The second round of Gallagher Premiership fixtures offered teams the chance at redemption or consolidation after the opening round of the season and Leicester Tigers, under new stewardship in the form of Geordan Murphy, stole the show with a 49-33 win over Newcastle Falcons.
Among the other notable results, the west country derby between Bath and Gloucester ended in a thrilling 31-all draw and Exeter Chiefs outclassed Wasps in Coventry, grabbing a valuable 42-31 victory over their title rivals.
We have rounded up the most impressive performers from another exciting round of Premiership rugby.
- Alex Goode, Saracens
Plenty of candidates this week, including strong showings from Piers O’Conor, Jason Woodward and Harry Mallinder, but Goode continues to show his class as a playmaker when he joins the line. The full-back frequently made passes against Bristol Bears that cut their defence open, whilst he was also a danger with ball in hand. Did well, too, defensively, in a new-look back three built more around offensive ability than defensive reliability.
- Vereniki Goneva, Newcastle Falcons
The fountain of youth has been discovered and it resides in Goneva’s basement. Despite turning 34 years of age back in April, the Fijian wing continues to torment Premiership defences and although he wasn’t making his usual marauding runs against Leicester on Saturday, he was showing all of the accrued savvy of his extensive career. He popped up in the right places at just the right times and he exploited the holes in the Tigers defence perfectly for two tries.
- Henry Slade, Exeter Chiefs
The centre put down a big marker ahead of the autumn internationals, with an incisive and clinical performance in the wide channels against Wasps. Slade’s decision-making was exemplary at the Ricoh Arena and he looked in fine physical shape, even outpacing Elliot Daly for the first of his two tries on the day.
An honourable mention, too, for Manu Tuilagi, who had a strong outing at Welford Road and will be hoping this is the beginning of the end of his injury woes in recent seasons.
- Piers Francis, Northampton Saints
Northampton were profligate at Franklin’s Gardens on Friday night and should have put more points on Harlequins than they did, but that was not the fault of Francis, who pulled the strings well outside of Dan Biggar. The pair have the making of an effective axis for Northampton and complemented each well against Quins, with Francis stepping up as a dual-threat on the gain-line.
- Santiago Cordero, Exeter Chiefs
This could easily have been Jonny May or Alapati Leiua, who bagged a brace of tries apiece, or Liam Williams, who came off the bench to score a hat-trick against Bristol Bears. They were excellent finishers but neither quite matched up to the overall impact that Cordero had on his Exeter side, as the Argentine adds a scintillating counter-attacking threat to the pragmatism of the Chiefs. He scythed through Wasps time and time again on Saturday afternoon.
- George Ford, Leicester Tigers
The fly-half accounted for 29 points in Leicester’s win over Newcastle and looks like he will thrive as the spearhead in Murphy’s vision of the Tigers moving forward. Ford mixed up his game excellently, shredding the Falcons’ defence as both a distributor and a runner and showed none of the one-dimensional elements that had previously plagued Tigers under Matt O’Connor.
- Stuart Townsend, Exeter Chiefs
Questionable barnet aside, Townsend seemed to thrive in the high-tempo, end-to-end game that took place at the Ricoh. He picked his moments to run at the Wasps defence well, gave the Exeter back line quick and clean ball and generally prospered with his decision-making.
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- Mako Vunipola, Saracens
Emptied the tank at Allianz Park, as he so often does. Contributed to an efficient set-piece and regularly was the first receiver, making the hard yards and setting up his side to push the tempo in subsequent phases.
- Tom Dunn, Bath
The brace of tries Dunn picked up will grab the headlines, but his all-round game was equally impressive at the Rec. He was a source of front-foot ball in the Bath pack, had the lineout in good nick and showed impressive energy in defence.
- Kieran Brookes, Wasps
The former Northampton Saint gave Exeter’s Alec Hepburn a torrid day in the scrum on Saturday and sent out a reminder that he’s a tighthead who perhaps should be back on England’s radar. He was replaced by the more dynamic Will Stuart early in the second half, but until then, he caused all sorts of problems for the usually solid Exeter scrum.
- Ed Slater, Gloucester
A real dogged display from Slater, who carried strongly in the tight for Gloucester, as well as putting in a tireless shift in defence. Brought a physicality to the gain-line, both as a carrier and a tackler, rarely going backwards in the collision.
- Courtney Lawes, Northampton Saints
The Northampton and England lock was in fine form on Friday night, proving an immovable colossus in the defensive line. His energy and efficiency in the line helped stymie Harlequins’ offensive gameplan, which saw them retreat into an unthreatening one-out runner strategy, whilst he also made a significant impact at the lineout, both offensively and defensively.
- Don Armand, Exeter Chiefs
Armand put down yet another England marker on the weekend, adding some necessary grunt to the Chiefs pack in the middle of the pitch in a fast and free-flowing game against Wasps. His carrying stood out in particular, but he also shut down Wasps’ carriers on the gain-line multiple times, denying them the front-foot ball to unleash their fleet-footed backs in the subsequent phases.
- Sam Underhill, Bath
Run close by Heinrich Brüssow and Brendon O’Connor, Underhill was a jackhammer at the Rec on Saturday, levelling any ball-carriers that came anywhere close to him. He was difficult to shift at the contact area, too, and carried with purpose, not looking out of place among the more notable offensive threats of Zach Mercer and Taulupe Faletau.
- James Chisholm, Harlequins
Maybe the sole offensive bright spot for Quins in a game where Northampton’s defence shut them down and turned their offensive plan into a succession of one-out runners being fed by the scrum-half. Chisholm was the only Quins forward to have consistent success breaking the gain-line against Saints and the Londoners struggled to retain possession and get quick ball when it wasn’t Chisholm taking the ball up into contact.
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