Saints and Sinners: The Weekend’s Talking Points
It was a weekend laden with tries as the Aviva Premiership and the Guinness Pro12 teams served up some scintillating rugby. Who were the major stars and who lost their sparkle?
Silver service from the No 10s
Harlequins outside-centre Alofa Alofa scored his first try for his new club in their 20-9 Aviva Premiership win over Northampton Saints and it was a memorable score for the quality of Nick Evans’ build-up play. The No 10 made a lovely break through the midfield, delayed his pass so an extra defender was taken out of the game, and then offloaded to Tim Visser who put Alofa away.
Another No 10 with flair to spare, Danny Cipriani, created a beautiful try during Wasps’ 30-14 loss at Saracens. The fly-half broke the line, with a little hitch-kick helping him on his way, ghosted through into space and gave a perfectly timed pass to Josh Bassett to score.
Jason Tovey pulled all the strings for Edinburgh in their 45-10 Guinness Pro12 win over Benetton Treviso with some excellent creative play. The stand-off threw a superb miss-pass to set up Tom Brown for his first try of the night and the wing was the beneficiary again when he latched on to a lovely cross kick from the inspired Tovey. The No 10 also converted five tries out of seven as Edinburgh romped to a welcome win.
Damien Hoyland scored two tries and back row Magnus Bradbury raced in from 60 metres out for one.
Double for George
Jamie George grabbed the headlines for Saracens, coming off the bench to score two tries in the last 12 minutes and take his team from 16-14 up to a comfortable 30-14 Premiership win. The second of his two tries earned a bonus point for Saracens but his 30-minute effort wasn’t enough to earn him the Man of the Match award, as Billy Vunipola carried that off after a typical all-action performance.
Glasgow Warriors were made to work hard for their 33-28 away win at Zebre and outside centre Nick Grigg played a key role, having a hand in three of their four tries.
First, a 90 metre break from his own 22 set up a score for Fraser Brown, which helped give the Warriors an 18-11 lead at half-time. Five minutes after the break Grigg’s offload created a try for Sean Lamont – the wing’s second of the game – and then the outside centre stretched the Zebre defence to breaking point with 51 minutes on the clock to allow Leonardo Sarto to score a try against his old club.
Connacht became the first team to beat Ulster this season in the Guinness Pro12 and wing Cian Kelleher certainly played his part in the 30-25 triumph.
He scored two of Connacht’s four tries, made 17 carries with the ball in hand, resulting in a total metres-gained of 114, and even managed to win a turnover.
Jack Carty contributed 15 points to the Connacht cause, crossing the line after three minutes to get his team off on the right foot and then adding two conversions and two penalties.
Try to treasure
Telusa Veainu scored arguably the best individual try of the weekend and helped Leicester Tigers on their way to a 34-13 Premiership win over Sale Sharks.
Scrum-half Jono Kitto fielded a clearance kick from Worcester just inside his own half, passed inside to Veainu and the full-back set off on a miraculous, weaving run, jinking his way around or bouncing off five defenders and touching down with the roars of an ecstatic Welford Road crowd ringing in his ears. It was a piece of brilliance which will live long in the memory.
Replacement scrum-half Jonathan Evans scored a crucial try for the Scarlets to set them up for their 31-27 Pro12 win over the Dragons.
Having been 20-7 down, the Scarlets were still trailing 20-17 in the 59th minute when Evans saw the blindside of a ruck on the 22 wasn’t guarded. He picked up and darted round the ruck, then sprinted down the wing to score.
Five minutes later the dancing feet of Scott Williams set up a second try for wing Steff Evans – who had started the game with a terrific try run in from halfway – and the Scarlets held on for the win.
The Ospreys put in a terrific performance against Cardiff Blues, scoring seven tries in a 46-24 victory and it was all set up by an outstanding performance from their pack.
James King, the Man of the Match, led the way, making 12 carries and 20 tackles. Alun Wyn Jones and Bradley Davies both had big games in the second row, while Dan Baker was also prominent in attack and defence, making 17 carries and 17 tackles.
Baker and Jones were both involved in a slick handling move which set up a try for Ben John, with Justin Tipuric and Rhys Webb both throwing long passes to stretch the Blues’ defence.
Josh Matavesi scored a great individual try, cutting a superb line to take a pass from Tomos Williams at full pace and powering over the line for his try with Matthew Morgan hanging off him. Sam Davies also had a terrific game at fly-half and Eli Walker scored two tries.
The beers are on Ali
Alistair Hargreaves is among our Saints this week for the generous gesture he made to Saracens fans after announcing his retirement from rugby this week.
The 30-year-old, who is hanging up his boots due to a concussion injury, invited all Sarries fans to join him for a free pint of Wolfpack lager before Sunday’s Aviva Premiership match against Wasps at Allianz Park. All they needed to do was meet him at the Wolfpack bus between 1 and 2pm.
The former Saracens skipper said: “The Sarries fans have welcomed me with open arms since I arrived in 2012 and I’d like to extend my gratitude to them by buying them all a beer on Sunday afternoon.”
Landmarks to celebrate
Matt Banahan scored his 50th Aviva Premiership try for Bath in their 30-3 win over Sale Sharks on Friday evening, and is the first Bath player to reach that landmark.
Plaudits also go to George Ford, who enjoyed a 100% success rate from the kicking tee, landing three penalties and three conversions.
Congratulations are also due to Charlie Sharples, who marked his 200th competitive appearance for Gloucester with his 75th try. It wasn’t enough to see his side to a much-needed win though, as they let go a 27-14 lead at Sandy Park to finish up with a 27-27 draw v Exeter.
Paul James also reached the 200-appearance landmark this weekend, when he came off the bench for the Ospreys.
Bristol went to Kingston Park in desperate need of a win after five straight defeats against some of the Aviva Premiership’s biggest guns, but handed Newcastle Falcons a five-point start thanks to a horrible mistake from Jack Tovey. David Lemi spilled a ball and Tovey picked it up, but then threw a hopeful pass up off the floor in the direction of Will Hurrell only to see Juan Pablo Socino stroll up, catch the ball and sprint in for a fourth-minute try.
From there, Newcastle built up a 19-0 lead before Bristol came back after the break to make the final score 19-14.
“We gifted them five points and there’s the difference between the two teams,” said Bristol boss Andy Robinson. “That’s the nature of playing in the Premiership – you can’t afford to slip up at any moment.”
Garry Ringrose has done so much that is so right in a Leinster jersey but he made a howling error during the first half of Saturday’s Pro12 match against Munster. Johnny Sexton slotted a lovely kick through the Munster defence and all Ringrose needed to do was gather it and stride over the line. With Leinster trailing 7-6 at the time, a try would have been useful, but Ringrose took his eye off the ball just as it bounced up towards his hands and knocked it on.
Fortunately for Ringrose, Leinster still went on to win 25-14 so it didn’t prove to be a costly error.
The Dragons were leading the Scarlets 20-7 with 35 minutes gone at Parc y Scarlets when a mistake from Jack Dixon – and from the match officials – let the home side back into the game.
Liam Williams leapt to try to gather a high ball and clearly knocked it on, but referee Ben Whitehouse and his assistants didn’t see the offence.
The Scarlets attacked from there and Dixon missed a tackled on Williams which allowed the Scarlets full-back to score a try. That brought the Scarlets back into the game and they went on to win 31-27.
Good work undone
Gloucester can’t shake off their early-season blues and they did themselves no favours with a series of mistakes which turned a 27-14 lead with 13 minutes to go of their match at Exeter Chiefs into a 27-27 draw.
First a weak attempt at a tackle from Billy Twelvetrees allowed Lachi Turner to break the line and make a marvellous offload to Ian Whitten, who scored a try.
Four minutes later Ross Moriarty was penalised for not rolling away at a ruck and Gareth Steenson kicked the penalty to make it 27-22 then, in the last minute Gloucester gave away another penalty, Steenson kicked to touch up the left and Gloucester were unable to halt a rolling maul which ended in a try for Damian Welch. Steenson couldn’t quite land the conversion which would have stolen a win for the Chiefs.
Johnny Leota experienced a moment of madness close to the end of Sale Sharks’ 30-3 loss at Bath, when he grabbed hold of Aled Brew off the ball and threw him to the floor, judo style, and was sin-binned as a result. In a week when judo and rugby haven’t exactly enjoyed a happy marriage, it was a silly thing to do.
Fish’s chip is turning point
Dan Fish had a poor kick out of defence charged down by Sam Davies just as the first quarter of Cardiff Blues’ match against the Ospreys was finishing, then compounded that error by holding Davies back after he hacked the loose ball towards the line. Fish conceded a penalty and was shown a yellow card and the Ospreys set up a try for Alun Wyn Jones from the subsequent lineout. The Blues were 10-3 up at the time and it proved to be a real turning point, as the Ospreys went on to win 46-24.