By Alan Dymock
THE FALLING anvil has proven a more effective weapon than the skipping rope in the first two weeks of the Aviva Premiership as the sturdier forces of Saracens and Northampton Saints have landed at the top of the league, while the young adventurers of Gloucester are at the bottom of the table.
Saints were this week’s Friday night draw alongside Harlequins, but in the pouring rain neither side could string together enough nice passes to make anything meaningful. George North made one promising charge down the left wing, but no one was able to take a pass and give it in the legal manner that would yield a try.
Harlequins’ Nick Evans’ boot looked hungover for the second week in a row and so there were only a few penalties to bother the scoreboard. It took a James Wilson try for Northampton to decide the contest, skidding to him eventually after bounding off a Quin’s face and the ground, and that ugly number was enough to seal a 13-6 victory.
Elsewhere on Friday, Falcons upset their doubters by overcoming Sale – who scored via Dan Braid – with only the boots of Phil Godman and Rory Clegg. It was a win few saw coming after Sale defeated Gloucester on day one and the squeeze from the Newcastle pack on a night where little quarter was given will have brought a smile to Dean Richards’ face.
On the Saturday Exeter Chiefs and London Wasps conspired to put on five tries between them, with Exeter coming out on top 30-26. It was the second close call for Wasps in the space of a week, but it was a rallying cry by an Exeter side humbled by Saints last week. Particularly impressive was Welsh winger Tom James who twice ghosted round the visiting defence. Christian Wade showed that he is still capable of cutting a rug, too, with a try of his own and bullocking breakaway Ashley Johnson made amends for a first-half yellow card by scoring in the closing minutes, but it was too little too late.
Tigers were down 21-7 at the break after the young fly-half and try-scorers Jonathan Joseph and Matt Banahan had punished the visitors following Logovi’i Mulipola and Tom Youngs’ yellow cards. Tigers bit back in the second with tries from Niki Goneva, Ed Slater and Steve Mafi, but Bath had the resolve to see it out in front of 11,000 feverish fans.
Elsewhere, two tries from impressive starter Marland Yarde were enough to see London Irish bump past Worcester Warriors, 20-18.
Finally, Bath pulled off a win against Leicester Tigers on Sunday that many saw coming, but the champions will be upset about the manner of their first-half performance while being impressed with the way Bath, and in particular George Ford, held on to secure the win.Saracens, on the other hand, dispatched Gloucester 44-12 on Sunday after bounding towards two David Strettle tries and one apiece for Joel Tomkins, Billy Vunipola and Schalk Brits. Fredie Burns hung in there and took four penalties but his side were always up against it once prop Nick Wood had been sent off for stamping on Jacques Burger with only a minute on the clock. With Gloucester working frantically and Owen Farrell seeing plenty of industry on his outside shoulder it was inevitable that the visitors from the South West were going to lose.