LONDON, ENGLAND – Steve Borthwick entered the history books on Saturday when he ran out for the 263rd time for Saracens. The following day, George Chuter gracefully exited the stage, retiring on Sunday after Borthwick broke his appearances record. As professional rugby prepares to enter its third decade, the rich history of the game becomes increasingly diverse, with a far wider range of players able to make their mark for a longer period of time. Chuter and Borthwick are both consummate professionals who have done great service for their clubs, and their accomplishments will be rightly celebrated for years to come. On the pitch, the weekend was packed with intrigue, as Sale scrapped to try and stay on the fringes of the playoff race, Leicester continued their impressive run-in, and Sarries and Northampton contested a potential title game preview. Many adjectives can be applied to the Premiership, but dull is not one of them. This week, and every week, RugbyWrapUp has you covered with a recap of Round 19 of the Aviva Premiership.
Quins Convincing In Victory
Harlequins travelled to Salford knowing that they needed a bonus point victory to secure European rugby next season, and they came away from a tough fixture with exactly what they desired. Conor O’Shea’s side ruthlessly executed their game-plan, scoring four tries after falling behind early following a Tom Brady try for the Sharks. Danny Care, Nick Evans, and Sam Smith crossed the whitewash for the Harlequins, and Maurie Fa’asavalu completed the four-try victory after the half. Eventually, the London team triumphed 27-12, ensuring that their direct rivals missed out on a losing bonus point. As the table stands, Harlequins are three points ahead of the Sharks in fifth place, but five points behind Bath for the final playoff spot entering the final three rounds of play. Chris Robshaw’s team has a difficult run-in, facing Leicester away from home before a mouth-watering clash against Bath at the Stoop on the final weekend, which now holds the potential to be a play-in game.
Leicester Dispatch Wasps
Manu Tuilangi any rumours of rust to rest with a hugely impressive performance, scoring two tries in the Tigers seventh consecutive league victory. David Mele and Niki Goneva contributed to the scoring, and Owen Williams contributed seven points from the boot for Leicester, and the final score line of 27-15 accurately reflected their scintillating display. There was welcome news for the Tigers off the pitch as well. Niki Goneva committed his future to the English club, despite talk of a move to Castres. Goneva’s decision was a major coup for Leicester, who have come to depend upon the massive Fijian back. His versatility was key in enabling the team to weather an early storm of injuries this season. The Tigers are now only three points behind Northampton in the race for a home play-off match, as the Saints continuing to reel in the late going.
Northampton Falls to Saracens
Billed as the “match of the weekend,” Saracens and Northampton certainly lived up to the hype. The Sarries ran out 28-24 victors, surviving a late surge from the Saints, who had trailed 21-10 at the halfway mark. Luther Burrell and George North scored tries for Northampton, while David Strettle, Kelly Brown, and Marcelo Bosch crossed for Saracens. However, victory did not come without a price. Owen Farrell left the pitch at half-time, and was sent for an MRI following the match. Though the England fly-half did not break any bones, there is potential ligament damage, which would keep him on the sidelines for at least two weeks. Fortunately for Saracens, they have a more than capable back-up in the form of Charlie Hodgson, but the injury news is certainly unwelcome entering the home stretch of a fantastic campaign.
Best of the Rest
Bath and Gloucester played out an embarrassing farce at Kingsholm, in a match that received far more attention for the refereeing decisions than the rugby on offer. The Cherry and Whites finished the match with 11 men, and would be hard-pressed to argue that they were the victims of an overzealous official. Bath did themselves no favors either. Nick Abendenon was awarded a post-match yellow card following a review of the game by RFU officials. Though Newcastle will likely avoid the drop, they have not won a league match since October, falling to London Irish by a final score of 40-12. The Falcons have played like a side that knew they were secure, and have done themselves no favors heading into a 2014-15 season which will be more competitive than ever. Many fans will be sad to see Worcester go. The Warriors once more provided a hugely entertaining match against Exeter, before succumbing to the Chiefs 38-33. There were nine tries scored in the contest. Though both teams are playing out the string at this point, they provided spectators with compelling viewing.
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