This weekend alongside the U18 Premiership the Aviva Premiership sides went toe to toe in Round 2 of the competition.
Across the country there were some gripping encounters and memorable moments however none more so than for Leicester Tigers’ academy member Ben White who became the side’s youngest Aviva Premiership player ever. Ben took to the field in the latter stages of Leicester match against Harlequins and kept a cool head assisting his side to exit from a defensive scrum with Danny Care breathing down his neck. It was a critical moment in securing the Aviva Premiership victory for the Tigers and one that the former Denstone College student will remember for a long time.
Back to the start of Round 1 on Friday night Kingsholm witnessed an arm wrestle of a fixture between Gloucester Rugby and Saracens. It won’t be recorded as a classic however both sides shown huge amounts of grit and determination for the full eighty. Fifteen Rugby’s ‘One To Watch’ Lewis Ludlow started for Gloucester Rugby and delivered another hard hitting performance for the home side. Lewis looked totally at home in the back row, playing against some of the most experienced in the Premiership and it was superb to see. Mike Ellery’s try mid way through in the opening half was the only score of the night however had Billy Twelvetrees shipped the ball wide to Jonny May there could have been another. For Saracens Will Fraser came off the bench early and made his mark on the game with outstanding work rate and the cool head of Owen Farrell delivered Saracens the points required. Key Man – Saracens’ Owen Farrell. Full Time Gloucester Rugby 15 Saracens 17
Back on home soil the Sale Sharks recorded their first win of the year over the tenacious Worcester Warriors. Steve Diamond’s men pulled their socks up after last weekend’s tough trip to Allianz Park and delivered an altogether more assured performance. Josh Beaumont, who had a breakthrough season last year, put in a stellar shift at Number 8 showing his full box of tricks from chipping delicately into space to hard ball carrying. The boot of Worcester Warriors’ Ryan Mills excelled from the half way line and sent a warning to all sides of their ability to punish however defensive holes cost them on the scoreboard. Worcester had the losing bonus point in their grasp however couldn’t hold onto it as with the last play of the game Sale snatched a fourth try and denied the visitors anything from their trip to the AJ Bell Stadium. Key Man – Sale Sharks’ Josh Beaumont. Full Time Sale Sharks 27 Worcester Warriors 13
At the Stadium MK patience was the name of the game for the Northampton Saints against the Newcastle Falcons and new signing JJ Hanrahan showed exactly what an asset he will be this season with a stellar outing. The match was carefully poised at half time, 16-9, however when Todd Clever went to the bin the Saints pounced with two quick tries and took the game away from the visitors. Christian Day had a barn-storming day with two scores of his own and was part of a dynamic and purposeful Northampton Saints pack. Fifteen Rugby’s ‘One To Watch’ Paul Hill entered the match on 60 minutes and like Lewis Ludlow, looked very much at home in the Aviva Premiership, scrummaging strongly. The Falcons rued their own reactions to the referee and in spite of a well taken try from twenty one year old academy graduate Tom Penny, they still are searching for their first Aviva Premiership victory of the season. Key Man – Northampton Saints’ JJ Hanrahan. Full Time Northampton Saints 42 Newcastle Falcons 16
On Saturday afternoon Wasps and Bath Rugby battled against each other and the less than ideal weather conditions at the Ricoh Arena. Dai Young’s side brushed off their opening round sluggishness with a more purposeful adventure out on home soil. In contrast Bath Rugby still look a little rusty and certainly aren’t up to full speed just yet, likely to be due to their fragmented pre-season with so many individuals away on international duties. Full debutant Niko Matawalu had a mixed day at the office, his enthusiasm and eye for a positive break were clear however his personal infringement, pulling back Nathan Hughes in sight of the try line, earned him ten minutes in the sin bin and Wasps a penalty try. Wasps were guilty of an old sin, having to win the game more than once as Bath Rugby pushed hard in the final minutes, however they stayed strong defensively and in difficult conditions held on. Key Man – Wasps’ Nathan Hughes. Full Time Wasps 16 Wasps Bath Rugby 9
The Exeter Chiefs returned home with a bang as they brushed aside London Irish at Sandy Park. The Chiefs’ looked comfortable throughout and their free flowing attacking approach was delightful to watch. Jack Nowell looked hungrier than I’ve seen him before and it was his electric reactions and pace that delivered two tries for the home side with the latter a length of the field solo score. It was another reminder that the Exeter Chiefs mean business this season and that it will take something special to beat them at home. London Irish had a slow start to the match and again managed to shoot themselves in the foot on a number of occasions with poor handling. Blair Cowen’s introduction at half time added greater purpose and Tom Coventry will be pleased with the output Brendan McKibbin at scrum half however he still has plenty to work on at Sunbury. Key Man – Exeter Chiefs’ Jack Nowell. Full Time Exeter Chiefs 38 London Irish 11
At Welford Road the whistle of referee Tom Foley dominated much of the match between the Leicester Tigers and Harlequins and left Conor O’Shea a little perturbed at full time. The first half was a tight affair with both fly halves showing their perfect radars and it could have continued that way for the eighty had it not been for Harlequins’ bench. The visitors unloaded Danny Care, Nick Easter and Joe Marler on 50 minutes and subsequently enjoyed 93% of possession for the next 10 minutes, however 3 points was their only profit. With ten minutes to go Laurence Pearce scored a trademark Leicester forwards’ try and Owen Williams cooly converted to take a marginal lead. However Harlequins certainly weren’t finished, they pressed and even turned down an opportunity to draw the game but just couldn’t get themselves over the line. With two minutes to go the coolness of character showed by Denstone College man Ben White was superb. Ben took control on his own put in and assisted to deliver the perfect exit strategy with England scrum half Danny Care breathing down his neck. The young man’s coolness under pressure capped a good day for the Leicester Tigers and a positive opening at Welford Road. Man Of The Moment – Leicester Tigers’ Tommy Bell. Full Time Leicester Tigers 22 Harlequins 19
By Emma Thurston
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