Rugby World reader Alex Shaw sees a weekend of upsets with a number of victories against the odds for Newcastle, Exeter Chiefs, Leeds Carnegie and Saracens.
Friday 4th March 2011
Newcastle (12) 33
Tries: Gray, Fielden, Young Cons: Gopperth 3 Pens: Gopperth 4
Harlequins (10) 18
Tries: Williams, Brown Cons: Clegg Pens: Clegg 2
Harlequins kicked off a packed weekend of rugby by making the long trip up to Kingston Park to play a Newcastle Falcons side looking to ease their fears of relegation. A frantic start saw Tom Williams race over for a try in the opening minutes to give Quins the lead, but the ever-reliable boot of Jimmy Gopperth sent the Falcons into the break with a narrow lead. The Falcons though then really established their dominance in the second half, with Alex Gray and Luke Fielden going over, and Gopperth duly converting both tries. Mike Brown gave Quins fans a brief glimmer of hope with his well-worked score, but Mickey Young soon killed off any hopes of a revival from the visitors with his late try, leaving the final score 33-18 to the Falcons.
Saturday 5th March 2011
Gloucester (15) 34
Tries: Trinder, Doran-Jones, Voyce 2 Cons: Robinson Pens: Robinson 4
Bath (10) 22
Tries: Banahan, Biggs, Williams Cons: Barkley, James Pens: Barkley
The eagerly anticipated West Country derby at Kingsholm between Gloucester and Bath lived up to all expectations, and provided an exciting, fast paced game. Gloucester took a hard earned lead into the break, thanks to tries from Henry Trinder and Paul Doran-Jones, despite Matt Banahan hitting back for Bath. The entertainment was far from over though with both sides picking up two tries apiece in the second half, Tom Biggs and Ben Williams scoring for Bath, but a brace of tries from Tom Voyce and the pinpoint accuracy of Wasps-bound fly-half Nicky Robinson secured a bonus point win for Gloucester, 34-22. Unfortunately the headlines surrounding this match will all report on the horrific injury suffered by Olly Barkley, who has fractured his leg in two places, with all wishing him a swift recovery.
Leicester (14) 14
Tries: M. Tuilagi Pens: Staunton 3
Saracens (9) 15
Pens: Goode 5
Perhaps the match which offered the most ahead of the weekend was a top of the table clash between an in-form Leicester Tigers side and Saracens at Welford Road. With both teams unwilling to gift their title rivals an easy chance, the first half played out fairly cautiously, both teams trading penalties, however the game was brought to life brilliantly by a stunning try from Manu Tuilagi who beat several Saracens defenders through a mixture of pace and strength to score in the corner, and send the Tigers into the break with the lead. Unfortunately for the home side, their indiscipline and the consistent kicking of Alex Goode inched the visitors into a 15-14 lead, which they managed to maintain till the end, despite some late pressure from Leicester.
Sunday 6th March 2011
Wasps (15) 33
Tries: Flutey, Simpson Cons: Walder Pens: Walder 6 Drop-goals: Walder
Sale (0) 26
Tries: Cohen, Lewaravu Cons: Hodgson 2 Pens: Hodgson 2
London Wasps turned around their recent slump in form with an exciting 33-26 victory over Sale Sharks at Adams Park. The first half however displayed little of the showcase in attacking rugby that was to come, with Dave Walder kicking five penalties to give the home side a 15-0 lead at the break, a break in which Shaun Edwards and Pete Anglesea clearly got their messages across to the players. Sale looked to be the dominant force after the break, with Ben Cohen and Wame Lewaravu both getting on the score-sheet, Charlie Hodgson converting both and adding a further two penalties. Wasps however hit back themselves, scoring tries through Joe Simpson and Riki Flutey, and the reliable Walder adding a further penalty and drop-goal, providing the home side with a much needed victory as they look to bounce back and challenge for a Heineken Cup place.
Leeds (10) 27
Tries: Burrell, Browne, MacDonald Cons: Jarvis 3 Pens: Jarvis 2
London Irish (16) 19
Tries: Mapusua Cons: Lamb Pens: Malone, Lamb 2 Drop-goals: Lamb
If ever there was a must win result for Leeds, it was at home to London Irish this weekend, and they managed to keep alive their hopes of escaping relegation with a 27-19 victory over the visitors. The half-time score though did nothing to kindle the hopes of the Leeds fans, as they went in 16-10 down, despite Luther Burrell’s score, as the Exiles Ryan Lamb converted Seilala Mapusua’s try and added two penalties of his own to compliment Chris Malone’s sole penalty. In a weekend which saw many teams raise their games after the half-time break, this was to be no different, with Leeds coming out fighting, Daniel Browne and Mike MacDonald both crossing the line to put Leeds into a commanding position. Adrian Jarvis then controlled the game well, scoring another penalty to see Leeds home safely and give them a much needed four points at Headingley.
Exeter (3) 30
Tries: Hayes, Naqelevuki, Johnson Cons: Steenson 2 Pens: Steenson 3
Northampton (9) 9
Pens: Myler 3
Wrapping up this round-up of rugby delights, Northampton Saints made the long trip down the M4 to play the Exeter Chiefs at the Sandy Park Stadium. Whilst the Saints may be in freefall in the league, having lost their last five games, on paper this game offered only one victor, however on a weekend of shocks, there was everything to play for. Jim Mallinder though had every reason to be happy with his side as they went into the break leading 9-3 after three Stephen Myler penalties put the Saints ahead. However, as was the theme with most matches this weekend, the second half offered a far different spectacle, as Exeter amassed 27 points and recorded their biggest win yet in the Premiership. Gareth Steenson continued his good form, kicking two more penalties as well as converting two of the three tries provided by Tom Hayes, Sireli Naqelevuki and Tom Johnson, as Exeter look to grab a top-six spot and Heineken Cup rugby next season.