5 things we learnt from round 22 of the Gallagher Premiership

It all came down to the final kick of the game

A Harlequins penalty at 79 minutes. Wasps 27, Harlequins 25. If the penalty goes over, then Harlequins land a top four spot. However, it wasn’t to be for Paul Gustard’s men who have had a turbulent season and only a few months ago looked certain of a top four finish. Northampton on the other hand, have only become big contenders in the last couple of months and despite their loss at Exeter today, they will return back to Sandy Park to take on the top of the table giants as they claimed their first premiership semi-final since 2015. Every season we talk about how it has been the closest it has ever been but taking into consideration everything that has happened, it really has. The relegation battle has had one of Europe’s top sides in Leicester fight it out for survival; not only this, but now we only have one premiership club in the North in Sale Sharks.  Then if you turn the table around, Exeter and Saracens, as expected have dominated the top of the table all season, whilst third and fourth place has changed hands throughout the rounds. This season only reiterates how good the level of rugby is in England and how lucky we are to have witnessed 22 rounds of it. 

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Was top six too ambitious for Bristol?

Upon their return to the premiership, Head Coach Pat Lam made an extremely strong statement in backing his side to make it into the top six and claim top flight European rugby for next season. They ended the season on ninth place however, their ambitions weren’t under looked as they have had an impressive first season jumping up and down the leader board. Pat Lam is arguably the best coach in the premiership and has been shortlisted as coach of the season. He is a coach that nurtures players and pushes them to get the best out of themselves not only on the pitch but off it as well. Bristol have endless possibilities with the key players they have retained and the names that they have signed. Top six, if all goes to plan will definitely be an easier road than it was this time around next season. 

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Worcester need to push for more next season

In the last month, we have seen more momentum and persistence from Worcester than we have all season; they have really put in the performances when it mattered to avoid relegation, so it begs the question, if they can do this now then why not do it all the time? Next season they need to focus on more than just survival, trying to aim for top six or at least top eight, because they are a side that could be capable of that if they put in consistently good performances. Not only this, but if there is a cup competition next season then push to get some silverware, it doesn’t matter where the silverware comes from as long as your performances are worthy of it – which Worcester’s can be. They have the loyal fans; their home record is good in a stadium that compete with the big boys and if they make some good signings over the summer following their departures they really can be a competitive side in the competition. 

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Fairy-tale farewell for Simpson and Daly

Two players that have given so much to the club that has given its all to them. Looking through lists of Wasps legends and servants to the club these two are up there with the best of them. Between them, they have over 400 caps for the black and gold and today their goodbye was as flawless as their Wasps careers have been. Joe Simpson’s first try was textbook Simpson, finding the space and going for it. His second, was a beautiful offload from Elliot Daly to send the man of the match over the white wash one last time. Simpson joins former Wasp Danny Cipriani at Gloucester where the half-back partnership will be tearing teams apart like the old days, whilst Daly finds himself at European champions, Saracens where his international team mates look to push him further into his England career. Their departure to Wasps will leave a gap that will take a while to fill to the excellence that they produced.

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Tigers must rebuild to stand any chance of being English rugby giants once again 

Leicester’s departing players list is vast and some very notable players are leaving the Midlands club after their worse performance in premiership history. Ben Youngs spoke earlier in the season about the effect that losing Matt O’Connor had on the team, even after Geordan Murphy took over coaching responsibilities and that the players aren’t happy with the way that they have been performing throughout the season. Nevertheless, Tigers need to recruit behind the scenes as well as on the pitch for them to stand any chance of re-finding any of their old form. They have already signed some strong players for next season but no matter how many world-class players you have, your coaching set up needs to be good enough so that they can perform. The loss of academy coach Anthony Allen is huge for Tigers; he was doing wonders with the academy team in trying to rebuild what has been a small selection of players.  

As long as Leicester stop holding onto the past and put in better foundations for the future, then they will be back to the old winning ways but something very drastic will have to happen during the off-season period for the once domestic and European champions to avoid relegation this time next year. 

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5 things we learnt from round 21 of the Gallagher Premiership

Bye, bye Newcastle

With a saddened heart Newcastle are relegated from the Gallagher Premiership following their rather bizarre season this year. A year ago they were getting ready to face a semi-final and this season they are saying goodbye to their friends in the premiership. The whole Newcastle team have worked tirelessly this season to try and make things happen on the pitch but it just hasn’t been enough. 

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Leicester had the most important loosing bonus point of their lives

Leicester have had the extremely stark reality that they could have been relegated next week when they lost to Harlequins on Friday night. The former northern hemisphere giants need a long hard look at themselves this summer as something has to drastically be done over the summer rest period and during pre-season to avoid the extremely poor season they have encountered repeating itself again next season. It is saddening for the club to see them in such a poor place however, they simply cannot be competing at this level with the lack of game plan that they have had in place. They need to work hard and fast to get back to being Leicester of old. 

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Northampton are one step closer to the playoffs

Their convincing win over Worcester this weekend sees Northampton climb ever closer to the play-off spots. The saints have had a mixed season finding form for a few fixtures and then losing it for a while. Since winning the Premiership Rugby Cup earlier this season they have had much more momentum behind them in putting their best foot forward and working harder as a team to get the most out of their fixtures. They have only currently won one more than they have lost, which only reiterates their unbalanced season but they seem to be on the right track to putting things right in the top four. 

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Is putting out second teams fair?

Both Saracens and Exeter put out a fairly second rate side this weekend, with both teams guaranteed a home semi-final. But it raises a question as to whether the two best sides are taking away the competitively of the sport by not putting out a first team. If this fixture was played earlier in the season and not schedule to one of the last weekend’s, then the team sheets would be a lot more competitive. Saracens are preparing for the European Final this weekend which is a reflection as to why they put out a weakened team. But should this be the case? What could have been one of the most exciting, competitive fixtures of the season but instead it was a one sided, rather lack lustre affair.

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The last ten minutes will haunt Wasps

Three late tries from Bath saw the visitors go from winning to not even taking a losing bonus point home; making it increasingly hard for them to make top flight European rugby next season. Some calls defiantly didn’t go their way such as during the first half when a sublime team try was denied after a controversial forward pass was shown. Wasps did spend the majority of the second half on the back foot, which eventually led to Bath scoring their last three tries in the space of eight minutes. It is now extremely hard for Dai Youngs’ men to make it into the top six, with just one round left to play.

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5 things we learnt from round 20 of the Gallagher Premiership

Harry Thacker haunts Leicester

The Welford Road academy star haunted his former club as he kept Bristol’s top six hopes alive as his late try saw the Bears do the double over Tigers for their first time in history. Geordan Murphy’s side needed the win to secure their survival in the premiership as they now await Newcastle heading to Gloucester this weekend and their result against their away fixture against Harlequins. Although the win was by a slim margin it reiterates Bristol’s strong start to their first season back in the premiership. 

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Warriors claim another season in the premiership 

By the grit of their teeth Worcester have survived the relegation drop and live to see another day in the premiership. Their seven-point win over third place Gloucester at the weekend proved that they can produce some fantastic rugby when it matters, so begs the question – where has it been all season and why haven’t they pushed harder to climb up the results table. Scottish fly-half, Duncan Weir out shone England hopeful and Gloucester play maker Danny Cipriani in the ten shirts, scoring 17 points for his side. Worcester will have to work extremely hard next season and put in the performances they have been in the last few rounds if they are going to be taken as serious competitors in the competition. 

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Tom Collin’s hat trick makes Newcastle’s survival hopes slim

Collin’s first half hat trick helped Saints with a crucial win at Falcons. The winger scored early and went on to score two more before the half was up. Northampton are working hard in recent rounds to push for a top four spot as they sit ten points behind third place Gloucester who are guaranteed a play-off space. Northampton have won three of their last four and have found better form than they have all season over the past month. With the Premiership Rugby Cup title behind them they are hoping to find some more sliver wear before the season is up. Newcastle on the other hand are hoping a win next week will see them fight another day in top flight English rugby. 

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Exeter are taking their foot off the pedal but still getting wins

Sandy Park has certainly seen more exciting affairs but their 17-15 victory still hinders the visitors hopes of making the playoffs. The table toppers need one more win to ensure they finish the season in top place were forced to dig deep to grind out their small victory and avoid back-to-back home defeats. Exeter need to be cautious not to drop in form too much before their semi-final to avoid being caught off guard in the big games. They have been the stand out team all season with hardly any teams being able to catch them with their work rate and defensive dominance, that said they need another firework to ensure they don’t potentially lose out on another premiership title. 

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Ben Spencer might have booked his place to Japan

With three of Eddie Jones’ scrum halves currently injured Spencer has an opportunity of a lifetime to impress the England boss to gain his place in England’s World Cup squad and his performance against Wasps might have seen him take his ticket. The 26-year-old helped orchestrate a 31-14 win in Coventry. Spencer showed insistent leadership to his forward pack throughout scrum time and at the breakdown, he also scored a beautiful fourth-minute interception proving to Jones how crucial to a side he can be. Spencer has usually been England’s fourth choice scrum-half but with the current injury list he is set to defiantly get into the match day squad, if not the starting XV.

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5 things we learnt from round 19 of the Gallagher Premiership

What a weekend 

Everyone can finally breath! This weekend was packed with sensational matches, teams fighting for survival, trying to make top four – it had everything. Let’s start on Friday night where Newcastle narrowly lost to Tigers, or how I like to put it; Tigers were saved by a Mr Guy Thompson. Thompson’s performance on Friday night was superb and was one of the key reasons Leicester came away with the win. Moving onto Saturday and I don’t think anyone could have predicted the scores. Harlequins lost by one point to Northampton; which is now their fourth consecutive loss. Worcester thrashed Sale as they fought to stay in the premiership and deny Sale of any top four chance. Gloucester and Danny Cipriani came back to win the West Country derby and Bristol, yes Bristol beat current reigning champions Saracens. And who can forget Sunday when Wasps won at Sandy Park for the first time in their history. With three games left we can only imagine what the table might look like…

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By the skin of your Tiger teeth

Tigers really needed that win and when 80 minutes struck you could see the relief on the faces of Leicester. It wasn’t pretty and it was very intense and if the premiership was ring-fenced then the game wouldn’t have been what it was, but at the end of the day, Leicester finally got the job done. They should now be safe and can have a little bit of breathing space. Guy Thompson arguably had the game of his career, earning himself the man of the match shirt. George Ford had a good game as captain but one area made me lose a lot of respect for the England fly-half. Following a try, you have 90 seconds for the kicker to make the conversion. Ten minutes left on the clock and a kick right in front of the posts and Ford decides to take all the allocated time, he is of course in his rights but I think that it was extremely poor sportsmanship, as did members of the booing crowd. It also showed that Leicester were starting to panic and were willing to do anything to take any time off of the clock, proving what a threat Newcastle were in that game. 

The win wasn’t anything to write home about, but it does make Leicester’s life a whole lot easier for the final three rounds. 

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The Ashton Gate effect

Bristol beat Saracens. I’ll repeat that, Bristol beat Saracens and against a good Saracens side. A last-minute penalty saw the bears beat the reigning champions as they looked to cement their place in the premiership for next season. Saracens had the players and the experience and had huge names on the bench but couldn’t quite make it work as Bristol once again beat another big-name side. Pat Lam had aspirations for his side to make top six at the end of the season, and although that hasn’t quite been a success the way they have been building and the amount of time and effort they have taken to build a game plan that works for them in the premiership should be applauded. Their win might have only been by a small margin but it is still a win and at this stage of the season that is all they need. I have to give Bristol full credit in the way that they have performed this season and they, along with the success of Exeter when they were promoted from the Championship and the current bottom of the table antics this season are the reason the premiership should never be ring-fenced. 

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Where have Worcester been all season?

Wales’ Josh Adams’ second-half hat trick helped Worcester secure one of their best wins this season. Not only was this win important it was extremely impressive given Sale’s recent form but raises the questions, where has this performance been hiding and why are we only seeing it now? Worcester hadn’t beaten the Sharks since 2016 but as seen this season Steve Diamond’s men haven’t travelled well. The injection of belief and pace shown by Worcester arguably wouldn’t have appeared had the premiership been ring-fenced and that their performance was a realisation that relegation is a real possibility for them. 

Sale on the other hand, last week I posed the question as to whether they could make it into the top four but after their display at Sixways, Steve Diamond is right – they aren’t a top four side. Their season has been really inconsistent but they are building in the right direction for the next couple of seasons. 

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Allez Wasps

After being 12-0 down after a quarter of the match played, Wasps fans were in fear of a whitewash defeat, however, the visitors soon found their buzz and took a 12-26 lead at half time. From then on Dai Youngs’ men dominated the game and failed to let Exeter anywhere near them. It was one of the best Wasps performances we have seen all season, their defence was truly outstanding and pushed the Chiefs away from the gain-line on multiple occasions. Although it was a triumphant Wasps performance Exeter did take their foot off the pedal after ensuring they secured their home semi-final place. Nevertheless, take nothing away from the Wasps as for the first time in their history they won at Sandy Park, and as any side in the premiership knows to go down to Devon and win is truly a huge achievement as Exeter don’t get beaten at home often.

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5 things we learnt from round 18 of the Gallagher Premiership

Tiger Roll might have won but Leicester Tigers aren’t on a roll

I never thought I would say that when sitting at Welford Road I would feel no atmosphere, but on Saturday everything was flat. Players looked deflated before they had even walked onto the pitch. It wasn’t Leicester’s worse performance of the season but it was certainly up there. Like many, I was amazed how Manu Tuilagi didn’t get ten minutes sat on the side-lines after his retaliation following a Tigers try. The frustration from him pretty much sums up Tigers at the moment. Tom Young’s red card was a moment of pure madness and for a player of his experience he really should have known better. Tigers face Newcastle away from home on Friday night and arguably this fixture could be their most important in their history. Newcastle fighting to stay up and Tigers fighting not to go down. 

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Exeter should go on and win at Twickenham

Securing a home semi-final with four rounds still left to play is something to applaud. Not only securing the home advantage but the way in which they did it is a testament to how their season has gone. Tigers played poorly against them but take nothing away from the outstanding performance that Rob Baxter’s men displayed, putting over half a century of points on Leicester. Olly Woodburn was phenomenal on the wing and Jack Nowell, despite his ten minutes in the bin was a force to be reckoned with. Exeter play some very good rugby, but don’t always bring out the fireworks. They simply do what they are good at very well and get the basics right. Their attacking lineout from five meters out isn’t a guaranteed score but you wouldn’t bet against it, they have the confidence to execute a play that might not go their way instead of taking the easier option of three points. 

Twickenham should be theirs, the title should have a home at Sandy Park. 

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Should Saracens be scared?

Before we start, let’s not forget that although Saracens are putting in under par performances they are still managing to get a win after 80 minutes. However, we are used to seeing Saracens put in monumental performances, never putting a foot wrong but this season that just hasn’t been the case. They did suffer during the Six Nations period and I don’t think they have yet found the form that they had prior to the tournament. They have their European Semi-final coming up against Munster in a couple of weeks and although they have the home advantage the accolade of the match might get the better of them. In past seasons teams used to be scared of Saracens and we questioned whether they could ever be beaten and although they still haven’t been beaten in a while they certainly don’t look like the side that won the Premiership last May. 

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Gloucester at the Gardens

Mark Atkinson’s first half hat trick was not only impressive but one of the history books as he became the first ever Gloucester player to score a hat trick before half-time. Northampton put up more of a fight against the Cherry and Whites than I had expected and found themselves trailing 26-19 at the interval. 

Gloucester’s win reiterates how good they have been this season and how well Johan Ackermann has shaped this group of players into a top four side. With Danny Cipriani staying for a few more seasons, Gloucester are looking like a team that will regularly be competing at the top and setting their sights on top flight European rugby. I think that Gloucester will grab the second-place spot and gain a home advantage for the semi-final and if they do manage that then Kingsholm will be a brutal place to go. The home support at The Shed is something no other stadium holds. Gloucester eat, sleep breath rugby and their players and supporters fully deserve the success they have made for themselves this season. 

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The Sharks are catching up the final top four place

After Sale’s win against Harlequins at the weekend Steve Diamond said he believed that his side aren’t a top four team, however, if they keep delivering performances like they did at the weekend then the top four might come sooner than they thought. Throughout the season Sale have performed when it mattered and have delivered wins against current top four sides but have failed to deliver against underperforming teams. In a word, their season has been inconsistent however, pulling the late wins out of the bag could see them have a shot of a semi-final place, especially if Harlequins keep performing the way they did last time out. Harlequins have also had a turbulent season and seem to do the unexpected, win against sides you wouldn’t expect and then loose against teams they should win against. The battle of fourth place will be between these two, and it will all be down to who can deliver in the next four rounds. 

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5 things we learnt from round 17 of the Gallagher Premiership

Could Tigers be relegated?

For a lot of this season there has been speculation and jokes as to whether Tigers could go down at the end of the season. But now those jokes might turn into reality, Leicester sit tenth in the table and just five points away from the dreaded 12thplace. The harsh truth is that if Worcester and Newcastle start winning more games than Tigers do reglation could be real.

Leicester have a relatively easy fixture list bar Exeter, well that is normally the way you would look at the remaining fixtures however, Bristol, Quins, Newcastle and Bath could all beat the deflated tigers.  Tigers have never finished in the bottom half of the Premiership but they have only won six league games this season. 

There has been vast criticism over Leicester’s strategy throughout the season and a lot being pinpointed at the coaching. But there are only so many coaches a club can go through before you need to look at problems elsewhere and with Richard Cockerill’s Edinburgh on good form the only thing to say is, surely it can’t be down to coaching?

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Exeter start buying your tickets

It wasn’t pretty but it didn’t need to be; all Exeter needed to do against Bath was win to guarantee them a top four place. They are the first side with the semi-final security blanket around them. The way that they have performed from the outset this season has been something quite remarkable, a relentless fire and drive regardless of whether they are home or away. Out of 17 games, they have lost three and have a points difference of 177. They are extremely hard to beat and securing their semi-final spot with still five rounds to play is an extremely big testament to their season. 

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Don’t just kick the ball out

Alex Lozowski there’s still five seconds left and Danny Care will score a try! Although Saracens got the win on Saturday, their performance wasn’t exactly one to write home about, especially in the first half. Simple errors, such as the kick at the end of the first half was one of Saracens downfalls, with the half never getting much momentum behind it. Mark McCall decided to give his international players a week off ahead of their quarter final match against Glasgow Warriors this weekend. Although the London derby is big, it wasn’t a win that Saracens desperately needed to hold down their playoff spot, but more a game to hinder the chances of their oppositions top four contentions.

The second half came to life more with some flashes of yellow being seen in each direction and Saracens eventually got the job done, but not having their international stars on stage has cost them during this Six Nations period. 

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Newcastle, I cry with you

Seeing some of the Newcastle players drop to their feet in tears on Saturday evening after their momentous win over Sale at St James Park brought a tear to my eye as I am sure it did to others. The relief on the player’s faces was something truly remarkable when they realised that the relegation spot might not be there’s just yet.

The Falcon’s fall from grace has been painful to watch given their outstanding performances last season that saw them make it just one match away from Twickenham. 

Newcastle now need to start winning desperately if they stand any chance of remaining in top flight English rugby. Not only this, but they will need to rely on results from Tigers and Worcester being in their favour. It is a long shot but as we’ve seen in this season before, anything can happen.

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Gloucester book your places for the semi final

I will say it now; Gloucester will have a home semi-final. Their intentions this season have been top four and the way that they have been playing cements their hopes. There has been speculation over whether playmaker Danny Cipriani will stay with the Cherry and Whites but regardless of what his plans next season are, Gloucester will be relying on him more than ever to help them book a place in the final.

Since arriving in Gloucestershire, Cipriani has shaken off of his bad boy persona (or at least nearly) and has really focused on developing himself as a player to stake a claim in the England squad. In turn, this has massively benefitted Gloucester as they not only have multiple plays coming off of him but rely on him for his instinctiveness in play to help create space for some of their tries. With Saracens starting to lose the occasional game Gloucester are hot on their heels to take the second-place spot away from them. It is a possibility that Gloucester can make a home semi-final and if they do, my goodness Kingsholm would be a place to visit.

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5 things we learnt from round 16 of the Gallagher Premiership

Bath’s win over Saracens could prove critical in their turbulent season 

In what has been a rather stop, start season for Bath, their win over Saracens on Friday night was needed more than ever, if they stand any chance in holding a top six place by the end of the season.  Bath on Friday night started to find some form and and off the back of Saracens ill-discipline won 20 penalties against the London club. Saracens at times looked sloppy and they now sit eight points adrift of Exeter who sit top of the table. Bath, who have suffered two late defeats in previous weeks finally got the win they have been looking for as Todd Blackadder’s men find something to shine from. 

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Bristol get another valuable win 

A last gasp victory at Franklins Gardens saw Bristol take another five points from a match leaving them in striking distance of a top six finish at the end of the season – something that Pat Lam aspired to at the start of the season. 

After their performances in recent weeks Bristol are more than clear from the relegation zone and will live to see another day of Premiership rugby. Bristol have entered into this competition with the belief that they are worthy of their place and thus, have in return been rewarded with some comprehensive wins. 

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Newcastle needed the win more than Wasps 

The intent that Newcastle showed at the weekend proved how much they desperately needed the win against Wasps to stand any chance of premiership survival.  A sense of grit and resilience was shown by the Falcons and at just the right time with their season slowly slipping away. They have suffered five premiership defeats inside a two-month spell and in a turn of form have now had two back to back wins. 

It is worrying for Wasps, who seem to have inhabited a losing streak at home and have had a rather worrying season. Due to them sitting comfortably in the middle of the table, it maybe hasn’t been picked up enough, but for Dai Youngs men another loss at home could prove worrying. 

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Gloucester will have a semi-final 

Harlequins v Gloucester on Sunday was set to be the biggest game of the weekend if not of the season so far. Two sides who have been battling it out consistently for that top four place. It was set to be an exhilarating encounter. Nonetheless, a more one sided affair took place in London as Gloucester almost cemented themselves to a top four finish. The Cherry and Whites needed to respond to the loss against Bristol last time out and their one-sided win against Harlequins certainly did that. Gloucester’s victory was their first away win of 2019 and with it ended Harlequin’s five match winning run. 

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What does Danny Cipriani need to do to be in the England squad? 

No question about it, Cipriani had one of the best games he has had all season. He controlled the game beautifully and produced some wonderful cross field kicks and passes, yet his counterpart Marcus Smith, who had a less spectacular game than Cipriani got the call up to the England squad.

Smith will be a fantastic England player and when his time comes will be crucial to the England set up but he is just 20 years old and has been playing in the U20 Six Nations this year. Jones will need to take three fly-halves to Japan just to ensure he has enough cover and is a 20-year-old Smith really going to be that fly half?

Cipriani chose to play his rugby at Gloucester this season with the intention to have an England call up in the very near future. He has most defiantly been one of the unluckiest players in the premiership at the moment to not have an England call up. What does Danny need to do? Change his name? 

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5 things we learnt from round 15 of the Gallagher Premiership

Bristol look to be clear from relegation

Friday night’s game was an amazing spectacle at Ashton Gate and Pat Lam’s Bristol side almost defiantly cemented their survival in the premiership. Two Gloucester tries with a quarter of the game left to play looked like the game had been swung in a different direction but Bristol’s resilience saw them creep back into the game and after being awarded a penalty try just 14 minutes before the end of the match Bristol held onto a famous victory against Gloucester, for the first time in 11 years. 

At the start of the season Pat Lam said that his side had aspirations for the top six by the end of May, and after the performance on Friday they look to potentially be chasing that top six place, with relegation almost certainly off the table. 

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Should rugby pitches be played on football pitches? 

I am primarily taking about THAT lineout. Gloucester’s lineout in the final seconds of the game was thrown in from the green line (that had been painted in over in green from the football touchlines) rather than the white touchline. Nothing came from the lineout and Bristol still won the game, however, it raises the question as to whether more needs to be done to cover lines up if the pitch is being shared for different sports. Throughout the game it was quite confusing trying to see the which lines were for rugby and which were football. The pitch could be the same width for both sports, which is something that could be looked at if needs be, but it certainly raises the question of pitch sharing. Something else that was brought up from that game was how the assistant referee failed to notice that the hooker was on the incorrect line when he was stood in front of him. 

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Should Wasps have been awarded a try?

Clock in the red, no try- held up, should therefore be an attacking 5m scrum. However, JP Doyle on Saturday ended Wasps’ hopes of levelling the scores against Tigers or even winning the game. At the moment, you can’t go back for the 5m scrum once the clock has gone red if the team attacking is losing unless there is a penalty awarded. The questioning to the TMO has also raised a debate. The question, ‘try yes or no’ was asked indicating that there has to be clear evidence that the ball has been grounded. Thus, suggesting that JP was not certain that a try had been scored. Had the other question of ‘is there any reason why I can’t award the try’ been asked then the outcome of Wasps’ game could have been very different. I thought after the match that whether new laws need to be in place about the questions asked to the TMO and if the scrum should have been allowed to be taken. 

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Newcastle’s win is critical in their survival hopes 

If the premiership was ring fenced Sunday’s game wouldn’t have been as enjoyable as it was. The bottom two sides have struggled this season; however, the Falcons win over Worcester hasn’t moved them up the table but could play a vital part in their hopes of premiership survival. It was a pointless second half which is worrying for both teams because had they come up against any other team in the premiership not scoring any points in the second half could have very easily cost them the game.

Newcastle have a tough fixture list for the remainder of the season and if they stand any hopes of premiership survival they will need to take points from all of their remaining games and hope that Worcester don’t do the same. At the moment, I can’t see any team other than Newcastle being relegated and they will dramatically need to pull out all the stops to ensure that they do go down this season.  

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Bath could struggle to make top 6

After losing to Harlequins at home on Saturday, Bath are at risk of failing to compete in top flight European rugby next season. They currently sit seventh in the table, however the teams who are currently above them are all performing better that the blue and white club. Two weeks running and Bath have lost a game in the final stages of the match and are failing to build up a strong enough score in the first half or when they have the lead to ensure that they aren’t in reaching distance of a loss at the final stages of the game. Bath have been under-performing this season despite their strong squad depth and don’t seem to have a player that brings them the x-factor that they need. They have good backs but no one seems to really stand out in their backline or poses a big threat like other clubs do, something that they will hopefully look to approve upon with signings for next season

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5 things we learnt from round 14 of the Gallagher Premiership

Ollie Thorley is England’s next superstar

The battle of Thorley v Strettle on Friday night was the battle of England past and England future and the future certainly seems bright. Thorley is not only fast but strong enough to hand off forward defenders and is the perfect fit to the new type of winger that is being seen across world rugby. He offers something new to the English attacking line if Eddie Jones was to select him. His ability to finish tries regardless of how far from the line he is shows what a talent he can be with his professional rugby career only just taking off. 

He fits into Gloucester’s game plan extremely well and is one of those players who they can very easily plan plays off of. If he continues playing the way that he is, it looks very likely he will feature in the World Cup later this year.

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Newcastle are almost certain of premiership relegation 

After their standout season this time last year, Newcastle Falcons are almost certain of relegation, following yet another loss in the competition, this time being to second place Exeter. They never seemed to start to get going this season and failed to find any form. Their attack although has been in good in places with the likes of Snoti Snoti being a light in the darkness, however collectively they are failing to secure tries, wins and loosing bonus points when they are being presented. They have slipped back a good few seasons in terms of form and are nowhere near the side that they had become last season.

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Wasps have been one of the most inconsistent teams this season 

After beating Bristol away from home last weekend, a home game fixture against Sale would appear the perfect opportunity for carrying some winning momentum forward to their game at the Richo Arena. Although they have had a turbulent season they are still joint third place with number of games won, which just proves how close this season has been.

There is no mistaking that Wasps have really struggled without their international and injured players, however, their squad depth may need to be something to focus on in off-season to avoid the same problem occurring with players not competing at the same standard as those who were injured. 

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Harlequins could easily make top four 

Harlequins this season have shone under Paul Gustard since he took over as head coach and they have quietly been building themselves up an extremely good platform to be contenders for one of the top four places this season.

With the likes of Joe Marler, Chirs Robshaw and Mike Brown not being selected for England either through the retirement of international rugby or current form it allows Harlequins to really benefit from the experience that they bring. With the likes of Marcus Smith learning under the talented players, it can only be a positive for Harlequins to be able to fully structure play over players who are almost certain to be in the squad. Quins currently sit third in the Premiership table and do face some tough competition over the next few fixtures, however even if they are not coming away with the win they are always looking for the loosing bonus or try bonus point, which come the end of the season could prove crucial as to where they finish.

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Leicester are in fear of not making top flight European rugby next season

They missed out on top four last year and this time around top-flight European rugby might be a miss for Tigers. They have won just five games this season, but have a points difference of -83. They have had an extremely underperforming season this year and a lot of it can be put down to off field decisions however, with the talent that Tigers have they really should not be sat in ninth place after 14 rounds. 

They do have many players out on international duty, however, they are still struggling when they can put out a full squad. If Tigers don’t manage to make top six this season, then I think that serious questions will need to be asked of the capability of the backroom and boardroom staff because for an English premiership side so historic as Leicester Tigers they need to be in top flight European rugby.

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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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5 things we learnt from round 12 of the Gallagher Premiership

Worcester’s determination and belief in the team got them the win against Bath

Being 3-19 down at half-time in front of a home crowd didn’t instil much hope into neither Worcester supporters or players, however, the second half performance that they produced was a collective of team belief and determination. Bath were down to 11 men when Worcester produced a winning try on the 97thminute – a time that is rarely seen in the oval ball game. Although relentless penalties were given without a penalty try awarded, Worcester never showed any signs of them surrendering for the win that they needed to keep their Premiership survival hopes alive. This style of play and sheer grit show by Worcester in the last 20 minutes of the match is something that they have lacked this half of the season, and as they head into Europe this weekend, the will be eager to carry their new winning mentality forward with them. 

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Tigers didn’t have an option to lose at the weekend 

Leicester’s win against Gloucester at Welford Road wasn’t necessarily expected but they almost didn’t have the option to lose. It’s been no secret that Geordan Murphey’s side have lost their roar this season, with senior players speaking out about the team ‘not being good enough’. Nonetheless, their win against Gloucester showed hopes of a ‘Leicester of old’ with the style of play and their performance that they gave being arguably the best game they have played all season. Gloucester have started to struggle without Cipriani, (who will make his return from injury this weekendagainst Munster) and it showed in the way that George Ford played. Ford’s club form hasn’t been at its best for a couple of seasons but he looked a lot more comfortable on the field of play and the team all looked a lot calmer. The win might be the shift in momentum that Leicester needed and here’s hoping that they will be able to carry that through to the end of the season. Whether you are a Tigers supporter or not, seeing an established club suffer the way that Leicester have this season isn’t nice for anyone. 

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Sale’s win shouldn’t be overshadowed by Saracens loosing 

Reading match reports I have been astounded in how little Sale have been mentioned – one report I read didn’t even mention Sale at all. Saracens lost, but Sale beat them, and with that, beat them very well. The Manchester club out-played the reigning Champions who looked rather lacklustre on the pitch. Farrell’s decision to kick the ball out at full-time with only being six points behind rather than trying to scrape a win shows how good Sale were at playing them at their own game. The Curry brothers, both with new contracts that see them stay at the club until 2023, played very good dynamic rugby with both of them offering something different to each side of the scrum. Sale look to be in contention for a top four place given the way they have been playing this season and if they are capable of beating the reigning champions they are becoming side to be reckoned with.

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Commitment to the club shirt should be at the forefront of player’s minds

Austin Healey spoke about whether Wille Le Roux was fully committed to the Wasps shirt at the weekend or if his mind was elsewhere and in reply, Wasps DOR Dai Youngs said: “To be totally blunt, if he didn’t want to be here, he wouldn’t be here,”

Nevertheless, this made me think about the commitment a player has to their club. I am a great believer that when you step onto the field you should go and play with the attitude of playing like it is the last time you are ever going to play rugby because ultimately one day it will be – whether it be through choice or not. With the World Cup just under a year away, a lot of players will have aspirations of making international squads and representing their country. Nevertheless, the way you get picked for a World Cup or any international campaign is by playing well, and if you’re not being committed to every breakdown or tackle then you are less likely to be selected. With new contracts being signed and players leaving clubs it can be easy for a player to take their foot off the pedal before they leave and for me, if they do this then they are no use to the club they are currently at. Until you leave your club, you play for your club that should always be a player’s main philosophy.

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Wasps are a side that need playmakers to be consistently good

The return of Joe Launchbury this weekend and Dan Robson last weekend, it is apparent that Wasps need their key players to perform in a way that we expect them to. Wasps have been struggling without their big names – including Jimmy Godperth, who is still out on injury. The Coventry club are a side that are good without their big names but show no threat when they’re not there. Matt Mullan has left the club with immediate effect and some senior players are starting to sign new contracts elsewhere. Wasps need to start to build around players that will be at the club for the next few seasons, instead of relying on the ‘golden players’ that won’t be around for much longer. 

Juan de Jongh has been a fantastic signing for Wasps and with him set to be at the club for at least another season and with international duty not quite on the horizon, he is a player they can start to properly build around without the fear of losing him. It will be really interesting to see who Wasps sign and loose for next season and how that will look to shape how they play going forward into the 19/20 season.

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5 things we learnt from round 11 of the Gallagher Premiership

Bristol’s significant win helps to secure premiership survival 

Bristol’s win over bottom place Newcastle increases their survival rate come the end of the season. They sit 10thin the league, one place above Leicester and are level with the Midlands club on games won. A solid second half performance from Bristol got them the bonus point victory – something that could play a fundamental part in the closing stages of the competition. Bristol’s attitude to the premiership is admirable, given their arrival at the start of the season, and with the new contracts that players have already signed, they look set to have an admirable team if they stay in the Premiership next season. 

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Gloucester suffering without Cipriani 

Gloucester’s heavy defeat to Sale at Kingsholm was uncharacteristic particularly due to their impressive start in the match. However, Sale took control before half-time to put them seven points up at the break and continued their form into the second half. Gloucester still sit third with Sale seven points behind them in forth, but it is apparent that The Cherry and Whites are starting to suffer without their playmaker Danny Cipriani. Cipriani who this week got called into the England squad gathering, is currently out for six weeks following a muscle tear. He has dominated the way that Gloucester’s back-line operates since his arrival at the club this season. His attacking style of ruby has suited them well and helped move up the table to third – a place they will want to stay with or without Cipriani. 

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Chiefs loose again away from home

Northampton’s form is on the rise recently as they stake their claim for not only top flight European Rugby next season but for a potential place in the top four at the end of this season. Their display against an Exeter side fresh from beating the champions showed no fear as they came away with all five points after the eighty minutes. Exeter did have to settle for two losing bonus points following a last second try. Exeter being beaten by Northampton isn’t expected, nor is it a game that Exeter would have been apprehensive going into. Their form in the last few weeks has slightly dipped. Yes, they won against Saracens last weekend, however, their last few games including Europe hasn’t shown their best rugby, or arguably where they want to be this season. There is little doubt that they will still be in the top four at the end of the season, but wins on the road must be won to guarantee it. 

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Ward overshadowed Harlequins big win

Harlequins got the first points of the game in under 50 seconds however, hooker, Dave Ward’s early yellow card following stamping on Wasps’ flanker Youngs’ ankle was only the start to his downfall after referee Maxwell-Keys missed the spit that followed the stamp. However, he has escaped a lengthy ban for the spitting offence following the RFU found insignificant evidence to ban him for the behaviour. The offence warrants a range of bans spanning from 4 weeks to anything up to a year for the more serious of spitting offences.

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Bath keep top six ambitions alive following their win over Tigers 

Bath battled to a convincing victory at The Rec against Tigers, moving up to fifth place in the Premiership as they look to keep their top six aspirations alive. Bath’s domination in territory and possession in the first half loaded the pressure onto Tigers who started to struggle. The win gives Bath back-to-back wins at the end of 2018, after beating Wasps before Christmas. Though they struggled at the start of the season, Bath have backed themselves constantly and believed in what they are doing and the results are now starting to pay off.

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5 things we learnt from round 10 of the Gallagher Premiership

The biggest fixture in English rugby was finally decided

For months the speculation of Exeter v Saracens has been at the forefront of all rugby fans minds. The battle of the top two was played out at Sandy Park, with the home side ending Saracen’s run of 22 games unbeaten across all competitions. The win over Saracens is Exeter’s 4thsuccessive victory on home turf and Saracens second half problems saw Exeter run away with the win. 

The second half display was unusual with Owen Farrell missing from the boot and Burger being sent to the sin bin. By no means does this define the season but it proves how good sides can be with the added extra of the home advantage. Saracens will host Exeter in 2019 and what will be interesting is whether the 16thman will have the same effect it does at Sandy Park. Either way, the likelihood of these two sides playing each other for the third time in the Premiership is looking ever more likely.

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Tiger’s win is a breath of fresh air

Finally, after eight games Leicester’s losing streak has ended. This doesn’t mean that Tigers have gotten out of trouble with the club still in a dangerous place both on and off the pitchthebut it does instil some hope back into the Leicester faithful going into the New Year. The first 40 minutes was some of the best rugby that Tigers have produced all season and showed glimpses of what this side is capable of doing. The quality of players that Tigers have should be able to perform like this every weekend and a lot better however, something still isn’t right, and if you look into next season the transfer rumours are not looking good. A win is a win and with the bonus point over Harlequins they have a little bit of breathing space but if they stand any chance of going back to ‘the old Leicester’ they desperately need to find their roar in the New Year.

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Bath looked strong, Wasps looked weak

In front of a 30,000 + crowd at The Ricoh arena you would expect Wasps to put 20 points plus on any side that was up against them, but this weekend Wasps’ fierce attack and formidable defence from old was completely gone. 

Freddie Burns controlled the game beautifully for Bath and helped them never lose their lead courtesy of a try of his own and many points from his boot. Nevertheless, this is a Wasps side we are not used to. Wasps are starting to look scared and at times weak. On Christmas Day, they unwrapped some fantastic contract extensions which is a much-needed boost for the club, given their current transfer rumours. The sooner decisions are made on player’s futures the better for the Coventry club, because they need to start putting more focus on the field rather than off it.

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Who is going to be relegated? 

Bristol, Newcastle, Worcester, Sale, Northampton? Just five points separate the bottom five clubs and as the weekend has shown, one win can save you from the dreaded 12thplace. Bristol took a fall to 10thplace after their loss at the AJ Bell Stadium, somewhere that they will have no doubt targeted as a potential win. Sale’s win saw them move up into 8thplace. There have been talks of relegation being taken out of the Premiership, however, personally, I think this battle is better than the one at the top. It is at times like this where clubs and players pull together and can put in astonishing performances to show their worthiness within the competition. Newcastle are currently sitting in 12thplace however, Bristol and Worcester sit above them they have won the same amount of games and have only 2 points separating them so anything really could happen.

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Burns’ criticism following the Toulouse mistakes isn’t good for the sport

If you have ever heard me talk about rugby, one thing that I emphasise on is that rugby players, athletes, coaches are all human and by human nature we all make mistakes. Burns put in the Man of The Match performance against Wasps at the weekend and said it was a ‘monkey off his back’ following the ‘’dark place’’ he had been in after his mistakes a few months ago. 

 His ‘try’ looked to have stolen the win from Toulouse the fatal mistake of celebrating before the ball touched the ground got the better of Burns before the ball was knocked out of his hands and of course no try followed. Succeeding the game there was wonderful messages of support but as always some messages that were not nice to read nor were some punditry or media opinions.

 None other than the former Bath player Jeremy Guscott showed little empathy towards Burns after his bad day on the pitch. I am sure that if you watch every second of Guscott’s playing footage there will be mistakes in there, likewise for any player, as of course no one is perfect.

Words hurt people, it is a known fact and in a sport where the pressure is so high and the recent figures of mental health struggles within the game it seems like there needs to be a new way to approach opinions for when a player makes a mistake. Rugby values are founded upon teamwork and support so surely that counts the most when a player is struggling?

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5 things we learnt from round 9 of the Gallagher Premiership

Exeter are beatable

There you have it, Exeter’s fist loss of the season was on Friday night against Harlequins at a very lively Twickenham Stoop. It was a very close affair with only two points to separate the two teams at the final whistle, however, the stats show a slightly different story. Quins had 61% possession and 63% territory and an astonishing 510 meters were made by Mark Mapletoft’s men, a stat that never really gets put against Exeter. The Chiefs did rest some of their key players, mainly due to the fantastic depth that they have within their squad. Nevertheless, I think that even with more big names Harlequins still would have come away with the win. Exeter, in the dying stages of the game looked to possibly try and take the spoils away from the London club, following a late interception by Ian Whitten who went on to score. But Harlequins throughout the match didn’t look phased by the south-west giants and with a calm, composed performance showed that Exeter are beatable. 

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Tigers eaten alive by Bears

Former Leicester player, Harry Thacker scored two against his old club in a historic victory for the Bears in which Tigers were left with 14 men. It was Bristol’s biggest winning margin against Leicester in 182 games and one where the Tigers looked extremely poor. A red card in the first half for Kyle Eastmond left Tigers chasing Bristol for the rest of the match. After beating Bath in the first round of the Premiership, Bristol are proving that Ashton Gate is a hard place to go and play at. Their resilience and determination to never give in saw them fly pass a rather lacklustre Tigers side. The bottom line is that something has to change with Leicester. They are becoming a team that is no longer feared and Welford Road doesn’t fill many with dread at the moment. Take nothing away from Bristol, but Tigers need to find their form and improve pretty quickly. 

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There is still another level to come from Saracens

Hooker, Jamie George knows that his Saracens side still has a lot more on offer for the rest of the season: “The nice thing is we are not actually where we want to be. There are only a couple of games this season when we have been on it. I like that we are building towards something and that is the thing that excites me”. They are the team in the Premiership that could go unbeaten all season, with only Exeter currently giving them a run for their money. Saracens have a plethora of players to call upon when needed and they are all singing off the same hymn sheet. Everyone knows what they need to do and how they are going to achieve it. They defiantly seem as if they have another level that they will bring to their game, if not two. 

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Worrying times at Wasps

After announcing that a third of Wasps senior players are up for contract negotiations at the end of the season and that the 17/18 season saw the club total a loss of £9.7 million, my heart does go out to the Coventry based club. After moving to the Richo Arena in the hope of turning around the colossal losses that the club were making at Adams Park, things haven’t seemed all that merry for them. On the field, they are missing a lot of key individuals who make the team gel together. Dan Robson, Joe Launchbury and Jimmy Gopperth to name a few are still all out nursing their injuries. With the uncertainty that surrounds the club at the moment, it does seem to be replicating on the pitch. Wasps last season were a formidable force and had the best attack in the Premiership. A back-line that was feared and an attacking force that could score tries from anywhere. Nevertheless, this season has been entirely different and they have yet to find their sting.

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An established club could be facing the relegation battle

Personally, I cannot see Bristol heading back down to the Championship at the end of the season. They have too much determination and drive to stay up, in addition they have some extremely talented players with a lot of experience behind them! So, who does look like they might be taking the step down the league? Both Newcastle and Sale have been poor this season and haven’t been able to keep up with the teams they have been playing.  

Not only them, but Northampton do look in trouble at the moment and are currently sitting in 10thplace, not where they want to be if they have any hope of making top flight European rugby next year. Currently, there isn’t much difference in points between 6thand 12thplace and everyone in-between isn’t currently performing at their best. As we head into the ‘business end’ of the season, it will be extremely interesting to which clubs will fight for their place in the Gallagher Premiership. 

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5 things we learnt from round 8 of the Gallagher Premiership

Chiefs are looking unstoppable 

After their convincing win against Gloucester, Exeter still sit top of the table having not lost a game this season. What is even more impressive is their points difference total of 120 points. If it comes down to the wire at the end of the season against Saracens for that top spot or even a home semi-final, then the points difference that they are accumulating could be their golden pass. Their game from the weekend saw Gloucester start well however, the Chiefs started to run away with the game in the second half and opened the gap that Gloucester couldn’t quite close. As we head into the Christmas period, Exeter are the ones with the Christmas crackers.

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Saracens held their win despite a late Welford Road roar

After an impressive and dominating first half from the Premiership champions, Leicester had a late comeback despite being 3-21 down at half time. After a re-group at the break from Tigers, they unleashed a powerful pack who put in strong 40-minute performance which subsequently saw Saracens go down to 14 men on two occasions. It was a match that no one really expected from the East Midlands side who have been struggling throughout the season. The first half, was predictable however the second was far beyond what anyone thought would happen. 

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Alex Lozowski fights back after being dropped from England squad 

If there is ever a way to stake your claim for an international jersey after being dropped it is to put in the performance that Alex Lozowski did and win MOM away from home. He caused havoc to the Tigers backline. The 28-year-old is one of rugby’s most versatile players. 

He’s played at fly-half, full-back, outside centre and at the weekend we saw him play on the wing. He is a more than able ball carrier and is perfect in Saracens set up to be a second receiver. Lozowski admits he didn’t play well against Japan for England, in the match that ultimately cost him his place in the England squad. However, his performance at the weekend shows his determination to get back into the squad.

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Newcastle finally got their win 

Unless you are a Bath supporter your heart would have gone out to Newcastle at the weekend who extended their unbeaten run at home to four games. Following their very impressive season last year, making it to the semi-finals they have had a fall from grace over the last eight weeks. In Europe, they have beaten French giants Toulon however, domestically they have failed to find their form. Captain Toby Flood marked his 100thgame for the club with 11 points on the night and Blackadder’s men left it a little too late as he slowly kept extending the lead. 

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Worcester’s stats are top four worthy 

Worcester’s win against Harlequins was mostly based around their incredible defensive efforts that they showed throughout the match. A colossal 205 tackles were made by Rory Duncan’s men with twelve players hitting the double figure mark. Harlequins only try of the game came through an intercepted pass by Joe Marchant as they could not find any space in the home defence. Worcester’s stats post-match said it all. 100% of their mauls were won 66/69 rucks were theirs (95% success rate) and a 92% win at lineout time; only losing one. If Worcester continue their defensive efforts like this, then not only top six but top four will be in reach.

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