Saints and Sinners: The weekend’s talking points
Several of this weekend's Aviva Premiership and Guinness Pro12 matches turned on late scores - but who were the match-winning heroes and who were the villains who made the crucial mistakes?
Bath stole a valuable away win at Exeter Chiefs in the Aviva Premiership thanks to an 88th minute try from wing Rokoduguni. Trailing 10-6, his team had laid siege to the Chiefs’ try-line since the 79th minute, earning a series of penalties and opting to scrummage each time. Exeter kept Bath out until a scrum was finally completed without the referee needing his whistle and the visitors attacked. They patiently kept the ball through 11 phases before George Ford found Rokoduguni on the right with a great pass.
The wing had been indicating he fancied his chances in a one-on-one against Gareth Steenson and sure enough he stepped the Chiefs fly-half, leaving him lying on the turf, then wrong-footed Olly Woodburn and dotted the ball down over the line. Ford’s conversion added the finishing touch to the 13-10 win.
Worcester conceded two interception tries in their 36-14 Aviva Premiership defeat at Harlequins but the first of the pair was more down to great work from Visser than to a wayward pass from the Warriors.
In the third minute the huge Quins wing reached up to tip and then gather a pass from Dean Hammond on his own 22 and then handed off Chris Pennell on his way up the pitch. When the Worcester defence caught him, Visser offloaded superbly to Danny Care who scored the try which gave Quins a 7-0 lead.
In the final minute of the game Visser got his own name on the scoresheet with the fifth of Quins’ tries, to complete a happy afternoon for him and his team.
The Ospreys centre played out of position in the No 10 jersey and piloted his team to a 35-17 Guinness Pro12 win over the Dragons, earning the Man of the Match award. Matavesi’s break and deft offload set up the first of two tries for the ever-impressive Keelan Giles (who has now scored eight tries in four games for the Ospreys) and the Fijian also took on the place-kicking duties and converted all five of his team’s tries.
Matavesi was asked to play outside-half because both Dan Biggar and Sam Davies are on Wales duty and he showed that he can do a sound job as playmaker.
You don’t have to score a try to be a Saint and Northampton’s replacement scrum-half Kessell earns his place on this week’s list with a crucial, match-winning turnover.
The Saints were 23-20 up on Gloucester with 80 minutes of their Aviva Premiership clash gone, but were hanging on for dear life at Franklin’s Gardens as the visitors attacked. Charlie Sharples was hauled down five metres from the line and Kessell got stuck in at the breakdown, preventing the Gloucester wing from recycling the ball. He earned a penalty for Northampton, bringing the match to a close and securing the win.
Kessell had already scored what turned out to be the winning try in the 69th minute, so it wasn’t a bad 20 minutes off the bench for him.
The Munster centre kept his cool and kicked a late drop-goal which earned a 15-14 win for his team at Ulster in the Pro12.
Munster had been 14-0 down but fought back – helped by a try at the end of the first half by Scannell. Inside the last ten minutes Munster were pressing inside the Ulster 22 and set up the chance for Scannell to claim the three points. He had to stoop to his right to take the pass but still found the target with his kick.
Ulster fly-half Paddy Jackson had a chance to steal the victory with a drop-goal of his own at the death, but missed.
It was only the second defeat of the season for Ulster and the win moved Munster above them in the table, up to fourth place.
The Scottish team became the first to lose to Zebre in the Guinness Pro12 this season, falling to a 19-14 loss at BT Murrayfield.
Giovanbattista Vendetti scored the winning try after Damien Hoyland raced up out of the line on the wing to attempt an interception and Federico Ruzza then popped a short pass to Vendetti who scooted up the left to score.
Edinburgh had trailed 12-0 earlier in the game so the defeat was definitely not down to that one mistake by Hoyland. Allan Dell knocked on with the line at his mercy earlier in the game and the Scots were generally well below par, despite having enjoyed a three-match winning streak in October.
When a team loses by three points there are lots of “if only” moments to contemplate and after Exeter Chiefs’ 13-10 home loss to Bath, one of those was a soft penalty conceded by Mitch Lees.
Midway through the second half, with the scores tied at 3-3, Lees played Kahn Fotuali’i at the back of a ruck when the scrum-half didn’t have the ball, then foolishly looked up at referee Ian Tempest to check if what he was doing was OK. It wasn’t, and Tempest awarded the penalty which George Ford kicked from 45 metres to give Bath a narrow lead.
The naughty Cardiff Blues fly-half owes his brother Aaron a drink or three after tackling him off the ball in the last 12 minutes of a pulsating Welsh derby and then raising an imaginary yellow card in approval as referee Lloyd Linton wrongly sin-binned the Scarlets flanker for the challenge instead of him.
Steve Shingler had already blotted his copybook by throwing out a foolish pass which was easily intercepted by Aled Thomas to create a length-of-the-pitch try from DTH van der Merwe. That had put the Scarlets 21-7 up but the game was still just about in the balance at 26-15 when Aaron Shingler was sin-binned for the off-the-ball challenge which was actually made on him, not the other way round.
Referee Linton attracted a lot of criticism for this mistake and other controversial calls during the match and in the case of the sin-bin error, he was badly let down by his assistant referees and the TMO, none of whom alerted him to the fact he had shown a yellow card to the wrong man.
The first interception try Worcester conceded against Harlequins can’t be blamed on a risky pass, but the second can. Harlequins were 24-14 up when the Warriors were attacking on the 22 and Lamb, standing very flat, passed the ball just in front of the defensive line. Joe Marchant read his pass, snaffled it up and sprinted 80 metres to score the try which gave Harlequins their bonus point.
Lamb is a terrific, creative player and sometimes the risks he takes pay off, but this time his ultra-attacking play cost his team.