With the exception of the Wasps’ relatively routine home victory over Worcester on Sunday, the weekend was filled with tense matches in the Aviva Premiership. Three of the other four contests took place between teams within a few spots of each other in the standings, and one significant upset saw Saracens’ superb unbeaten run to start the season come to an end. Let’s briefly recap the action.
Harlequins 29 – 23 Saracens
Undoubtedly the most dramatic contest in a weekend filled with compelling action, the 29-23 victory for Harlequins ended a 14-match unbeaten streak across all competitions for Saracens. It also established Harlequins as legitimate contenders. Yet as was recapped in detail at Telegraphs’s rugby section, this contest was not without its controversy, Specifically, Saracens fell victim to a few difficult calls, including one yellow card for Rhys Gill that was upgraded to red upon a television review. Naturally they were a little bit short-handed after the red, and Harlequins were able to rattle off 11 straight points to take control of the match.
Tigers 30-27 Saints
This was another match dripping with drama, though in the end there was no upset to be had. In advance of the rivalry match, Betfair’s sports staff compiled a detailed preview of the action to come, and noted with an ominous tone for Northampton that they hadn’t won at Midlands for nine years. This would have seemed the year to break that trend, as the Saints were riding high after an 8-3 win over the Exeter Chiefs to open the month. In the end, though, the prediction that the Tigers’ home advantage would win out proved spot on. This was a close affair and one in which the Saints actually acquitted themselves rather well, but the 30-27 win for the Tigers allowed them to maintain their slim lead over Northampton in the standings.
Chiefs 19 – 10 Gloucester
This match lacked the appeal of the other two Saturday contests in that the outcome was a little more predictable, and the action on the field a little less compelling. Nevertheless, in the context of the Saracens loss, it was meaningful to see the Chiefs take care of business methodically. The win propelled them to 34 points, a total which is now just three shy of a Saracens club that looked a week ago as if it could run away with the top spot in the Premiership.
Irish 20 – 15 Falcons
Seldom are matches between bottom dwellers very interesting, but this was at least a closely contested affair. The London Irish and Newcastle Falcons are both having utterly forgettable campaigns in the Premiership, and frankly there hasn’t been a lot of reason to tune in to matches played by either club. But on Sunday, the Irish took on the Falcons at home with at least the small goal of switching spots with them and moving clear of the last spot in the table. As Irish coach Tom Coventry would tell BBC, it ended up being “a bit of a dire spectacle,” with neither team displaying a great deal of confidence. But a late charge by Newcastle that came up just short made for some surprisingly compelling viewing.
Wasps 32 – 22 Warriors
As mentioned, this was probably the most routine win of the weekend, as the Wasps simply did what they were expected to do in a strong 32-22 win at home.
All in all, it was one of the better weeks of action we’ve been treated to thus far, despite the unfortunate postponement of the Friday match between Bath and the Sharks. We saw a major upset in the Saracens match, a move toward contention for the Chiefs, and a couple of very tight contests between similarly placed teams in the Leicester and Irish matches. Not a bad weekend in the Premiership at all.