Category Archive: Premiership Rugby

Premiership Rugby News

Apr 16

Wasps consign Bristol to bottom place with a comfortable victory

• Bristol 21-36 Wasps
• Bristol face almost certain relegation

Wasps consigned Bristol to a last‑place finish in the Aviva Premiership and almost certain relegation after claiming a comfortable 36-21 victory at Ashton Gate.

Bristol are 12 points behind Worcester with just two games left, and the only way they can now survive in English rugby’s top flight is if the eventual Championship title winners do not meet Premiership entry criteria.

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/apr/16/bristol-wasps-premiership-match-report

Apr 16

Alex Lozowski sparks Saracens revival to defeat dominant Northampton

• Northampton 25-27 Saracens
• Late conversion keeps Saracens in hunt for top-two finish

If this was a duel between England’s two hookers vying for a place in the British & Irish Lions squad, then Dylan Hartley can celebrate a comprehensive win but it will be little consolation after a smash-and-grab win for Saracens they had little right to claim.

It was Alex Lozowski who sparked the champions’ revival, making the break for Marcelo Bosch’s try and nailing a tricky conversion to put Saracens ahead in the closing minutes and keep them in the hunt for a top-two finish. How Northampton contrived to lose a match they had largely dominated will be of huge frustration to Jim Mallinder, even if Saracens’ resilience has to be marvelled at.

Related: Lions squad: two-tone approach may throw Warburton and Hartley a lifeline | Paul Rees

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/apr/16/northampton-saracens-premiership-match-report

Apr 15

Worcester’s rare win over Bath makes them all but safe from the drop

• Worcester 25-19 Bath
• Will Spencer seals Worcester victory over bogey side

Worcester may not be safe mathematically but Bristol’s number is up. The Warriors’ second-half rally against their Premiership bogey side took them 12 points clear of the bottom club who have three matches to play, including the leaders Wasps on Sunday and the champions Saracens in the penultimate round. Even a miracle would not be enough.

Worcester knew victory would turn their survival prospects from probable to almost certain, but they had beaten Bath only twice in 21 Premiership meetings and once in the previous 15. The Lions’ assistant coaches Rob Howley and Steve Borthwick were in the stand as they prepared for Wednesday’s squad announcement.

Related: Ellis Genge’s belligerent display earns Leicester a bonus over Newcastle

Related: Mark Tainton fights on but says Pat Lam can lead Bristol to the big time

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/apr/15/worcester-bath-premiership-match-report

Apr 15

Ellis Genge’s belligerent display earns Leicester a bonus over Newcastle

• Leicester 30-3 Newcastle
• Ellis Genge scored two tries to help tighten Tigers’ grip on fourth place

Leicester DNA was the topic of conversation for Matt O’Connor last week and here was conclusive proof that Ellis Genge has it in spades. The 22-year-old loosehead scored two tries in a bonus point victory, on O’Connor’s first match back at Welford Road. But it was Genge’s attitude that most caught the eye.

He has a snarl about him that has long since convinced Eddie Jones and he has already endeared himself to the Leicester faithful. He was replaced after an hour – perhaps for his own good after yet more afters – but there can be little doubting he was the catalyst for a victory that tightens their grip on fourth place following Bath’s defeat at Worcester.

Related: Worcester’s rare win over Bath makes them all but safe from the drop

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/apr/15/leicester-newcastle-premiership-match-report

Apr 15

Mark Tainton fights on but says Pat Lam can lead Bristol to the big time

Bristol probably need to beat Wasps to have a chance of staying up but their outgoing head coach insists relegation would not ruin the club’s grand plans

Easter Sunday is associated with resurrection and Bristol are in need of divine intervention if they are to dodge an immediate return to the Championship. Having been within three minutes of beating last season’s beaten finalists, Exeter, a week ago, they on Sunday face the Premiership leaders, Wasps, at Ashton Gate with matches running out.

After Bristol were relegated in 2009, they spent seven years in the rugby wilderness. The money went, then the players, and when they assembled a competitive squad they were tripped up by the Championship’s play-off system. Should they go down again, however, their return is likely to be far quicker, with the club financially stable and underpinned by a strong infrastructure.

Related: Worcester take giant leap towards safety by hitting Bristol for six

Related: ‘Big Cats’, brand reviews and the rampant commercialism of the Lions | Gerard Meagher

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/apr/15/mark-tainton-pat-lam-bristol-big-time-wasps

Apr 14

Exeter march on but Henry Slade a saint and sinner against Harlequins

• Harlequins 26-39 Exeter
• Eddie Jones on hand to watch Slade and Dave Ewers

Henry Slade’s delightful solo try lit up another bonus point victory for Exeter in which the Chiefs fly-half demonstrated his infuriating habit of dazzling and deflating in equal measure. Eddie Jones was in attendance, casting his eye over a raft of players who are likely to make his squad for the summer tour to Argentina and while Slade will be one of them, his tendency to blow hot and cold belies his unquestionable talent.

As it was, Slade’s dink over the top was a sucker punch for Harlequins, who had just conceded a similar try from Lachie Turner, drafted into the squad just an hour before kick-off, down the right. Up until then Harlequins had been competitive, Nick Evans keeping them in the hunt, but scores from the towering Dave Ewers – another in contention for the trip to South America – Michele Campagnaro, Slade and two for Turner ensured the Chiefs march towards the playoffs, now unbeaten in 13 league matches.

Related: Jack Clifford ruled out of England tour of Argentina with shoulder injury

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/apr/14/harlequins-exeter-premiership-rugby-match-report

Apr 10

Rugby union talking points from the weekend’s Premiership action

Saracens show relentlessness of champions, Sale’s academy proves productive while Exeter fail to convince in victory again

The scramble for fourth place, and with it a trip to one of three clubs who have lost two home matches between them in the league this season, both suffered by Exeter, looks to be going to the final round after Bath’s late rally at Twickenham. Bath’s decision to move a fixture they had only lost once at home in 11 years to London was made for commercial rather than rugby reasons, a desire to expand their fanbase before the Recreation Ground’s redevelopment when the club aim to become self-sufficient and no longer rely on the chairman Bruce Craig’s deep pockets. They have not looked championship material all season, painting a confused picture, if in vivid colours, and for once they came from behind against opponents whose collapses on the road this season extended into a third coach’s reign following the departures of Richard Cockerill and Aaron Mauger. Matt O’Connor sat in the stand before his first full week of training and watched his side blow an eight-point lead in the final 11 minutes. The Tigers look to have the better run-in of the three teams chasing fourth, but the fickle nature of the trio this season, summed up in the 80 minutes at HQ, means only uncertainty is certain. Paul Rees

Related: Bristol sink closer to relegation but Exeter have to work hard for win

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/apr/10/rugby-union-talking-points-from-the-weekends-premiership-action

Apr 09

Matt Mullan and Wasps burst into life to beat Northampton at the last

• Wasps 32-30 Northampton
• Mullen scores try in 80th minute which is converted by Jimmy Gopperth

It had seemed as if the Premiership’s longest unbeaten home run was about to be reset. It had seemed, just as the season reaches its climax, that Wasps’ wobbles were to be confirmed as fully set in. But with the last play of the game, after a 10-minute-long siege, Matt Mullan was driven over for a try whose conversion won the game 32-30. It also netted a bonus point, keeping them top of the table by five points.

Whether they can hope to win the whole thing with defence like theirs remains unlikely, but that attack of theirs is spectacular. At times in the second half they were unplayable, but their first half was almost as chaotic as their 32-17 defeat to Leinster had been in Dublin the week before. Northampton walk away with two bonus points themselves, moving them level on points with Harlequins in the race for the top six. They outscored Wasps five tries to four, but they could not cope with the varying depths of Wasps’ attacking runners, whose threat remains unmatched in this league.

Related: Three teams to be cut as Super Rugby reverts back to 2015 model

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/apr/09/wasps-northampton-premiership-match-report

Apr 08

Saracens imperious in crushing Wembley win over Harlequins

• Saracens 40-19 Harlequins
• Owen Farrell kicks 20 points in resounding victory

They look, as ever, like men on a mission. The soundings-out of the first seven months of a brutal season are over; now Saracens mean business. Harlequins, with plenty to play for, were unable to make so much as a dent in their opponents’ composure at a vibrant, colourful Wembley.

The only blemish on Saracens’ afternoon was a knock to the knee of Mako Vunipola, prompting his withdrawal early in the second half. Mark McCall described his removal as a precaution, and the England prop seemed happy enough as he joined his team-mates taking in the applause at the end of the game.

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/apr/08/saracens-harlequins-premiership-match-report

Apr 08

Bristol sink closer to relegation but Exeter have to work hard for win

• Exeter 38-34 Bristol
• Bristol scored four tries and led 34-31 with four minutes left

Bristol were pushed a step closer to relegation from the Aviva Premiership as they fell to defeat against Exeter at Sandy Park.

This latest result leaves them eight points behind 11th-placed Worcester with only three games remaining, so Bristol’s relegation may be confirmed if they lose at home to Wasps next Sunday.

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/apr/08/exeter-bristol-premiership-match-report

Apr 08

Anthony Watson’s rapid double fires Bath fightback to beat Leicester

• Bath 27-21 Leicester
• George Ford pulls the strings in dramatic turnaround at Twickenham

A crowd of more than 60,000 commercially justified Bath’s decision to forfeit home advantage against the best supported club in the Premiership, and if in the battle for fourth place it seemed to make little rugby sense, two Anthony Watson tries in two minutes in the final quarter gave them victory.

Bath started as if they were playing an exhibition match and went 12 points down in as many minutes. Leicester’s first try came when Freddie Burns, who in this fixture next season will again be playing opposite George Ford but in a Bath jersey, exploited an overlap with a long pass to JP Pietersen and the move ended with Brendon O’Connor scoring in Matt O’Connor’s first match in charge of the Tigers.

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/apr/08/bath-leicester-premiership-match-report

Apr 07

Do Premiership rugby’s London days out signal rude health or desperation? | Robert Kitson

The crowds flocking to Twickenham and Wembley for Bath v Leicester and Saracens v Harlequins will be cited as proof of the game’s growth but they mask concerns ranging from fixture congestion to financial uncertainty

Here is a quick quiz question: name the sport rivalling the Premier League and the Grand National for popularity in the UK this weekend? The answer is Premiership rugby union, with as many as 125,000 people set to attend games at Wembley and Twickenham. The “What time can you get here?” gags have gone the way of jockstraps, duckboards and half-time oranges.

These are not finals either, but regular league fixtures, albeit jazzed-up editions. While Bath and Saracens are hardly Manchester United and Arsenal, there is a hunger – or should that be a thirst? – for watching English club rugby union that did not exist 20 years ago. Premiership crowds have doubled since 2000 and live TV audiences are up 50% since 2010-11. As Mark McCafferty, Premiership Rugby’s chief executive, says: “The appetite is definitely there. I can’t see why, even if we only get most decisions right, it won’t keep increasing. It feels like there’s another phase of growth coming.”

Related: Fixture crush has players talking of strike action – World Rugby must step up

It could be incredibly positive for the game or wreck the whole model. I’m not sure how it’s going to play out

Related: Joe Marler says six-week Six Nations proposals are ‘ridiculous’

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2017/apr/07/premiership-wembley-twickenham-showpieces

Apr 03

European rugby finals to be staged in Bilbao in 2018 and Newcastle in 2019

• Finals will be staged at San Mamés Stadium and St James’ Park
• Johan Ackermann named as head coach at Gloucester

Newcastle will stage European club rugby’s showpiece weekend in May 2019 when the European Champions Cup and Challenge Cup finals are held at St James’ Park. The 2018 finals have been awarded to the San Mamés Stadium in Bilbao following the success of Barcelona’s hosting of the 2016 Top 14 final. The European Rugby Continental Shield finals will also be held in each city.

Related: European rugby review: Wasps fail to adapt while Ashton dents Lions claims

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/apr/03/rugby-union-european-finals

Apr 02

Saracens’ Mark McCall believes rugby calendar changes could cause burnout

• Director of rugby fears players will not have enough recovery time
• McCall says players, clubs and countries ‘all pull in different directions’

Mark McCall, the Saracens director of rugby, fears players face burnout as a result of planned changes to the calendar that would lead to 11-month seasons for England internationals.

Related: Are rugby union and its calendar stretched to breaking point? | Paul Rees

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/apr/02/saracens-mark-mccall-rugby-calendar-changes

Mar 27

Rugby union talking points from the weekend’s Premiership action

Northampton display top-four credentials, Henry Slade’s time to shine for England and the future is bright for Bristol regardless of what happens

Bryce Heem’s red card for taking out Willie le Roux in the air was the only decision referee Luke Pearce could make after watching the incident on video. Heem did not challenge for the ball but did not get out of the way, and when the Wasps’ wing made contact in his descent, he flipped over on to his back and landed on his head, suffering a concussion that ended his afternoon early. Worcester were level 19-19 when the incident occurred in the 46th-minute and it occurred after Ryan Mills had launched a high kick towards the home 22 for Heem to chase. The Warriors had not wasted an opportunity to test Le Roux in the air, but it has become a hazardous tactic because if a chaser gets an aerial challenge wrong, the chances are he will be sent off. Worcester felt Heem had been prevented for jumping for the ball by Alapati Leiua blocking his path, but the risk of the ploy is now greater than the reward and although the Warriors left Coventry with their first away points of the season thanks to five tries and a seven-point defeat, the score when the teams had the same number of players on the field was 33-19 in their favour. Paul Rees

Related: RFU keen to streamline Six Nations by scrapping one of the two rest weeks

Related: Newport Gwent Dragons to be taken over by Welsh Rugby Union

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/mar/27/rugby-union-talking-points-from-the-weekends-premiership-action

Mar 26

Exeter left feeling frustrated despite seeing off Sale challenge

• Exeter 30-25 Sale
• Don Armand seals bonus-point win with fourth try

It is a measure of just how far Exeter have come since their promotion seven years ago that after extending their unbeaten Premiership run to 11 matches, with a 14th bonus point of the season, the mood was one of frustration.

A contest shaped by a fierce wind and a spirited Sale side determined not to let their season fade out was settled when the Exeter captain, Don Armand, powered over for his side’s fourth try 14 minutes from time. Sale had led by 14 points in the first half but while Exeter laboured, the facts show only free-wheeling Wasps have scored more points this season.

Related: Bath outclassed as eight-try Saracens take game to a different level

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/mar/26/don-armand-exeter-sale-premiership-rugby

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