Clean sweep for Gallagher Premiership sides in first round of friendlies
With the new Gallagher Premiership campaign just around the corner, clubs are now well into their pre-season preparations, and several were in friendly action this weekend.
There were wins for all six Gallagher Premiership sides in the first weekend of friendlies, with Northampton Saints, Harlequins and Leicester Tigers all featuring.
Before the Bristol Bears get us under way on August 31 when they host Bath Rugby at Ashton Gate, there is still plenty of rugby to play as coaches make the final tweaks to their sides.
Ospreys 13 – 26 Northampton Saints
Saints got their pre-season off to the perfect start with a four-try win over PRO14 side Ospreys in torrid weather at Morganstone Brewery Field.
Torrential rain made for challenging conditions as Dan Biggar made his return to Bridgend after his summer switch to Northampton, with fellow new boy James Haskell also featuring as Chris Boyd gave 34 players game-time in his first match in charge.
First-half tries from Ollie Sleightholme, David Ribbans and James Fish were enough to open up a healthy 21-6 lead going into the break before Api Ratuniyarawa dotted down in the second period to make sure of the win.
Cardiff Blues 15-17 Leicester Tigers
Last year’s Challenge Cup winners made the Tigers work for their first pre-season win as a long-distance Joe Ford penalty late on was enough to snatch a victory at Arms Park.
Summer signings Sam Aspland-Robinson, Campese Ma’afu and Jimmy Stevens all featured in a 30-man squad for Matt O’Connor’s side.
And they made the stronger start to the match, with tries from Jordan Olowofela and Thom Smith, before the Blues stormed back to take a 15-14 lead.
But with just two minutes left on the clock, Tigers won a 50-metre penalty and Ford stepped up, dispatching impressively.
Thank you to our hosts and good luck for your year ahead!! 👍 pic.twitter.com/v6aCjcbzvp
— Leicester Tigers (@LeicesterTigers) August 11, 2018
Benetton Rugby 12-14 Worcester Warriors
It was a competitive affair for the Warriors in Treviso as tries from Chris Pennell and Joe Taufete’e helped the Premiership side to victory over their PRO14 opponents.
The Warriors went ahead in the early stages when Penell went over after a break by Alafoti Faosiliva, but Benetton replied through scores by Marco Barbini and former Worcester man Derrick Appiah to take a half-time lead.
But the Gallagher Premiership Rugby side responded well in the second period after wide-scale changes at the break – Taufete’e crashing over on 58 minutes with Jamie Shillock converting.
Jersey Reds 14-33 Harlequins
A young Harlequins squad made an encouraging start to pre-season action with a comprehensive victory at Championship side Jersey Reds.
Despite a sloppy start and an early score for the Reds, the Gallagher Premiership Rugby side fought back thanks to tries from Max Crumpton and Aaron Morris before Dave Ward, Charlie Walker and Luke Wallace made things comfortable.
The Reds impressed throughout, and asked questions of Harlequins, but the London side did more than enough to secure the win.
Sale Sharks 31-0 Doncaster Knights
It was a one-sided affair for Sale in their first contest of pre-season as Chris Ashton made his debut for the Sharks.
Sale controlled their first friendly throughout as an early score from Cameron Neild set the tone against their Championship opponents.
And further tries for Josh Strauss, Will Cliff, a second for Neild and one for Ashton added gloss to a big win.
First one of the year out the way. Good to get the lungs working , wasn’t much action but a good starting point going in to a big week in France . Good time to be a @SaleSharksRugby 🦈🐎 pic.twitter.com/TIB58rl8Ci
— Byron McGuigan (@ByronMacG) August 12, 2018
Newcastle Falcons 47-26 Nottingham
An improvised format saw the Falcons beat Championship side Nottingham in a 90-minute game split into three periods.
Adam Radwan made an explosive start when he scored from his own 22 just three minutes in and despite briefly falling behind, Sean Scanlon quickly went over to level the scores.
And Newcastle didn’t look back, as first, Jack Spittle, then Jamie Blamire, Andrew Davidson, Jack Payne, Glen Young and Dominic Waldouck drove up the scoreboard.