Things You Might Have Missed: Sale Sharks and Harlequins continue to soar
The Premiership Rugby Cup has hardly broken sweat but already we are three rounds through and almost at the end of a thrilling group stage.
Sale Sharks and Harlequins are the current pace-setters, with a 100 per cent winning record through three games, while almost everyone else has something to play for ahead of derby weekend next week.
Here’s what happened in Round Three.
The great entertainers
With 99 points from three matches, the AJ Bell faithful are revelling in what’s in front of them this season.
After a commanding 36-17 win at Saracens and a 39-18 cruise at home to Northampton Saints, Sale Sharks were tested more thoroughly by Wasps in Round Three.
The visitors – who had shipped 82 points in their first two games – led by 12 at the break, but cometh the hour, cometh the man and Denny Solomona bagged two second-half tries to secure a 24-20 win.
Sale are sitting pretty atop Pool A with 14 points, while Wasps are seven back.
Quins’ heavy-hitters get the job done
Another venue where there are points aplenty is the Stoop, where tries flow like the neighbouring River Thames.
Harlequins director of rugby Paul Gustard deployed some of his star names here and they all delivered. Mike Brown scored within two minutes, Marcus Smith kicked five conversions and Alex Dombrandt carried with menace.
Gloucester Rugby played their part in this classic too, with Joe Simpson and Billy Twelvetrees particularly bright – but it was left to Renaldo Bothma to score the winning try for Quins with two minutes left in this 40-31 triumph.
Quins top their Pool B with 13 points are well-placed to reach the knock-out stages.
The champions are going to take some stopping this season.
Once again, Saracens made an emphatic statement in the Premiership Rugby Cup and they did so by running in seven tries at Northampton Saints.
Nick Tompkins helped himself to a hat-trick, while Matt Gallagher, Rotimi Segun, Ben Spencer and Manu Vunipola also grabbed scores as Saracens moved to within four points of Sale in Pool A.
Northampton’s goose is seemingly cooked and they are bottom of the pool without a win.
Bears roar into knockout contention
With one win and one defeat apiece heading into Round 3, it was crunch time for both Bristol Bears and London Irish – and it was the Bears who boosted their hopes of reaching the semi-finals thanks to a 44-27 success.
The game was far closer than the scoreline suggests as Irish trailed by just five points heading into the final 15 minutes but Mat Protheroe cantered over for a try double to seal the victory.
Tiff Eden was imperious from the tee for Bristol as he banged over 19 points, while Irish can at least console themselves with a four-try bonus that was secured when Jack Cooke dotted down with the final play.
Tigers start to find their voice
After a bleak end to the 2018-19 campaign, things are looking noticeably better for Leicester Tigers and a win away at rivals Bath Rugby will only boost the confidence.
A fierce defensive effort – a characteristic shared by all successful Tigers sides – saw them win 18-7 at the Rec and they now have two wins from three games.
Tommy Refell and Ben White crossed for tries and their only defensive blip was when Levi Douglas intercepted a loose ball and strolled in unopposed to get Bath on the board.
One rival down, one to go for Leicester – who face Northampton Saints next.
Chiefs rule Worcester
Exeter Chiefs’ 15-point win may look comfortable on the face of it but they needed late tries from Sean Lonsdale and Matt Kvesic to see off a resilient Worcester Warriors.
Tom Howe bagged a hat-trick for the hosts but 14 points from Joe Simmonds and further scores from Olly Woodburn and Jacques Vermeulen saw the Chiefs home.
With two wins from three, they now sit top of Pool C – one point ahead of Leicester.