and it was very much a kicking game. But Quins never really got cracking – it wasn’t until the 67th minute that they entered Leicester’s 22! But it was also 34 minutes before Tuilagi got the ball. However through driving rain and in front of their loyal fans, Tigers toughed it out to get the result they needed.

What a fantastic tribute it was to Luis Ghaut on Saturday at Franklin’s Gardens with his young sister Georgia running out as mascot and another full house, as the Northampton Saints sailed to an impressive 43-10 victory over the travelling Sale Sharks.

Saints showcased a sensational surge of relentless rolling rugby action that put the Sharks under astronomical pressure from the word go. Stephen Myler kicked the first points of the game but it was Saints’ smiling Samoans and the cool Californian crash-balling man mountain Manoa who set the standard; providing a cocktail of confidence and fancy footwork. First off, Ken Pisi jumped for a high ball adding an ‘air twirl’ to avoid tackle; hit the ground running and belted for the line whilst passing to brother George, who flew over magically – like Peter Pan. Franklin’s Gardens roared.

The Pisi brothers provided a try apiece and Manoa went one better, scoring a hat-trick from two tantalising rolling mauls and a Sharks fumbling 5m line out to pirouette over as he grounded the ball.

Danny Cipriani managed to kick three for the board but sadly not enough action in the afternoon to showcase his skills. And once the bonus try was sealed, even with a deserved consolation prize that saw Mark Jennings on the receiving end of a handful of clinical offloads to cross, it was Kahn Foutali’i who had the final say to finish off the frenzy as he nudged over, to the delight of his counterpart, Lee Dickson. James Wilson added the points and it was undoubtedly the win Northampton had worked hard for and deserved to commemorate such a hero – Luis. Ken Pisi was awarded Man of the Match. A tricky call – Samu Manoa for me, but the Saints are looking mighty strong as a unit heading into Europe next weekend!

Ever-improving Gloucester got off to a good start against Saracens at Allianz Park on Saturday. Greig Laidlaw kicked two penalties and then converted Rob Cook’s try in the corner to give Cherry and Whites a 13-3 lead. But Sarries came straight back. First, Chris Wyles charged down a clearance kick by Billy Twelvetrees and gathered to score. Then Saracens’ skipper Alistair Hargreaves went over in the corner to help them turn it around, 15-13 ahead.

The key moment came in the second half when Gloucester’s Nick Wood was sin-binned and Hargreaves put Chris Ashton in under the posts. But Saracens weren’t able to clinch the bonus point try and when Tom Savage charged through to score near the end, it was the Cherry and Whites who secured a losing bonus point instead. Final score, 28-21 and another close run encounter displaying the ever decreasing margins in this Premiership.

After all the midweek media attention over their forthcoming move to Coventry, Wasps produced a powerful and passionate performance to send their fans home happy. Their forwards outplayed Bath around the park, totally demolished them in the scrum and at one point, the visitors had three players in the sin-bin!

Bad moods abounded from Bath. Three penalties from Andy Goode and a 59-metre belter from Elliot Daly gave Wasps a 12-0 lead by half-time. With Leroy Houston already in the bin, David Wilson was yellow-carded soon after the break for tripping and he was quickly joined by Micky Young, who tackled Christian Wade without the ball, as he was about to gather and score. Goode converted the penalty try and when Sailosi Tagicakibau scored two minutes later, Wasps were 29-0 ahead.

But bullish Bath bounced back. First Jonathan Joseph went over, then Micky Young, smartly followed by Dave Sisi. George Ford kicked two conversions to make it 29-19 with ten minutes to go and then added a penalty, but the Wasps forwards regained their composure to retain possession for the final three minutes to seal an impressive 29-22 victory. Their captain James Haskell was the Man of the Match; happy and smiling, he described the Wasps’ front row as “outstanding.” It is true – and their scrums were sensational.

Exeter are up to third in the table after their 44-24 win at home to London Irish. The Chiefs were charging from the start and had built an impressive 30-3 lead by half time. Scrum half Will Chudley put prop Carl Rimmer away for the first try after 10 minutes and it wasn’t long before the impressive Henry Slade had his name on the scoreboard too, cutting open the Irish defence to go in under the posts.

Then, just before half time Damian Welch made it three and Gareth Steenson completed his hat-trick of conversions . A weaving run by Jack Nowell then put Welch in for his second try and the Chiefs’ bonus point score, it was quickly followed by another from Don Armand. That inspired a mini comeback from London Irish. Blair Cowan was the first to get a try – Andy Fenby followed after some good passing play – and then Cowan got his second. Shane Geraghty converted all three but they were still a long way short.

London Irish have done well so far, they keep scoring tries and coming within a few points of the likes of Sarries and Saints but this loss to the Chiefs means we can no longer use the words shock and surprise to describe any Premiership Rugby result.

London Welsh warmly welcomed the Newcastle Falcons to the Kassam Stadium on Saturday in another attempt to establish themselves in the Premiership as contenders; but all to no avail and with much disappointment. The boot of Olly Barkley put the first points on the board for the home side but with a lack of defence in the middle of the pitch, it was only a matter of time before assured Adam Powell cruised over the white-wash. A familiar start for the Exiles and Juan Pablo Socino added another three-pointer to the board after the home side failed to roll away and it only worsened for the Welsh, when the Falcons stormed back into their 22 on the stroke of half time and Mark Wilson burrowed over in the corner.

The second half saw the visitors pile on the pressure with an offload extravaganza; enabling Ruki Tipuna to charge over and Rory Clegg to convert. Another woeful loss for London Welsh, losing 3-23 to a Falcons side on form. The Exiles were teased by the white-wash in this match but for the Falcons, this win on the road could be a turning point in their campaign – the first away victory in over a year. Back to basics for London Welsh but will the Falcons fly?

Aviva Premiership Round 6 Results:

Leicester Tigers 22-16 Harlequins

Northampton Saints 43-10 Sale Sharks

Saracens 28-21 Gloucester

Exeter Chiefs 44-24 London Irish

London Welsh 3-23 Newcastle Falcons

Wasps 29-22 Bath

Aviva Premiership Table – Round 5

Pos

Team

Won

Drawn

Lost

BP

Points

1

Northampton Saints

5

0

1

5

25

2

Saracens

5

0

1

2

22

3

Exeter Chiefs

4

0

2

4

20

4

Bath

4

0

2

4

20

5

Wasps

3

0

3

3

15

6

Gloucester

3

0

3

3

15

7

Harlequins

3

0

3

2

14

8

Leicester Tigers

3

0

3

2

14

9

London Irish

2

0

4

4

12

10

Sale Sharks

2

0

4

3

11

11

Newcastle Falcons

2

0

4

1

9

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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