Premiership Rugby

Premiership Round 8: Table Toppers Humbled, Tigers Renaissance Continues

Premiership Round 8: Table Toppers Humbled, Tigers Renaissance Continues

Here, we take a look at the five talking points from Round 8 of the 2023-2024 Premiership season.

Dec 4, 2023
Premiership Round 8: Table Toppers Humbled, Tigers Renaissance Continues

The top two teams of the Premiership prior to this weekend both lost in what turned out to be a thrilling Round 8.

Losses for both Saracens and the Sale Sharks meant there was a healthy portion of upsets and high-scoring extravaganzas throughout the English top flight, meaning the top six teams now are separated by a mere four points.

Here, we take a look at the five talking points from the weekend, which saw three teams score over 40 points.

Smith Shines In England 10 Audition 

Following the news that Owen Farrell is taking a momentary step back from international duty, the England No. 10 jersey is vacant, and on Friday night, we were treated to the first full audition for the role, as George Ford and Marcus Smith faced off.

The contest was billed as a must-win for both fly-halves, but in the end, only one showed his true potential, as Harlequins stormed to a dominant 36-3 win at The Stoop.

Smith orchestrated the opening score of the game, delivering a sly cross-field kick deep into the Sale 22. Joe Carpenter recovered possession, but he just as quickly lost it, the ball spilling toward the try line to be collected and converted by Tyrone Green.

It was the only try of the first half, though it didn’t take long for Quins to get going in the second period. 

Again, it was Smith who set things in motion, bursting through a hole, before stepping a defender and offloading to Danny Care, who scrambled under the posts to score.

Soon Sale started to look flustered. The Sharks began to look desperate, as handling errors crept in and a scuffle was initiated.

Harlequins didn’t mind, though, as the squad focused on the job at hand and systematically ripped apart the Sale defense, earning a try bonus point for their efforts.

After that showing, it’s hard to dismiss Smith’s case as an England starter.

Pressure Builds On Skivington

There always was going to be one coach in the hot seat following Saturday afternoon’s clash at Ashton Gate.

Now that the dust has settled, George Skivington’s palms are beginning to sweat after he watched his Gloucester side succumb to a humbling 51-26 loss to West Country rival Bristol.

It didn’t take long for the hosts to get going, as Max Malins slid in to dot down Virimi Vakatawa’s delicate grubber kick in behind.

Bristol further cemented its advantage in the next 15 minutes, first with a thundering close-range finish from Ellis Genge, before Harry Randall sniped through a gap to score the side’s third try.

Space kept opening up, as Fitz Harding got on the end of an opportunistic move to wrap up the bonus point. Gloucester heads dropped as Bristol euphorically celebrated.

Louis Rees-Zammit touched down before the break, but in the end, it was too little too late. 

Bristol kept the tries coming in the second period, and while Rees-Zammit and Jamal Ford-Robinson both grabbed braces, it did little to lift the Gloucester mood.

It’s now six losses on the trot for the Cherry and Whites. Skivington is sweating.

Saints Stun Saracens In Tightly Fought Tussle

On a day that began with shows of support for Saracens captain Owen Farrell, it was the Northampton Saints who ended with applause, as they clocked a vital 18-12 win away from home against the reigning champions.

The Saints took an early 6-0 lead through the boot of Fin Smith and, for a while, those were the only points of the game. Fans had to wait just over 50 minutes for the first try, as Fraser Dingwall fired a cross-field kick over to an open Ollie Sleightholme.

Saracens responded with a try of its own, made by Manu Vunipola, whose miss-pass set up Tom Parton in the left corner.

But just as Saracens looked set for a comeback, Alex Mitchell silenced the StoneX with a well-finished try in the corner.

Alex Lewington grabbed a late consolation try, but it wasn’t enough to thwart Saints, who picked up their fifth win in six and their first win at the StoneX in over four years.

The Saints are level on points with Saracens and two points shy of league-leading Sale.

Six-Try Bath Battle Past Chiefs 

Bath scored six tries past the in-form Exeter Chiefs to claim an important 41-24 win at The Rec.

With Sale losing over the weekend, Bath is level on points with the table toppers but still second based on points difference.

Early tries from Alfie Barbeary and Cameron Redpath gave Bath the lead, but the Chiefs hit back with a converted try and penalty, all scored by Henry Slade, leaving the visitors just two points behind at the break.

Things were much the same early in the second period, as Ben Spencer and Stu Townsend traded tries, before Bath ploughed ahead with Joe Cokanasiga, Barbeary and Will Butt all crossing the whitewash.

Ehren Painter's late response for Exeter gave the traveling fans something to celebrate. However, it was a day for Bath to relish, as it claimed its third win in four matches.

Reffell Hat-trick Helps Sink Falcons 

When you think things can’t get any worse for the Newcastle Falcons, the pain deepens.

This week, the northerners suffered a brutal 47-3 loss at the hands of the Leicester Tigers, meaning they remain winless this term.

Brett Connon’s penalty brought the only points for the visitors, as Wales international Tommy Reffell scored a first-half double for the Tigers, joined on the score sheet by Matt Scott and Jasper Wiese, wrapping up the bonus point before the break.

Little changed in the second period, as Falcons fans watched Reffell take center stage, converting a third try to wrap up his hat-trick.

Dan McKellar's side moved up to seventh in the table following the win, while Newcastle remained winless after suffering its heaviest league defeat of the season so far.