A young Northampton Saints side showed that you can win with kids as they held serve at home in a narrow and exciting victory over Bath, whilst Harlequins and Bristol Bears entertained in a high-scoring affair, with Paul Gustard’s charges taking the win and solidifying their spot inside the top four.
We have rounded up the top performers from the round in this weekend’s XV of the week below.
- Charles Piutau, Bristol Bears
Piutau was a constant threat for Bristol at the Stoop and though Quins were the more clinical of the two sides and in control of the game for the most part, the full-back gave Bristol a puncher’s chance. He slalomed through Quins’ defence on multiple occasions, as well as proving to be a creative option in the wider channels, linking well with Alapati Leiua and Luke Daniels.
- Alex Cuthbert, Exeter Chiefs
The Welshman was pushed very close by Zach Kibirige, who scored two excellent tries in the Sandy Park encounter, but Cuthbert just edges it on overall impact. Exeter were dangerous in the wide channels on Saturday and that was typified by Cuthbert’s powerful breaks, effective offloading and confidence to take on his man.
- Rory Hutchinson, Northampton Saints
Hutchinson’s second appearance in as many weeks and this one might be even more impressive given the performances stacked at the position this week by the likes of Billy Twelvetrees, Jonathan Joseph, Joe Marchant and Juan de Jongh. Hutchinson was again a potent dual-threat in that 13 channel, gouging Bath with big carries and then having the technique and composure to pull off difficult passes whilst moving at high speed.
- Mark Atkinson, Gloucester
The inside centre was a constant threat in attack, mixing up his game as a direct runner or distributor outside of Danny Cipriani. It was that variety which troubled the Saracens defence and allowed Atkinson to create space for others around him, whether through a clever pass on the gain-line or by tying in defenders as a carrier.
Howe grabbed the match-winning try with less than a minute to go at Sixways, but he was also a threat whenever he got his hands on the ball. It was an error-strewn match and yet Howe was one of the saving graces, always looking dangerous to expose Leicester’s defence in the wide channels and showed good footwork and power to move back inside and avoid Tigers ushering him into touch.
- Marcus Smith, Harlequins
Statistically, Smith’s showing won’t match up to that of James Grayson or Callum Sheedy, both of whom had very good games, but there was a lethality to Smith’s play that set him apart. He grabbed a try, but it was the feints and dummies that Bristol were buying defensively that allowed the fly-half to create space for his teammates and put them in positions to score.
- Alex Mitchell, Northampton Saints
A statement performance from Mitchell, who showed that he has what it takes not only to cover for Cobus Reinach but also to push the South African for his spot. He made a number of breaks around the fringes, was regularly the first man supporting other Northampton carriers and helped his side play at a tempo that made them a struggle for Bath to defend against.
The loosehead helped deliver scrum dominance for Leicester in the first half of their game with Worcester. Some of the angles looked questionable but he clearly had the referee onside, who was judging the Argentine to be winning the contest with Nic Schonert.
- Jack Singleton, Worcester Warriors
Singleton’s lineout work was accurate against Leicester and he delivered plenty of work in the loose as both a ball-carrier and in his contributions at the contact area. His handling work was also impressive, with the hooker able to keep phases alive with accurate passes on the gain-line and neat offloads, one of which helped set Worcester up for their decisive late try.
- Paul Hill, Northampton Saints
Hill dealt well with the potent scrummaging ability of Nathan Catt and came out on top of the contest multiple times. He brought the carrying grunt up front that kept Northampton moving forward and he was a busy man in defence and at the contact area for the 62 minutes he was on the pitch.
- Ben Glynn, Harlequins
A strong showing from Glynn against his former team, which was epitomised by his snaffling of a Bristol knock-on and galloping away to set Marchant free to go over for a Harlequins try. He was a potent carrying option at the Stoop, defended physically and was part of a smooth-running lineout.
- Ed Slater, Gloucester
The Englishman continues to form a strong partnership with Franco Mostert in the Gloucester engine room, and he played with an energy and physicality that surpassed that of Saracens on Friday evening. His carrying was pivotal to the Cherry and Whites in their bid to break the gain-line and get the Saracens defence retreating, rather than being set and able to utilise their usual line-speed.
- Jono Ross, Sale Sharks
Ross provided his side with a dominance at the gain-line, offering both powerful carries and impactful tackles in defence. He was making a nuisance of himself at the contact area, too, slowing down Wasps’ ball and providing clean presentation for Faf de Klerk to work with. It wasn’t glamorous, but it was effective.
- Jaco Kriel, Gloucester
There were plenty of flashes of what Kriel can bring to Gloucester and the Premiership in his side’s win over Saracens, where he was influential at the breakdown and in the loose as a ball-handler. He was able to help deliver quick enough ball for the Cherry and Whites to tame Saracens’ usually potent line-speed, whilst he exploited gaps that the defence showed him as a carrier, too.
- Ben Morgan, Gloucester
Morgan grabbed two tries in Gloucester’s win over Saracens, the first through cleverly identifying the undefended base of the post and the second on a similar close-range drive. His ability to make ground on the pick and go and as a one-out runner really helped Gloucester build momentum and challenge the usually watertight Saracens defence. He helped shut down Saracens offensively, too, making a number of dominant tackles on the gain-line.
Watch: Eddie Jones faces the press after England’s 21-13 loss to Wales in Cardiff
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