Guinness Premiership - Round 3 Review
Wasps retain Premiership top spot
September 20, 2009

London Wasps cemented their place at the top of the Guinness Premiership with a 23-3 victory over Worcester Warriors at Adams Park.

Wasps centre Dominic Waldouck made the most of an unexpected call-up on the morning of the game and played a key role in both Wasps tries. Serge Betsen touched down in the first half and Tom Varndell rounded off the victory in the last minute with his 50th Premiership try. Danny Cipriani added 13 points with the boot as Wasps moved back above London rivals Saracens, the only other unbeaten club, on points difference.

Waldouck was named man of the match for a performance that would have caught the eye of England's coaches, who are searching for an inside centre following Riki Flutey's injury. There was also a welcome return to action for Paul Sackey following the broken leg he suffered during this year's Six Nations, though he had little opportunity to press his own Test claims in a stodgy game of few openings.

Wasps director of rugby Tony Hanks backed Waldouck for an England call-up, saying, "Dom was probably one of the key performers for Wasps last year, for the England Saxons in the summer and he showed his quality today, in a position he doesn't usually play and on his first hit-out of the season....He has got the skill-set and I would love to see Dominic Waldouck playing for England."

Saracens claimed top spot temporarily with a 22-9 victory over Harlequins at the Twickenham Stoop on Saturday.

Fly-half Derick Hougaard kicked 17 points, including two drop goals and a conversion to Kameli Ratuvou's try as struggling Quins were condemned to a third straight defeat. After a summer of off-field drama, Harlequins simply cannot kickstart their season into life and they managed only three penalties from Nick Evans.

England's attack coach Brian Smith was in the stands, ostensibly to cast his eye over the opposing centres Jordan Turner-Hall and Brad Barritt following Riki Flutey's injury, but there was very little attack on show. Saracens' tactics were to kick virtually everything and that limited Barritt's impact while Turner-Hall left the field midway through the second half, gingerly nursing a shoulder injury.

England are also on the hunt for a new fullback after Delon Armitage also damaged his shoulder and Harlequins' Ugo Monye was at least able to press his case further with another accomplished display as a stand-in 15.

Saracens and England captain Steve Borthwick will discover in the next 48 hours whether a rib injury picked up in the game could threaten his chances of playing in the autumn internationals.

Saracens director of rugby Brendan Venter said, "Steve is a little bit of a worry for us. He will have a scan tomorrow and we will see how his rib is. He is just so courageous. He hurt his rib but he stayed on the field for which I am massively thankful."

London Irish kept pace with the leaders with a thumping 56-7 win against Leeds Carnegie at Headingley. Adam Thompstone claimed a second-half hat-trick as the visitors sent out another emphatic reminder of their Premiership title credentials.

The Exiles had far too much quality for Leeds, and after a penalty try and a Chris Hala'ufia touch down in the first half, they cut loose after the re-start by running in five second-half tries. Hala'ufia completed his brace and Thompstone seized centre stage with his treble before Sailosi Tagicakibau added a late seventh to brutally illustrate the gulf between the sides and give Irish a second successive bonus-point victory.

Leeds lacked nothing in spirit but an outstanding first-half try from highly-rated flanker Kearnan Myall was ultimately little consolation for the Yorkshiremen, who have been tipped for relegation since the start of the season. However, a moment of controversy over-shadowed much of Irish's good work with lock Nick Kennedy yellow carded on the stroke of half-time for shoving Leeds scrum-half Andy Gomarsall to the ground after connecting with his throat.

"This group want to kick on and that's why you saw that sort of performance today," commented Exiles boss Toby Booth. "If we can continue to maintain that improvement each week then I don't see why we can't be in a good position come next May."

Elsewhere on Saturday, Northampton sent Gloucester spinning to a second successive Premiership with a 27-14 victory at Kingsholm.

Saints fly-half Shane Geraghty eased his team through the gears as Northampton recorded only their second Premiership away win since February 2007. Gloucester, who pride themselves on so-called 'fortress Kingsholm', suffered another emphatic loss less than a week after conceding 40 points away to London Irish.

Northampton encountered few problems storming the barricades, scoring tries in each half through prop Soane Tonga'uiha and centre Jon Clarke. Geraghty kept the scoreboard ticking over with three penalties and a conversion, and wing Bruce Reihana also booted two penalties.

But whereas there was a purpose and direction about Northampton, Gloucester were often at sixes and sevens - both in defence and attack. They lacked organisation or leadership, while the home forwards were nothing like the gnarled, uncompromising unit of so many Gloucester packs of yesteryear.

Saints did not have to hit peak form, more a case of doing the basics competently and then keeping their defensive shape when Gloucester dominated territory. The home side managed a try for flanker Akapusi Qera, and fly-half Nicky Robinson kicked a penalty hat-trick, but head coach Bryan Redpath has plenty of work to do, even at this early stage in the campaign.

"No-one can bury their heads - we've got to stick together," he said. "I will be very honest with the players. I won't hide any of my thoughts - we weren't good enough, and we cannot hide behind it. We have all got to stick our hands up."

The latest action kicked off on Friday night where Bath kick-started their season at the third attempt with a hard-fought 25-12 victory over Sale to record their first Premiership win at Edgeley Park in six years.

Steve Meehan's men arrived in Stockport bottom of the table after dismal defeats to Gloucester and Wasps but they dug deep to record their first triumph of the season. Australian centre Matt Carraro (two) and Matt Banahan touched down for Bath, who were forced to hold on in the closing stages after Banahan and replacement Andy Beattie were sin-binned.

Sale began strongly and threatened inside the fourth minute when Mathew Tait embarked on fine run down the left flank which almost put Chris Bell in. Bath forced a penalty which Thomas converted with ease but the visitors responded impressively and drew level four minutes later when Sale conceded a penalty and Nicky Little converted from 40 metres out.

Sale maintained the pressure, however, and after Bath were caught offside Thomas added his second penalty to make it 6-3. Bath fullback Cuthbert then failed from distance with a penalty attempt in the 20th minute and, after Thomas extended Sale's lead in the 23rd minute, another penalty from Little reduced the gap to three points.

On the half-hour mark, Carraro burst into life when he collected a pass from Little and handed off Ben Cohen with ease and crossed the line. Little kicked the conversion to make it 9-13 to the visitors but Banahan took advantage of some weak Sale defending to charge his way over the line in the 44th minute.

Little missed the conversion but five minutes later Bath had their third try when Shontayne Hape sent Carraro bursting clear. Little added the extras but Sale came back when Thomas added his fourth penalty. The pressure was on Bath in the closing stages when Banahan was binned for a high challenge on Cueto and Beattie soon followed for killing the ball. Bath held on for a fine victory which lifts them off the foot of the Premiership.


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