CARDIFF, WALES – The midpoint of the Aviva Premiership has been reached, and it looks like a memorable stretch run will commence with six legitimate contenders for the four playoff spots. However, some of the biggest news of the weekend took place off the pitch, as BT Sport and Premiership Rugby made plans to make an Anglo-Welsh league a reality. Rugby Wrap Up has you covered, this week and every week, with our Aviva Premiership Recap.
Welsh Regions Offered £4 Million Each
Each of the four Welsh regions (Ospreys, Scarlets, Newport Gwent Dragons, and Cardiff) have been offered four million pounds in a joint effort by BT Sport and Premiership Rugby to rescue the fiasco that faces the Premiership next season. Currently, the four Welsh sides receive £1.2 million pounds worth of funding from the Welsh Rugby Union and £2.9 million from domestic rugby revenue, ensuring that joining the English league will not create financial hardship for the regional sides. On the flip side of the coin, the BT Sport and PRL offer does not overwhelm the funds currently on offer through the Welsh regions’ current arrangements in the Pro12, and Wales would lose access to European competition under a new agreement. Though different newspapers offer different accounts of how far along negotiations are, The Rugby Paper claims that a deal has been struck which would guarantee top-flight rugby for three of Wales’ four regions, which would participate in England’s promotion and relegation system on a limited basis. If the report is true, then the Welsh regions are relatively far along in the process of seriously considering a move. All of these machinations could not come at a worse time for the Northern Hemisphere, as they head into the business end of a World Cup cycle. Though BT Sport has done an excellent job with their Aviva Premiership coverage on a technical level, at this point, the damaging influence of their business model has become more than clear, as it continues to impact the experience of rugby fans worldwide. Hopefully, common sense will prevail, though with every passing revelation and development, such a hope seems more and more forlorn.
Northampton Rolls Bath in High Scoring Thriller
In on-field action, Northampton continued their development as an elite side by destroying a very strong Bath squad at Franklin Gardens by a final score of 43-25, scoring six tries along the way. Referee Luke Pearce was forced off the field in the first five minutes by a hit from Rob Weber, as Martin Fox was forced to take over proceedings for the rest of the match. Not to be deterred, Bath impressed early, with the try of the match probably going to the first effort between Anthony Watson and Kyle Eastmond. The Saints continually applied pressure through their maul, and eventually Bath had a man sent to the sin bin, allowing for Northampton to gain a vital toehold in the match as they ripped off 14 unanswered points during their 10 minute man advantage. George North scored his second try of the season in the Premiership during the dying seconds of the match, denying Bath the chance of collecting even a losing bonus point. Though Bath has progressed a long way in the past year, the distance between the sides emphasized how much further the West Country outfit must climb to become serious title contenders.
The Best of the Rest
On Friday, London Wasps defeated Newcastle in a rather tepid affair, with Andy Goode contributing 7 points from the boot in a 17-12 victory for the visiting Wasps. In a matchup of two playoff hopefuls, Harlequins beat Exeter 22-6 at Twickenham in an impressive display from the Londoners, as 74000 (not a typo) watched the Quins beat the Chiefs in the annual “Big Game,” which has become a fixture and highlight of the Aviva Premiership calendar. Saracens raced to their bonus point inside 30 minutes against Worcester, but were held in the second half as the Warriors managed to keep the scoreline almost respectable, eventually succumbing 26-8. Leicester had their pack to thank once again as they overcame a scrappy Sale outfit, who scratched their way to a losing bonus point when they fell 30-23. A penalty try was the difference between the sides, though both Danny Cipriani and Toby Flood sat out with an illness and injury, respectively. Gloucester and London Irish wrapped up the weekend’s action at the Madjeski, where the Cherry and Whites picked up a much needed victory, prevailing 22-19 thanks to a try from Jonny May and four penalties from Billy Twelvetrees. The Irish will take consolation in the three tries that they scored, two of which were collected by Eamonn Sheridan.