In their first match since captain Owen Farrell announced he’d be temporarily leaving the England set-up to focus on his and his family’s mental well-being, Saracens – without their captain fantastic in their side – were downed by Northampton Saints at home to end a five-match Premiership winning streak.
Not to take away from yesterday’s visitors to the StoneX, they were fantastic and played a style of game which nullified Saracens’ attacking threat, Saracens looked a little lost without their talismanic No10.
Farrell is a master puller of strings and his absence was clear to see as his London club were defeated 18-12.
Premiership tough cookie to crack
In an effort to shore up their defence, which was hilariously woeful last term, Saints have looked to former rugby league coach Lee Radford. They may have sacrificed a little bit of their attacking prowess to steady the ship in defence but they’re winning games that they would have lost last season and they’re looking like outside title contenders.
Elsewhere in the weekend’s Premiership action, leaders Sale Sharks were humbled by Harlequins with a 36-3 defeat in London.
In a battle that saw two England fly-halves in Marcus Smith and George Ford battle it out, it was the Harlequins’ playmaker who shone at the Stoop.
It says a lot about the league when its top side Sale have a negative points difference. The Premiership is so hard to call.
Cherry and White woes
That’s the case for most of the teams, anyway. Gloucester, on the other hand, are predictably poor at the moment and were condemned to a sixth straight loss at the hands of Bristol at the weekend.
Having suffered a record home loss to rivals Bath earlier in the season, they were defeated to a record 51-26 score by the Bears on Saturday.
European rugby, which returns this weekend, will be a welcome break for head coach George Skivington but he appears to be running out of time to turn the dire situation at Kingsholm around.
Bath’s resurgence continued at the weekend with an impressive 41-24 victory over Exeter.
Having suffered a couple of disappointing seasons the West Country club have seemingly found their feet with Finn Russell running the shop.
Newcastle remained rooted at the bottom of the table without a win after a crushing 47-3 loss at the hands of Leicester in the Sunday fixture.
The result leaves the Falcons eight points adrift with a play-off fixture looming should a suitable side win the second tier Championship this year.
“I am pretty emotional to be honest… fundamentally we don’t have the experience,” head coach Alex Codling said.
“The club has a decision to make on where it wants to go.
“Strategically going forward they have to make decisions because it is not fair on the league itself.”
The first block of Premiership games has come to an end and eyes begin to turn to a fortnight of European, and South African, action. But teams will be conscious of the break, not wanting to ruin a good spell of domestic results, while others will be thankful for the break.
It’s a close season thus far and with just 10 matches to go for each side before play-offs at both ends of the table, there is little room for error.