The halfway stage of the Aviva Premiership Rugby season has now passed but, if any teams were dreaming of the home straight, they will very much have to think again.
Winning runs were ended while others desperate for a W to their name went home happy, with the first round of 2018 certainly delivering in excitement.
So, with this the last round before teams head back into Europe, here is the rundown of the main talking points.
— Stuart Farmer (@Stu_Farmer) January 7, 2018
Worcester Warriors 25 Bath Rugby 46
Bath Rugby’s ball retention well and truly came to the fore as they returned to form under the Friday night lights with victory at Worcester Warriors.
Enjoying their biggest victory over the Warriors, the visitors conceded just seven turnovers in the match, with the way they kept the ball likely to be a point of pleasure for Todd Blackadder.
Unsurprisingly, that manifested itself into points, with this six-try haul their best of the season, though Paul Grant scored the only try of the first half.
Great start from the boys to 2k18.
— Christopher Cook (@Chris09cook) January 6, 2018
But the second period saw them at their free-flowing best, as tries from Matt Garvey, Anthony Watson, James Phillips and a Kahn Fotuali’I double rounded off the win.
Warriors weren’t backwards in going forward themselves, with David Denton, Joe Taufete’e and Perry Humphreys getting themselves on the scoreboard.
Leicester Tigers 19 London Irish 15
It was perhaps not the vintage Leicester Tigers performance fans have become used to in Aviva Premiership Rugby, but the four points picked up were certainly important ones in the eyes of Matt O’Connor.
Joe Cokanasiga had put London Irish in front, though Matt Toomua’s try and George Ford’s conversion ensured half-time honours went the way of the home side.
📷 Matt Toomua crosses for his first Tigers TRY! pic.twitter.com/BWLWK7F73V
— Leicester Tigers (@LeicesterTigers) January 7, 2018
Jonny May dotting down two minutes after the break proved crucial, while Manu Tuilagi’s 100th appearance received the try it deserved, with his long-term injury issues put to bed again.
As for Irish, they rallied through Alex Lewington and could have even pinched it late on, though their wait for an elusive win continues.
Northampton Saints 22 Gloucester Rugby 19
You could almost hear the sigh of relief from Franklin’s Gardens all around the country as Northampton Saints ended their losing run in dramatic style.
Since September, they had missed out on victory in Aviva Premiership Rugby, but Alan Gaffney was not to be denied a win in his opening match with the Saints.
Awesome to get the W! Massive thank you to all our supporters who stuck by us right through the good and bad times. Massive push by all the boys on and off the field. #COYS
— Ahsee Tuala (@a_tuala23) January 7, 2018
It was not to be without its nervy moments however, needing a penalty try in the game’s dying embers after Ken Pisi and Nic Groom had earlier scored for the home side.
But the Cherry & Whites were not just there to lie down for their opponents, scoring through a penalty try, James Hanson and John Afoa on the scoreboard – with the latter a contender for the Aviva Premiership Rugby try of the week.
Sale Sharks 30 Harlequins 29
Meetings between Sale Sharks and Harlequins have resulted in victory for the home side in five of the last six contests, so it was little surprise Steve Diamond’s side were toasting the result come full-time.
But that only tells half the story of an absorbing game in which Faf de Klerk’s late penalty sent the AJ Bell Stadium fans home happy.
— Thomas Anderson (@TEFCAndo02) January 6, 2018
Two scores in the first 11 minutes from Byron McGuigan and Rohan Janse van Rensburg had Sale firing on all cylinders, though Alofa Alofa, Charlie Walker and Ross Chisholm all responded for Harlequins by the break.
Man of the match Van Rensburg then scored his second as he traded efforts with Jamie Roberts, leaving it to de Klerk to keep his cool with just four minutes remaining as the Sharks.
Newcastle Falcons 28 Exeter Chiefs 20
It’s taken good teams to beat the Exeter Chiefs this season – and in Newcastle Falcons, they certainly found a side in form at Kingston Park.
Falcons have won six matches in a row in all competitions and they showed exactly why right from the outset, with Sinoti Sinoti, Vereniki Goneva and Kyle Cooper all dotting down before the half was up.
Indeed the opener was certainly a sight to behold, Sinoti Sinoti galloping down the left wing to half the home crowd on their feet in the 23rd minute.
Side-stepping without any feet on the ground. A Sinoti special. pic.twitter.com/OmTBKLmx4B
— Newcastle Falcons (@FalconsRugby) January 7, 2018
But Chiefs are Aviva Premiership Rugby champions for a reason and showed their class as Sam Simmonds, Olly Woodburn and Toby Salmon all got their names on the scoresheet.
The latter came with three minutes to go but it proved merely a consolation, with Joel Hodgson’s penalty denying them even a losing bonus point as Newcastle moved into the top six in the table.
Wasps 15 Saracens 38
Saracens’ uncharacteristically disappointing run looks to be well and truly behind them after surviving a Wasps onslaught to tighten their grip on second place.
Chris Wyles and Alex Goode tries within the first 15 minutes had looked to put Saracens in control, even before Schalk Burger dotted down on the half hour.
But with two visiting players in the sin-bin, Wasps stole a march and shunted themselves back towards parity as a penalty try and Willie le Roux’s score had them within touching distance come the interval.
Mako Vunipola clearly enjoyed Ben Spencer’s last minute try in today’s 15-38 win over Wasps 🙈 pic.twitter.com/9MOgd4LaRb
— Saracens Rugby Club (@Saracens) January 7, 2018
But that – added to Danny Cipriani’s penalty – proved to be the limit of their haul, with half-time seemingly coming at the inopportune moment.
Owen Farrell’s boot kept the score ticking in the Saracens favour but it came down to Goode to seal the deal with his second try, while Ben Spencer added gloss to the scoreline with just a minute left on the clock.