In the end my predictions weren’t too bad – 4 out of 6 is just about acceptable, but has pushed my overall % record for the season down into the low 70s!
Mind you it could have been a lot worse.
Friday night my ‘guess’ that the Sharks would continue their good run was firmly shoved up my….nose…by a Harlequins team who are obviously not ready to give up on the play-offs.
With Nick Evans leading from the front the visitors overcame an early score from the Sharks and romped away to a bonus point victory that helped them leapfrog their opponents and keep them just about in the hunt. It could all come down to the final match of the regular season when they play hosts to Bath at the Stoop. If it does they might want to think about moving the game down the road to Twickenham. I was at the Rec last night to see Bath United play Somerset – a massive crowd for a Monday night – imagine how many will be on the M4 on May 14th if it’s effectively a final for the play-offs!
Saturday had three interesting games – each for different reasons. The Tigers put away Wasps – although they certainly didn’t look as good as they have done recently. Maybe the hangover from the Heineken didn’t help – one thing is certain though, Manu is back! Richard Cockerill is also right to be delighted that Niki Goneva is staying at Leicester.
The Tigers also grabbed a bonus point to keep pressure on the Saints – that point could be important in light of what happened on Sunday at Saracens.
It was a strange game at Worcester – the Chiefs raced into a 21-3 lead inside 25 minutes and had the try bonus point by half –time. They stretched to 35 – 18 and it looked all over, but the Warriors stirred themselves and not only ended within 7 but also scored four tries to hand them two bonus points. They are within 7 of Newcastle in the table now and Dean Ryan’s assertion that they might survive is not looking quite so impossible, unlikely but not impossible.
If that game was unusual – the West Country derby at Kingsholm was off the scale. Saying it was bad tempered is the understatement of the season. It was a poor game with neither side able to hold onto the ball. Tim Wigglesworth the ref has been blamed by the clubs – but I don’t recall him clothes lining, stamping or punching anyone.
The players have to take responsibility and the game was a disgrace – not just for the 5 yellow and two red cards – but the fact that it went to uncontested scrums – which Gloucester definitely need to explain.
If the game had gone on for another 5 minutes I doubt that there would have been anyone left to contest anything.
Bath scraped the win they needed to keep Harlequins at bay – for the present at least. They would have been more comfortable if George Ford had kicked better – he will need to as well, if he is to lead England in the first test in Auckland in June.
On Sunday first (Saracens) took on Saints (second) in a game that had been anticipated all week.
Sarries took control for much of the game and looked comfortable at 28 – 10 going into the final 10 minutes. Cue two quick scores from George North and Luther Burell – both converted by the returning and reliable Stephen Myler. A nervous last few minutes for Saracens but they held on and Saints gained a bonus point that had seemed unlikely for much of the game. It might prove invaluable in the fight for home advantage for the play-offs
The final game was a romp for London Irish who ran in 6 tries, including a hat-trick for Andy Fenby against a disjointed Falcons side whose only reply was 4 penalties from Rory Clegg. Everyone could have gone home at half-time as there wasn’t a single score in the second 40.
Looking at the last 3 fixtures I suspect Dean Richards is feeling a little more sanguine about avoiding relegation that he was with his team’s performance.
To summarise –
Sharks 12 – 27 Harlequins
Tigers 27 – 15 Wasps
Worcester 33 – 38 Chiefs
Gloucester 17 – 18 Bath
Saracens 28 – 24 Saints
London Irish 40 – 12 Newcastle
With 3 rounds to go the table looks like this –
I’ll preview Round 20 over the Easter weekend later in the week.