Premiership Rugby

English Premiership Roundup - Russell's Cracking Debut And Winless Sarries

English Premiership Roundup - Russell's Cracking Debut And Winless Sarries

Here's an English Rugby Premiership recap for Round 2, as Saracens remain winless, Finn Russell makes Bath debut and Harlequins defeat Exeter at the Stoop.

Oct 24, 2023
English Premiership Roundup - Russell's Cracking Debut And Winless Sarries

With the 2023 Rugby World Cup still ranging on, it has been a strange start to the Gallagher Premiership season.

Saracens and the Leicester Tigers both finished in the top 4 last year but remain winless this campaign, with many of their star players still on shift for England.

Meanwhile, it has been a good showing for teams in the southwest, as Bristol Bears, Bath and Gloucester all are sitting comfortably at the top of the table.

Here’s a closer look at the key talking points from Round 2:

Russell Heaps Pressure On Winless Champions  

Finn Russell’s first start for Bath started with a celebration for Saracens, as they marked their 100th Premiership Rugby game at the StoneX.

It appeared the festivities would continue for the north Londoners as Andy Christie charged down a kick before running it in under the posts with little more than a minute on the clock.

Russell was responsible for the early hitch but quickly made amends by unleashing an outrageous out-the-back offload mid-tackle to send Tom de Glanville over in the corner.

From that point on, Bath looked comfortable, racking up another three tries to bring home a 25-16 bonus-point win. 

The loss was Saracens second of the season and leaves them bottom of the table. That in itself is staggering, given that we’re only a few months removed from their title triumph at Twickenham.

Exeter Young Guns Reach London Road Block

It always was going to be hard for the new-look Exeter Chiefs to follow up their unprecedented 65-10 win over reigning champion Saracens last weekend. 

After scoring 11 tries in that game, they only nabbed two at The Stoop, succumbing to a humbling 22-14 loss to Harlequins on Sunday afternoon.

The opening exchanges were incredibly frenetic, with both teams exchanging scores early. 

A solo finish from Louis Lynagh pulled the hosts clear midway through the first half, and they managed to maintain that advantage up to the final whistle.

The result is a tough one for Exeter to take after the highs of Round 1, but in the end, the dip in form is to be expected. 

The side is in the midst of a rebuild following a mass exodus of talent in the summer. They’re now restructuring their squad around younger players, including the likes of Josh Hodge who, after scoring a hat trick last week, was pulled off early after dislocating his shoulder.

The cruel twist of fate is a blow for the Chiefs, who will be deeply missing their hat-trick hero from Round 1.

McGuigan Scores In Torrential Newcastle Homecoming 

George McGuigan’s midseason departure from the Newcastle Falcons last year caught many by surprise. 

However, his long-awaited return to Kingston Park with Gloucester brought back some familiar memories, as the hooker tumbled over to score the first try of the game, finishing from the back of a rolling maul.

Falcons fans were used to the sight of McGuigan driving over from close range and no doubt will feel stung by watching him doing the same against them, though they will have enjoyed watching him receive a yellow card later in the second half for ironically collapsing a rolling maul.

During his period in the bin, McGuigan watched on as former teammate Adam Radwan pirouetted, sprinted then stepped his way through the Gloucester line to score an outlandish try in torrential rain.

The try, while spectacular, was not enough to claw back a win for Newcastle, which remained winless this season.

Rob Du Preez Keeps Sale On Track 

A late solo try from Rob du Preez secured a 24-17 win for the Sale Sharks, who maintained their unbeaten start to the season by overcoming Leicester Tigers in a tight contest.

For much of the game, it looked as though the tie could tilt either way, with two points separating the teams at halftime. 

Leicester opened the scoring thanks to a fine line cut by Mike Brown, but the advantage fell away when Tom Roebuck finished off a well-crafted attacking move that began with Gus Warr dipping out of a tackle.

After having a try disallowed, Ollie Hassell-Collins eventually managed to power over in the corner to score his first Premiership try for the Tigers. That high was quashed 10 minutes from time, when Du Preez sold a dummy and stepped his way through to score the match winner.

Double Delight For Bradbury 

It may not have been the prettiest of performances, but Bristol Bears nonetheless withstood the Northampton Saints siege to win 33-27 at the cinch Stadium at Franklin's Gardens.

Magnus Bradbury was the star performer for the visitors, fighting his way over to score two first-half tries, which kept Bristol within touching distance, when it looked as though the Saints could run away with things.

The fact that Saints winger Tom Seabrook also bagged a brace perfectly incapsulates the contrasting styles of play on offer. 

All of Bristol’s tries were built on forward power and sustained pressure in the 22, while Northampton was exhibiting a more expansive style of rugby.

In the end though, it was the battling Bears who won out.