10 talking points from Round 1
September 9, 2013
Andy Goode produced arguably the most agonising moment of the opening weekend of action © Getty Images
The battle for the Aviva Premiership crown got underway at the weekend and we didn't have to wait long for top-class action, drama and controversy - here's our pick of the talking points.
BT Sport embrace rolling subs
It is clear that Premiership broadcasters BT Sport are not short of talent having signed up Lawrence Dallaglio, Austin Healey, Ben Kay, Matt Dawson, Martin Bayfield to supplement the efforts of presenter Craig Doyle, reporter Sarra Elgan and commentators Nick Mullins and Al Ekyn and they all saw plenty of action during the broadcasters' largely excellent coverage of the opening round. On top of this plethora of pundits, they also saw the need for a couple of notable cameos from David Flatman and Conor O'Shea. Given the number of faces paraded in front of him, the impressive and engaging Doyle could be forgiven for getting a little confused although Dawson did not appear to see the funny side (see below) after being repeatedly called 'Austin' by his Irish colleague whose head was clearly spinning during Sunday's match.
London set to keep on calling
The London Double Header celebrated its 10th anniversary at Twickenham on Saturday where 62,637 were treated to a feast of Premiership rugby. The attendance may have been slightly down on last year's figure and the absence of any Premier League football in the capital may well have helped but the consistent popularity of the traditional season-opener cannot be questioned. The fans at HQ may not have been treated the pointsfest offered last season but there was plenty of drama from the opening try for Saracens' Jamie George to Andy Goode's agonising last-gasp conversion miss for Wasps.
Biting controversy mars Tigers' win
Leicester kicked off their title defence with a dominant victory over Worcester at Welford Road but it was an ugly-looking clash between Tigers prop Dan Cole and Warriors fly-half Ignacio Mieres that stole the headlines. TV footage and subsequent images paint a worrying picture and Cole faces an anxious wait to see if citing officer Peter Larter believes his role in proceedings requires action on his part. BT Sport analyst Austin Healey saw it as an accident - 'you don't put your fingers in a dog's mouth' - and his colleague Lawrence Dallaglio shared that sentiment - do you?
'Crouch, bind, set - Yes 9'
The Premiership embraced the revision of the global scrum trial this weekend and as expected things did not go that smoothly. It will clearly take time for the players and the officials to adjust to the latest protocol but there were promising signs that the scrum may yet regain its status as an engaging contest and a key attacking weapon while there is also reason to hope the referees are also determined to get this right for the good of the game.
Hartley returns to Saints' ranks
Under-fire Northampton hooker Dylan Hartley wasted no time in repaying Saints boss Jim Mallinder for his support in the wake of his sensational sending off in last season's Premiership final with the opening try in his side's thrashing of Exeter. "It was the perfect way to start the season and start afresh," Hartley commented following his inspirational performance - but it came at a price as you can see below:
Lowe settles some old scores
A year after being left for dead by Wasps' Christian Wade in last season's London Double Header, Quins' George Lowe delivered a masterclass in speed and agility of his own. Wasps' winger Tom Varndell looked destined for his first try of the season having split the Quins' defence but Lowe tracked, caught and then tackled his rival in a superb defensive showing that went a long way to ensuring his side started the new campaign on a winning note.
Sharks rediscover their bite
Northampton Saints may have set the standard with their demolition of Exeter Chiefs but arguably THE result of the weekend came at Kingsholm where much-fancied . The Sharks flirted with relegation last season when a coaching merry-go-round and Danny Cipriani's run-in with a bus threatened to derail their campaign - but Sale chief Steve Diamond is focused firmly on the future. "Last year is another season," he said. "The year before, we got to the Heineken Cup and nobody talks about that, do they?"
Falcons flounder on return to top flight
Newcastle returned to the Premiership stage on Friday night and were handed a brutal reminder of how hard it will be for them to cement their place in the top flight. Bath dominated proceedings at a rain and wind-swept Kingston Park and the Falcons were not even able to trouble the scoreboard. "I have said all along that it is a long old season, and it is not just about one match," commented Falcons boss Dean Richards. "Where you finish at the end of the year is the key."
Cockers in spandex?
Leicester director of rugby Richard Cockerill is no stranger to the Sunday newspaper headlines due to his outspoken nature but he had people choking on their breakfast for a slightly different reason at the weekend. The Tigers' boss, currently serving a nine-match ban for a foul-mouthed rant during last season's Premiership finale, went public with his love of yoga with the Mail on Sunday also offering photographic evidence. It is hoped the spiritual discipline will help him curb his temper but as Cockerill joked, "You'd be within your rights to question whether it's really working."
Injury rollercoaster is off and running
Bath and England fans held their breath as Kyle Eastmond fell to the ground clutching his knee during his side's victory over Newcastle on Friday night. The injury brought a premature end to his game and his clear agony prompted fears that a season that had promised so much - having starred for England in Argentina this summer - was over just as it had begun. The injury is reportedly not as bad as it appeared but served as a reminder as how fickle the sport can be.
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Graham Jenkins is the Senior Editor of ESPNscrum and you can also follow him on Twitter.