As England make it 3/3 for their Autumn series, we take a look at how the Aviva Premiership panned out in round 9.
Newcastle earned only their second away win of the season as they grabbed a 16-22 victory away in Northampton. After starting brightly, a red card to Saints’ Kieran Brookes for a no-arms charge to the head gave the impression that the Falcons would run away with the match. However, Saints were much improved after the break, leading by 1 point as the game entered its final stages. Vereniki Goneva had other ideas. With Northampton attacking close to the Newcastle line the Fijian winger gambled on an interception and streaked down the left touchline before stepping inside Ben Foden’s despairing tackle to score. It was an impressive game for the former Leicester Tiger as his step and off-load set up Joel Hodgson to score in the first half. In Friday’s other fixture Leicester took the win away to Bristol. The hosts performed admirably, however; managing to take a losing bonus point in their 16-21 defeat.
Saturday’s only game saw Exeter Chiefs batter Worcester 57-22 at Sandy Park. Although Worcester were poor, the Chiefs look a different side to that of a few weeks ago; their attack full of confidence and potency. Ollie Woodburn scored the pick of the tries after Ian Whitten and Will Chudley engineered a passage of play that started on the Chief’s own 5m line and ended with the Winger under the posts.
Gloucester continued their impressive form as they pushed Saracens all the way at Allianz Park. In a game littered with errors the champions were made to work hard for their result, and the Cherry and Whites will be happy with a losing bonus point after it finished 24-20 to the hosts. Wasps bounced back from last week’s defeat with a 34-24 victory over Sale Sharks. Wasps scored 3 early tries as they made it 22-3 at the break, but the second half was far less one sided. Sale scored first, but 2 Rob Miller tries in 2 minutes virtually sealed the result for the hosts. Further scores by Bryn Evans after another Cipriani kick error and Mike Haley’s touchdown were mere consolation.
And the weekend’s final fixture saw Harlequins protect their home unbeaten record by beating Bath by a point at The Stoop. In a match that saw the lead change hands many times it was Tim Swiel’s late penalty that saw the Londoners edge it. A fine Tim Visser try had put Quins 11-10 up at half-time, and another attractive effort from Karl Dickson helped them on before Swiel’s late kick gave the home side a 21-20 victory.
RETURNING FROM INJURY
England and Leicester fans alike will have been pleased to see Manu Tuilagi on the bench for the Tigers this weekend. The centre managed 20 minutes unscathed in what has been a long sequence of injuries tracing back some 3 years. One of the most destructive ball carriers in world rugby on his day, Tuilagi will hope he can regain some form with Leicester this season and maybe push for a Lions place. Dave Ewers also made his return to home Premiership action for the Exeter Chiefs. There was a notable reception from the home support on his announcement and he showed what the team have been missing with 20 minutes of hard carrying and strong tackles.
After 3 seasons which have seen two 9th placed finishes and one 8th Gloucester look a different prospect this year. Under the tutelage of David Humphreys, this season’s Gloucester are seriously tough defensively, combining a fast line speed with big physical collisions. Saracens looked in danger of losing for much of their match this weekend and their performances against Wasps, Northampton and Exeter have left the team seeming far more difficult to beat than recent seasons suggest.
Another week, another loss for Bristol. As seems to be the case every round their performances are slowly improving, yet that elusive first Premiership win still hasn’t materialised. To take a losing bonus point from a Leicester side that are playing well at the minute was a commendable effort, but with matches against Gloucester, Worcester and Sale next up it would appear, if they are to avoid relegation, at least one of these matches must be won.