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Rhiannon’s Aviva Premiership Round Up – Round 14

With the RBS Six Nations inevitably taking centre stage, it was perfect timing as we headed into Round 14 of the Aviva Premiership, for those players who possibly go unnoticed, to take centre-stage … and shine!  

And as for those playing for England, who are usually at the core of their clubs’ weekly success, I’m sure it reaffirmed for Stuart Lancaster why most of them should again be picked in this crucial Rugby World Cup Year.

So our attention turns to the Aviva Premiership rugby this weekend and in my opinion, the side who really shone, were the Saracens.  

A side who you could’ve described in recent weeks as misplacing their mojo but they were back with a vengeance and blimey didn’t they do a sterling job demolishing Bath’s set piece?  Quite frankly, they ran rings around their visitors, for easily two-thirds of the game.  And it looked like game over for Bath until Semesa Rokoduguni put his foot on the gas, accelerating the second-placed side to within 10 points reach of the Saracens – but it was too little too late – as the whistle blew to a 34-24 final score.  Disappointing for Mike Ford but he is a positive and pragmatic coach who will quickly address the errors in this match, and they are still a healthy second in the table with four points clear.

As the whistle blew at Welford Road on Friday night, there was undoubtedly only one man who’d stolen the limelight in front of his former club Gloucester, Freddie Burns.  The pitch conditions were poor and it was a constant high-ball kicking game but Freddie Burns held his nerve converting six penalties; while brother Billy made his Premiership debut for Gloucester at full-back.  A great spectacle to see; these two brothers making a real impact this weekend.  

As for the game itself, with both teams all evens at nine at half-time, I thought it could’ve gone either way but the Tigers stood firm on their slippery, slidey home turf.   With the 16th man in full voice – dare I say it – Leicester looked like they’d sprung back into action and when it mattered most too!  But this game saw no tries and even though Tigers go down the table with no bonus point this week, I’m sure Richard Cockerill will be a happy chappy as his team begin to bounce back.  Full-time 18-15. 

Whilst on the other side of the Midlands, there was a rugby match, which Jim Mallinder described as Saints’ worst performance to date, despite the win over London Irish at Franklin’s Gardens.  Well he’s the boss, however there were glimpses of pure genius from the likes of Ken Pisi, who off a chip from Stephen Myler, achieved a magical touch down one handed in the corner for the Saints.  Even with Sam Dickinson scoring from a maul, it was a rather disjointed performance from the Aviva Premiership Champions.  

There was also a collective sigh of relief from Northampton fans when referee Andrew Smalley concluded that London Irish’s ball was spilt forward in what looked to be the final try of the game, enabling the Saints to scrape a marginal 15-9 win.  Are Northampton having a mid-season (mid-life) crisis? Well if they are, it’ll be wise to go back to the drawing board to focus, especially with top teams like Leicester and Saracens finding their form.

Now to a side who have already found their form, Exeter Chiefs, who still really are the dark horses of this competition for me.   They’ve managed to come away from Round 14 somewhat unscathed and with their lack of players away on England duty, it begs the question; can this team go the whole hog and leapfrog the likes of Bath?  Well, I think they can.  It was an impeccable performance on Saturday as the Chiefs welcomed the Newcastle Falcons to Sandy Park and for now they’ll be pleased with the 46-17 victory on home turf.  After their performances, two men who still get my vote for the England jersey are Mr Jack Nowell and Henry Slade – they were sensational.  As it stands for Exeter – who are firmly in their comfort zone at the moment – I’ll be intrigued to see how these next two fixtures – away to Harlequins and at home to Bath – place them; but for now, well done Chiefs you’re looking mighty powerful.  

As are Wasps – who are back to winning ways – Whoohoo!!  Another sublime showcase at the Ricoh Arena with over 16,000 in attendance to see this fresh and exciting home side stir things up from the outset and see in a comfortable 37-6 win over the Harlequins:  Who, may I add seemed seriously shaky with a lack of structure in their set piece and defence.  Conor O’Shea, can you shed light on this?  That aside, the Wasps boys are on fire and I can’t see anyone dampening this out, anytime soon.  That said, travelling up to Newcastle to take on the Falcons will be tough, and a true testament of their strength and capability if they can pull off the win, good luck Wasps!

But back at the Kassam Stadium and London Welsh still haven’t managed to pull off a win.  A frustratingly mammoth 12-52 defeat to the Sale Sharks, who racked up a truly impressive eight tries against the powerless Exiles to move them into sixth spot in the Premiership table. What an impressive performance from the Sharks!  Unfortunately for London Welsh, that in itself just sums up what in all honesty has been a really tough season for Justin Burnell and his men.  A very heavy reality pill to swallow. 

Overall, reflecting on this weekend’s action, I’d say the teams to watch out for as we head into Round 15 are; Saracens, Exeter, Leicester and Wasps. With only eight points separating these teams, it really is all to play for. 

Aviva Premiership Round 14 Results:

Exeter Chiefs 46-17 Newcastle Falcons

Leicester Tigers 18-15 Gloucester

London Welsh 12-52 Sale Sharks

Northampton Saints 15-9 London Irish

Saracens 34-24 Bath

Wasps 37-6 Harlequins

Aviva Premiership Table

Pos

Team

P

W

D

L

BP

Points

1

Northampton Saints

14

11

0

3

8

52

2

Bath

14

10

0

4

7

47

3

Saracens

14

9

1

4

5

43

4

Wasps

14

8

0

6

9

41

5

Exeter Chiefs

14

8

0

6

8

40

6

Sale Sharks

14

8

0

6

7

39

7

Leicester Tigers

14

8

1

5

5

39

8

Harlequins

14

7

0

7

6

34

9

Gloucester

14

6

0

8

6

30

10

London Irish

14

4

0

10

6

22

11

Newcastle Falcons

14

4

0

10

5

21

12

London Welsh

14

0

0

14

1

1

By Rhiannon Chandler-Day

@RhiannonCDay

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

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