Alongside the Rugby World Cup Final, Round Three of the Aviva Premiership delivered us with more cracking rugby at the top end of our game.
For some Aviva Premiership clubs the opening rounds have gone to plan however for others there’s still a spot of work to do heading into Round 4. The Leicester Tigers and Saracens remain unbeaten however both are heading on the road next weekend and at the other end of the table London Irish and the Northampton Saints are still searching for their first victories of the season.
At The Rec Bath Rugby outscored their visitors by three tries to two however their discipline and the ever reliable boot of Nick Evans cost them their illustrious home record. Evans’ ten from ten performance off the tee pushed his personal tally to 63 points for the season and steered Harlequins to their first victory at the Rec since November 2011. The opening half was a tight affair with just one point in it at the break, 13-12, however early in the second forty that changed. Danny Care’s breakaway try, bursting off the back of a ruck and benefiting from Leroy Houston’s fumble, gave Quins the advantage. His try summed up the two sides at this point in time; one is confident and enjoying life whilst the other is uncharacteristically off colour and far from their clinical best. Scotland International Tim Visser enjoyed a great debut and academy graduate George Lowe is enjoying being injury free. On the other hand, Bath Rugby’s groove is still missing and they’ll be frustrated after three rounds. Full Time Bath Rugby 28 Harlequins 38
At Kingsholm Gloucester Rugby held on to take the spoils in a closely fought match against the Worcester Warriors. The Cherry and Whites made the perfect start with Richard Hibbard’s early try coming off a stellar driving maul however the Warriors weren’t fazed and struck straight back thanks to an interception from Cooper Vuna. The home sides’ captain had a day that he’ll wish to forget and it was twenty one year old Hartpury College graduate, Billy Burns, that gave the Cherry and Whites the spark required off the bench. Burns was dynamic and purposeful greatly assisting Gloucester in finding a spot of flow. Much to the Shed’s annoyance Gloucester had their chances, however Jonny May’s second half score was disallowed and in the final quarter Worcester were persistently pinged in sight of the line but penalties were only the result. At the death the Warriors had the try line in sight however Darren Barry’s forward pass will haunt him for a while and cost them their second Aviva Premiership victory. Full Time Gloucester Rugby 24 Worcester Warriors 22
‘It was a much better team performance and something to get our teeth into’ were the words of Tom Coventry after London Irish’s defeat at Allianz Park. Of course the Head Coach would have preferred to be speaking on the back of a victory however Saracens proved that, even below their best, they are a tough nut to crack. The Exiles’ deserved their 7-3 lead at the break after resolute defence however in the end the home side did what top sides do, and won in a slightly uglier fashion than usual. The Irish cogs are starting to turn with tries from Asaeli Tikoirotuma and Leo Halavatau, Blair Cowan’s industry deserves another mention and they’ll be feeling a little better about life this Monday than last. Saracens, well they will move on, bring back some big guns and head for a good old Round 4 ding dong against the Northampton Saints at Franklin’s Gardens. Full Time Saracens 24 London Irish 14.
At Kingston Park the Exeter Chiefs delivered a comprehensive 6 try victory over the Newcastle Falcons. It was difficult viewing for the Falcons’ fans and coaches as their side struggled to really exert any facets of their game on the Chiefs. Falcons’ Nili Latu was a one man band, he carried and tackled like a man possessed however couldn’t do it alone. The Falcons’ defensive laps will concern Dean Richards and although they were missing players it wasn’t pretty. The Chiefs were in fine fettle, their forwards are pumped and their backs shining. Matt Jess capped his 100th club appearance with a try and Don Armand stood out amongst the pack with his ball carrying and physical performance. The Falcons have a world of pressure on their shoulders heading to Sixways next weekend while the Chiefs will breeze home looking forward to showing the Leicester Tigers what they’re made of. Full Time Exeter Chiefs 41 Newcastle Falcons 3.
Speaking of the Tigers, they extended their unbeaten run at Welford Road to ten games and started to show us the impact of new Head Coach Aaron Major against local rivals Wasps. This fixture is one that continues to haunt Wasps as they haven’t won at Welford Road since September 2008. A clinical second half sealed the deal for the home side as they showed their hand more in attack than we’ve seen for a long time in Aviva Premiership Rugby. New signing Lachlan McCaffrey has enjoyed a tremendous start to his Aviva Premiership season, and a relatively unknown pack to most is purring. Dai Young stated that they have ‘a lot of work to do’ as they don’t look as threatening as they did last year and he is right, Wasps’ back line is filled with stardust however we haven’t seen it deliver on the road and that is disappointing. Full Time Leicester Tigers 24 Wasps 16.
The Sale Sharks proved to us all that the AJ Bell Stadium isn’t an easy place to travel to as they beat the Northampton Saints on home turf. Stephen Myler scored all of Saints’ points converting his own try and slotting two other penalties however it wasn’t a day to remember for the visitors. Sale’s driving maul continued to fire and Sam James’ first half try was a stunning. Sam was a late replacement for him name sake Sam Tuitupou and the Academy member delivered a textbook chip and chase gaining his first five points of the season. As you’d expect Saints pressed hard and threw a lot at the home side however the chips just didn’t fall their way showcased by Jamie Gibson having a try ruled out by the TMO. In the end it was a hard earned victory for the Sale Sharks and something for Jim Mallinder and his side to think about heading home to face Saracens. Full Time Sale Sharks 20 Northampton Saints 13
By Emma Thurston
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