Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Aviva Premiership Round Seven - Cannucks, Eagles and Pumas.

As is the case with the Top 14 Orange, Rugby World Cup 2011 has made it tough for many of the traditionally most powerful teams to play to their usual standards due to a large list of players on international duty. Three of last seasons Aviva Premiership Quarter Finalists, are in the bottom half of the ladder after the completion of seven rounds. The Leicester Tigers, for instance, are in the unfamiliar position of tenth position despite having collected a big away victory on Friday. Less than one win ahead of the Tigers are both Gloucester and Northampton with the three teams all likely to make a charge up the ladder now that all teams have their players back from New Zealand 2011.

The Sale Sharks were poor last season. Their inability to win matches saw the team near the bottom of the ladder for virtually the entire season. The club sacked its coach, former All Blacks captain, Mike Brewer. Few players were selected for World Cup duty which enabled the club to have a head-start over those missing players. Sale entered round seven in a healthy position but came crashing back down to earth as the Leicester Tigers completed a 34-13 win following an impressive secondhalf comeback. Argentine international winger, Horacio Agulla played in the unfamiliar positoin of outside centre for the Tigers and may well be used there throughout this season following the long term injury to England´s Samoan born centre, Manu Tuilagi. Agulla was joined in the starting lineup by fellow World Cup Puma, Marcos Ayerza who had a fine match in scoring a try. Italy´s Argentine born tighthead prop, Martín Castrogiovanni also scored a try for Leicester as he entered the match as a replacement. Sale continue to be without their uncapped Argentine fullback, Joaquín Tuculet who continues to recover form injury.

Friday´s second match took place in western England as the Worcester Warriors played host to former powerhouses, the London Wasps. The Warriors sit second to bottom on the table after having failed to score tries when the opportunity has presented itself. They do, however, sit one win ahead of the bottom placed side, the Newcastle Falcons. The club picked up a bonus point in losing 14-12 to the London Wasps while Newcastle were badly beaten by the Northampton Saints on Saturday.  The Saints impressed with a 44-15 demolition of the bottom placed Falcons who continue to be unable to find replacements for their former stars Jonny Wilkinson and Toby Flood. Newcastle´s Russian recruit, Vasily Artemyev again impressed scoring a brace of tries as he continues to be a standout performer in England. USA international secondrower, Samu Manoa started for Northampton.

The top of the table, Harlequins continued to impress with another victory, this time a 19-13 win over the Exeter Chiefs in London on Saturday. The Quins are in first place of the Premiership with only fellow London side, Saracens near them on the ladder. The Harlequins have been enojying victories with former CUBA flyhalf Benjamin Urdapilleta impressing in recent weeks for the Quins Anglo-Welsh Cup matches. He did not play for the Quins vs Exeter due to the rules which restrict the number of foreign players clubs are allowed to field. Pumas World Cup secondrower, Tomas Vallejos was on the bench for the Quins. His Pumas World Cup teammate, Gonzalo Camacho did not play for the Chiefs as the World Cup winger is yet to make his debut for Exeter. Uncapped Argentine flyhalf, Ignacio Mieres played at flyhalf for Exeter and kicked two penalties.

Last seasons Aviva Premiership Champions, Saracens have not been feeling the pinch of Rugby World Cup 2011 so much. The London based side had players on World Cup duty for a host of countries with Namibia´s World class backrower, Jacques Burger in New Zealand alongside Englsh prop Matt Stevens, Scottish backrower, Kelly Brown and the USA duo of fullback Chris Wyles and secondrower, Hayden Smith. All players were back for the teams away match vs Gloucester. With both USA internationals making their comeback to club duty on the bench. Gloucester welcomed back intetrnational players from England, Fiji, Samoa and Scotland but were unable to get the win as Saracens were able to complete a 19-17 victory.

A similar result occured in another London vs western England matchup as the London Irish Exlies hosted Bath on Saturday. The homeside was expecting a win to mocve into third place in the Avivia Premiership after Sale´s loss to Leicester the night before. Bath had other ideas, however, and their 13-12 away victrory sees London Irish fall to fifth position to now be tied with Bath on 18 points. It was an interesting match for Canadian rugby fans as Canadian World Cup secondrower, Jebb Sinclair played his first Aviva Premiership match. Sinclair was a repalcement and came on in the 62nd minute.

Aviva Premiership Standings

1 Harlequins 30
2 Saracens 26
3 Sale Sharks 19
4 London Wasps 18
5 London Irish 18
6 Bath 18
7 Exeter Chiefs 16
8 Gloucester 15
9 Northampton Saints 14
10 Leicester Tigers 12
11 Worcester Warriors 10
12 Newcastle Falcons 5

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