Now that the dust has settled on Round 3 of the Aviva Premiership it’s time to shine a spotlight on a few notable performances. This week’s focus settles firmly on a number physical back rowers that made a real impact for their respective sides alongside an International captain who took charge away from home.
We’ll start with that International captain and it won’t surprise you to read that I’m talking about Gloucester Rugby’s Greig Laidlaw. It’s fair to say that the start of the new season has been a bit of a rollercoaster for the Cherry and Whites… okay perhaps that’s a slight understatement! But, this time their captain took charge and alongside his fly-half steered the ship in the final quarter. Added to his game management skills the Scottish international’s goal kicking is superb, he hasn’t missed yet this Premiership season and having the ability to punish sides in that manner is vital. When Laidlaw is on form Gloucester are on form and David Humphreys was quick to point out after the match that the scrum-half’s influence on the extends beyond the field in terms of his leadership off the field too. Gloucester need to use Friday night’s match as a benchmark and harness their captain’s strong run of form.
Next let’s head to The Recreation Ground and spend a few moments discussing the performance Leroy Houston. Injuries to David Denton and Taulupe Faletau were never in the early season plans of Todd Blackadder yet their occurrence has marked the return of one of Bath’s most loved players. Leroy Houston only touched down on English soil earlier in the week and yet went straight into the starting XV and had a stormer. Jet lag and lack of high-level game time didn’t affect the number eight and instead he charged around the park with bundles of energy. The back row forward made the most carries of any Bath player with 12, delivered 79 metres and topped off his homecoming with a try. Leroy’s presence adds another element to Bath’s early season feel good factor and without question Premiership is a better place for his presence.
Plenty of news has come out of Allianz Park since Saracens’ and Northampton Saints’ bruising encounter but we’re going to focus on the positives and look at the performances of members of their respective back rows. The Opta statistics from the match tell the story of their endeavour as Billy Vunipola and Louis Picamoles are present in the Top 5 performers for carries, metres made and tackles. Alongside them Tom Wood and Schalk Burger also made the Top 5 cut for metres and tackles. Not only did the industry of all four impress but it was the fact that all maintained the intensity of their efforts for the duration of their time on the field and never dipped their work rate once. International players set the tone for others to follow and the way that all went hammer and tongs at each other made for enthralling viewing with none overstepping the mark – something a younger player like Alex Waller still needs to learn. Ultimately it was a great physical spectacle and one that I’m sure Eddie Jones made a note of regarding Billy Vunipola and perhaps also Tom Wood.
Aviva Premiership Round 3 Results
Sale Sharks 13 – 26 Gloucester Rugby
Bath Rugby 37 – 22 Worcester Warriors
Exeter Chiefs 36-25 Harlequins
Saracens 27-12 Northampton Saints
Wasps 70-22 Bristol Rugby
Newcastle Falcons 13-14 Leicester Tigers