Aviva Premiership Round 1
Director of rugby Dai Young was delighted to see his Wasps side adapt to his half-time call for urgency, and singled out the returning Danny Cipriani as a decisive factor in their victory over Exeter Chiefs.
Exeter had led 17-8 at the break, but Cipriani showed his class on the blind-side to set up Dan Robson’s score early in the second half as Wasps prevailed 25-20 in a thrilling encounter.
And after losing to the West Country side three times in four matches last season, Young was delighted to have righted some wrongs against the Chiefs – and particularly impressed with Cipriani’s influence in the performance.
“Danny has fitted in well, we have always known that he has X-factor, the challenge has always been with Danny to do the bread and butter stuff, not to get to excited and try to do everything on his own,” he said.
“In the first half he was frustrated because we weren’t working hard enough and he was forced into kicking the ball.
“I am pretty pleased really; he and Jimmy Gopperth worked well together, I thought that would give us another dimension.
“We challenged the players at half-time to work harder and get into shape quicker, get us over the gain-line, give us some front-foot ball and we knew the opportunities would arise.”
It was a first opening day win since 2011 for Wasps, while Saracens also got their campaign underway with a London Double Header success over Worcester Warriors at Twickenham.
While the 35-3 final scoreline suggested a comfortable afternoon for Mark McCall’s side, he insists there is still plenty of work to do having led just 6-3 at the break.
But Schalk Burger, Alex Lozowski and Jamie George all scored, and while Ben Spencer’s superb individual try secured a bonus-point win, McCall believes it was not exactly what Saracens deserved.
“I actually thought our skill level wasn’t great as a team, we could have passed the ball a lot better than we did and we made a lot of errors with the ball – some of which was forced by Worcester, the rest was forced by ourselves and we will have to do a little bit of work on that,” McCall explained.
“Overall I am not too happy, I am happy we got five points, we’re always happy to win, but that was a hugely rusty performance.
“I thought we defended well for the whole game, so that is something to hang our hat on.”
Elsewhere, in what proved to be the game of the Aviva Premiership Rugby weekend on Friday, Leicester Tigers delivered an extraordinary comeback against Gloucester Rugby – although director of rugby Richard Cockerill was far from content with the display.
A poor opening saw the Tigers 31-7 down, but a resurgent fightback saw them level the game at 31-31 before Sam Harrison bundled over a last-gasp try to steal the victory.
And while Cockerill was delighted with the comeback, he insists it’s not something they can make a habit if they are to be challenging for honours come the end of the Aviva Premiership Rugby campaign.
He said: “I’m delighted with the win and the resilience that the players showed. That is something we have been working on in pre-season and we needed every ounce of it tonight.
“But I was so disappointed with the first 50 minutes because we were pretty woeful and we need to put that right very quickly.
“To be fair we were pretty calm at half-time. We wanted to come out and still play positively because that was the only way to get back in the game, and try and score first to put the pressure back on them.
“Credit to the players, we got our composure back, we scored, and Gloucester ran out of steam.”
In the second fixture of the London Double Header, Harlequins pulled off a comeback win against newly-promoted Bristol Rugby, recovering from a 14-3 deficit t prevail 21-19 at the home of rugby.
Finally, four George Ford penalties were enough for Bath to win 18-14 against Northampton, while Sinoti Sinoti scored Newcastle’s only try, edging Sale out 19-17.
Tries Gopperth, Robson, Taylor
Conversions Gopperth 2
Penalties: Gopperth 2
Exeter Chiefs 20
Tries: Waldrom, Chudley,
Conversions: Slade 2
Penalties: Slade 2
Referee: Thomas Foley
Tries: George, Lozowski, Burger, Spencer
Penalties: Lozowski 3
Conversions: Lozowski 3
Worcester Warriors 3
Referee: Matthew Carley
Tries: Groom 2
Conversions: Myler 2
Penalties: Ford 4
Drop-goals: Ford 2
Referee: JP Doyle
Tries: Yarde, Marchant
Penalties: Evans 3
Bristol Rugby 19
Tries: Varndell, Pisi, Edwards
Conversions: Henson 2
Referee: Luke Pearce
Gloucester Rugby 31
Tries: Scott 2, Sharples, Purdy
Conversions: Laidlaw 4
Leicester Tigers 38
Tries: Tuilagi, Pietersen, Harrison 2, O’Connor
Conversions: Burns 3, Harrison 2
Referee: Wayne Barnes
Newcastle Falcons 19
Penalties: Delany 4
Sale Sharks 17
Tries: Leota, McGuigan
Conversions: Mugford 2
Referee: Greg Garner