So that’s the first weekend of 2018 rugby over, and thankfully things are just as exciting and entertaining as ever. It’s a comfort to me to know that things haven’t changed, Alex Lewington is still banging in the tries, Worcester and London Irish are still fighting at the bottom of the table, Leinster are still thrilling the crowds with their brand of exciting rugby and Joe Marler is still a bit of loveable twat with his antics on the pitch but that said things certainly aren’t predictable.
Lets start with Friday night’s game at Sixways where Bath cantered to a comfortable win against struggling Worcester, now this may seem very predictable but looking at Worcester’s performances of late Im very surprised Bath won with such ease, the physicality and pace Bath showed was just too much for the home team. Tries from Grant, Garvey, Watson, Phillips and Fotuali’I sealed the fate of the scrappy Warriors team.
Friday night also saw an straight forward 47-13 win for Pro 14 Champions Scarlets against a poor Dragons team with Bernard Jackman electing to field some of the more inexperienced players in his squad. A Scarlets team without possibly their form player Steff Evans through suspension looked anything but toothless crossing the line 7 times to the Dragons single consolation effort.
The final game of Friday night saw Edinburgh carry on their winning run with a 37-7 win at Myreside against South African side the Southern Kings, the impressive performance being capped by 5 tries from the men from the capital. Its great to see Scotland finally fielding two teams of quality and is definitely showing results on the international stage.
Saturday comes and back to the Premiership, starting with a thriller from the AJ Bell, Sale taking a late 30-29 win against the west Londoners Harlequins. Harlequins scored 4 tries to Sales 3 with the game winning difference being from the tee, with AJ MacGinty and Faf De Klerk slotting penalties to take the victory. Quins looked to be taking the win until Joe Marlers red card for an illegal charge into the ruck, buts that’s Marler, love him or hate him.
Next comes possibly the biggest surprise of the weekend for anyone that saw Quins rip apart Northampton last week. This week the Saints welcomed in form Gloucester to the Gardens and unbelievably came away with a 22-19 win. The two teams traded tries through Ken Pisi, Nic, James Hanson, John Afoa and a penalty try respectively, Saints 11 points down looked doomed to repeat the form that has seen them slip to 10th in table until Nic Groom darted over to make victory within reach and a late penalty kicked to the corner resulted in a driving maul which caused Gloucester to infringe and Northampton were awarded the penalty try, much to the relief of the Fraklin Gardens faithful.
The final Premiership game of Saturday saw a repeat of the 08/09 final with Leicester taking on London Irish at Welford road, how fortunes have changed since these two fought to be crowned the champions. Leicester will have come into this game expecting an easier time than recent week against the leagues basement boys but Irish pushed them all the way in a narrow 19-15 win. Irish went ahead through young England startlet Joe Cokanasiga but two quick tries either side of the break from Toomua and May turned it around and saw Tigers take control. Manu Tuilagi crashed over to all but seal the victory but try machine Alex Lewington went over to give the exiles hope and an all important bonus point for the Reading based side.
In Saturdays Pro 14 action Benetton carried on their fine run of results with a convincing bonus point win over South African side the Cheetahs. The Italian side are really showing huge improvements and based on their strong pack I can see them carrying on their fine form.
The second game saw a Welsh derby between the Ospreys and the Blues with the Ospreys taking a tight 28-29 win after a late come back from the Blues with tries from Lane and Smith not being enough to close the gap. Ospreys can thank magic from their half backs Webb and Biggar for the points with the former bagging two tries,
2016 Pro 12 champions Glasgow travelled to Italy to take on Zebre and came away with the 5 points they were looking for. Tries for Fagerson, Jones, Horne and Grigg being enough to sink the plucky Italians in a 20-40 win.
The first of the Irish derbies saw an irresistible performance from three time European champions Leinster taking a convincing 38-7 victory at home against Ulster. A superb flowing display, stretching the Ulster defence all over the park, saw 6 tries from the Dubliners. A man of the match performance coming from young Jordan Larmour bagging to tries in his fine performance. Leinster certainly look set for years to come with the amount of young talent coming through at the RDS.
And the final game of Saturday saw the in form Munster take on Connacht at Thomond Park. Munster taking an easy 39-13 win against the men from Galway. Tries coming from O’Shea, Conway, Earls and two from Murray saw the Munstermen ease away from their fellow Irishmen with their only consolation coming from McCartney.
Last but not least comes Sundays games, the first of which being champions Exeter’s jaunt north to in form Newcastle where the Falcons put in one of their finest game of recent years beating the Chiefs 28-20. Newcastle stormed to a 25-3 lead through tries from Sinoti, Goneva and hooker Cooper but the champions are just that for a reason and the second half was all them, scoring their own three tries with Simmons, Woodburn and Salmon crossing for the Devon based club.
The last game to look at was possibly the tie of the weekend with Saracens taking on the attacking force that is Wasps. The first half looked like the game we all expected with the half time score being tight at 15-18 to the London side but the second half belonged to the European Champions aided by their returning stars in Maro Itoje and Billy Vunipola. Tries from Alex Goode and Ben Spencer with two penalties from Owen Farrell led to, in the end, a comfortable 15-38 win for Sarries. Wasps will consolation in the fact that they took to the field with a number of first team injuries but that won’t soften the blow for the Coventry team.