The Christmas and New Year period has seen the opening four rounds of the U18 Academy League take place, and there are three more rounds to come ahead of finals day in mid-February.
At this point the tale is one that is very similar to last season, with Leicester Tigers, the reigning champions, in charge in the Northern Conference and Gloucester at the top of the tree in the Southern Conference, though Harlequins are proving tough competitors.
Leicester Tigers beat the much celebrated Sale Sharks academy at the weekend but it was an incredibly tough game, finishing 27-24 in Leicester’s favour after a really top tussle. It was Tigers’ fourth win from four, leaving them ten points clear of the Wasps and Newcastle in second and third respectively, while Sale currently sit fourth.
Both Wasps and Newcastle Falcons picked up impressive victories over the weekend to keep them just about in tough with Leicester. Newcastle were on form to beat Northampton Saints, whose only win came last week against the winless Worcester. Newcastle secured a 41-10 win to make it two wins from four.
Wasps have the same record thanks to a brilliant 50-5 victory away at Yorkshire Carnegie, who are without a win since their opening round victory over Worcester Warriors, though they did draw with Sale Sharks in Round two.
It was a key weekend at the top of the Southern Conference in round 4 as the two unbeaten sides, Gloucester and Harlequins. Both have been sensational so far and were again at the weekend, but home advantage perhaps just helped out Gloucester as last year’s losing finalists took a 27-26 victory that leaves them clear of Quins at the top of the table by a solitary point.
Bath are the only other side in touching distance of those two, they sit in third with two wins from three including a stunning 77-17 defeat of Bristol Bears at the weekend that leaves them five points adrift of Quins and six clear of fourth placed London Irish, who were defeated 31-19 away to Saracens in round 4, surprisingly the first victory of the campaign for the North London side.
Round 5 takes place this weekend coming before a week’s break ahead of the final two rounds in the opening two weekend’s of February.
There are some bumper clashes in Round 5, not least in the Southern Conference where Harlequins have a chance to leapfrog Gloucester as the Cherry & Whites have a bye week. Quins are hosting Bath though, and the men from The Rec have ambitions of their own as a bonus point win could see them leapfrog their hosts and move into second place.
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U18 Academy League Round 4 Results:
Leicester Tigers 27-24 Sale Sharks
Northampton Saints 10-41 Newcastle Falcons
Yorkshire Carnegie 5-50 Wasps
Bath 77-17 Bristol Bears
Gloucester 27-26 Harlequins
Saracens 31-19 London Irish
Round 3 Results:
Leicester Tigers 34-7 Wasps
Newcastle Falcons 22-14 Yorkshire Carnegie
Worcester Warriors 19-24 Northampton Saints
Bristol Bears 17-21 Exeter Chiefs
Gloucester 23-22 Bath
Saracens 12-26 Harlequins
Round 2 Results:
Northampton Saints 12-53 Leicester Tigers
Wasps 42-31 Worcester Warriors
Yorkshire Carnegie 19-19 Sale Sharks
Bath 64-7 Exeter Chiefs
Bristol Bears 14-50 Gloucester
Harlequins 43-26 London Irish
Round 1 Results:
Newcastle Falcons 14-66 Leicester Tigers
Sale Sharks 43-17 Wasps
Yorkshire Carnegie 31-12 Worcester Warriors
Gloucester 28-12 Saracens
Harlequins 48-0 Bristol Bears
London Irish 36-20 Exeter Chiefs
Round 5 Fixtures (19th/20th January):
Leicester Tigers v Yorkshire Carnegie
Newcastle Falcons v Worcester Warriors
Sale Sharks v Northampton Saints
Exeter Chiefs v Saracens
Harlequins v Bath
London Irish v Bristol Bears
Round 6 Fixtures (2nd/3rd February):
Sale Sharks v Newcastle Falcons
Wasps v Northampton Saints
Worcester Warriors v Leicester Tigers
Exeter Chiefs v Harlequins
London Irish v Gloucester
Saracens v Bath
Round 7 Fixtures (9th February):
Northampton Saints v Yorkshire Carnegie
Wasps v Newcastle Falcons
Worcester Warriors v Sale Sharks
Bath v London Irish
Bristol Bears v Saracens
Exeter Chiefs v Gloucester
U18 Academy League Finals Day – Sunday 17th February, Allianz Park