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Premiership XV of the week

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Gallagher Premiership XV of the Week - Round 4

The highlight of the weekend’s action in the Gallagher Premiership was undoubtedly Worcester Warriors’ 44-37 victory over Leicester Tigers at Welford Road, as the side from the West Midlands responded well to Bristol Bears recording their second victory of the season 24 hours earlier.

Exeter Chiefs and Saracens kept up their perfect starts to the season, cementing themselves into their own tier at the top of the competition, whilst Wasps showed a significant improvement in their fortunes, recording a 31-13 victory over Sale Sharks at the AJ Bell.

We have rounded up the top performers from the weekend’s slate of games.

  1. Simon Hammersley, Newcastle Falcons

The full-back wasn’t just a danger on the counter-attack, he frequently popped up close to the ruck and in the midfield, bursting through any gaps the Exeter defence offered up. He contributed strongly to Newcastle’s best attacking moments in the game, despite Exeter’s tight five exerting a vice-like grip on the game and denying the Newcastle back line the platform they would have liked.

  1. Bryce Heem, Worcester Warriors

Heem was unlucky not to get among the try scorers at Welford Road, but that shouldn’t detract from a dominant outing on the right wing. Leicester struggled to contain Heem and though they won the territory and possession battles, it was Heem’s frequent forays with ball in hand that helped given Worcester the platform to score their six tries and record a memorable victory in the East Midlands.

  1. Elliot Daly, Wasps

Daly looked good back in his favoured position of outside centre, linking up well with the returning Willie le Roux and the outside threats of Josh Bassett and Christian Wade. His kicking from hand was impressive, too, as he pinned Sale back into their 22 with raking kicks to the corner, and his ability to put the afterburners on and burst through any gaps given to him kept defenders in two minds as they drifted outwards.

  1. Johnny Williams, Newcastle Falcons

A coming out performance for Williams in the black of Newcastle, as the former London Irish man shone offensively against the usually reliable defence of Exeter. A skilful offload out of the back of the hand sent Zach Kibirige away for the opening try of the game, before the centre chipped in with one of his own in the second half. He threatened as a carrier and a distributor.

An honourable mention, too, for Wasps’ Michael le Bourgeois, who tormented Sale on Saturday afternoon.

  1. Josh Bassett, Wasps

Persistently unheralded in a back three that also boasts le Roux and Wade, yet consistently effective for Wasps. He was a threat out wide with his pace on Saturday, as well as ambitious in his bid for extra work, appearing often in the midfield. Kept the dangerous Denny Solomona well under wraps, too.

Marland Yarde of Sale Sharks tackles Josh Bassett of Wasps during the Gallagher Premiership Rugby match between Sale Sharks and Wasps at AJ Bell Stadium. (Photo by Lynne Cameron/Getty Images)

  1. Duncan Weir, Worcester Warriors

Any fly-half who can guide his team to victory at Welford Road deserves plenty of praise and that’s exactly what Weir did on Sunday afternoon. He clinically swooped with a couple of early tries, whilst contributing 12 points from the boot, as well as sending Jack Singleton through for his try.

Bristol Bears’ Ian Madigan also had a strong outing, albeit in vastly different conditions at a rainy Ashton Gate on Saturday.

  1. Richard Wigglesworth, Saracens

Even at the age of 35, Wigglesworth continues to impress among men 10 or even 15 years his junior. On the occasion of breaking the Premiership appearance record, Wigglesworth masterfully guided Saracens’ powerful pack around the field, played the territory game well and brought swift and accurate delivery from the contact area, allowing Saracens to a run at a tempo that Gloucester couldn’t live with.

  1. Nathan Catt, Bath

An old-school propping performance from an old-school prop, Catt was tailormade for the wet and wintry conditions at the Rec on Saturday. Didn’t tear up trees in the loose – although he was busy in the defensive line close to the fringes – but worked away at Ben Franks in the scrum and had plenty of joy against the Kiwi.

  1. Tommy Taylor, Wasps

A strong return to his old club for Taylor, who helped give Wasps the set-piece foundation they needed to take the game to Sale. His lineout throwing was accurate and he also contributed strongly with his tackling work, helping keep Sale’s carriers on or behind the gain-line.

Harry Thacker also impressed for Bristol and seems to be becoming more influential to them with each passing week. Bristol’s lineout was just not quite as effective as that of Wasps, though.

  1. Harry Williams, Exeter Chiefs

It was an old-school Exeter performance on Friday night, strangling and suffocating Newcastle through the power and efficiency of their tight five at the set-piece. Williams gave youngster Adam Brocklebank a stern examination of his scrummaging ability and the Newcastle loosehead will have learnt a lot, despite being on the back-foot for most of the evening.

  1. George Kruis, Saracens

It’s no surprise that Saracens’ best defensive performance of the young season comes on a day when Kruis stepped up to the plate. Carried physically when he had the opportunity to, but it was in defence that the lock really stood out, organising and leading the defensive line and excelling in the one-on-one tackle situations. Usual, effective, contribution at the lineout, too.

  1. Chris Vui, Bristol Bears

Nothing too flashy from Vui, but in the torrential conditions at Ashton Gate, the Samoan lock made the hard yards as a one-out runner and kept the lineout running relatively cleanly. Consistently impressed with clearing out at the breakdown, helping Bristol with their ball-security.

  1. Maro Itoje, Saracens

Itoje was like a wrecking ball at Allianz Park on Sunday, turning Gloucester over multiple times at the contact area and the lineout. In addition to being a defensive lightning rod, the blindside also stepped up with two tries, one from a rolling maul and the other as a result of a fortuitous bounce from a clever Owen Farrell kick.

Tom Curry was the standout man in Sale’s disappointing performance at home to Wasps, displaying his physicality in the tackle and denying, single-handedly at times, Wasps on the gain-line.

  1. Lewis Ludlam, Northampton Saints

A performance from the young Northampton flanker that showed he belongs at this level. Northampton were poor overall, and they didn’t deal with the conditions at the Rec well enough, but Ludlam impressed as a carrier. He coughed up a couple of turnovers which take the gloss off somewhat, but he was also busy in the defensive line and managed to muddy Bath ball on a number of occasions.

Lewis Ludlam of Northampton is tackled by Joe Cokanasiga (L) and Taulupe Faletau during the Gallagher Premiership Rugby match between Bath Rugby and Northampton Saints at the Recreation Ground. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

  1. Sam Simmonds, Exeter Chiefs

Not quite the free-flowing Simmonds we often see, but the No.8 took what he was given on Friday night. The tight five paved the way for him to pick up two tries at the back of the rolling maul, with the time he spent learning from Thomas Waldrom clearly paying off, and he took on more of a role close to the fringes, helping Exeter win the hard yards around the contact area in a tight contest with Newcastle.

Sione Kalamafoni deserves a mention, too, who looked like a one-man army at times on Sunday.

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Gallagher Premiership XV of the Week - Round 4