With the return of most of the competition’s International players the stage was set for a great Easter weekend of Premiership Rugby and that is exactly what was delivered. Across the country our Premiership sides again had to contend with the ‘Great’ British weather and they did so admirably and didn’t let the inclement conditions detract from their work.
The action started at Allianz Park where Saracens sent out a huge statement of intent by the clinical manner in which they pushed aside Rob Baxter’s Exeter Chiefs. Saracens were ruthless in their pursuit of victory and their handling was as slick as I’ve seen it all year. This was complimented by first-class attacking support lines and brutal physicality across the park. Conversely Exeter couldn’t really find a true foothold in the game and as a collective were overpowered. Schalk Brits and Billy Vunipola both performed handsomely but it was the all around game and output of Owen Farrell that made so many people stop and take note. All in all it was a timely reminder of how efficient Saracens can be, and a showcase of just they can do with ball in hand as well!
At Kingsholm Bath Rugby snatched back the bragging rights from their West Country Rivals with a gutsy and determined performance. Mike Ford’s men were also boosted by their England returnees but it was the work of a man that hasn’t been part of Eddie Jones’ plans to date, Semesa Rokoduguni, that sealed the victory. Bath outscored their hosts by 3 tries to 0 with Rokoduguni delivering two and crucially weathered a period of sustained Gloucester pressure before they took the game in the final minutes. With three consecutive losses the Cherry and White’s season has hit a considerable speed bump and even the promising performances of Ross Moriarty and Tom Marshall will do little to put smiles back on their faces. Conversely Bath are quietly starting to look a little more like themselves again but have a very large test in Round 19 against Saracens. Full Time Gloucester Rugby 12-17 Bath Rugby
Just a few miles up the M5 Dean Ryan’s Worcester Warriors secured a record-breaking fourth successive Premiership victory and with it almost certainly booked their place in next year’s Premiership competition. The match again London Irish wasn’t the most beautiful of games, ok I’ll rephrase that, it was a dour affair but will matter little to the hosts. Handling errors costed the Exiles certain tries and bizarrely they decided to turn down what appeared to be kickable opportunities at goal for much of the game. The result means that Worcester head into Round 18 with a spring in their step while the Exiles cling onto their losing bonus-point and know that they’ve still got one hell of a challenge on their hands to stay up. Full Time Worcester Warriors 12-6 London Irish
The Easter Sunday service started at the AJ Bell Stadium with an enthralling match between the Sale Sharks and Leicester Tigers. Steve Diamond’s men have been immensely difficult to topple at home and used every ounce of their determination to ensure that their unbeaten 2016 record at the AJ Bell remains. Leicester Tigers’ mistakes proved costly in the end, Vereniki Goneva atoned for dropping the ball over the line with a second-half try but Richard Cockerill knows that they cannot afford such mishaps at this point in the season. A positive was watching Manu Tuilagi hit ‘beast mode’ with ease and his journey back to full fitness continues at pace. For the hosts Cameron Neild had an outstanding day at the office as did Danny Cipriani and it was his piece of individual brilliance that delivered the result for the Sharks. Full Time Sale Sharks Rugby 27-20 Leicester Tigers
At Kingston Park the Newcastle Falcons didn’t have enough power in their ranks to deliver Andy Goode with a victorious send off against his former side. Wasps will play better eighty minutes of rugby this season however it was a case of job done and move on for Dai Young and his side. The visitors had two potent try-scoring patches that turned the screw and the match their way. Scrum-half Dan Robson was sparky and his consistent performances while Joe Simpson is recovering from injury have been vital for Wasps’ successes. George McGuigan’s try put the hosts back into the game on the hour mark but as mentioned they didn’t have another gear to go into. Wasps will keep looking up the table as they continue to put pressure on Exeter Chiefs ahead of them but Falcons may just have a little glance over their shoulders as Irish are now only 4-points away. Full Time Newcastle Falcons 20-34 Wasps
Finally the fans at Franklin’s Gardens and all watching on BT Sport were treated to a dynamic match between Northampton Saints and Harlequins. From start to finish it contained combative and physical rugby with neither side wanting to give the other an inch. Thanks to their returning Internationals Harlequins looked like a different side to the one that we’ve seen in recent weeks and Tim Visser’s and Jack Clifford’s contributions registered on the scoreboard. But, when it came down to it the victory and bonus-point belonged to Saints. As a collective the home side battled hard for their result with Teimana Harrison and Mikey Haywood standing out in the pack and George Pisi and Harry Mallinder providing the decisive moments in the backs. It was another sign that Saints’ season has undergone a sharp U-turn since the dismal earlier rounds and Harlequins will know that the match could prove to be a costly miss in their pursuit for the play-offs. Full Time Northampton Saints 29 – 23 Harlequins
By Emma Thurston
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