We begin week 4 of the Aviva Premiership with a trip to Kassam Stadium where London Welsh are hosting Gloucester. The cherry and whites are expected, as with every team in the Premiership, to put a beating on the newly promoted London Welsh.
The deadlock was broken by Henry Purdy going over in the 26th minute and Charlie Sharples running in another try 2 minutes later to bring the score to 12-0. Ben Pienaar brought the newly promoted Welsh within 7 just before the break and Olly Barkley added a penalty on the stroke of half time to bring the game within 4 points; the closest it would be all game.
The second half followed the pattern of the first with sloppy play and neither side truly seizing the initiative. Billy Twelvetrees added 3 of his own points for the visitors just before the hour amidst a sea of substitutions from both sides trying to alter the course of the game. It was not until the final 15 minutes that the superior attacking prowess of Gloucester began to show. Greg Laidlaw knocked over a penalty and then the flood gates opened. A pair of tries from replacement Mark Atkinson within 3 minutes killed the game off, with both tries being converted by fellow substitution Laidlaw. Winger Jonny May ran in following a chip from Laidlaw the 74th minute; the points outburst was complete when a penalty try was awarded as the game was ending giving us the final score of 10-46 in favour of Gloucester.
Our Saturday action began with a surprisingly struggling Leicester Tigers team hosting London Irish who have had a tumultuous season thus far as well.
Early on the match was bogged down by sloppy play from both sides who were trying to grind down their opposite numbers. Shane Geraghty continued his fine form by kicking 2 penalties in the opening 20 minutes to give Irish the lead before Freddy Burns countered with a penalty of his own on 29 minutes, after having missed two previously. By this stage however there was already some controversy following a punch from Blair Cowan against Leicester flanker Jamie Gibson which none of the officials saw and only gave a warning to both captains. The Irish however continued in the ascendency before half with a catch and drive leading to an easy try for Halani Aulika which was converted by Geraghty. This however was Geraghty’s last positive act of the first half as he was sin binned for hands in the ruck which led to Burns converting the penalty and leaving the visitors ahead 6-13 at the break.
Eight minutes after the break Burns reduced the deficit with his third penalty have squandered the chances of a man advantage. Aulika missed an opportunity for his second try of the day when he knocked in sight of the Leicester line whilst Geraghty continued his strong play adding another penalty to bring the score to 9-16 in favour of Irish. Leicester brought the scores level moments later however when Niki Goneva picked up from the base of ruck and ran in from 15 meters out. Yet again however the Tigers were frustrated when Geraghty knocked over another penalty following Jordan Crane’s sin binning for dangerous play. Burns missed a long-range penalty and such was Leicester’s desperation that centre Owen Williams then attempted one from five metres inside his own half, and it sailed over. But two minutes from time Geraghty clinched victory for Irish with a simple penalty after Mathew Tait had been controversially penalised for handling on the floor. Following the game the fans let referee Greg Garner know what they thought of the decision which lost them the game, with boos ringing out around Welford Road giving you a final score of 19-22 in favour of London Irish.
The second game on Saturday saw Sale Sharks visiting Saracens at Allianz Park and facing off against the former Sale man Charlie Hodgson. He would have a lot to do on the day.
Alex Goode pierced the Sale line inside the first 2 minutes and from there on out it was a long day for the travelling Sharks. Hodgson added a penalty minutes later with Sale responding through David Seymour. That try only seemed to wake Saracens up however as Hodgson added a pai
r of penalties before Ernst Joubert forced his way in. Hodgson was also presented with the easiest of conversions when on half time the referee awarding a penalty try due to a scrum which was splintering to prevent a push over try. This gave the hosts a halftime lead of 30-7.
A break by Sale substitute Vadim Cobilas ended with Tom Brady crossing for the away team in the 53rd minute. They were denied the opportunity to score again though when Goode came in from the side and was rightly yellow carded. Despite being a man down Saracens were able to nab another try through substitute Richard Barrington locking up the bonus point and the match. A penalty try was also awarded to Sale which made the score seem more respectable with Alex Goode adding a penalty in the late going to give us a final of 40-19.
The final game on Saturday pitted Northampton against Bath. Saints dominated in terms of territory in the early going before they surged ahead after 7 minutes following Ben Foden finding some of the dynamism that made him England’s fullback of choice. Foden’s flair caused panic in the Bath defence, and when visiting full-back Luke Arscott deliberately knocked forward an intended pass which resulted in a yellow card for Arscott and a penalty try. Following the booking Northampton simply kept up the pressure and Callum Clarke crossed uncovered in the 15th minute. Bath however would answer; George Ford’s clever inside ball found David Wilson who would rumble over giving the visitors there first points of the day. A Myler penalty, though, made it 17-7 to Saints, and despite Ford quickly responding with his opening penalty Nothampton looked good for their 17-10 halftime lead.
The lead was extended following halftime with Christian Day being the beneficiary of an inspired Foden who ran circles around Bath before Day could dot it down in the corner. The bonus point arrived following Ken Pisi being put in by Foden giving the Saints a commanding 31-10 lead. Bath would surge however following the introduction of substitute Gavin Henson who put Olly Woodburn in; then hard-working Nick Auterac scored as the visitors, moved to within striking distance. The Bath substitutes had changed the game but Northampton were able to hang on for the final few minutes giving us a final score of 31-24 in favour of the home side.
Moving on to Sunday we had two routs home teams with almost identical score lines. We started with Exeter against Harlequins; the visitors opened the scoring with a Botica penalty but those were the only points they would get for half an hour. Penalties from both Henry Slade and Gareth Steenson put the Chiefs ahead with Thomas Waldrom going over minutes later to widen the margin. Botica would fight back with a penalty for ‘Quins but again Slade and Steenson hit penalties of their own from both near and far to widen the lead at the 40 minute mark to 19-6.
Asaeli Tikoirotuma would waltz in early in the second half for the visitors but it seemed to change very little. 4 minutes later Steenson would add 3 more points to the tally and from there Exeter began to cruise. Even the sin binning of winger Jack Nowell did not awaken Harlequins who during the time when they had a man advantage would give up a try to Jack Yeandle. 10 minutes later they would compound the error with Henry Slade being rewarded for his kicking efforts with a try to go along with those points. This left us with a dominant final score of 36-13 to the Chiefs.
The final game of the weekend saw London Wasps playing host to the Newcastle Falcons. Newcastle opened the scoring with a penalty from Jaun Pablo Socino; but Wasps would respond through Tom Varndell. Elliot Daly produced a superbly timed pass off a set move to send Varndell over for his first of the afternoon. Sociono and Andy Goode traded penalties until again the whitewash was breached James Gaskell after pilfering a lineout from the Falcons. Just before play was halted for halftime Tipuna evaded some poor Wasps defending to nip over for the try. Socino failed to convert so Wasps held a 17-11 advantage at the halfway stage.
After the teams came out for the second half Goode kicked Wasps further into the lead with two penalties before Tom Vandell crossed for his second try on the day. Christian Wade was introduced for the last quarter and it was a piece of magic from the England representative that created the space for fullback Rob Miller to run in for the fourth try that clinched Wasps an extra point. Wade however soon turned villain when he was harshly yellow carded and a penalty try was given against him to lend an air of respectability to the score line; it finished 35-18 to Wasps.