Starting on Friday morning you could watch a feast of rugby from the Super 15, Top 14, Premiership, Internationals and women’s rugby internationals. This continued until late on Sunday and with some judicious recording you were able to avoid other attractive distractions (like re-roofing the shed) and stay perched on the sofa for the whole weekend. The Mrs was delighted.
The Premiership is about two thirds through the normal league programme and for the fourth time this season I got a full house with my predictions – but, similarly to last week there were some very close calls with four of the six matches resulting in a losing bonus point.
Bath picked up five points at home to Wasps with Anthony Watson getting a brace and Kyle Eastmond and Nick Abendanon also crossing the line.
Tom Heathcote, starting because George Ford was at Twickenham, weighed in with 3 conversions and a couple of penalties.
Wasps were behind for most of the match but an Elliot Daly try in the 60th minute ensured that they didn’t go away totally empty handed.
At Kingsholm, Gloucester faced high flying Harlequins and this was the one game where I felt I might have got it wrong. But the Shed were in full voice as the home team managed to hold off a late surge by Quins that almost gave them a chance to snatch a win in the final minutes.
Gloucester had three tries before the hour mark through Kalamafoni, Kvesic and Murphy but couldn’t grab a fourth for the bonus point. For Quins, England 7s player Lindsay-Hague touched down, following a tap penalty from Karl Dickson. A good win for Gloucester and a fitting way for Mike Tindall to celebrate his 200th appearance.
Sale Sharks won comfortably away to Worcester with Danny Cipriani contributing 11 points with the boot. Both teams scored a couple of tries but the Warriors were never really in the game. Dean Ryan has been busy recruiting a strong squad for next season and expect them to bounce back if, as expected, they are relegated in May.
London Irish have been on a roll and you could see why when they very nearly grabbed a win against the Tigers. The Tigers continue to disappoint – in performance if not results. This scrappy win helped them leapfrog Harlequins into a play -off place and with Manu Tuilagi likely to be on the bench next week, it would be wrong to write them off yet. They scored three tries – the pick being a solo effort from Nicky Goneva who bull dozed and weaved his way to the line. He is a real handful but I think he is more suited and far more dangerous on the wing than in the centre. Outside Manu he will be very effective as we head for the play-offs. For Irish Marlon Yarde, back from injury, came off the bench and injected some dynamism into their attack. They could easily have won at the death when only a knock-on prevented them overtaking the Tigers.
The top two sides were also in action on Sunday afternoon – the Saints took all four points from their trip to Newcastle but the Falcons managed to grab an important losing bonus when Noah Cato intercepted and flew to the line. The Saints had three tries by the half hour mark and will be wondering how they blew the bonus point – but they still stay top of the league.
The last game saw Saracens at home to the Exeter Chiefs. I called it for Saracens but really wouldn’t have minded if the Chiefs had won. They play exciting heads up rugby (sometimes when caution would be more sensible) but they are a delight to watch and I have a soft spot for them. It was 7 -7 at the break but Saracens gradually wore them down and two close range tries from forward drives plus the reliable boot of Charlie Hodgson saw them comfortably home in the end.
The Chiefs are having a poor run of results but I expect them to bounce back – starting next week when they welcome London Irish
Round 15 Summary –
Bath 32 – 25 Wasps
Gloucester 25 – 20 Harlequins
Worcester 12 – 24 Sale
London Irish 15 – 20 Leicester
Newcastle 16 – 22 Northampton
Saracens 23 – 10 Exeter
The table after 15 is –
The 6 Nations takes a break next week before the final matches, so the replacements are likely to be back at their clubs for R 16.