Category Archives: Aviva Premiership

PREVIEW | Northampton Saints vs Saracens

By Thomas Branston

Stadium MK (Kick-off 3pm)

Referee: Matthew Carley

Assistant Refs: Wayne Falla, Gareth Copsey

TMO: Graham Hughes

Northampton Saints have narrowly missed out in their last two Aviva Premiership matches very late on against two of their playoff rivals, Leicester and Wasps. Saints have played six previous matches at Stadium MK winning two and losing once in the Premiership.

Saracens only defeat in their last six matches was 10-32 defeat at home to Leicester in the semi-final of the Anglo-Welsh Cup on 11 March. Sarries have lost three of their last five away games in the Premiership, with defeats to Bath, Worcester and Gloucester.

Saracens have previously played three games in Milton Keynes winning two ‘home’ games when they moved there from Vicarage Road, against Bristol in 2008 and Northampton in 2012, but losing 20-25 there in a Saints “home” game in 2015.

Saracens have the upper hand on the books in this tie with the visitors only losing once  in their last five matches against Northampton in all tournaments was 15-20 at Allianz Park in Premiership in March 2016.

Saracens won a feisty encounter last time out at Allianz Park winning 27-12, in a first-half battle the half-time score was even with both Myler and Lozowski trading three penalties each. Myler added another penalty early on, however a poor half of discipline from Saints allowed Jamie George to cross over and Saracens were later awarded a penalty try from pulling down a maul.


Northampton Saints hooker Dylan Hartley Targets Top Six Finish

By Thomas Branston


England captain Dylan Hartley is targeting a place in the Aviva Premiership top six as the season reaches its final stage.

The 31-year-old believes his side have the quality to achieve their goal, despite Saints suffering a last-gasp defeat at Wasps last weekend and missing out late on against east midlands rivals Leicester Tigers the week before.

However, Saints remain level on points with sixth-placed Harlequins and are just five points behind fourth-placed Leicester Tigers with three games left to play.

Hartley is determined to help his side qualify for next season’s European Champions Cup competition.

He said: “The good thing is we have got a huge carrot dangling in front of us, we have got three games left in the season and, at the moment, a top-six finish is a priority for us.

“We have got all to play for and it’s a good place to be. If we were further down the table, we could just clock off but this is a good place to be, it keeps it competitive and it keeps us working for something.

“It might not be a top-two finish like we would have liked at the start of the year, but we have got something to drive for and that’s top six at the moment.”

Wasps beat Northampton Saints in Aviva Premiership thriller at Ricoh Arena

By Thomas Branston

Wasps drive over the whitewash after a quickly taken penalty as the clock goes dead.

Wasps retain hopes of a home semi-final as they scored late on in a thriller to beat Northampton Saints 32-30 in the Aviva Premiership on Sunday.

Matt Mullan scored the decisive try at the death after Nathan Hughes’ initial battering run from a quickly-taken penalty.

Tries from Ben Foden, Alex Waller and George North gave Northampton a 18-13 half-time lead with Wasps trailing by five points, the hosts did score with Elliot Daly crossing over and Jimmy Gopperth adding eight points from his boot.

Christian Wade and Joe Simpson added crucial scores which was accompanied by Ahsee Tuala and Teimana Harrison scoring to give Saints a five point lead but Mullan got the decisive try with the clock going dead and Gopperth secured victory from his conversion.

Nic Groom clings on to tackle fellow South African Willie Le Roux.

Both sides went into the match with hopes on the line, for the hosts it was threats of losing a home playoff semi-final and for Northampton it was a last ditch attempt of securing a top four finish.

Saints began the game playing efficient rugby putting Wasps under mass amounts of pressure and were rewarded with a penalty but Stephen Myler drifted his effort wide.

Northampton continued to build and forced Wasps to make numerous mistakes and had the chance to take the lead again with Myler converting this time.

Wasps struggled to contain Saints in the early exchanges and with the hosts making mistake upon mistake, it was Northampton who capitalised with Foden racing clear from a Gopperth pass which was intercepted and Myler missed his kick from the touchline.

But the hosts responded quickly as Daly, who was being watched by Eddie Jones, found a gap and raced through to score and Gopperth added his conversion to cut the visitors lead.

However, Saints responded perfectly with Waller going over in the corner to reassemble the Saints’ lead and Myler again missed his conversion.

Gopperth managed to keep Wasps in the game as he slotted his kick through the posts with ease to reduce the score to three.

And the hosts continued to grow into the game with Wade’s thunderous pace and initiative helping the hosts win another penalty soon after and Gopperth converted an identical kick to his last one to tie the score.

Jim Mallinder’s men quickly rallied together to shock the hosts with a third score as North received the ball out wide to touch down in the corner and Myler missed his third conversion of the game.

Northampton took a 18-13 lead into the break and could have been further ahead but Wasps managed to keep them within touching distance.


Dai Young’s team talk proved influential as Wasps looked a different side in the early exchanges of the second period.

Wade scoring in the first three minutes to level the scoring, the wing wizard beautifully kicked a chip over the defensive line and collected to score and Gopperth converted to give Wasps the lead for the first time.

Wasps looked back to their best with Kurtley Beale and Le Roux causing havoc, but it was Simpson who stretched over after some good defensive work from Northampton and Gopperth missed his kick.

Saints responded well and added to the try-fest with Tuala going over from a five-metre scrum to earn Northampton the bonus-point and Myler missed his conversion to level the score.

Impressively Northampton quickly scored another with a turnover from a Wasps scrum in their own half.

Saints broke away down the field offloading at will and Api Ratuniyarawa got his pass off to Harrison who made no mistake in crashing his way through to score untouched and Myler converted.

Much to his blushes of dropping the ball over the line from Wasps’ Champions Cup defeat to Leinster last weekend, Le Roux believed he had scored shortly after Saitns had retaken the lead.

But the TMO had deemed that Joe Launchbury had obstructed Luther Burrell from making his way towards the tackle.

A let off for Saints, but Wasps didn’t take their foot off the pedal, they continued to bombard the Northampton 22.

It took until the 80th minute for Wasps to really assert their authority in the Saints 22, and after winning a second penalty in quick succession Jamie Gibson was shown a yellow.

The clock was dead and with a penalty, Hughes had to tap it and go and the number 8 crashed his way up to a metre of crossing the line.

The ball was recycled by the forwards quickly with Mullan crashing over to score with Referee Maxwell-Keys declaring the try much to a crackling roar of the Ricoh crowd.

Gopperth stepped up just 12 metres out to convert the winning points as Wasps secured the win in emphatic fashion.

Gloucester Rugby are in search for a new Head Coach, Tom Branston takes a look at suitable successors

By Thomas Branston


Gloucester Rugby are in search of a new Head Coach after Laurie Fisher stepped down from his role at the club following Harlequins’ late comeback win in the Aviva Premiership on Sunday.

Gloucester’s Chief Executive Stephen Vaughan has since admitted that the club are looking to hire an external candidate for the role.

“We are probably looking for somebody who has already had head-coach experience, to keep us moving in the right direction. We have had interest from very talented people.”

Current defence coach Jonny Bell has been named as interim head coach until the summer.

The Cherry and Whites have suffered three defeats in their last four game with their only win coming against reigning champions Saracens at Kingsholm.

Harlequins’ late comeback scoring 15 points in the last eight minutes of the game secured a dramatic victory for the visitors at Kingsholm, and this proved to be the final straw for Fisher.

The Australian controversially tweeted following the result stating, “Unbelievable capitulation. Clearly not good enough. My responsibility. Time to make room for someone else.”

Gloucester Rugby have set themselves time to select a new head coach, here Park Life Sport takes a look at the possible candidates who might fit the bill at Gloucester Rugby.

Phillipe Saint-Andre


Saint-Andre finished his career at Kingsholm and was formerly the head coach at the club. He made 38 appearances in Cherry and White in two years before retiring to become the Director of Rugby at Gloucester. Whilst at Sale Sharks Saint-Andre oversaw his side win the European Challenge Cup in his second season and in his third they won the Guinness Premiership in 2006.

Gary Gold


Gold is currently the Director of Rugby at Aviva Premiership side Worcester Warriors and has led them out of a relegation scrap with Bristol. He started his prolific coaching career at London Irish in 2001 as forwards coach before becoming the DoR in 2002 till 2005. In 2008 Gold was named assistant coach of the South African national side, in this time he oversaw the British and Irish Lions Tour and the 2011 Rugby World Cup. He has also had DoR roles at Newcastle Falcons and Bath Rugby.

Jonny Bell


Bell moved to Kingsholm from Pro 12 side Ulster Rugby in 2015. He enjoyed a playing career as a centre at club level with Northampton Saints and Ulster as well as winning 36 caps for Ireland. He played in two World Cups (1995 and 1999) and trained as a PE teacher, before he was appointed Elite Player Development Officer at Ulster then becoming Assistant Coach with an emphasis on defence at Gloucester Rugby. He now steps in as temporary head coach and with five Aviva Premiership games remaining his aim will to get the Cherry and Whites European rugby.

Gary Gold – We must polish the edges ahead of crucial Bristol Rugby clash

By Thomas Branston


Worcester Warriors Director of Rugby Gary Gold insists his side must “polish the edges” in time for next weekend’s crunch game with Bristol Rugby in the Aviva Premiership at Sixways.

Gold watched his side battle till the very end as they were beaten 24-14 by Northampton Saints at Franklin’s Gardens on Saturday, but the Warriors boss remained upbeat ahead of his side’s upcoming clash.

He said: “We need to polish the edges a little bit ahead of next week and be a lot more clinical in the things we are doing.

“Northampton have a very good forward pack and when they entered our 22 we neutralised them very well and stopped them from exerting much pressure.

“We turned the ball over a few times and were able to stop their drives very efficiently but there are certainly areas of improvement for us.

“If you get opportunities against good rugby teams then you have to take them and unfortunately we didn’t take them today.

“We need to be more clinical in our execution and that’s one of the learning curves for this group.”

Gold praised the determination shown from his players throughout the encounter with Northampton, especially as they fought to the death, scoring a late try through wing wizard Bryce Heem.

He explained: “The late try made it slightly more respectable on the scoreboard but it shows the fight that these guys are up for.

“As I said when I joined a month ago, all I can ask for is to stay in the battle and we worked extremely hard today.”

The Director of Rugby also looked ahead to next weekend’s “massive” clash with Bristol.

He added: “It’s a massive game. We will take each match as it comes but obviously the relevance of that game is crucial.

“We’re very much looking forward to it.”

David Humphreys: Results from previous encounters don’t count for anything

By Thomas Branston


Gloucester Director of Rugby David Humphreys is adamant that his side will not rely on their Aviva Premiership victory over Wasps earlier on in the season at Kingsholm.

He said: “Previous results count for nothing. Almost one week to the next counts for nothing.

“If we cut down on our mistakes, unforced errors and cut down on penalties that we concede, and edge the physicality at the set piece then we are a match for anybody.”

Humphreys remains wary of the threats that Wasps have to offer at the Ricoh Arena on Sunday and praises the opposition’s counter attacking rugby.

He said: “We know the challenge with Wasps. They have threats all round the pitch and with almost every stat they are an outstanding team.

“That in itself has given us a really good focus ahead of this weekend.

“To be where Wasps are in the Aviva Premiership and to be in the knockout stages of Europe then you’ve got to have an all round game.

“They are strong, they’ve recruited well and they’ve built a really strong and stable coaching team and they know how they want to play.

“Their biggest threat is to score tries out of nothing even with last weeks game they didn’t play as well as they can but still scored tries almost for fun.”

The Cherry and White’s recorded a shock 36-18 win over Wasps earlier in the season with the visitors coming in off the back of beating Saracens 31-23 and Humphreys is hopeful that his side can repeat their performance.

He added: “We’ve got to make sure we control the pace of the game and control field position.

“We’ve got to make sure when we have the ball we need to take those opportunities that come our way.

“If you kick well teams don’t get the opportunity to run back. The kick is only as good as the chase but that’s something that’s been a massive part of our game this season and it will be tested against Wasps.

“I don’t think confidence and belief have really been an issue we are unbeaten in five of the previous six games.

“We were knocked back by that Leicester performance, forget about the result but that performance wasn’t what we’ve set ourselves out to be this year.

“We’ve said all along that it was a blip, we took the blame on how we prepared and set up for the game and its something we’ve learnt from and something that won’t happen again this season.”

REPORT | Gloucester 31-23 Saracens

By Thomas Branston


Richard Hibbard scored late as Gloucester secured a famous 31-23 victory over reigning champions Saracens in the Aviva Premiership at Kingsholm on Friday night.

Gloucester moved up one place to eighth in the league after Billy Burns gave the cherry and whites an early lead from the boot before Saracens added a try from Shalk Brits and penalties from Marcelo Bosch and Alex Lozowski gave the visitors the lead.

The cherry and whites added a try of their own with Tom Marshall scrambling his way over the whitewash, this accompanied by three more Burns penalties to give Gloucester a 16-13 lead at half-time.

Jeremy Thrush scored early on in the second-half to give the hosts a ten-point lead before a Lozowski penalty and Will Fraser try levelled the match at 23-23 but a Twelvetrees penalty and late Richard Hibbard try gave the hosts a vital win.

In a scrappy opening affair Gloucester forced a cheap mistake from Saracens and added the games first points with Burns converting his kick as it just found its way over giving the hosts a 3-0 lead.

Saracens responded quickly and scored a superb team try just minutes later. The hosts were unable to react quickly enough.

Quick ball out wide allowed an overlap and Brits strolled through the gap to give the Londoners the lead and Lozowski added the conversion.

Bosch extended the lead with an effort from long range from his right foot giving Saracens a 3-10 lead.

Gloucester remained patient and soon found a way through the visitors defence with the cherry and whites scoring a team try of their own with Marshall scuttling under the hits to score.

Burns added the following conversion in front of the shed to draw the hosts level at 10-10.

Saracens then earned a penalty for continuous infringements and Lozowski made no mistakes with his penalty from close-range as the Londoners regained the lead.

This did not faze the hosts as Burns added two more penalties before the half-time whistle and Gloucester took a deserving 16-13 lead into the break.

The home side forced uncharacteristic errors from the reining champions that led to Thrush picking the ball from the ruck to score.

Burns added the conversion with Gloucester taking a 23-13 lead before Lozowski hit back adding another penalty to creep the visitors back within a converted try of Gloucester.

Gloucester’s Paul Doran-Jones received a yellow card for pulling down the maul and Saracens took advantage with Fraser crashing over from a close-range driving maul and Lozowski added the extras to level the match at 23-23.

Twelvetrees notched Gloucester in the lead with a late penalty as kicking replacement for Burns who left the field on a stretcher.

Hibbard scored late on to secure a Gloucester win after diving over off the back of a driving maul sending Kingsholm into delirium.

For Gloucester:

Tries: Marshall, Thrush, Hibbard
Cons: Burns 2
Pens: Burns 3, Twelvetrees

For Saracens:
Tries: Brits, Fraser
Cons: Lozowski
Pens: Bosch, Lozowski 2

Gloucester: 15 Tom Marshall, 14 Charlie Sharples, 13 Matt Scott, 12 Billy Twelvetrees, 11 David Halaifonua, 10 Billy Burns, 9 Willi Heinz (c), 8 Ben Morgan, 7 Jacob Rowan, 6 Ross Moriarty, 5 Jeremy Thrush, 4 Tom Savage, 3 Salesi Ma’afu, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Josh Hohneck
Replacements: 16 Motu Matu’u, 17 Yann Thomas, 18 Paul Doran-Jones, 19 Mariano Galarza, 20 Lewis Ludlow, 21 Callum Braley, 22 James Hook, 23 Henry Trinder

Saracens: 15 Duncan Taylor, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Marcelo Bosch, 12 Brad Barritt (c), 11 Mike Ellery, 10 Alex Lozowski, 9 Richard Wigglesworth, 8 Jackson Wray, 7 Schalk Burger, 6 Will Fraser, 5 Jim Hamilton, 4 Michael Rhodes, 3 Juan Figallo, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 Mako Vunipola
Replacements: 16 Jared Saunders, 17 Richard Barrington, 18 Petrus Du Plessis, 19 Mark Flanagan, 20 Kelly Brown, 21 Ben Spencer, 22 Max Malins, 23 Matt Gallagher

Referee: Wayne Barnes
Assistant Referees: Jack Makepeace, Nigel Carrick
TMO: David Grashoff