If you didn’t score a hat-trick in the Premiership last weekend, you’re in the minority, well, at least that’s how it seems. A weekend that was blessed with some ruthless running rugby, sublime finishing and magical moments was a memorable one for the likes of Saints, Saracens and Exeter. Even more so for George North, Vereniki Goneva and David Strettle who currently top the Try-scoring charts.
After an horrific start to Welsh’s campaign they’ll be hoping it’s not a case of deja-vu when they take on a silky skilled Bath backline at the Rec. Equally, the likes of Gloucester and Newcastle will be hoping to take a step forward in their development when they take on Sale and London Irish respectively.
This weeks notable match up’s-
Friday Night Lights at the Stoop as Saracens come to town.
Baxter’s well oiled unit do battle against the mighty Leicester Tigers.
A clash of former versus current Champions as Wasps take on Dylan Hartley’s Saints.
Harlequins v Saracens-
Consistency is perhaps the biggest message ringing around both teams dressing rooms after last weekend. Saracens seemed perfectly set-up after a convincing first half performance against Wasps, yet after some wonderful individual play from the likes of Hughes, Johnson and Wade, Saracens found themselves needing a try to win it at the death. Despite getting the 4 points thanks to a wonderful pass and finish from Spencer and Strettle respectively, McCall will be looking for Saracens to keep up their clinical attacking play and intense defence against Quins this evening.
O’Shea on the other hand will hope for starters that club legend Nick Evans has a slightly more favourable time with the boot. Perhaps newly appointed Club Captain Joe Marler and front row colleague Kyle Sinckler will want to ensure they don’t spend 10 minutes in the bin either and give Quins a chance to take on Saracens in the midfield and out-wide, where they are regularly dangerous.
Wallace v Wray- Wallace is the jackal king and will utilise every opportunity to put Sarries under pressure at ruck time. If Wallace can make some vital turnovers it’ll give the likes of Yarde and Lindsay-Hague the chance to counter. Wray on the other hand, is an engine of the Sarries pack. Not only a good lineout option, Wray will make tackle after tackle and try to keep Quins on the back foot.
Prediction: I think Quins will be strong at home, I’ll say Quins by 3-5 points.
Exeter Chiefs v Leicester Tigers-
Chiefs certainly had a less intense opening fixture than Leicester last weekend, however both teams will be on a high going into the second round. Rob Baxter will be looking for his youthful centres of Slade and Hill to sure up their defence when they take on the powerhouse that is Manu Tuilagi. It’ll be interesting to see how Thomas ‘the Tank Engine’ Waldrom fairs against his old club after an impressive performance against Welsh.
From a Tigers perspective, they’ll be wanting to prove they’re top four contenders and show some dominance up front. If they can get quick ball to the likes of Burns and Goneva, Exeter will certainly have their hands full!
Waldrom v Barbieri- Waldrom will constantly get Exeter over the gain-line and look to offload to the likes of Whitten and Jess on his shoulder. Barbieri will be hoping he can hop his way over the try-line after his incredible hopping assist for Mele last week.
Slade v Tuilagi- A hugely creative spark in the Chiefs backline, Slade will look to turn defenders with clever chips or grubbers. Tuilagi on the other hand will be heading in one direction every time. Can Slade handle the slabs of muscle that are Manu’s mounds of legs?
Prediction: I think Tigers will be up for this encounter, Manu and Goneva will be too hot to handle. Tigers by 7 or more.
Wasps v Northampton Saints-
A match up that would make any running rugby fan drool. A tried and tested Saints backline will come up against a Wasps backline similarly reminiscent of last season, bar the addition of Sailosi Tagicackibau. Dai Young will be looking for his back-row to carry hard and fast and from that, set a platform for Simpson to play off. Mallinder will be hoping to crush Wasps up front and get the penalty count rolling in their favour. With the likes of Corbisiero, Hartley, Lawes and Manoa, Wasps will have to deny front foot ball if they want any chance of beating the Champions and favourites.
Launchbury v Lawes- England’s finest at lock. Launchbury will rally the troops with his committed work around the park, whereas Lawes will seek to keep knocking Wasps backwards, and get into the ribs of Andy Goode.
Goode v Myler- Two pinpoint boots. Goode will look to use the territory game and pressurise Saints in their own half. Comparatively, Myler will vary his gameplay and look to open up the midfield, giving the ball to Burrell and Manoa to crash up, over and over again!
Prediction: Saints are just looking so strong, Saints by 7 or more.