Preview: Premiership, Round Two
What an opening weekend of Guinness Premiership action! Thankfully though we don’t have to wait too long for the next installment – rugby365 previews all the weekend’s upcoming action, including rugby’s first appearance at Wembley.
Anyone betting according to the rugby365 tips last weekend would not have had a great weekend’s worth of winnings. A round full of upsets, the opening weekend saw a number of tight games, a red card, a late comeback and a number of impressive debut performances.
This weekend though promises to be equally, if not more, exciting. Rugby heads to Wembley, the Tigers head to the Stoop – you’d be crazy to miss a minute of all this action!
Guinness Premiership Round Two:
Friday, 11 September
Worcester Warriors v Leeds Carnegie (19.45) (18.45 GMT) Sixways Stadium – It was heartbreak for Worcester last weekend; coming so close to beating the Saints only to have the points snuck out from under them.
Carnegie on the other hand showed great resolve to hold out Newcastle and secure a hard-fought 9-all draw in their first match back in the Premiership.
The Warriors will be boosted this weekend by the return of All Black Sam Tuitupou. The former Auckland Blues star has not featured for Mike Ruddock’s men in 2009 but, after coming so close to returning to action last weekend, has finally been given the all clear to return to action at the Sixways Stadium this weekend.
Carnegie will still be without first choice fullback Leigh Hinton, but there is a first start for new signing Alfie To’olala.
rugby365 Prediction: The two teams tipped by many to be involved in the relegation battle, this early season clash could well prove to be a vital one for both these sides when all is said and done. The Warriors showed enough for 70 minutes last weekend for them to head into the match as favourites but a Leeds win would certainly not come as a great shock to anyone in the rugby365 office. Worcester by four or less.
Saturday, 12 September
Bath v London Wasps (14.15) (13.15 GMT) The Recreation Ground – Mixed fortunes for these two teams in the opening round last weekend; Bath were hugely disappointing in their match against Gloucester, going down 24-5, while London Wasps enjoyed a solid 26-15 win over a 14-man Harlequins side at Twickenham.
Bath, without Springbok Butch James, failed to take any of their chances from the kicking tee and were punished at every turn by a clinical Gloucester outfit.
Tony Hanks men, by contrast, looked in control for much of their opening fixture. Aided in their cause by a moment of madness by Quins lock George Robson, Wasps ran in three tries at HQ – two of which were scored by their impressive newby Tom Varndell.
rugby365 Prediction: Ryan Davis had a terrible time trying to fill the boots of James at Kingsholm and, still finding their feet under new captain Michael Claassens, Bath could struggle again this weekend. Playing at the Rec is of course a massive advantage but Wasps will be full of confidence as they make the trip out west. Tight till then end but with London Wasps winning it by six in the end.
Saracens v Northampton Saints (14.45) (13.45 GMT) Wembley Stadium – Set to be a fantastic occasion at the home of English football, Saracens play host to Northampton at Wembley Stadium, the first rugby match to be staged at the great football venue ever.
Both of teams tasted victory last weekend and will be keen to keep their good form going with a win over a potential top table rival.
Saracens, under the guidance of Brendan Venter, are desperate for success this season while Northampton, coached by England Saxons bosses Jim Mallinder and Dorian West, are many people’s outside bet for a playoff spot finish this season.
Finding themselves 17-0 down against Worcester last weekend Dylan Hartley’s men showed great composure to come back and win the game at the death. The performance of new star Shane Geraghty particularly pleasing although Ben Foden did not look to be at his best at the back for the European Challenge Cup champs.
rugby365 Prediction: Saracens remain a tough team to predict – after so many changes in recent times the team no doubt still need time to gel. That said, as the showed last weekend, they are more than capable of getting the job done. Saracens, led by England’s own Steve Borthwick, should have the edge – rising to the occasion, Sarries should get the better of the Saints by five of less.
Harlequins v Leicester Tigers (15.00) (14.00 GMT) – The Stoop, Twickenham – rugby365 tipped both Leicester and Harlequins to win last weekend and neither delivered. Leicester, the defending Champions went down to Sale on Friday night before, on Saturday, Quins lost to London Wasps.
Quins, still reeling from the ‘bloodgate’ scandal, could not have wished for a worse start to their new campaign. Just three minutes into the new season Robson was given a straight red card and, following a disciplinary hearing, will now serve a six-week suspension for his action.
Leicester meanwhile are struggling with severe injury problems – England international Dan Hipkiss is the latest to join the list. Ruled out this week with a knee injury, Hipkiss joins Sam Vesty, Toby Flood and Alesana Tuilagi on the sidelines.
After some stern words during the week one would expect a response from both teams on the pitch. The Leicester pack particularly, known for their strength and control, will be looking to make an impression.
rugby365 Prediction: Harlequins have some great attacking players at their disposal, including Lions wing Ugo Monye and All Black Nick Evans, but Leicester will still arrive in London as the favourites. A tough Tigers win, but not by more than eight points.
Sunday, 6 September
London Irish v Gloucester (15:00) (14:00 GMT) – Madejski Stadium – Bryan Redpath’s men were hugely impressive last weekend against Bath, dominant up front and clinical out wide, they certainly will be looking to keep up that good form this weekend when they travel to Reading.
Toby Booth’s men on the other hand were largely disappointing against Saracens. Failing to take their chances, particularly with the boot. The Exiles fans will be hoping for a greatly improved showing on Sunday.
There are some exciting battle in prospect as the impressive Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu goes head to head with Seilala Mapusua in the inside centre channel and, on the wing, James ‘Sinbad’ Simpson-Daniel will be up against Sailosi Tagicakibau.
rugby365 Prediction: Gloucester surprised us last week with their impressive performance. Controlling the game up front, the Cherry and Whites proved they could well be contenders this season. London Irish though are filled with quality as well and will be determined to chalk up their first win of the new campaign. Another tight one but it should go the way of the home side, but by less than seven.
Newcastle Falcons v Sale Sharks (15.00) (14.00 GMT) – Kingston Park – Sale caused the first upset of the new season early doors last Friday night, edging out the Tigers 15-12 at Edgeley Park. The Falcons on the other hand played out to a 9-all draw against Leeds.
Both sides remain full of talent and excitement despite some drastic changes during the off season. are full of talented players despite much change during the off season.
After a shakey first weekend Newcastle will almost certainly be expecting a better showing from their Kiwi No.10 Jimmy Gopperth. The former Blues flyhalf showed promise with ball in hand but his misses from the kicking tee cost his side dearly on the day.
Neither side scored a try in the opening round, relying only on their respective goal kickers to contribute points to the cause, but hopefully, with the talent on show, we can expect some tries this weekend.
rugby365 Prediction: A fantastic win for Sale last weekend but Newcastle, even a much changed Newcastle, are still a different proposition at Kingston Park. Probably less than a handful of points in to, but we’re backing the home side’s pack this weekend. Newcastle by four.