Kick Off – Aviva Premiership Review – R18

Anyone who read my predictions for the weekend games in the Premiership should be having a good laugh just now. It started badly – the middle was poor and it went right downhill at the end.

Aviva Premiership Season Launch 2013-2014

In the previous 17 rounds I have never scored below 66% (alright 66.66% recurring to be pedantic) – this week I reached a magnificent 33.3%.

In my defence in all four matches that I called wrongly there was a losing bonus point for my selections, in two of them they could have won with the last kick of the game and in another the loss could be attributed to poor kicks at goal.

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Having said that, I accept that I got it badly wrong.

It started on Friday night when Sale came away from Bath with a 12 – 11 win – Danny Cipriani grabbing all the points.

Bath will complain about not getting a penalty try from the series of scrum penalties on the Sale line especially as the loss has opened it up at the top in the scrap for the top four play-off places.

George Ford missed some kicks including two late drop goals and the conversion attempt – any one of which would have given them all four points.

It was a similar story at Sandy Park where the Chiefs had the chance to grab victory over Gloucester with a conversion on full time. The usually reliable Gareth Steenson pushed his kick wide of the posts and the Cherry & Whites celebrated. The result lets Gloucester leapfrog the Chiefs in the table, but both are out of contention anyway.

Harlequins celebrated the return of Robshaw, Care and Brown with a win over London Irish at the Stoop by 23 – 9 – but they will regret not picking up a bonus point. They scored their third try with a few minutes left on the clock but couldn’t get the important 4th which would have helped in their quest for the play-offs.

For much of the game it was closer than it looks with Johnny O’Connor keeping the Irish in touch with his three penalty kicks.

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Saracens are home and hosed for the play-offs – even if they lose their last four games – unlikely in the extreme – they cannot be caught by 5th placed Sale.

They gained yet another bonus point victory on Saturday – this time away to Wasps.

The home side were in touch until just before half time when a Jamie George try enabled Saracens to go in at the break by 17 – 8. Wasps started brightly in the second half and briefly looked to threaten. However a jinking run to the goal line by Alex Goode took the visitors away again and Jamie George’s second touch -down claimed the try bonus point.

A late try from Festuccia gave the score line for Wasps a bit more respectability but they ended up with nothing for all their efforts.

The big game of the weekend was always going to be the Tigers visit to Franklin’s Gardens. There were some huge battles but Leicester always looked to be in control. Saints showed how much they are missing Stephen Myler with young Will Hooley failing with a series of kicks that Myler puts over week in week out. Hooley will feel bad but his tackling and general play promises a bright future and he won’t have such a poor day with the boot very often.

Saints stayed in contention to the end despite Tigers getting a stranglehold on possession and territory for much of the game.

Once more a match ended in controversy – yellow cards reduced the Tigers to 13 and Saints kicked for the corner. There was several seconds left on the clock but the ball was delayed for the throw in and Wayne Barnes asked the TMO if time was up. He said yes – even though the stadium clock wasn’t yet showing 80 minutes. If the TMO is going to have charge of important decisions – he really must pay attention to more than replays – Wayne Barnes should also know better.

The final game was a relegation battle with Worcester away to Newcastle.

To be honest it wasn’t much of a game – not that Dean Ryan will care. In a dour battle the Warriors gained their first win of the season scoring the only try in the game. The Falcons attack was blunt and I think they could still be playing now without ever threatening to cross the try line.

The gap has been reduced to 9 points and how Dean Richards will be thanking the gods that they got two bonus points last week thanks to Gloucester’s profligacy and that Worcester didn’t get the win they deserved against Wasps. If that had happened the gap would have been just 4 points.

It could still be close but you’d still have to put your money on the Warriors going down.

So the scores were –

Bath 11 – 12 Sale

Exeter 13 – 14 Gloucester

Harlequins 23 – 9 London Irish

Wasps 20 – Saracens 32

Northampton 16 – 22 Leicester

Newcastle 12 -17 Worcester

The table after 18 looks like this –

prem table

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