As the Gallagher Premiership Round 14 results are consumed, there were wins ‘against the grain’ and pundit selections that will refresh the English rugby top tier league, to the benefit of fans and followers globally.
Not every game was an entirely upset outcome though. Some had few outright predictions while the midtable teams can take more out of the loss by fellow leading clubs than they can take from the pair of expected away wins over the weekend.
If not fully reflected on the Premiership standings though, with just the one positional change, however – in terms of motivation over the remaining half of the season – it is a refreshing booster shot. Timely too for teams like London Irish and Wasps, who gained the biggest push from their respective wins.
Good rewards for the midtable group too, as they still need others to replicate their success over the likes of the once ‘all conquering’ Leicester Tigers and Saracens. Although making the most of a single league round loss is one thing, but to go on from here and create some consistency now, will help their momentum in the third quarter of this 2021/22 Gallagher Premiership season.
Tigers fans might protest at the insinuation that the downfall of the dominant midlands club. 11 wins and just the two losses is an excellent record to date. And there is no threat that their winning trend will be halted by a single loss yet…. more can be read into the reverse-trend than some will see over the next segment of this next tricky phase of the calendar [Six Nations inclusive].
‘Against the grain’ wins – Gallagher Premiership Round 14 results
If all the attention were on the Bath v Harlequins’ outcome alone, then it would be newsworthy for that result. After a horrendous season-to-date, some will see a Bath Rugby win over the 2020/21 Champions as a highlight to bank on. Whatever occurs now, they’ve beaten ‘Quins.
While just 3% of pundits predicted a Bath win proves that some will want to celebrate the win more than the majority, it might be the one bright light of a tragic year-to-date. Well no, of course, the playing squad could never rest on just one result – but it sure will feel great after a torrid beginning to the calendar. New year, new team? Only time will tell.
Just look what it means! 🤩
Bottom of the table @BathRugby come from behind to edge past the defending Premiership champions 👏
— Rugby on BT Sport (@btsportrugby) January 28, 2022
Then you have the other outcomes. In a range of only 16% predictions to a one-in-four prediction ratio, other results will help to keep the leading side’s attention fully on guard. Whenever the top three ranked teams all lose, it is the reminder that every senior rugby professional needs – you cannot sit on your hands in January.
Bath, London Irish win, Sale punish Leicester errors in Rd 14
No doubting that these Gallagher Premiership Round 14 results all count for more than a single event. A lot can be read into the match outcomes on their own, and in the context of placings, little changes. Analysis may be more involved yet from the outside, there are several significant themes and assessments that could point further into the calendar than simply the January segment.
If the losing streak had undermined the Bath Rugby team’s ability to go out and win matches was true, then the Harlequins side was ‘sucked into the rhetoric’. They may have believed all that was written in regards to the blue and white hoops team’s unlikely chances. Pity, as they were dashed in a powerful statement by a club bereft of some starters, and sporting a newly kitted-out Nathan Hughes.
As soon as they realized that England international Sam Underhill and Scotland backrower Josh Bayliss were unavailable for this Gallagher Premiership Round 14 clash, Bath management acted quickly to secure a solid replacement. Few would have seen Hughes as such a significant replacement. Yet he played out of his skin, collecting a Player of the Match award, as Bath defeated Harlequins 21-17. It’s the major boost the club needs, after a ferocious 64-7 scalding from Leinster last weekend.
Plaudits go to the replacement value of Hughes, or the work ethic of the whole group. It still won’t resurrect a campaign of just two wins out of 13 but, this was a win at home that was even more valuable. It could be the catalyst for much improvement. That is if they can travel well away to Saracens on February 5, and steal even more achievements over their rivals.
For the ‘Quins supporters, they must hope that life without Marcus Smith will not take away their menace and winning ability against others at the top of the standings. They next play the Sale Sharks, before a game against Saracens at the Stone X Stadium that really is season-defining for the title holders.
London Irish could also have the widest smiles after their result. Most notably, as they held the Exeter Chiefs scoreless in the second half. A mammoth illustration of the heart that some of their caliber players have. Yet it’s also reflective of where the Chiefs went oh so wrong for repeated sets and repeated failures to cross the Exiles line.
How good was this man today!? 💪
— London Irish (@londonirish) January 29, 2022
Tigers suffer second defeat, as Saracens replacements fail to Fire
Tom Roebuck celebrating the fifth try for the Sale Sharks’ 35-26 win over Leicester Tigers is the Getty image of this feature. Triumphant, he pumps his fist in the air as any confident winger should do. Yet the Sharks were not exactly favourites at home. The majority had them losing to the leading Tigers though once they got ahead, it was a demonstration of how confidence can come from one very good demonstration.
As Roebuck clinched the key score, it offered the hosts five competition points. Exceptional value for a side positioned ninth in the league. It didn’t help them to leapfrog any other clubs, however, it helped in many other ways. It showed the Tigers are beatable – and that registers with Shark’s fans as much as all the other competitors. And it registers in the points for and against (+/-). Running up 35 points is a plus when you consider the cost of a heavy loss. Winning with a bonus point try was simply the icing on the cake.
𝙁𝙐𝙇𝙇-𝙏𝙄𝙈𝙀 | 🦈 35-26 🐯
WHAT A DAYYYY!
— Sale Sharks 🦈 (@SaleSharksRugby) January 30, 2022
For Saracens fans, they will be wary of the next few weeks and months. Losing Owen Farrell to injury will not help England Rugby, yet it will certainly damage the London side’s continuity. Take away head coach Mark McCall for medical reasons, and this club is in for a’ testing next quarter’ of the calendar.
Similar to others, constant interruptions from the 2022 Six Nations, ongoing European Club commitments, and rotation of the squad all included, and ‘Sarries supporters may just want to blink at this stage.
Note: Manu Vunipola may be a highly-skilled footballer. But in the same way that Ben Volavola is in a similar position when playing for Fiji, the questions of when they will progress to the ability of the likes of a Romain Ntamack or Dan Biggar is the bigger question. Saracens will need to provide good mentoring and support, if the junior Vunipola brother is to herald the same success as his older siblings.
Fans now watch as regular ‘national team representation’ removes key players from the ranks. Yes, it occurs annually. And yes, some service better than others. So the questions are firstly, when George Ford was added to the England Rugby squad, how much pressure was added to Freddie Burns’ shoulders?
The second open question is that, with the Premiership running uninterrupted during the Guinness Six Nations championship, is it drawing too much talent away from the domestic competition? And finally, which player is ready to step up and help his squad to continue, and improve their standing, by the end of March?
Follow the discussion of the Gallagher Premiership on Last Word on Rugby’s social media pages, as well as the LWOS Boards forum site conversation here.
“Main photo credit”