Rugby union: talking points from the weekend’s Premiership action | Sport

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Rugby union: talking points from the weekend’s Premiership action | Sport
Rugby union: talking points from the weekend’s Premiership action | Sport


1) Care just keeps on getting better

The rivalry between England’s two leading scrum-halfs, Ben Youngs and Danny Care, is becoming every bit as intense as that between Matt Dawson and Kyran Bracken in the side of the late 90s/early 00s. If that was England’s last great team, the vim of warring No9s is as strategically a valuable a dynamic as any. To date Care has been seen as the sparky game-breaker, with Youngs the game-shaper, but Care’s all-round game continues to develop. “Everyone’s going to remember him as a fantastic rugby player,” said John Kingston, Quins’ director of rugby, “but I’ve talked to him about a more enduring legacy. I see a different side of him now, certainly more mature. When he manages to amalgamate that with the smatterings of sparkle dust he’s always had, he looks some player.” Quins aren’t the only team set to benefit. Michael Aylwin

Harlequins 20-19 Saracens

2) Northampton’s confidence requires quick restoration

Of Newcastle’s five Premiership wins this was their third secured by a late score for a narrow margin of victory. When the game is tight the Falcons seem to have the golden ability to fashion a score, a good attribute to have, particularly given it secured a first league win since September. “Our defence was outstanding,” said their director of rugby, Dean Richards. “Against better sides we might have been found out a little bit but we dug in and came back. I loved that aspect of it. Both sides made mistakes on the night but we found a way to win it.” For Saints this was a fifth straight defeat, with only one win in nine now. They were often second best at the breakdown on Friday night and having a couple of early efforts ruled out seemed to sap their confidence, which needs restoring by the coaching team. Quickly. Claire Tolley

Sinoti Sinoti breaks clear to score of Newcastle’s first try during their victory against a woefully out of form Saints.



Sinoti Sinoti breaks clear to score Newcastle’s first try during their victory against a woefully out of form Saints. Photograph: David Rogers/Getty Images

3) Sale’s defence answers all the questions

Frustration for Gary Gold as his Worcester side failed to defend a 14-11 lead against 14 men in the late stages of the game when they were the ones pushing for a score. The Sale winger Byron McGuigan was sent off for a second yellow-card offence after 66 minutes but it was the visitors who took the victory after Mark Jennings went over for a converted try on the left wing. Sale spent much of the second half defending and had their forwards to thank for what was their first away league win in 13 months. “We played 34 minutes when we only had 14 men and we showed great character to dig in for the whole of the second half,” said their coach, Paul Deacon. CT

4) Exeter exhilarate in preparation for Leinster

Have Exeter ever played better in the Premiership than in the opening 50 minutes of Saturday’s 42-29 defeat of Bath? Probably not. Fast, physical, smart, direct, relentless … the league leaders have never been in better nick before their pivotal back-to-back European pool games with Leinster. Todd Blackadder, Bath’s director of rugby, correctly identified the Chiefs’ back-row trio of Matt Kvesic, Don Armand and Thomas Waldrom as “unbelievable” and the fly-half Gareth Steenson marshalled the onrushing traffic superbly. “It really exposed our weaknesses under pressure,” admitted Blackadder, whose side were 42-10 down with eight minutes left. “It showed us what the gap is.” His squad now head to Toulon for Saturday’s Champions Cup game with fitness doubts still hanging over the back‑rows François Louw (shoulder) and Sam Underhill (head). Robert Kitson

Extere’s captain, Gareth Steenson, flies over for a try against Bath.



Extere’s captain, Gareth Steenson, flies over for a try against Bath. Photograph: Mingo/PPAUK/Rex/Shutterstock

5) London Irish cannot afford to be off the Paice

Gloucester find themselves second in the table. The comprehensive nature of the win may have come courtesy of David Paice’s first-half red card but Johan Ackermann’s side are the form team in the Premiership, having taken 22 points from five matches. For Irish, Nick Kennedy, the director of rugby, could hardly be blamed for his anger towards Paice. The exiles were 21-10 down at the end of the first half, when their captain was sent off for a dangerous tackle. Irish are not adrift at the bottom of the table but they desperately needed a win to build on two narrow defeats. Games against Worcester and Newcastle around Christmas will have huge significance for their season. CT

Exeter 42-29 Bath

6) Cipriani proves his class to Jones, but probably in vain

Nothing can be taken for granted when Eddie Jones picks an England team but it looks pretty certain that Danny Cipriani will never feature in his plans. He recently turned 30 and his season has been disrupted by a knee injury, but his return to form in Saturday’s wonderful win over Leicester was a reminder, not that England’s head coach will need one, of the quality of the Wasps No10. Wasps are always more of an attacking threat when Cipriani and Jimmy Gopperth are in tandem and, with Dan Robson back to his sniping best at scrum-half, Leicester were run off their feet. “Danny is one of the best attacking No10s,” said Wasps’ director of rugby, Dai Young. “He’s worked his socks off to return early and has a massive appetite to play.” England’s current fly-half George Ford, back in the No10 shirt for Leicester this weekend, would have been a grudging admirer. Ian Malin

Wasps 32-25 Leicester



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