This weekend the Aviva Premiership competition returned and round one delivered a full spectrum of matches from convincing victories to single point, last play steals. After such a long off season it was great to have domestic rugby back and with the presence of the Rugby World Cup it was a gripping weekend of action at the top.
In South West London Harlequins started their season with a positive victory over former local rivals Wasps. Conor O’Shea’s side were focused and on point in all areas of the game with stand in captain for the night, Nick Evans, delivering 21 of their 26 points. Wasps Rugby failed to really find their stride throughout, they were industrious and enjoyed plenty of possession but uncharacteristically couldn’t score the points required. It will be up to Dai Young’s side to step up at home next weekend whilst Harlequins will feel confident heading to Welford Road. Key Man – Harlequins’ Nick Evans. Full Time Harlequins 26 Wasps 21
The Worcester Warriors finished their first Aviva Premiership match in the same manner that they finished the Championship with a last minute victory. Tom Heathcoate showed nerves of steel to nail the final drop goal after a textbook build up with the clock in red. The Northampton Saints will be disappointed that they didn’t hit their straps, however credit must go to Worcester for not allowing them to. Phil Dowson’s industry was phenomenal against his former side, he rallied Worcester before kick off and lead by example throughout. Dean Ryan knows that this was only one game however what a way to start the year for the newly promoted Warriors. On the other hand Jim Mallinder won’t have expected to head into this week off the back of a loss and know the Saints must deliver against Newcastle at the Stadium MK. Key Man – Worcester Warriors’ Phil Dowson. Full Time Worcester Warriors 13 Northampton Saints 12
At Kingston Park Billy Twelvetrees scored 29 of his side’s 39 points to steer the Cherry and Whites to their first Aviva Premiership victory of the season. On home soil the Newcastle Falcons struggled to adapt to referee Tom Foley’s whistle and Gloucester were punished them. In the second half the Falcons fired a few shots of their own, with Simon Hammersley reminding us all of his talents from full back as he picked a pristine line however it was too little too late as discipline slipped again. Gloucester will be content that their pre-season form held firm on the road whilst Newcastle have to settle their discipline against the Saints on the road next week. Key Man – Gloucester Rugby’s Billy Twelvetrees. Full Time Newcastle Falcons 27 Gloucester Rugby 39.
At The Rec Bath Rugby started their year by winning ugly against the Exeter Chiefs. Rob Baxter’s side arrived in town and played all of the rugby but couldn’t see the match out. Matt Jess had stormer out wide and Henry Slade came off the bench to continue his illustrious form. Bath were their own worst enemies with a haphazard lineout and poorer handling than we’ve seen from them in a long time however George Ford turned up to play and took the match by the scruff of its neck. Bath showed a spot of character to repel Exeter’s multiple advances late on however they’ll need to sharpen up before heading the Ricoh Arena in Round 2. For Exeter it was ‘the match that got away’ and at Sandy Park they won’t want to make the same mistake twice when London Irish arrive in town next weekend. Full Time Bath Rugby 19 Exeter Chiefs 17. Key Man – Bath Rugby’s George Ford
In North London last year’s Champions Saracens set out their intent with a barnstorming performance against the Sale Sharks running in 5 tries. For the Sale Sharks it just didn’t fully click for the eighty minutes and frustration will be their over arching emotion coming out of the fixture. Saracens were captained by Maro Itoje whose meteoric rise to top flight rugby continues at pace; Maro delivered in all areas and handled the relationship with experienced referee Dean Richards’ brilliantly. Sale showed much greater productivity and purpose in the second half however, like others this weekend, they left themselves with too much to do. It is onwards and upwards for Saracens whilst for Sale they will need to have a quick regroup before a motivated Worcester Warriors come to town. Full Time Saracens 41 Saracens 3. Key Man – Saracens’ Maro Itoje
The final game of the weekend was in Reading where London Irish hosted the Leicester Tigers. It started as a wholly competitive affair however like others in Round 1 London Irish shot themselves in the foot time and time again. Leicester were handed a blow in the build up with Freddie Burns’ broken jaw however Tommy Bell delivered a sterling performance in the 10 jersey scoring 23 points off the tee and kicking well out of hand. Leicester showed more purpose in attack than we have seen for a while and were deserving of their victory. In contrast Tom Coventry’s side need to ensure that their basics stick for with the best will in the world it is difficult to win matches with 19 handling errors. Full Time London Irish 16 Leicester Tigers 28. Key Man – Leicester Tigers’ Tommy Bell
This week the work continues in earnest for our Aviva Premiership sides, round one will have focused the minds and given their Head Coaches/Directors of Rugby plenty to ponder on. With the weekend’s recovery and the review sessions now in the bag all roads lead to Round 2 and a stellar set of fixtures.
By Emma Thurston
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