Gloucester continued their undefeated start to the season in Round 3 of the Gallagher Premiership, beating Bristol Bears at Kingsholm and shoring up their place in the top four.
Saracens and Exeter Chiefs continued their campaigns with 15 points from three games and Newcastle Falcons emerged victorious at the bottom of the table, beating Worcester Warriors, 23-20, subjecting Worcester to their third losing bonus point in as many games.
We have compiled the top performers from the third round of competition.
- Liam Williams, Saracens
A rare outing for Williams at 15, with Alex Goode moved to 10, and the Welshman shone with the extra counter-attacking duties that were asked of him. His breaks and passes directly facilitated tries for both Alex Lewington and David Strettle, as well as another break laying the foundation for a second score by Strettle. As a finisher and a facilitator, Williams has started the 2018/19 season in fine form.
- Charlie Sharples, Gloucester
A clinical finishing display from Sharples, who rode a dominant Gloucester pack to two tries against Bristol. A surprise inclusion in the Gloucester squad after seemingly being knocked out in their game against Bath last week, Sharples took his tally of Premiership tries to 50.
- Henry Slade, Exeter Chiefs
After taking the England 13 jersey in the summer due to absence of the injured Jonathan Joseph, Slade is making a strong claim for retaining it this season. For the second week in a row, Slade shone with his decision-making in the 13 channel. His carrying and passing both unlocked the Sale defence on the gain-line and his ability as a versatile offensive threat was reinforced this weekend. A nod, too, for Wasps’ Juan de Jongh, who bagged a brace at the Ricoh and was ever present in support for his side’s linebreaks.
- Ben Tapuai, Harlequins
A tough call that could easily have gone to Jamie Roberts, with the two centres who exchanged clubs in the summer putting in effective performances for their new employers at the Stoop. Tapuai’s ability to make the first tackler miss and then accelerate through the hole was repeatedly on show on Saturday, and he held up well against the power carrying that both Roberts and Jackson Willison brought.
- Joe Cokanasiga, Bath
This was Cokanasiga’s coming out party for Bath, as he cannonballed his way to two tries against Harlequins at the Stoop. It wasn’t just his power on show, but also his speed and footwork, as the former London Irish man tormented the Quins defence, which had no answer for him. He also showed great awareness and balance to set up Roberts for the centre’s try.
- George Ford, Leicester Tigers
Another classy performance from Ford, who seems to be relishing in the competition offered by Danny Cipriani for the England 10 jersey. He managed to game excellently against Wasps, helping make up for the red card to Will Spencer in the first half, and stood strong in the tackle on a number of occasions. Kicked at goal well and made the final pass or kick for three of Leicester’s four tries.
- Jack Maunder, Exeter Chiefs
Not many teams can lose two scrum-halves to injury and still field a player as effective as Maunder. The 21-year-old kept the tempo up, passed crisply from the base and took charge of Exeter’s powerhouse pack before he was replaced late in the game by his younger brother, Sam.
- Sami Mavinga, Newcastle Falcons
Mavinga had solid outings in his first two games of the season and then built on that against Worcester on Saturday. He made the big line-break that resulted in Sonatane Takulua’s try and squared up well against Simon Kerrod in the scrum. If Newcastle can bring him into the game more as a ball-carrier, they will prosper from it this season.
- Franco Marais, Gloucester
The South African’s first start in the Premiership was an impressive one and aside from one errant throw, it was an effective and clean performance. He gave Gloucester some grunt around the fringes, whilst their back-row went to work slightly further out from the breakdowns, and he was busy in defence, helping ensure very little front-foot ball for Bristol.
- Henry Thomas, Bath
Thomas helped lay the foundations for an eye-catching Bath win at the Stoop and it started with a solid showing in the scrum. He carried well, too, and helped shift the point of contact in the tight with a display of good handling skills.
- Ed Slater, Gloucester
The perfect captain’s performance from Slater, who led from the front for the Cherry and Whites. He was a reliable target at the lineout, stood up with the tough carries after slow ball and even with defences set, always seemed to find a way of making a metre or two and allowing Gloucester to flood forward onto the ball in the next phase. Really laid the platform for an excellent outing for the club’s back-rowers.
- Maro Itoje, Saracens
There was an energy and an impact to everything Itoje did on Saturday, with the lock rarely away from the action. His work at the contact area was effective, both in attack and defence, he carried strongly and frequently led the defensive line with his impressive work rate.
- Jake Polledri, Gloucester
A ruthless performance from the Italian international, who was all but uncontainable one-on-one. His carrying constantly kept Gloucester on the front-foot, his tackling was powerful and shut down Bristol on the gain-line and his blend of power and footwork made him a nightmare for Bristol defenders to track and bring down.
- Lewis Ludlow, Gloucester
Joins his Gloucester teammate on the flanks, after turning in a dynamic performance at Kingsholm. A real rarity, Ludlow didn’t actually lead his side in tackles on Friday night, making just a paltry – by his standards – 13, but he was far more influential with the ball in hand, adding another strong carrying presence alongside Polledri. He had an important role securing quick and clean attacking ball at the contact area, too.
- Zach Mercer, Bath
The Bath number eight, rather aptly, just does enough to deny an all-Gloucester back-row, with Ruan Ackermann a more than honourable mention here. Mercer stormed through the Harlequins defence on multiple occasions and continues to set himself apart with his reading of the game and the consequent ability to arrive onto the ball at speed. Throw in his incisive lines, quick footwork and powerful fend and he was quite the offensive weapon at the Stoop.
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