Premiership battle starts with a bang
September 3, 2012
Exeter's Al Muldowney takes on Sale's Danny Cipriani during his side's dominant victory at Sandy Park © Getty Images
The new Aviva Premiership campaign exploded into life at the weekend with a series of thrilling matches that promise much for the season ahead.
The six games produced an incredible 32 tries between them with the start of a new trial extending the powers of the Television Match Officials also bringing a fresh dramatic and controversial twist to proceedings.
Exeter Chiefs set the early pace thanks to a 43-6 mauling of Sale Sharks at Sandy Park. Winger Matt Jess led the way with two scores in their six-try romp with Al Muldowney, Igancio Mieres, Tom Johnson and Chris Budgen also getting in on the act. Not even the Premiership return of Sale's Danny Cipriani, who started on the bench, could spark the Sharks into life with coach Bryan Redpath commenting: "There were too many individual errors across the board from lots of people and we all have to take it on board and take the criticism that comes."
But the Chiefs' outstanding display was over-shadowed by one of the greatest ever Premiership clashes that played out between Harlequins and London Wasps at Twickenham. The resurgent Wasps looked on course for an upset win after powering into a 40-13 lead only for a Nick Evans-inspired Quins to conjure the biggest comeback in Premiership history to eventually claim a memorable 42-40 triumph. "It was a long way back - but we got a lot of energy from the bench," reflected a delighted Quins boss Conor O'Shea.
The second game in the traditional season-opening London Double Header failed to live up to its predecessor in terms of thrills but Saracens will care little about any perceived lack of entertainment having laid down an impressive marker with a 40-3 bonus point victory over a much-fancied London Irish. New signing Chris Ashton led the way with the England international winger bagging two of his four tries.
Leicester Tigers also got in on the points-fest with five tries in their 38-13 victory over Premiership newboys London Welsh. Two tries from Thomas Waldrom helped power the Tigers' dominant victory that will serve as a warning to an Exiles side that lacked nothing in commitment but were clearly short on preparation time. "We had players knocking into each other in areas of the field where they weren't sure what they should be doing and that stood out and it cost us," rued London Welsh coach Lyn Jones.
Northampton also kicked off the new season with a win with a 24-19 victory over Gloucester on their latest trip to Kingsholm. Two tries from George Pisi propelled the Saints to a valuable victory but they were clinging on at the end with both No.8 Gerrit-Jan van Velze and prop Paul Doran-Jones sent to the sin-bin. Northampton coach Jim Mallinder admitted his side were "lucky to take the points". He added: "We were playing away from home at a club notorious for being difficult to beat on their ground. We didn't have to overplay but we lost the ball at times which was annoying."
In the weekend's other game, Bath squeezed home against Worcester with Olly Barkley's boot sealing a narrow 24-23 triumph. His last-gasp kick capped an outstanding display from the Bath playmaker who contributed all of his side's points. The Warriors had looked on course for an opening day win having led 15-6 at half-time but not even the only try of the game from lock James Percival could carry them to victory."We shot ourselves in both feet," admitted Warriors head coach Richard Hill.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
The latest Week in Pictures takes in all the action from the weekend when rugby united behind Samoa
England broke their losing streak, but this was not them clawing their way back among the best, writes Tom Hamilton
Wales' lessons to learn in defeat by New Zealand are almost exactly the same as those from previous near-misses, writes Huw Richards
Scrum Sevens takes a wander down memory lane and celebrates seven examples of Pacific Islands magic