Team efforts in tight corners and individual excellence lit up this weekend's matches, but a few players are kicking themselves after failing to perform under pressure.
The Bee team
Having seen reigning champions Northampton cruise past 50 points against Gloucester in the Aviva Premiership’s opening match, Wasps might have been a tad nervous about meeting them in week two. But if they were, it didn’t show as they triumphed 20-16 at Adams Park with some wonderful individual skills and excellent team spirit.
Ashley Johnson was a Saint last week for his deft chip and this week his speed gets him a mention as he sprinted 48 metres to touch down a try in the 59th minute after intercepting a pass from Luther Burrell. From 9-3 down, Wasps were 10-9 up and Tom Varndell extended the lead a few minutes later with a skilful chip and chase that enabled him to beat two defenders.
Lots of other Wasps were in fine form, not least James Haskell, but the final round of applause goes to Rob Miller who kicked a late penalty to seal the win when Andy Goode and Ruaridh Jackson were both off injured.
Danny Cipriani has his critics – I see one when I look in the mirror – but no one can deny the Sale No 10 produced a masterclass of creative play against Gloucester on Saturday. He ended up on the losing side but did his own reputation a great deal of good.
First, his chip up the left set up the opening try for Tom Arscott, then a little dink to himself enabled Cipriani to put Chris Cusiter away for the second try, before 20 minutes were gone.
He then took a quick penalty to begin the move which created Luke McLean’s try and he rounded his day off with a touchdown of his own, ghosting through the grasping hands of the Cherry and White defence. With Gloucester 34-20 up at the time, he gave Sale hope, but Gloucester hung on to win 34-27.
Two tries in quick time from replacement scrum-half Niko Matawalu enabled Glasgow Warriors to stretch a four-point lead into an unassailable advantage as the final quarter of their Guinness Pro 12 clash with Cardiff Blues approached.
The Fijian is a loose cannon who can have his team-mates as well as opponents running round in circles, but his score from a smart interception at a Blues lineout when the Warriors were down to 14 men was a great opportunist’s try and he crossed again a few minutes later to set the Warriors up for their seventh consecutive win over the Blues.
Pace and power
It was far from the best of weekends for the Scarlets, as they were trounced 42-12 by Leinster in the Pro 12 and have now conceded ten tries in two games. However, a rare bright spot for the Welsh fans was a wonderful individual try by Scott Williams.
The Test centre seized on the ball after a pass from Jimmy Gopperth went astray, kicked through the defence and used his pace to beat most of the opposition and his power to outmuscle Brendan Macken for the touch-down.
Not much else went right for the Scarlets after that, as Jamie Heaslip, Ian Madigan and Rob Kearney helped create and score six tries in all, but Williams at least had a moment to be proud of.
Connacht’s pack stole the Guinness Pro 12 points from Edinburgh when they drove Willie Faloon over from a lineout in the dying minutes of their clash at Murrayfield, to go from 13-9 down to 14-13 up.
It was the second win in a row for the Irish side and they haven’t started a Pro 12 season this well since 2011. Next weekend they must take on Leinster, which will certainly test their credentials, but the never-say-die attitude Connacht showed this week is commendable.
Jean misses the points
If you are 14-10 down to the All Blacks, with seven minutes to play, and you are given a kickable penalty, what do you do? South African captain Jean de Villiers thinks you kick to the corner and go for the try. However, his choice backfired as New Zealand managed to hold their line under great pressure and close out the win.
De Villiers was winning his 100th cap on Saturday but even with all that experience, he got it wrong this time. If the Springboks had kicked three points at that stage, the All Blacks would have known they couldn’t slip up again. As it was, they gave away another penalty inside their own 22, but must have been sure South Africa wouldn’t take the points.
The win for New Zealand maintained their unbeaten run in the Rugby Championship – they have now won 15 and drawn one game since Argentina joined the Tri-Nations sides in 2012.
When the going gets tough, you need your goal-kicker to take all the points on offer but Newcastle Falcons were let down by Juan Pablo Socino on Sunday as the Argentine missed six out of seven kicks at goal.
The Falcons lost 20-18 at home to London Irish, something they cannot afford to do against a team like Irish, who are unlikely to challenge for silverware. The last kick, to draw the match, hit the upright from wide on the right, so Socino can count himself unlucky in that instance, but the centre needs to dig to the depths of his kit bag to find his kicking boots before next weekend’s home clash with Northampton.
Yardes off the pace
Harlequins had an evening to forget against Saracens as they lost 39-0 at the Stoop and one player, at least, had mentally headed back into the changing rooms before the end.
Marland Yarde was caught napping in a big way when Duncan Taylor hoofed the ball out of defence and players from both sides set off in pursuit. Yarde had a 10-metre head start on Chris Ashton but the Saracens wing sped past him to turn a 25-0 lead into an even bigger advantage. Replacement Harlequins lock George Merrick made a better job of chasing back than Yarde.