Rugby in England has got off to a rather muted start following its 23-week coronavirus pandemic lockdown, an excessively high penalty count – 148 penalties across the five Gallagher Premiership matches so far in round 14 – illustrating the stop-start nature of the restart proceedings. 

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The hopes surrounding the long-awaited restart was for stars such as new Sale signing Manu Tuilagi and new Bristol recruit Semi Radradra to light up the Premiership action. 

However, moments of off-your-seat action were at a premium, limited to the incidents such as the sweet Exeter try finished by Stuart Hogg versus Leicester and the 80-metre intercept dart by Bath’s Ben Spencer versus London Irish.        

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Sale owner Simon Orange guests on the season five opening episode of The Rugby Pod, the show fronted by Andy Goode and Jim Hamilton

Instead, the top-flight restart became bogged down by the renewed emphasis which the referees in England placed on certain facets on the game, namely the breakdown.

This sterner policing, allied to the general rustiness of the teams, resulted in the awarding of 148 penalties in the five matches, Leicester and Bristol being the biggest Premiership offenders as they each conceded 22 penalties in games which featured a respective weekend high of 36 and 35 penalties. 

The increase was reflective of what happened when Super Rugby initially made its return in New Zealand in June, 60 penalties being awarded in its two opening weekend matches. 

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By round three, that count in Aotearoa had fallen to just 30 in their two matches and a similar decrease will now be desired in the Premiership to help improve the flow of the action after the league’s resumption following its five-month stoppage. 

The curious thing about the number of infringements in England was that the match which produced the fewest penalties – Worcester vs Gloucester at Sixways – saw the weekend’s sole red card, Melani Nanai sent off for his 18th-minute collision with Jonny May.  

ROUND 14 PREMIERSHIP PENALTY COUNT

36 penalties at Ashton Gate – Bristol 22 Saracens 14 

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35 at Sandy Park – Exeter 13 Leicester 22

28 at The Rec – Bath 15 London Irish 13 

27 at The Stoop – Harlequins 11 Sale 16

22 at Sixways – Worcester 12 Gloucester 10

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