The regular rugby season officially kicks off in the UK and Ireland in just over two weeks time when the Aviva Premiership and RaboDirect Pro12 league games start. However, the clubs have been busy with their pre-season preparations and a number of friendly matches were played this past weekend.
This article focuses on the preparation of this year’s Aviva Premiership teams with results and brief reports for each of their most recent games. The scorers are provided where they were available.
Bath vs London Welsh
Bath, who are now coached by former Springbok assistant coach Gary Gold, played their first pre-season match at home on Saturday against Premiership new boys London Welsh.
Gary Gold should be reasonably satisfied with the workout as Bath won a high scoring match 40-31 after leading 21-10 at half time. Former Free State scrumhalf, Michael Claasens, scored a try for Bath.
London Welsh will feel they did well in the end to come back to within 9 points of Bath as the score was 40-17 in the 54th minute.
Bath: Tries- Eastmon, Claasens, Wilson, Fearns; Conversions – Devoto (3); Penalties- Heathcote (3)
London Welsh: Tries –George, Holmes, Ion, Smith; Conversions – Ross (1), Henson (3); Penalties – Ross (1)
Exeter Chiefs vs Connacht
Exeter were at home to Irish team Connacht for their first pre-season game on Saturday. In what must have been a disappointing match to watch for the home supporters Exeter lost 6-8.
Exeter: Penalties – Steenson (2)
Connacht: Try- Vainikolo; Penalties- Nikora (1)
Gloucester vs Leinster
Gloucester headed across the Irish Sea to play their first pre-season friendly game against Irish giants Leinster.
In spite of seemingly dominating territory and possession Gloucester ended up losing the game 22-33.
Leinster: Tries- Madigan, L. Auva’a, Boyle, Ryan, Hudson; Conversions – Madigan (4)
Gloucester: Tries – Clark, Buxton, Murphy; Conversions – Cook (1) Taylor(1); Penalties- Cook (1)
Harlequins vs Castres Olympique
Last season’s Premiership champions Harelquins travelled to France to play their first pre-season friendly against Castres who had already played two pre-season games.
Castres lead 17-3 at halftime and eventually ran out 31-15 winners. The loss may look like a disappointing result for Harlequins but it must be noted that they were up against a full strength Castres outfit. Harlequins themselves played without nine players who are contracted to England and various other experienced players, such as Nick Easter.
Former Sharks scrumhalf Rory Kockott contributed 11 points with the boot for Castres. The match also saw Pedrie Wannenburg start at flank, following his move away from Ulster last year, alongside fellow South African eigthman Antonie Claasens. Michael Coetzee featured in the front row.
Castres: Tries- Andreu (2), Wihongi, Martial; Conversions – Kockott (3) Martial (1); Penalties- Kockott (1)
Harlequins: Tries – Hague, Browne; Conversions – Botica (1) Penalties – Evans (1)
Jersey vs Leicester
Leicester travelled to the Channel Islands to play their first warm up game against Jersey who won promotion from the National League to Championship at the end of last season.
It has been reported that Jersey rugby have received welcome investment from Jersey states which has been put to good use developing new facilities at the club.
Leicester won the game 34-21 after leading 24-7 at half time, scoring five tries in the process.
Benneton Treviso vs London Wasps
Wasps travelled to Italy for their first pre-season outing where they were met by very hot conditions and an impressive Treviso team.
In the end the heat and Treviso proved to be too much for Wasps to handle with the final score 32-15 inTreviso’s favour.
Newcastle Falcons vs Doncaster and Leeds Carnegie
As part of their pre-season program Newcastle staged a “Festival of Rugby “ that saw two Newcastle teams play, one against Doncaster and another against Leeds. In between these two games Consett Rugby played against American tourists Illinois Tornados.
Newcastle overwhelmed Doncaster 52-14 after leading 38-3 at half time. Consett then went on to beat Illinois 36-19.
The second Newcastle game against Leeds saw Newcastle leading 19-12 at half time. However, that was as good as it got for Leeds who remained scoreless in the second half with Newcastle winning the match comfortably, final score 52-19 to Newcastle.
Zebre vs Northampton Saints
In their opening pre-season game Northampton Saints suffered a loss in Italy against Zebre, final score Zebre 30-28 Northampton Saints. This was Zebre’s third warm-up game.
Zebre: Tries – Orquera, Sinoti, Venditi, Pace; Conversions – Orquera (2); Penalties – Orquera (2)
NorthamptonSaints- Tries –Roberts, Burrel, Elliot, Armstrong; Conversions-Lamb (3), Myler (1)
Fylde vs Sale Sharks XV
Sale Sharks XV beat Fylde 38-26 on Saturday in a game played at The Woodlands. Fylde are a team from Lancashirefrom the lower leagues, at present their 1st team is in the SSE National League 1.
Sale Sharks left wing Tom Brady excelled in the game scoring four tries.
Fylde: Tries – Spragg (2), Johnson Dowds; Conversions – Johnson (3)
Sale Sharks XV: Tries –Brady (4), Davies, Haley; Conversions – Davies (3), Macleod (1)
Bedford vs Saracens
Saracens got their preseason off to a winning start beating Bedford 24-12 on Friday night after leading 17-0 at half time. The match was played at Bedford’s home ground Goldington Road and saw recent acquisition from the Sharks, lock Hargreaves, play his first game for Saracens. Bedford were once coached by former Springbok coach Rudolph Strauli.
Cardiff Blues vs Worcester Warriors
Worcester Warriors beat Cardiff Blues on Saturday in a match played at Cardiff Arms Park. Worcester were leading 20-10 at half time and went on to win 30-25 following a last minute try by Worcester scrum half Ollie Frost.
Cardiff Blues: Tries – Williams (3); Conversions – Tovey (1) Sweeney (1) Penalties- Tovey (1) Sweeney (1)
Worcester Warriors: Tries - Taulava, Pennell, Frost; Conversions – Goode (2), Carlisle (1); Penalties- Goode (1),Carlisle(1)