NORTHAMPTON, ENGLAND – Four rounds in, the Aviva Premiership is producing all the drama that we’ve come to expect from England’s domestic competition. Some teams, including Exeter, look set to make a challenge for an unexpected playoff position, while stalwarts such as Leicester are wobbling. This week and every week, Rugby Wrap Up has you covered with our Aviva Premiership Talking Points.
England Injury Crisis
Stuart Lancaster cannot be pleased with the start of the season. Though there have been some scintillating matches, it seems as though every week sees an England player go down. On Monday, Lancaster received news that Alex Corbesiero would be out at least three months with a shoulder ligament injury, while Geoff Parling has been put on hiatus after repeated concussion scares. Mako Vunipola and Dan Cole are both expected to miss the autumn internationals, leaving England’s front row options very thin. The depth that Lancaster has built over the past three years will be tested severely if the injuries keep coming. Rugby being rugby, they are almost certain to do exactly that.
Northampton Rebounds With Strong Performance
Saints secured a bonus point victory at Franklin’s Gardens by defeating Bath 31-24. Stephen Myler continued his impeccable form with the boot, kicking four conversions and a penalty, while Calum Clark, Christian Day, and George Pisi touched down for Northampton. George added to his league leading points tally, bringing his season total to 66. The Saints got off to a flying start inside the first ten minutes, taking the lead after Ben Foden made a spectacular run through the Bath defense. Luke Arscott deliberately knocked on, resulting in a yellow card and a penalty try. Clark’s try took Northampton fourteen points clear within 15 minutes, but Bath responded with a try of their own to cut the deficit. From there, the Saints took control, eventually leading 31-10 before Bath scored two unanswered tries to draw within a score in the 70th minute. They were unable to press on, and Northampton saw out their third victory of the young campaign.
Exeter Embarrass Quins
Exeter’s strong start to the season got even stronger with their resounding victory over Quins. The Chiefs put Joe Marler’s side to the sword, securing a 36-13 triumph. Conor O’Shea was apoplectic after the match, claiming “I am pretty emotional and furious because you cannot play the game when you cough up the ball as easily and make as many basic errors as we did.” Fortunately for Harlequins, they get to face the staggering London Welsh at home this week, though it may be cold comfort to a side that has now gone down by enormous margins twice in three weeks. Thomas Waldrom continued to make himself at home for Exeter, charging down a Ben Botica kick to open the scoring in the 22nd minute. From there, Gareth Steenson and Henry Slade eased the Chiefs into an inassailable position, slotting five penalties before captain Jack Yeandle burrowed over for their second try. The rout was on, and Henry Slade finished things with a fine effort in the 75th.
Leicester’s Woes Continue
Leicester continue to make headlines for all the wrong reasons, falling to the London Irish for the first time since 2003. The Tigers were missing up to twenty players through injury according to ESPNScrum, but Richard Cockerill would have entered the match confident that his side could handle the Exiles at home. That absurdness evaporated within the first 15 minutes, when Shane Geraghty coolly put London Irish six points to the good. Though Leicester crawled back, tying the match at 19 with a gargantuan 55 meter penalty from Owen Williams, Geraghty had the last word in the 78th minute, securing the win for London Irish. The match was marred by a punch from Blair Cowan delivered to Jamie Gibson in the first half. Bizarrely, referee Greg Garner consulted the TMO and deemed the offense not worthy of even a yellow card, a decision which allowed the Irish to consolidate their gains before the half. For once, Cockerill’s moans were not entirely without cause, but a neutral observer would have to say that the Exiles were fair value for their victory.
Best of the Rest
For 65 minutes, London Welsh resembled a Premiership side. All came crashing down however, and their match against Gloucester ended 46-10. The Cherry and Whites scored four tries in the last 15 minutes, and once more the newly promoted Welsh demonstrated that they are a long way short of match fit. Wasps did their duty against Newcastle, dispatching the northerners without drama in a 35-18 affair. Tom Varndell continued to close in on Mark Cueto with two more tries, and Dai Young’s side secured their bonus point in the 70th minute. Saracens wrapped things up with a resounding 40-19 mauling of the Sharks, even shorn of England fly-half Owen Farrell. Charlie Hodgson proved that their is still life in the old bones, kicking for 15 points before being removed in the 66th minute, job done.
That’s it for now. Feel free to comment below, please look for and “Like” our Facebook Rugby Wrap Up Page and follow us on Twitter@ :RugbyWrapUp, Junoir Blaber, Nick Hall, James Harrington, Jamie Wall, Jaime Loyd, DJ Eberle, Cody Kuxmann, Karen Ritter, Jake Frechette and Declan Yeats, respectively.