The first round of the Premiership re-start brought excitement and anticipation around the arrival of two superstars at their new clubs, as Semi Radradra and Manu Tuilagi donned their new colours for the first time.
Fans were widely anticipating the Bristol Bears and Premiership debut of Fijian powerhouse Radradra, who arrived at the club from Bordeaux, after his sublime showing at the Rugby World Cup in 2019.
England centre Tuilagi completed a high-profile transfer from Leicester Tigers to Sale over the break, bringing one of the world’s most dominant ball carriers to an already power-packed roster.
The salivating prospect of both stars drew fans into what turned out to be rather dour clashes as Harlequins downed Sale on Friday night, while Bristol scrapped a hard fought win over Saracens.
Both Tuilagi and Radradra were limited in their involvement with the ball, with fans frustrated at the lack of impetus to use two of the world’s best attacking runners.
— Anthony Posa (@AntsPosa) August 15, 2020
Briz kicking away almost every bit of possession. You’re not Saracens you know… You have Piutau and Radradra, use them… #BRIvSAR
— Neil Morley ??3.5%? (@doogwasps) August 15, 2020
Reckon Bristol should get Radradra on for the second half… #BRIvSAR
— Rob Sutton (@RobSutton97) August 15, 2020
Okay I’m no coach but, if I was in charge of Bristol, instead of passing to the 14 people who aren’t Semi Radradra, I would pass to the one who is.
— Squidge Rugby (@SquidgeRugby) August 15, 2020
Didn’t Bristol sign Semi Radradra?
I haven’t seen him yet….
— John Evely (@JohnEvely_BPost) August 15, 2020
They've kept Radradra quiet…
— Robert Rees (@Rreesrugby) August 15, 2020
#BristolRugby 6 – 9 #Saracens 47mins Semi Radradra looks awfully lost with not much to do so far – hopefully the Bears will figure out quickly how to utilise one of the most exciting players on the planet! #RugbyRestart #GallagherPrem #Rugby
— RugbyUnplugged.com (@RugbyUnplugged) August 15, 2020
Radradra finished with only two runs for six run metres with an unlikely stat line of zero line breaks and zero defenders beaten.
Tuilagi didn’t fare much better with six runs for 19 metres, with no defenders beaten or line breaks.
Wet conditions offered no favours for either outside centre, as errors, penalties and kicking chewed up most of the clock in both matches.
Well done if you predicted the first Manu Tuilagi carry would happen 41 minutes into the game.
— Charlie Morgan (@CharlieFelix) August 14, 2020
— Edward Hale ? (@EdwardJBH) August 14, 2020
When Steve Diamond was braying that he was going to get Manu Tuilagi playing more rugby, I assume he just meant in terms of minutes on the pitch doing fuck all instead of, you know, giving him the ball.
— Rucked Over (@RuckedOver) August 15, 2020
— Edward Letherby ???? (@ELetherby) August 14, 2020
Pundits weren’t overly impressed with Tualagi’s first showing, with English scribe Stuart Barnes rating him an “anonymous one”.
“Tuilagi was the most touted of the summer signings yet on Friday night his rugby terror rating on a scale of one to ten against Harlequins wasn’t much more than an anonymous one,” he wrote for The Times.
Sir Ian McGeechan of The Telegraph also surmised that Sale did not use their new weapon enough, saying it “was not the debut we were expecting”.
Sale Sharks director of rugby Steve Diamond was up front about the performance of his side, saying they wanted to see some entertaining rugby, but didn’t.
“My team usually gives away seven or eight penalties, so to give away 19 was disappointing. We were shooting blanks. We want to see some entertaining rugby, we certainly didn’t.”
Sale’s loss and Bristol’s win saw the two sides trade spots on the Premiership ladder, with Sale dropping to third and the Bears taking second.
Exeter’s win over Leicester at Sandy Park held their lead in pole position.
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