5 things we learnt from round 13 of the Gallagher premiership

Gloucester are on track for a top four place

Beating Exeter on Friday night just proves how good Gloucester have been this season and how far their game organisation has evolved over the last six months. Cipriani has been crucial to their progress this season and they understandably play off and around him, which has been a huge success point for them. The rise of Ollie Thorley has been colossal for Gloucester and his England call up into the squad to face Wales this weekend has certainly been earnt. Thorley’s pace and great ball handling on the wing lit up Kingsholm once again on Friday night. Gloucester’s win was a complete team effort, with Morgan’s try saving them in the closing minutes of the game. Exeter have many a player on international duty during this Six Nations period but still can produce a strong squad on match-day. The visitors didn’t quite look like the Exeter we know, with many simple errors costing them at times. Gloucester certainly used the home advantage to their benefit and the 16th man really helped them get the job done.

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Wasps always seem to surprise

I hadn’t predicted a Wasps win this weekend, Ashton Gate has become a fierce place to go this season, and with Dai Youngs side’s current form, Bristol would have appeared to be favourites. Despite the close result at the end, Wasps had a 16 point lead at half-time. There are concerns for the Coventry based club both on and off the pitch, which shows by their sixteen point lead going to just seven by the final whistle. However, don’t count Wasps out of the top four. They always seem to produce some sort of magic at the end of the season or when it matters to get them out of hot water. Wasps are struggling at the moment and they will greatly benefit not only when players come back from international duty, but when players finally return from injury. Wasps have been in unsteady waters before and have managed to get out of it, a certain Tom Varndell try rings a bell. Wasps won’t win the league this season but I think that despite their rocky start they will be up there for a top four place in May. 

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Tigers need to find second half form

Leicester didn’t score any points in the second half against Saracens this weekend, after their 10-5 lead at half time. For any team in this league not scoring in the second half raises problems, especially when playing a side like Saracens, any opportunity to take points must be taken. Tigers had more of the possession and both sides were even on the penalty count along with Leicester’s set-piece being 100% throughout the match. Tigers are struggling to make momentum from their phase play, along with their game plan being rather non-existent at times. As much as Tom Varndell is a premiership  rugby icon the inclusion of him to their squad seems to have meant they have taken a step back and not in the right direction. Looking at the side they put out for the match, Jonah Holmes is the only name that remotely strikes some life into the Tigers backline. They do of course have players away on international duty, but their limited depth in their squad is a concern for them. Their U18’s won the league title for them on Sunday but they need to hold onto these players and nurture them at the club so that in three season’s time we can see them scoring in the second half when they need it most.

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Northampton are starting to produce some champagne rugby this season

67-17 is a huge score-line and one that we would expect when our premiership winners play a championship side, not two clubs like Northampton and Sale. On the pitch, Saints beat Sale in pretty much every aspect of the game and Sale didn’t come out after half-time offering much more than they did in the first half. It was an error stricken afternoon for Sale and Steve Diamonds men, something that he even admitted he didn’t see coming. Saints were quite literally on cloud nine with their stunning nine-try display at Franklins Gardens. Their relentless attack throughout the match drained Sale of anything that they had to offer and it was obvious that they couldn’t keep up with the intensity that Saints were offering. Not only were they fierce in attack but Northampton’s defensive efforts were outstanding and stopped Sale from gaining much possession and then makimg the possession that they had count. This might just be the surprise performance that the Saints needed this season. Top six is defiantly on the cards for them, they will just need to produce more games like this for a chance at top four. 

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My heart goes out to Newcastle

Being in the semi-final this season to a pretty-much-guaranteed demotion at the end of the season, Newcastle have had one of the worst seasons imaginable. I was so excited by the style of rugby that they were producing last season, something stimulating and new that we hadn’t seen from Newcastle in a very long time. At most I can see them winning two games but only if they start to show some of the rugby that they were playing last season. Worcester and Bristol are the only games they stand a chance in. Their fixture list is not in their favour and their focus now needs to be fighting for Premiership survival. Dean Richards has been coaching Falcons since 2012 following his ban of coaching in 2009 when at Harlequins and ‘Bloodgate’. The controversial coach has now been with Newcastle for six seasons, which in coaching spells is a considerable amount of time and after the underwhelming season they have had, it raises questions as to whether this season might be his last.

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