After the Christmas and New Year celebrations, our Gallagher Premiership review is back and over the last couple of weeks, we have seen some intriguing results. Joe Harvey brings you the latest.
Northampton Saints 31 – 28 Exeter Chiefs
Exeter’s momentum from last week’s hard-fought win over Saracens disappeared as Northampton flew out of the blocks to stun Chiefs. Piers Francis and Dan Biggar both registered scores before the 10-minute mark, the latter converting both efforts. Gareth Steenson was called into action in the first half, converting Santiago Cordero’s effort, just minutes after their penalty try in the 21st minute. Saints ended the half the stronger, despite an Alex Waller yellow card, with 19-year-old wing Fraser Dingwall scoring another converted try.
The second half was more subdued. England prop Ben Moon crossed the whitewash, giving Steenson another two points from the tee. This was swiftly followed by Saints’ Cobus Reinach’s scoring yet another try in what has been an impressive season for the scrum-half so far. Biggar converted that score and kicked a penalty soon after, following Luke Cowan-Dickie’s sin-binning. Exeter ended the game with a Steenson conversion after Matt Kvesic made the score line more respectable.
Gloucester Rugby 15 – 30 Sale Sharks
Gloucester uncharacteristically lost at Kingsholm, despite a strong start. Billy Twelvetrees had five points before the 20-minute mark. He converted hooker Jaco Visagie’s try which gave Gloucester an early advantage, but it was wiped out by the end of the half thanks to tries from Chris Ashton and Faf de Klerk, with two conversions and a penalty coming from Robert du Preez.
In the second half, Rob Webber and Denny Solomona extended the Sale lead further with unconverted efforts, as well as a du Preez penalty, as the Sharks dominated a rudderless Gloucester. Gloucester did score a try late on through Matt Banahan, but it was merely a consolation for the Cheery and Whites.
Saracens 25 – 17 Worcester Warriors
To categorise this match as a game of two halves, would be an understatement. Worcester started much the stronger. Tries from Duncan Weir and a rejuvenated Ben Te’o were converted by Weir, giving the visitors a 14-0 lead after 12 minutes. Owen Farrell slotted two penalties before the halfway mark, with Sarries registering a try through Mako Vunipola, with Weir concluding Warriors’ first-half scoring with a penalty.
???"We had chances to get a bonus point and our attack needs to be better to take those chances."— Saracens Rugby Club (@Saracens) January 1, 2019
Alex Goode calls for Sarries to be more clinical in attack. ???
It was one-way traffic for Saracens in the second half. Tries from Calum Clark and David Strettle consolidated the win for the champions after a rocky opening period. This was exactly what Sarries needed after a difficult loss to Exeter last weekend.
Harlequins 20 – 13 Wasps
There were 82,000 people at Twickenham to see what used to be one of the most hotly anticipated fixtures of the season.
Quins started the game in remarkable fashion as TRU favourite Alex Dombrandt burst over the whitewash, in his first game back at Twickenham since losing the BUCS Super Rugby final in April. Marcus Smith converted his teammates try and kicked a penalty soon after during a period that Quins were down to 14 men. Daly and Smith would trade kicks before the half-time whistle, giving Harlequins the lead.
The second half was far more competitive. Replacement prop, Will Stuart, scored a converted try for Wasps as the visitors drastically improved upon taking the field. The Wasps score was exactly the motivation Harlequins needed. Danny Care kicked a grubber through, Joe Marchant latched onto the ball and that allowed Marcus Smith another conversion. Lima Sopoaga would provide the final action of note in the game, but his 68th minute penalty wasn’t enough for Wasps to end 2018 on a high.
Bath Rugby 23 – 16 Leicester Tigers
Bath put in a very strong performance to be Leicester at the Rec, despite a quick start for the visitors. This start came thanks to a Jonny May score in the opening seconds and George Ford added the conversion. A penalty from Freddie Burns was sharply followed by tries from Jamie Roberts and Nathan Catt. Burns would only convert the score from Roberts, but Bath had the lead.
The only joy for Leicester in the second half came in the format of three George Ford penalties as Bath didn’t allow Leicester to get on the front foot. Bath only needed a try from former sevens star Ruaridh McConnochie and a penalty from Rhys Priestland to secure the win for Todd Blackadder’s side.
Bristol Bears 35 – 28 Newcastle Falcons
Well, this was exciting for a sleepy Sunday afternoon. Bears started quickly through scrum-half Harry Randall, giving Ian Madigan a conversion within five minutes. Toby Flood then steadied the Falcons ship with a penalty and Vereniki Goneva crossed the whitewash for the away side. Penalties from Madigan and Flood preceded a Callum Chick try for Newcastle, Flood converting the score as well.
There's literally no stopping @CPiutau from that range ??— Premiership Rugby (@premrugby) December 31, 2018
Helping @BristolBears to a bonus-point victory over @FalconsRugby yesterday, how crucial an addition has the Kiwi been? ??#GallagherPrem pic.twitter.com/AMVcd3UOyx
Bristol must have had a talking to at half time. The home side gave everything they had and flyers Charles Piutau and Luke Morahan both dotted down for Pat Lam’s side.
Madigan only converted Piutau’s effort, but did kick a penalty soon after. Flood was involved for the final Falcons flourish, kicking through for Adam Radwan to bag a score on his 21st birthday and then kicking a penalty following Callum Sheedy’s effort from the tee. Sheedy would be called into action to wrap up the game for the hosts as he converted Tom Pincus’ decisive score.
Widely regarded as the most competitive rugby union league in the world...it can only be the Gallagher Premiership.
12 teams compete in the league over a season, playing every team both home and away, before four move into the playoffs and one is relegated.
The division is becoming more and more exciting as each year passes by so who will be lifting silverware at Twickenham in May?
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