Gallagher Premiership Round 14: restart roundup

English Rugby is finally back and the Gallagher Premiership Round 14 did not disappoint. Here is a roundup and analysis of all the action from the six Gallagher Premiership matches of the weekend.

Harlequins 16 – 10 Sale Sharks

The first game since 8 March was, perhaps unsurprisingly, a tight affair that didn’t see a try until the second half. Lots was made pre-match about Sale’s title credentials but they couldn’t get on the scoreboard until Byron McGuigan’s try in the 43rd minute. Harlequins had already beaten Exeter and Bristol at The Stoop and they were able to claim another top three scalp through Scott Baldwin’s debut try to add to three first half penalties from Marcus Smith.

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Did Sale feel the pressure of expectation? We will perhaps have a better idea after next Friday night, when they host Exeter Chiefs. The Sharks are now nine points behind the leaders and have slipped to third.

Worcester Warriors 15 – 44 Gloucester

The George Skivington era at Gloucester got off to the perfect start at Worcester. At a ground where the Cherry and Whites often struggle, a six-try victory was probably beyond all expectations. The huge caveat was of course that Warriors fullback Melani Nanai received a red card inside 20 minutes.

Worcester can have no complaints about this high hit on Johnny May, but Gloucester exploited this space expertly to score their tries. All of Gloucester’s back three got on the scoresheet thanks to a solid forward platform plus some excellent distribution from Danny Cipriani.

Exeter Chiefs 26 – 13 Leicester Tigers

It was business as usual at Sandy Park, after a slow start for Exeter. Leicester took a 6-0 lead and was heading for a half time lead until a first phase move off a scrum saw Stuart Hogg score in the corner.

From there the Chiefs went on to get the bonus point, but the Tigers certainly put up more resistance than their last trip to Exeter, when Matt O’Connor was sacked after round one. After all the contract turmoil, new Head Coach Steve Borthwick will take heart ahead of another test against Bath next week.

Bath 34 – 17 London Irish

Three tries in the first 21 minutes meant Bath were always in control of this game. An intercept from debutant Ben Spencer after just four minutes set the tone. Hooker Tom Dunn grabbed a brace of tries and the game was effectively over.

London Irish grabbed a try before half time through Curtis Rona, and did at one point cut the lead down to seven points. However, just after the hour mark England centre Johnathan Joseph provided a sensational finish (see above) to score the bonus point try and seal the win.

Bristol Bears 16 – 12 Saracens

Like Sale, much is expected of Bristol for the rest of this season. Box-office signings, a new world-class training facility and strong pre-lockdown form gave much reason for confidence. Of course, write off Saracens at your peril. They still had four England internationals in their pack and are not aiming to just make up the numbers for the rest of the season.

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The poor weather made this a cagey affair, with both teams taking penalty points when available rather than going to expansive back play. This played into the hands of Saracens as the likes of Semi Radradra and Charles Piutau couldn’t be deployed fully. A contentious disallowed try for Luke Morahan meant Bristol had to wait until the final five minutes to get the winning score through a penalty try.

The Bears move up to second and have shown they can win in tight conditions, even when they can’t get their full running game going. Their match against Gloucester next Friday should be very interesting if the weather conditions allow.

Northampton Saints 21 – 34 Wasps

The final game of the weekend saw Wasps turn up and grab five points from Franklin’s Gardens. Two late changes to Northampton’s lineup perhaps disrupted them, but Wasps came out firing. The visitors were scoring for fun before the lockdown and carried it on here, scoring through Josh Bassett and Jack Willis in the first half.

Wasps maintained control over most of the match, thanks to significant work from Willis and Thomas Young forcing turnovers. Additionally, Saints ten Dan Biggar didn’t have the best day with the boot, in particular missing touch-finds that could’ve set up a scoring platform.

Despite getting within three points with ten minutes left, Northampton couldn’t take anything from the game. Wasps grabbed the bonus point score through Bassett following a break from Sopoaga and Robson. You would not bet against them getting another maximum against Worcester; their season is motoring now.

Gallagher Premiership Round 14 roundup

These results mean several movements in the top four, with Wasps now able to move into the top two next week if results go their way. Northampton fall to sixth and have now lost four home games in a row. Four home wins and two away wins don’t suggest there has been any noticeable loss of home advantage with crowds so far.

Keep up with all the action on @LWOS_Premrugby and LWOS Boards.

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