Aviva Premiership wrap: Bath, Harlequins and Saracens all impress
Andrew Binner takes a look at a busy second weekend in the Aviva Premiership as Bath and Harelquins both won
A battle of the familiar faces
As round two of the new Aviva Premiership season comes to a close, it is the usual suspects who have come forward as early contenders, with Harlequins, Leicester Tigers, Northampton Saints and Saracens all recording two victories from two outings. However, there is a welcome return to table-topping form for Bath, who have also maintained a 100 per cent record so far, following victories against Worcester and a new-look Wasps side. While Quins still have a problem of starting games slowly, they have produced two second-half performances worthy of their Premiership champion status. Saracens look to have developed a slightly more exciting style, with Chris Ashton providing the spark, while Leicester have made a steady start to the season. Despite their typically solid forward efforts, Tigers coach Richard Cockerill is perhaps missing winger Alesana Tuilagi, whose barreling runs so often put them on the front foot.
Welcome back Bath
The last few seasons at Bath have been painful for their partisan supporters, as they have found little consistency in their performances. However, the West Country outfit looks rejuvenated under a new ownership, as well as a new head coach – Gary Gold. The South African has taken over after a stint with Newcastle Falcons at the end of last season, with ex-England defence coach Mike Ford adding his expertise. With rugby league recruit Kyle Eastmond scoring potentially the try of the year in his first start, it looks like Gold has unearthed a gem of a winger. In addition, Olly Barkley’s good kicking form should mean Bath should remain competitive for the whole season.
All to play for at the bottom
It looks as if red-hot relegation favourites London Welsh will struggle as expected following two large losses. However, they should not be disheartened. After facing Leicester Tigers and Harlequins in their opening matches, fixtures can only get easier and they showed a competitive edge for large parts of the Tigers game to give them confidence. Gavin Henson’s return from injury will be key as the Premiership newcomers look to avoid the drop. Elsewhere, London Irish have a lot of work to do following two losses that see them occupy 11th position. The men from Reading have looked aimless and unstructured in attack, and coach Brian Smith has a lot of work to do in replacing the flair they have lost through the departure last season of Delon Armitage and Joe Ansbro’s serious injury. Sale Sharks, the guardians of rugby in the north of England, have also made a disappointing start to the season. Despite the arrivals of internationals Richie Gray and Danny Cipriani, they have failed to find a consistent platform from which to attack the opposition. However, unlike Irish, Sale performed well against 2011 champions Saracens in a game that they perhaps should have won.