TOP BAR - Fixtures

Alex Goode, Freddie Burns, Nathan Hughes, Chris Pennell, Byron McGuigan and Louis Picamoles top the Opta charts in Europe

Aviva Premiership Rugby action returns this weekend, and several of the England’s top flight superstars will head back into the league campaign full of confidence after another excellent showing in Europe.

Owen Farrell used this weekend’s 44-26 win over the Scarlets to help Saracens equal a tournament record whilst also setting a personal landmark himself.

Sarries’ success at Allianz Park was their 11th consecutive competition win and equals the tallies set by the great Leicester Tigers and Toulouse sides in years gone by.

And Farrell’s 19-point haul took his overall tournament tally to 505 which put him sixth on the all-time list – although he remains some way behind Ronan O’Gara’s record of 1365. The fly-half does sit top of the points charts in this year’s competition however, after another faultless kicking display in North London.

His team-mate Alex Goode beat four defenders and made 119 metres to take his tournament tally to 175, and wingers Chris Wyles and Sean Maitland ran combined for 166 metres as Saracens scored five tries to sit top of Pool 3.

No. 8 Billy Vunipola meanwhile is yet to miss a tackle in the competition, as the notorious Saracens defence continues to repel their opponents’ attacks.

Mark McCall’s men take on Leicester Tigers this weekend, and Richard Cockerill’s men warmed up for their trip down south with a 27-17 win over last year’s finalists and Top 14 winners Racing 92 at Welford Road.

Despite playing just 25 minutes, Freddie Burns made quite an impact as he replaced Owen Williams at fly-half – scoring 16 points, including a try which he converted himself.

The Tigers were imperious in defence, and captain Tom Youngs made 15 tackles as they nullified a Dan Carter-orchestrated offence which included prime finishers Juan Imhoff and Joe Rokocoko.

Elsewhere Nathan Hughes’ late try in Toulouse was converted by Jimmy Gopperth to earn Wasps a draw, and they remain unbeaten in their opening two pool games.

Hughes ran for 61 metres and has 25 carries in this year’s competition, but is still two shy of Vunipola’s total of 27 as he looks to overpower the man currently in possession of the England No.8 shirt.

He has however beaten eight defenders in his two European outings,  twice as many as Vunipola, as he looks to wrestle the initiative ahead of England’s autumn internationals.

His team-mate Christian Wade beat six defenders on Sunday afternoon – more than any other player – while the man on the other side of the Wasps attack, Josh Bassett, made 57 metres and also scored Wasps first try to help them twice recover from a seven-point deficit.

Elsewhere the ever-formidable Louis Picamoles had six offloads for Northampton Saints at Castres, and tops the tournaments charts with eight after an impressive opening display against former side Montpellier last week at Franklin’s Gardens.

Fellow Top 14 outfit and three-time Champions Cup winners Toulon travelled to Manchester on Friday night to take on Sale Sharks, and narrowly won 15-5 after a scoreless second period.

Despite being flooded with international stars, such as Bryan Habana on the opposite wing, Sale winger Byron McGuigan made three cleans breaks, beat eight defenders and made 63 metres for Steve Diamond’s team.

And Sunday saw Newcastle Falcons rout Grenoble in the Challenge Cup, with Olympic silver medallist Marcus Watson running riot with 105 metres gained and five defenders beaten.

The Cherry & Whites also racked up the metres gained against Benetton Treviso – with Jonny May, Charlie Sharples and Billy Burns all passing 80 for Gloucester Rugby – but Chris Pennell was way out in front in the Challenge Cup as he notched up 181 against Brive.

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