Premiership Team of the Week: Round Five
OPINION: Saracens’ run of bonus point wins to start the season continued unabated in Round Five as they dispatched Bath 50-27 at Allianz Park in a ruthless display of clinical attacking rugby.
Other notable results included Newcastle Falcons slipping to a third-straight home defeat, as Wasps snuck a narrow one-point win at Kingston Park, and Harlequins ending their away day woes, beating Gloucester 27-25 at Kingsholm.
Read on for our pick of the performers from a busy weekend of Gallagher Premiership action.
15 Alex Goode, Saracens
The performance of the weekend, without a shadow of a doubt. Goode was lethal on the counter-attack against Bath and every time he got his hands on the ball, he seemed to make a breakthrough the Bath defence. He teed up three tries for his teammates and crossed for one of his own, as well as covering the backfield well in defence. The only blemish on his game came when he kicked through for what would have been his second try, only to narrowly knock-on as he tried to regather the ball over the try-line.
14 Nathan Earle, Harlequins
Earle was busy at Kingsholm, looking for plenty of work off of his wing, in addition to being the finisher in the wide channels that Quins need him to be. He bagged a brace as the Londoners snuck a narrow win, running in two long distance tries, the first of which was an opportunistic swoop on a Gloucester mistake, and the second finishing off a Joe Marchant break.
Liam Williams continued his impressive start to the season, securing himself a hat-trick at Allianz Park, as he feasted on the attacking masterclass put on by Goode.
13 Will Hurrell, Bristol Bears
A robust performance from the former Leicester Tiger, who barrelled his way through the Northampton defence for two tries, as well as setting up Alapati Leiua for his late score, which won Bristol their second bonus point of the day. He consistently managed to find gaps or weak inside shoulders in the midfield and was unlucky to be on the losing side at Ashton Gate.
12 Johnny Williams, Newcastle Falcons
A second strong showing from Williams in as many weeks, with the former London Irish man scooting over for two tries against Wasps and continuing to tie in defenders with his dual-threat as a runner and a distributor. It’s still early days in a Falcons jersey, but Williams looks as if he could provide the best of both worlds between Juan Pablo Socino and Maxime Mermoz, both of whom left the club in the summer.
11 Sinoti Sinoti, Newcastle Falcons
The Samoan was particularly difficult to bring down at Kingston Park on Friday night, where he showcased his footwork and power to devastating effect against Wasps. He didn’t manage to cross the try-line himself, but his breaks brought big gains for Newcastle, as well as one unleashing Mark Wilson for his try in the first half.
Taqele Naiyaravoro also impressed on the left wing, turning in a performance that will have Northampton fans salivating for more.
10 Owen Farrell, Saracens
Guided Saracens around the Allianz Park pitch with aplomb and dissected the Bath defence with consummate skill. There were times when the game seemed to be going in slow-motion for Farrell, who sent runner after runner through holes in the Bath defence, as well as taking the odd gap himself, before turning playmaker at the second level.
9 Cobus Reinach, Northampton Saints
A strong show of decision-making from the South African, who imposed a tempo on Northampton that the East Midlanders thrived on. Bristol’s attacking game may be built around tempo, too, but their defence struggled to stay organised with Reinach orchestrating things from half-back and it minimised the effectiveness of their usually impressive back-row trio.
1 Joe Marler, Harlequins
Just days after announcing his international retirement, Marler looked rejuvenated for his club side. Maybe it was a burden lifted from his shoulders or maybe it was just a good game, but the loosehead was powerful and dynamic in the loose, effective at the contact area and squared off well against Fraser Balmain in the scrum.
2 Harry Thacker, Bristol Bears
A flawless set-piece display from Jamie George came close but didn’t quite match the influence Thacker had in his game. The mobile hooker ran in a try after a John Afoa break and proved hard to contain for Northampton, as he repeatedly broke the line and kept phases alive with accurate offloading.
3 Titi Lamositele, Saracens
With Vincent Koch and Juan Figallo unavailable, Lamositele really stepped up to the plate for Saracens. Apart from one troublesome early scrum, he dealt well with Jacques van Rooyen, whilst he was also busy in the loose, providing solid defence around the fringes and carrying strongly. He set up Williams for one of his three tries and was unlucky not to add to the scoresheet himself, when his try was ruled out due to crossing by Brad Barritt.
4 Will Rowlands, Wasps
One of Rowlands’ best games in a Wasps jersey, with a dominant carrying performance befitting a man of his size. His teammates did an excellent job of putting him in the right spots, but the lock still had to run the lines and break the tackles himself. He made several important one-on-one tackles in Wasps’ multiple second half defensive stands, too.
5 Jonny Hill, Exeter Chiefs
A typically reliable and polished showing from Hill, who contributed effectively at the set-piece and in the loose in equal measure. The lock softened up Worcester around the fringes with his carrying and kept the lineout ticking over well at Sandy Park. He also dominated the collision in a number of tackles on Worcester’s forwards.
6 Dave Ewers, Exeter Chiefs
A timely reminder of what Ewers can bring to a game when he is fully fit, as the Zimbabwean grabbed two tries at Sandy Park and proved a colossus in defence. The blindside owned the gain-line on Saturday, both with and without the ball, and he brought front-foot ball for Exeter, as well as denying Worcester Warriors the same luxury.
7 Lewis Ludlam, Northampton Saints
A mention for Chris Robshaw, who was impressive at Kingsholm, but Ludlam sneaks in ahead of him for his second appearance in this XV in as many weeks. The openside was again impressive at the breakdown and with ball in hand, showing that whilst he may not have the reputation or experience of some his back-row colleagues, he brings just as much impact on the pitch.
8 Mark Wilson, Newcastle Falcons
The change of number on his back has done nothing to change the workhorse nature and reliability of Wilson’s performances for Newcastle. He ran himself into the ground in defence, repelling Wasps’ carriers, as well as carrying with purpose. He showed good mobility, too, to keep up with Sinoti and be on hand to take the Samoan’s offload and canter over the try-line.
In other news: Glasgow head coach Dave Rennie discusses his international ambitions.