Some stunning games lit up round five of the Aviva Premiership and Guinness Pro12 seasons, but there were some turgid tussles as well.
Young and gifted
Seven tries from seven different scorers and a 47-18 win over Harlequins – be in no doubt, Wasps are the team to watch at the moment.
It is impossible to pick out individual Saints from among the Wasps players after their fifth win from five Aviva Premiership matches this season, so instead it is hats off to their boss Dai Young. He has put together a multi-talented squad and got them playing stunning rugby. Next weekend their title credentials will get the sternest of tests at they travel to take on champions Saracens, but Wasps will go into the match on a hot streak of form with nothing to fear and Saracens will be wary of being stung.
Munster also scored seven tries this weekend, with CJ Stander grabbing two, as they cruised to a 49-5 win over Zebre in the Guinness Pro12.
North and Picamoles get the Saints marching
Northampton went in to Friday’s match against Exeter Chiefs searching for their first home win of the season and managed to scrape by 20-19 thanks to some heroics from several players.
It didn’t look very promising for the Saints when they were trailing 13-0 in the first half, but Louis Picamoles – who had a terrific game – powered into the Chiefs’ 22 and helped create the chance for George North to power over in the corner.
Just a minute later, North caught the re-start kick deep in his own 22 and set off on a swerving run, cutting inside then out and making 50 metres of ground before passing to Nic Groom, who shipped the ball on to Rory Hutchinson to score a try on debut.
The young centre hadn’t even been expecting to play and was only in the side because Harry Mallinder had to move from centre to fly-half to replace Stephen Myler on the eve of the game. And Mallinder played a key role as he stepped up and kicked a penalty when Northampton were trailing 19-17 with two minutes of the match remaining.
Picamoles, whose breaks and offloads had been mesmerising throughout the game, had the final say, booting the ball into touch when the clock had gone red to secure the narrowest of wins.
Payne’s effort not in vain
Jared Payne helped Ulster scrape to a 9-7 home win over the Ospreys with a critical try-saving tackle on Eli Walker and in doing so enabled his team to maintain their 100% start to the season in the Guinness Pro12.
The Welsh wing chased a kick from Rhys Webb up the left wing and beat Payne to the bouncing ball, but the Ulster centre didn’t panic and he brought Walker down, then spun around as he slid along the turf and forced Walker away from the try-line and into touch.
Ulster were trailing 7-6 at the time so if Walker had scored, the Welsh side might have gone on to see out the game. As it was, Ulster forced a last-minute penalty and Paddy Jackson kicked it to steal the victory for the home side.
A try to treasure
Props just love to score tries from 25-metre breaks, with a jink or a side-step to take them past the grasping hands of beaten defenders. Unfortunately, this rarely happens, and the big men wearing the small numbers are more likely to flop over the line from two paces.
However, Glasgow Warriors’ No 1 Alex Allan scored a try to be proud of on Friday and helped his team beat the Newport Gwent Dragons 26-17 at Rodney Parade.
Glasgow were trailing 17-16 when Allan received the ball outside the 22. He looked up, saw a hint of a gap between two forwards, dummied, stepped and broke the line and from there it was a straight run and slide over the whitewash. One to treasure for the prop, and one which won’t need exaggerating when he re-tells the story in months to come!
There was plenty for Sale to be happy about in their 34-30 win over Leicester Tigers as they took advantage of some porous defence by the visitors and scored four tries. Mike Phillips got the ball rolling with a fine individual effort, then teenage wing Paolo Odogwu sprinted over after Josh Beaumont had taken possession at the back of a lineout.
However the try of this Aviva Premiership match was scored by Leicester wing Adam Thompstone. Receiving the ball on the right, he was tackled by Odogwu from one side and Byron McGuigan from the other but somehow, as they dragged him into touch in the corner, he reached his arm between their bodies and touched the ball down. With Leicester trailing 31-23 at the time, even after Owen Williams’ excellent conversion it wasn’t enough to snatch the win for the Tigers, but the try did at least earn them a losing bonus point.
Leicester‘s loss at Sale Sharks was the third time this season they have conceded more than 30 points. This time the main problem seemed to be around the breakdown, as first they left a gap for Mike Phillips to charge through to open the scoring, then Johnny Leota smashed through on the half-hour before Halani ’Aulika barged his way over the line to give Sale a decent lead going into the last quarter. Richard Cockerill will be demanding an improvement from Leicester when they host Worcester next weekend.
Thanks, but no thanks
Sinoti Sinoti might owe Dominic Waldouck a pint when his foolish and low long pass left the centre stooping to collect the ball and the on-rushing Jackson Willison in the same instant. Willison claimed the ball and both he and Waldouck were left in a heap on the floor as Tom Heathcote took it on and raced towards the line, then put Wynand Olivier in for the try. That gave Worcester Warriors a 5-0 lead and they went on to beat Newcastle 11-9 and claim their first Premiership win since March.
Almost the entire Gloucester team could be Sinners this week after their third home defeat of the season, at turgid 15-6 loss West Country rivals Bath. They were errors all over the place but the game turned on a lost lineout midway through the second half. Gloucester were 6-3 up and had just repelled a sustained Bath attack, earning a penalty with which to clear their lines. However, from the lineout on halfway they lost possession and Bath put them back under pressure and created the decisive try for Anthony Watson from there, with the wing brushing off a tackle from Billy Burns too easily.
Late in the game Gloucester had the chance to at least snatch a losing bonus point from a dire match but when they were awarded a kickable penalty Willi Heinz foolishly decided to tap and go, in search of a try which would not, by then, have been enough to win the game. Gloucester could not cross the whitewash and were left to rue their many errors.
Referee Dudley Phillips joins the players in the doghouse this week after awarding a try to Leinster despite a clear double-movement from scorer Rhys Ruddock – and as the match ended up as a 16-13 win for the Irish side against Cardiff Blues, it was a crucial mistake.
Ruddock was dragged up to the line but clearly grounded the ball short to start with then, a couple of seconds later, moved it forward. Phillips opted not to use the television match official, but if he had done the try would surely have been disallowed.
Josh Navidi did the Blues no favours when he conceded the penalty which ultimately gave Leinster their win. Running back from an offside position he got in the way of a pass by scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park. It was cute play by the number nine but Navidi shouldn’t have been there.
Ever met a man with a pigtail in his beard? Bath prop Kane Palma-Newport has decided the way to tame his copious facial hair is to capture some of it in a tiny pony-tail. However, it doesn’t really make much difference to the volume of his beard and, as the BT Sport commentators said during Saturday’s match at Gloucester, it is just asking to be pulled.