LONDON, ENGLAND – It was a bittersweet weekend for Wasps fans, as they watched their team triumph over a solid Bath outfit, while confirming their imminent departure from London following this season. Six rounds into the Premiership’s 2014-15 season, things continue to heat up, and tries are being scored at a record rate. This week and every week, Rugby Wrap Up has you covered with our Aviva Premiership Talking Points.
Wasps Soar at Adams Park
Before the match, there were worries that supporters would disrupt the first match following Wasps’ announcement of their move. Instead, fans seemed resigned, but supportive, understanding the economic necessity that motivated the move. Although the crowd was a season high at a little over 7,000, such a figure is far too small to support a Premiership club in this era. Dai Young’s side continues their steady improvement after a disappointing 2013-14 season. Andy Goode led the way with 16 points for the Wasps, who eventually triumphed 29-22. Bath were the victims of three yellow cards during the match, with a penalty try awarded for a professional foul committed by Micky Young. Sailosi Tagicakibau scored a try for Wasps, while Jonathan Joseph, David Sis, and Micky Young responded for Bath. Though Wasps were ahead 15-0 at one point early in the second half, Bath clawed back to secure the losing bonus point. Currently, Bath sit fourth in the table, having secured 20 points from their first six matches. Wasps are in fifth on 15 points at this early juncture, with some of their most difficult matches yet to come. The Bath victory provides a solid foundation to build upon, and the Coventry move hopefully secures the team’s future.
Sale Put to the Sword
Defending champions Northampton ran in six tries at Franklin’s Gardens against Sale, with American lock Samu Manoa scoring a hat trick. The final scoreline, 43-10, fully reflected Northampton’s dominance throughout the match. The Saints led 22-3 at the half, and never let their foot off the throttle, despite securing the bonus point after 52 minutes. The Samoan trio of George Pisi, Ken Pisi, and Kahn Fouali’i also scored for Northampton, who have a point differential of +115 after six matches. Saints defense is the stingiest in the league, allowing a mere 82 points, while their offense is the second best in the league, scoring 197 point so far. Sale’s position is worse than their point differential would suggest, and they figure to be in the mix for a top six slot at the end of the season. A rough outing at Franklin’s Garden in October feels bad at the moment, but the memory will fade with some good performances against their direct competitors, including Exeter, Gloucester, and Wasps.
Welsh Disaster in Relegation Battle
It may be early in the season to declare a match “must-win,” but the words rang true for London Welsh, who have looked dreadful in their first five matches. Their match against Newcastle was likely their most realistic chance to pick up a victory this season. Instead, the Welsh succumbed 23-3, a result that shockingly represented a marked improvement over previous outings. Attendance was barely 2000, demonstrating the growing gap between Championship and Premiership sides. Unlike the Barclay’s Premier League, the parachute payments and television rights fees are nowhere near enough to sustain a club at the top level, and Welsh represent the difficulties that will be faced by any team without a wealthy benefactor in the immediate future. Though Exeter managed to successfully grow from the ground-up, it is rapidly becoming clear that the RFU will need to find a way to make relegation and promotion a legitimate system, rather than shuttling patsies back and forth.
Best of the Rest
Leicester led off the weekend with a victory over Harlequins in dreadful conditions at Welford Road, triumphing over the victors 22-16. Blaine Scully scored a great try in the first three minutes, while Karl Dickson responded late for Quins. Owen Williams assumed full kicking duties for the Tigers, slotting five penalties…. Saracens closed out Gloucester 28-21. The Cherry and Whites put up a good fight away from home, but tries from Chris Ashton, Owen Hargreaves, and Chris Wyles proved too much for Gloucester… Exeter demonstrated their prowess once more, racing away from London Irish to take a 30-3 lead at the half. The Chiefs eventually beat the Exiles 44-24, extending their league leading points tally. Gareth Steenson kicked five conversions and three penalties, another solid return for the fly-half.
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