Well the Premiership was back with a bang last weekend with the mid table congestion getting even tighter and a couple of the sides I said in the last blog needed to start moving up the table rejoin the top 6!
Friday night lights
Starting the weekend off, Saracens, much depleted through international call-ups travelled to Kingsholm to meet Gloucester, themselves missing a dozen through injury. Despite Saracens enjoying most of the territory and posession, tries from Gloucester's academy graduates Olly Thorley and Tom Hudson on his first Premiership start helped the Cherry and Whites to another fine home win this season that left them, at least temporarily, in the nosebleed section of the table, 3rd place.
What is very apparent under Gloucesters new regime is that Ackermann sr has a lot of faith in youth. The backrow triumverate of Ludlow, Clarke and Ackermann Jr are absolutely flourishing so far this season, and are being ably backed up by Jake Polledri, then in the backs, the horrible injury list has given plenty of opportunities to the likes of Vellacott, Thorley and Hudson, and boy, it seems to be working.
Wasps returned to form with a thumping win over Newcastle. A brace of drag strip run ins from that man Christian Wade and a hugely influencial performance from the returning Kyle Eastmond set them the right way, but there was 6 tries overall from the Wasps and they looked back up towards their best although with almost 30 missed tackles, they'll be working on the defence this week!!
In the other Saturday match, we saw a rare occurence..... Worcester Warriors got their very first win of the season! In grabbing the win, they also managed to climb off the foot of the table. The Warriors look a different side when they play Francois Hougaard and the impressive Bryce Heem helped himself to a fine hat trick, in part, thanks to the speed at the base of the rucks. Northampton looked a little out of sorts, maybe their own day-glo kit was affecting them, but in this mid-table battle, taking 3 defeats on the bounce is not helpful.
Three matches on Sunday, all with a level of intrigue around them.
London Irish needed to win to leap frog Worcester, however, despite a very strong, competitive performance and out scoring Bath 2 tries to 1, they fell just short of grabbing the victory required and Bath clung on to a valuable 4 points. Irish have fighting spirit in abundance and they will certainly not be resting on their laurels or accepting the fate that comes with bottom spot!
Sale put on their very own day-glo jerseys and went to Welford Rd on a Tiger hunting mission, it was an incredibly entertaining match, both sides grabbing try bonus points, Marland Yarde grabbed a try for Sharks, Valentino Mapapalangi went all Harlem Globetrotters for a quality assist and Ellis Genge went a bit Miley Cyrus for a try (he came in like a wrecking ball!) but the ultimate difference between the sides was 2 more penalties for Joe Ford giving the Tigers the spoils.
The last match saw Chiefs take on Quins. Chiefs are a great side to watch, they play simple rugby stunningly well, and in the likes of Dollman and Woodburn, they have some hugely underrated players. Another try bonus victory for the Chiefs helped them to top spot, but it wasn't a walkover, as Quins, led superbly by the box of tricks that is 18 year old Marcus Smith were in the fight for the majority of the match.
Overall, it was another great weekend of action, Chiefs and Sarries still lead the way, but 3rd to 9th are now split by just 6 points and the bottom 2 just by a single point (though Sale are only 5 points clear of them) ...basically, the whole table is ridiculously close! Gloucester and Wasps are the weekends big movers, jumping up to 5th and 6th respectively.
Player of the week - A fine hat-trick means my POTW is Bryce Heem of Worcester!! Just pipping Kyle Eastmond of Wasps, who I thought was excellent!
Team of the week - Wasps - A stunning return to form, 6 tries and 40 points.
Match of the week - 2 or 3 of the matches could be in with a shout for this one, but I'll go with Tigers vs Sharks!
See you for round 9!