By Alan Dymock
WEEK ONE in the new Aviva Premiership season splashed onto our screens at the weekend before crunching away, stepping over the debris from what was a tough first assignment.
Everything began in Newcastle on Friday night under conditions that would have seen Poseidon fashioning a poncho out of a bin bag. It was the grand reintroduction of Falcons into the Premiership environment, and no doubt they are used to horizontal rain and skies the colour of bitumen soup, but they struggled, losing to Bath 21-0.
A try for Anthony Perenise and a penalty try for Bath’s surging pack were the only dots of the contest, but new stand-off George Ford also put on an calm and accurate kicking display in wet and wild conditions.
Newcastle on the other hand, looked bereft of ideas in attack and will need to offer a lot more as they make their first trip away to Sale next week.
Saturday saw the return of the Twickenham double-header, as London Irish lost 20-42 to an efficient, rumbling Saracens – a brace from Sarries hooker Jamie George and elusive running from Irish’s Marland Yarde were the highlights of the game – before London Wasps and Harlequins wrestled like two oily sumos. There was intent and dropped balls throughout, a dangerous combination at the best of times, but two Wasps tries to one Quins try belied the score card. Nick Evans was not in the best form with the boot but did enough to keep Quins in front until the tense last minute where Andy Goode had a touchline conversion to win it.
Needless to say the Twickenham posts are not in Goode’s good books as the upright robbed Wasps of a winner, but 62,000 fans were happy for the nail-biting finish.
Sale Sharks were the surprise package of the day, turning over Gloucester at Kingsholm , 22-16, pulling ahead through perpetual-try-scorer Mark Cueto and then maintaining their advantage with a dot from centre Andy Forsyth. Henry Trinder snatched up a Tavis Knoyle offload before racing through for his own try and Freddie Burns kept dissecting the posts with his kicks, but they never had enough to see off the Sharks.
If ever there was a team that signaled their intent for the year in one game, though, it was Saints. Northampton started with George North and Alex Corbisiero on the pitch and Samu Manoa and Kahn Fotuali’i on the bench for their game against Exeter Chiefs, a show of just how much muscle they had. It paid off, too, as they raced to a 31-6 half-time lead.
The big players stood up, too, with the Pisi brothers, Dylan Hartley, Tom Wood and Manoa all scoring. Exeter’s leader Dean Mumm scored one of his own, but the visitors never really landed a punch.
Then, on Sunday, champions Leicester Tigers hosted Worcester Warriors.
The Warriors never gave up the fight, as you would expect from a Dean Ryan-led side, but tries from David Mele, Adam Thompstone, Jordan Crane and a swerving, long-range bonus-point score from Niki Goneva was enough to ensure the champions were where they like to be: near the top of the table.
What will week two bring? A miracle? A 0-0? A volcanic eruption? Who knows, but at least it’s back.