Saturday, May 10, 2014

Aviva Premiership: Americas Exports Final Round Wrap

Photo Telegraph
The final round of the Aviva Premiership was played on Saturday afternoon in England,  confirming the Semi Final matches to be played next weekend. The same four teams from the previous two seasons will feature again as the north and west country have no team in the top four. Involved in matches today were players from Argentina, Canada and the USA. 

Harlequins 19-16 Bath
Heading into the fixture ther Harlequins was the form side but Bath was placed higher in the premiership and has performed better overall in the English domestic season. With Bath failing to deliver results in recent rounds the Harlequins had an opportunity to close out the regular season with a win and secure a place in the final four. The London based side achieved victory to eliminate Bath and set up an all-London battle against Saracens. 

Pumas hooker Eusebio Guiñazú started at hooker in what was, remarkably, his first start of the Premiership while former Racing Métro prop Juan Pablo Orlandi was a replacement. Horacio Agulla did not feature. All three were involved in the 2012 and 2013 Rugby Championships. 

Leicester Tigers 31-27 Saracens
Both the Leicester Tigers and Saracens knew that win, lose, or draw they would be involved in the Semi Finals of the Aviva Premiership. They both also know where they would be playing. Saracens near perfect season means the club will host a Semi Final while Leicester will face Northampton in an East Midlands showdown. 

With qualification already secure both teams opted to field understrength lineups which saw a number of players, including Marcelo Bosch and Marcos Ayerza, not starting the fixture. There was a place for Pablo Matera who impressed in the back-row in putting in a performance which arguably ought to see him starting the Semi Final. Ayerza was involved from the bench while Blaine Scully started on the wing and linked with Matera in scoring a try. Scully's USA teammate Hayden Smith started in the second-row.

Leicester's season has been strong but far from perfect as the club has, like Toulouse in France, not lived up to its reputation. It, nonetheless, has a chance to again qualify for the Aviva Premiership final. Saracens now faces the Heienken Cup Final and the Semi Final before a possible rematch against the Tigers.

London Irish 22-20 Sale Sharks
London Irish brought its season to an end with a hard fought home victory against the Sale Sharks. With neither club in danger of relegation nor having higher honors to play for it was a match to simply fairwell the season by taking to the field with clubmates for a final time. Canadian Jebb Sinclair came off the bench in the second half for London Irish.

Newcastle Falcons 13-23 Exeter Chiefs
The Exeter Chiefs turned around some unimpressive performances in recent rounds to complete a final round away victory in Newcastle. The result sees the Chiefs overtake Gloucester to finish the season in eighth position. The team finished too low to qualify for the European Champions Cup which underlines the team not performing considering its involvement in consecutive Heineken Cups. Pumas centre Gonzalo Tiesi started in the 13 shirt.

Northampton Saints 74-13 London Wasps
Suggestions that the Aviva Premiership is the most closely fought professional competition have been made throughout the season on twitter by Premier rugby. This has been the case despite there being signioficant differences between the strong and weak performing teams in the competition. The Worcester Warriors won less than Biarritz while Newcastle and London Irish were overwhelmed more than Perpignan, Oyonnax, Grenoble, Bayonne and Brive.

The London Wasps finished the Aviva Premiership in seventh to set-up a European Champions play-off fixture against Stade Français. Based on the overall performances of both clubs this season the French side ought to come out on top. The Wasps conceeded eleven tries in a hammering against the Saints in an example of the Salary Cap failing to provide all clubs with a comparable quality of players. USA powerhouse Samu Manoa was on the bench for Northampton.

Worcester Warriors 28-27 Gloucester
Having already been relegated before the match the Worcester Warriors had nothing at all to play for. The club was hosting Gloucester knowing that it would be in the RFU Championship and not the Aviva Premiership next season. Worcester had been unlucky to lose a number of matches by small margins but the club had ultimately not been good enough as it had only won once before facing Gloucester.

In winning by one point the victory was therefore positive for Worcester. It was an interesting match for Puma Mariano Galarza who started in the second-row. Galarza will be joining Gloucester for the 2014-2015 season after having completed his international duty in the Rugby Championship. The future of Agustín Creevy, who started at hooker, is not certain. He is contracted to Worcester. Also involved in the match was former Puma Ignacio Mieres who came off the bench. 

Northampton Saints
Leicester Tigers
Sale Sharks
London Wasps
Exeter Chiefs
London Irish
Newcastle Falcons
Worcester Warriors

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