Michael Aylwin at Twickenham

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Nov 26

Eddie Jones a happy man as Jamie George keeps Dylan Hartley on his toes

England drop their intensity a notch but still prove too much for Samoa to handle as they complete a perfect autumn series with a 48-14 victoryPrecious little generosity off the pitch for Samoa; precious little on it. England duly completed their autum…

Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/nov/26/eddie-jones-jamie-george-dylan-hartley-england-samoa

Sep 03

Schalk Brits to savour final season with Saracens before retirement

• Club persuaded front-row forward to play another year
• Brits played starring role in demolition of Northampton

Schalk Brits, all 36 years of him, looked as if he could carry on doing this well into his 50s. Nevertheless, after a typically mesmerising performance in the Twickenham sunshine, where Saracens thrashed Northampton, he revealed how near he came to retiring at the end of last season.

“I was very close,” he said. “I did accountancy in Stellenbosch and I spoke to Cambridge and Oxford about doing an MBA. The plan was to stop playing professional rugby and play one year of varsity. My wife was not that excited about me going back to be a full-time student, with three little ones, but now I am studying part time.”

Related: Saracens off to flying start as Schalk Brits humiliates Northampton

Related: Premiership 2017-18: team-by-team preview of England’s rugby union season

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/sep/03/schalk-brits-final-season-saracens-retirement

Sep 02

Blair Cowan rattles Harlequins to give London Irish a winning return

• London Irish 39-29 Harlequins
• Exiles’ power game seals bonus-point victory against disappointing Quins

It hardly needs saying there are no easy games in the Premiership, but London Irish have given notice that the old saw will have more than a ring of truth to it this season. Not only did they beat Harlequins with a performance of some brutality at the breakdown and just as much wit in the spaces behind, but a bonus-point try at the death gives them the perfect start to their return to the big time. For Quins, another campaign begins in frustrating fashion, never finding their rhythm for more than the odd passage, even if they did score four tries themselves and were denied a second bonus point only by that last Irish try.

Irish caused Quins, who fielded most of their big names, all manner of problems. Blair Cowan is no stranger to the Premiership – or international rugby, for that matter – and he led the way in ferocious fashion, rattling the bones of Quins’ hefty runners, including, on one memorable occasion, those of the mighty Jamie Roberts.

Related: Saracens off to flying start as Schalk Brits humiliates Northampton

Related: Dan Robson masterclass helps Wasps to helter-skelter win over Sale

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/sep/02/london-irish-harlequins-premiership-rugby-match-report

Sep 02

Saracens off to flying start as Schalk Brits humiliates Northampton

• Saracens 55-24 Northampton
• Sean Maitland scores a hat-trick as Saracens run in seven tries by half time

Clubs are supposed to see the start of a season as a time of new beginnings, regeneration, something different. No one told either of these two. Saracens looked unplayable at times last season, Northampton unable to play. Over the summer it appears they have each taken those respective dynamics and let them run their natural course.

A few bare facts first. Saracens registered their try bonus point – in half an hour – faster than anyone managed last season. They finished the first half with seven tries. They put 40 past the Saints in that period. As for the more emotive stuff, they skipped and thundered in the Twickenham sunshine as if the notion that rugby is a hard ruse to get right were the most preposterous overcomplication of a process as simple and innate as drawing breath.

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/sep/02/saracens-northampton-premiership-match-report

May 27

Exeter and Wasps serve up final thriller to show best of English club rugby | Michael Aylwin

Some have doubted the Premiership’s need for play-offs but Gareth Steenson’s last-gasp winning kick was a fittingly dramatic end to justify their existence

What a final, they kept saying, and they were right, but these finals always are. Folk have of late noted that we will not need play-offs any more, when they stretch the domestic season to 10 months, smoothing out those crinkly weekends which overlap with the international game.

Yes we will. This is addictive. To be at Twickenham in high May is to see English club rugby at its best, and there is no reason to think it will be any different in high June. This time, as apparently every time, two superb, attack-minded teams cut each other up in their differing ways, Exeter by thumping Wasps through the guts, Wasps by unpicking the Exeter muscle. Twenty-two rounds could scarcely separate the two during the regular season, so 80 minutes had no chance. For the second time in four finals, we had to go to extra-time. Had to? It was a pleasure.

Related: We want to be best rugby team in Europe, says Exeter chairman Tony Rowe

Related: Exeter Chiefs champions after epic win over Wasps completes fairytale rise

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2017/may/27/exeter-wasps-premiership-final-thriller-best-english-club-rugby

Nov 26

England 27-14 Argentina: how the players rated at Twickenham

Jonny May produced an inspired display and got through a tremendous amount of work after Eliot Daly’s sending-off, earning himself 8 out of 10

Mike Brown, Full-Back 7/10 If only he’d consummated his performance with the try it deserved. Could have been two, as would have finished the penalty try. Rock solid and metres galore. Great battle with Cordero.

Jonny May, Wing 8/10 England’s best player in our opinion. When his mate went off he had twice the work and did it. Defence remarkable, pace and support lines deadly. Well-deserved try. He’s back. And better.

Related: England and Owen Farrell dig deep to win 14-man battle with Argentina

Related: Battle with Argentina reveals England’s enormous progress | Andy Bull

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2016/nov/26/england-argentina-how-they-rated-twickenham