GLOUCESTER, ENGLAND – The tenth round of fixtures in the Aviva Premiership saw a number of refereeing controversies, as debate over the tip tackle was revived following three yellow cards, while Gloucester’s season devolved further into farce with a unique groundskeeping situation. Other competitions may have more quality, but no league in the world is as interesting on a week to week basis as England’s. With that, here are this week’s Aviva Premiership Talking Points, bringing you some cheer on Christmas Eve.
Gloucester Game Delayed
It has become standard fare to have many Premiership sides to host a pre-match to encourage supporters to come early to the match. This weekend, Gloucester had a unique situation unfold, when their competition resulted in the crossbar falling to the ground. After ten minutes of fruitlessly attempting to resolve the situation, referee JP Doyle announced that kickoff would be delayed by a half-hour, keeping a disappointed crowd at Kingsholm waiting. The match that ensued was dire. Worcester remains without a win on the campaign, as the Warriors mustered only 6 points against a Gloucester defense that has conceded points at an alarming rate this campaign. With Billy Twelvetrees at fly-half, the Cherry and Whites scored 12 points of their own through four penalties, and managed to survive a 76th minute yellow card to Jonny May, though the Warriors never looked much like scoring. Freddie Burns sat the entire match, perhaps as a result of his continued connection to the newly vacant Leicester fly-half position.
The Tigers will want to quickly forget their capitulation at Allianz Park, as Saracens absolutely tore through Leicester in the second half to win 49-10. The teams were separated by only 8 points after the first 40 minutes, but Saracens demonstrated the attacking intent that has become their hallmark on their new artificial pitch. Chris Ashton scored two tries, while Owen Farrell slotted three penalties and two conversions to add 13 points of his own. However, Farrell was carted off after a nasty head injury in the 67th minute, following a collision with Veniki Goneva. The England international was apparently unconscious before hitting the ground, and over ten minutes elapsed before he was taken from the pitch. American Chris Wyles performed admirably, making a number of fine runs and supplying Ashton with his first try.
The hotly anticipated Bath-Harlequins matchup didn’t quite live up to its hype, featuring only a single try from Jonathan Joseph as refereeing took center stage. Martin Fox bucked the recent trend of going to the TMO for any potentially controversial call and got it wrong, deciding that Tom Guest’s effort was held up when replays clearly showed the ball being grounded. Connor O’Shea was understandably frustrated, as the try proved the difference between a Harlequins and a losing bonus point. On Saturday, Northampton received a scare from London Wasps, as the league’s second place side required a last second Stephen Myler penalty to escape with a 17-15 victory from Adams Park. The Wasps remain on the cusp of contention, and sit five points out of fourth place, but only three points out of sixth. On the other side of the spectrum, London Irish continued to struggle, and failed to beat Sale in their first match in front of new ownership. Though the Sharks were somewhat fortunate with their first try (coming from a Danny Cipriani cross-field kick that took a Sale bounce) the home side was unquestionably superior as they won 15-3. Rounding out the weekend’s action, Exeter wrapped up a tidy victory over Newcastle with a 16-3 triumph at Sandy Park, as Garth Steenson led from the front with 11 of the Chief’s 16 points.
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