Sale v Exeter
Sale have kept their opponents to 7 points or fewer 2nd half in all 5 league wins this season and conceded 10 or more in the 4 defeats. It is also true that the losses have seen them allow 29, 34, 40 and 43 points and the wins 14 points or under.
Going back to last season, it is 12/15 losses when 10 or more points are scored against them after the break and 14/16 wins when opponents are kept to 9 points or fewer 2nd half.
The improvements in defence and a combative pack mean that they are now a tough team to play against, but this could prove a defining game for the hosts. Their next 3 home matches are against Leicester, Northampton and Saracens – all sides currently above them.
They’ve only won 1 of 4 home games against Exeter, but did put 55 points on them at Sandy Park in round 20 last season. That is likely going to act as big motivation for the visitors, who currently sit 3rd on the table.
Exeter have scored 11 points or more 1st half in 11 consecutive Premiership matches and an average of 20 points. On that basis, over 9.5 1st half points may appeal.
Unsurprisingly with that record, they have also led at halftime in all 11 games. That is a contrast with their 2nd half form – and they have been outscored after the break in 9/12 away matches and in 7/9 matches this season at all venues.
In usual circumstances, would be quite keen on backing Sale at home. However their record against Exeter there, the fact that the visitors are in great form and have a real motivation to win tonight and also a feeling that Barnes may frequently ping the hosts abrasive pack means a go on Chiefs +1 instead.
The previous 7 Sale home league matches have produced at least 1 card and a total of 6 cards have been shown in Exeter’s previous 3 trips there. Referee Wayne Barnes carded 3 Sale forwards in the 1st half of this fixture last season and at least 1 in the previous 8 Sale matches. Barnes has pinged the hosts 13,20,9 and 13 times in recent home games. He has also handed out 8 in the last 5 Exeter matches.
Tuitupou has 3 tries in 6 games against Exeter and is 6.0 anytime, while try machine Waldrom is 4.33.
Sale: 15 Mike Haley, 14 Will Addison, 13 Jonny Leota, 12 Sammy Tuitupou, 11 Mark Cueto, 10 Danny Cipriani, 9 Chris Cusiter, 8 Josh Beaumont, 7 Magnus Lund, 6 Daniel Braid (c), 5 Nathan Hines, 4 Jonathan Mills, 3 Vadim Cobilas, 2 Marc Jones, 1 Eifion Lewis Roberts
Replacements: 16 Shalva Mamukashvili, 17 Ross Harrison, 18 James Flynn, 19 Andrei Ostrikov, 20 David Seymour, 21 Will Cliff, 22 Joe Ford, 23 Mark Jennings
Exeter: 15 Phil Dollman, 14 Jack Nowell, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Ian Whitten, 11 Matt Jess, 10 Gareth Steenson, 9 Will Chudley, 8 Thomas Waldrom, 7 Ben White, 6 Dave Ewers, 5 Damian Welch, 4 Dean Mumm (c), 3 Moray Low, 2 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 1 Ben Moon
Replacements: 16 Jack Yeandle, 17 Carl Rimmer, 18 Alex Brown, 19 Mitch Lees, 20 Kai Horstmann, 21 Haydn Thomas, 22 Sam Hill, 23 Adam Hughes
Harlequins v Newcastle
The talk pre-season was that the Falcons would be a more attacking side in the 2014-15 campaign and so far that has proved to be true. They’ve scored an average of 18 points a match so far, compared to 9 at this stage last year.
Since round 5 they have beaten Exeter, London Welsh and Gloucester and lost against Bath and Sale. In a couple of entertaining games against Stade Francais in the Challenge Cup – Cato carried for 80m and 104m while Hammersely managed 112m and 151m as well as 12 defenders beaten in Paris. Sinoti made it clear he wasn’t happy with being left out of the Euro squad and is another that has racked up decent numbers for metres carried and defenders beaten since joining.
The win away at London Welsh was Newcastle’s first since beating Worcester in round 5 of the 2013-14 season. They led Quins 14-12 in this fixture last season before conceding a yellow card and then a couple of penalties in the final five minutes. That made it 11 consecutive away losses at the Stoop, by an average score of 30-14.
It has been an inconsistent season for Quins so far – heavy losses against Saracens, Exeter and Bath, wins against London Welsh (12th), London Irish (11th), Gloucester (8th) and Wasps (7th). That win at Kingsholm was their first the league since 1998-9, but it was a followed up with a first home defeat against Sale since 2007-8.
Failure to capitalise on scoring opportunities – be they shots at goal or visits to the opposition 22 have hindered the team but the defence can be seen as a positive. Much was made of the scrum issues at Bath, but that does tend to ignore the point that Marler was missing and Lambert ill. The set piece has actually been pretty reliable throughout the season.
The hosts are missing Marler, Wallace, Robshaw, Easter, Care and Evans from the starting line-up. While historically a -11 handicap may have been tempting – those absences along with the improvements in the visitors means Falcons +11 looks preferable here instead.
Have been backing Wilson, Socino, Sinoti and Hammersely this season when the price appeals and they are 10.0, 7.0, 5.25 and 6.5 respectively today.
Going back to the start of last season, there have been 27 cards shown in 15 Quins home games. The last 9 matches in the fixture have seen at least 1 card, with 10 in the last 5 games. Referee Carley handed out 4 cards in his only previous Quins match and 1 in his sole Falcons game.
Harlequins: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Marland Yarde, 13 Matt Hopper, 12 George Lowe, 11 Aseli Tikoirotuma, 10 Tim Swiel, 9 Karl Dickson, 8 James Chisholm, 7 Jack Clifford, 6 Joe Trayfoot, 5 George Robson (c), 4 Charlie Matthews, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 2 Joe Gray, 1 Mark Lambert
Replacements: 16 Dave Ward, 17 Darryl Marfo, 18 Will Collier, 19 Sam Twomey, 20 George Merrick, 21 Danny Care, 22 Ross Chisholm, 23 Ugo Monye
Newcastle: 15 Simon Hammersley, 14 Sinoti Sinoti, 13 Adam Powell, 12 Juan Pablo Socino, 11 Alex Tuilagi, 10 Tom Catterick, 9 Mike Blair, 8 All Hogg, 7 Will Welch (c), 6 Mark Wilson, 5 Dom Barrow, 4 Calum Green, 3 Scott Wilson, 2 George McGuigan, 1 Rob Vickers
Replacements: 16 Scott Lawson, 17 Eric Fry, 18 Mark Irving, 19 Kane Thompson, 20 Josh Furno, 21 Ruki Tipuna, 22 Andy Tuilagi, 23 Noah Cato.
Saracens v London Welsh
London Welsh have lost all 9 games so far, by an average score of 46-8. They conceded 46 points at Sale, 52 at Quins, 53 at Bath and 71 at Wasps. The Exiles have been kept to nil 1st half in 4/9 matches and in the 2nd half – 5/9 times.
After a run of 1 win in 5 league matches, Saracens are in 4th and 7 points off Northampton. They’ve conceded an average of 22 points so far and at least 21 in 7/9 matches. That’s up from last season, when they allowed an average of 16 points and over 21 points in just 4/24 matches.
A 39 point handicap seems reasonable enough, given what has happened in previous London Welsh games and considering strength of opposition.
There has been at least 1 card in 14 of the previous 15 Saracens home matches.
Saracens: 15 Ben Ransom, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Marcelo Bosch, 12 Duncan Taylor, 11 Chris Wyles, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Neil De Kock, 8 Ernst Joubert (c) 7 Kelly Brown, 6 Jackson Wray, 5 Jim Hamilton, 4 George Kruis, 3 James Johnston, 2 Brett Sharman, 1 Mako Vunipola.
Replacements: 16 Jamie George, 17 Richard Barrington, 18 Petrus Du Plessis, 19 Mouritz Botha, 20 Billy Vunipola, 21 Richard Wigglesworth, 22 Charlie Hodgson, 23 Nick Tompkins.
London Welsh: 15 Will Robinson, 14 Seb Stegmann, 13 Nic Reynolds, 12 Olly Barkley, 11 Elliot Kear, 10 Piri Weepu, 9 Rob Lewis, 8 Opeti Fonua, 7 Carl Kirwan (c), 6 Lachlan McCaffrey, 5 James Down, 4 Peter Browne, 3 Taione Vea, 2 Koree Britton, 1 Rickey Reeves.
Replacements: 16 Nathan Morris, 17 Nathan Trevett, 18 Ben Cooper, 19 Dean Schofield, 20 Ben Pienaar, 21 Paul Rowley, 22 Tom May, 23 Nick Scott.
Northampton v Leicester
What is better preparation for an always fiercely contested local derby – a couple of comfortable wins over Treviso or consecutive matches against powerhouses Toulon?
Northampton won 38-15 and 67-0 against their Italian opponents and were able to rotate their squad. There was less scope for Leicester to make changes against Toulon, with the same backline starting both contests. They did swap starting hooker, lock and number 8 though. They have been playing at a higher intensity than Northampton over the past two weeks – but will be less fresh.
Saints lost 16/18 league matches against then top 4 rivals Leicester, Saracens and Quins between 2010-11 and 2012-13. The 27-13 win at Saracens in the 2012-13 semi-final can be seen as a turning point and while they did lose the subsequent final against Tigers (with Hartley sent off), there was the sense that Northampton now had the self-belief in ‘big’ games.
That was evident in their first meeting with Leicester last season when they ended a run of 7 consecutive league losses with a draw at Welford Road. Saints had led by 10 points going into the final 10 minutes but a Flood penalty and then late converted Slater try tied the match.
Leicester won 22-16 at Franklin’s Gardens in March, however it is worth noting that the hosts were without Myler and missed 10 points from the kicking tee. In the semi-final, Saints came back from 17-6 down to win 21-20 with a late Wood try.
Jim Mallinder’s team have won 14/16 home Prem games since the start of last season, by an average score of 35-15. They average a 12 point advantage 2nd half in this period.
Leicester have trailed by 4 points at halftime, away at Exeter, 21 at Gloucester, 23 at Bath as well as 5 at Scarlets and 11 at Toulon. They led by 7 at London Welsh. They’ve only scored 4 1st half tries so far – the same as London Irish and London Welsh. In contrast, Saints have managed 18.
Will take Saints 1-12 winning margin at 2.62
There has been at least 1 card in the previous 12 league meetings between these teams, with JP Doyle handing out 7 in his 2 games in charge of the fixture. Leicester have won 10/12 away games with Doyle in charge and those games have seen an average of 1.4 cards. Saints have won 7/7 home matches with this referee and had an average of 1.5 cards.
Both teams have only picked up 3 cards in their 9 matches, which does put them amongst the better disciplined sides in the league – however that trend can probably be ignored given the fixture. The 1.66 for 2 or more cards isn’t that attractive but 15.0 for a red card is probably worth covering.
Burrell is 6.0 anytime scorer while Scully is 5.5
Northampton: 15 James Wilson, 14 Ken Pisi, 13 Tom Stephenson, 12 Luther Burrell, 11 George North, 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Kahn Fotuali’i, 8 Samu Manoa, 7 Tom Wood, 6 Calum Clark, 5 Christian Day, 4 Courtney Lawes, 3 Salesi Ma’afu, 2 Dylan Hartley (c), 1 Alex Waller
Replacements: 16 Mike Haywood, 17 Ethan Waller, 18 Gareth Denman, 19 Sam Dickinson, 20 Phil Dowson, 21 Lee Dickson, 22 Jamie Elliott, 23 Ben Foden
Leicester: 15 Mathew Tait, 14 Blaine Scully, 13 Matt Smith, 12 Anthony Allen, 11 Vereniki Goneva, 10 Owen Williams, 9 Ben Youngs (c), 8 Jordan Crane, 7 Julian Salvi, 6 Tom Croft, 5 Geoff Parling, 4 Graham Kitchener, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Tom Youngs, 1 Marcos Ayerza
Replacements: 16 Leonardo Ghiraldini, 17 Fraser Balmain, 18 Michele Rizzo, 19 Sebastian De Chaves, 20 Robert Barbieri, 21 Sam Harrison, 22 Freddie Burns, 23 Miles Benjamin
Gloucester v Bath
Gloucester won 9/10 games in this fixture from 2007-8 to 2012-13, but since then Bath have 3 consecutive victories. The 17-18 loss at Kingsholm last season broke a run of 7 straight home win against Bath.
Since the start of the 2013-14 season, Gloucester have won 7/15 league home matches, by an average score of 23-24. Having seen long successful runs of 38/40 home wins (2001-2004), 31/34 (2006-2009) and 21/22 (2009-2011), there has been a decline in recent seasons.
While the prospect of a new coaching team and Afoa, Hibbard joining may have raised expectations with fans, the real improvement may be seen after the next pre-season. A top 6 finish this campaign and a decent cup run would lay the foundation for that. In the short-term, matches such as this one can be used to build a lot of credit – revenge for the loss last year, a chance for the coaches to see who can handle the pressure of a derby game, giving the fans something to cheer etc.
Last season, Bath won 12/12 matches against teams in the bottom half of the table – by an average score of 26-14 and 2/10 (with 2 draws) against the rest of the top 6 by 18-22. This campaign they have bettered or equalled their results in the comparative fixtures, in all bar the trip to Wasps so far. They’ve scored an average of 31 points and at least 21 in each match, with at least 10 points per half in 7/9 of the games.
Bath have only been outscored once after the break in the previous 15 league games. Just looking at away matches, only Leicester and Northampton have won the 2nd half against them, in the 15 matches going back to the start of last season.
Morgan and Evans are missing for the hosts, while Bath are now in a position where they can name their strongest backrow and have Fearns, Garvey in reserve. As with the other derby in this round, prefer to take the favourite by 1-12 margin rather than the handicap. Bath 1-12 at 2.5.
There has been at least 1 card shown in 10/12 games between the teams, with 7 in the last game. Gloucester conceded 20 and 17 penalties in their 2 games against Bath last season and at least 15 in 3 of their previous 4 league matches. It is 2.25 for 2 or more cards and 15.0 for a red.
Joseph is 4.0 anytime
Gloucester: Steve McColl; Charlie Sharples, Henry Purdy, Billy Twelvetrees (Capt.), Jonny May; James Hook, Greig Laidlaw; Yann Thomas, Richard Hibbard, John Afoa; Tom Savage, Tom Palmer; Sione Kalamafoni, Matt Kvesic, Ross Moriarty.
Replacements: Darren Dawidiuk, Nick Wood, Sila Puafisi, James Hudson, Elliott Stooke, Dan Robson, Mark Atkinson, David Halaifonua.
Bath: Anthony Watson; Semesa Rokoduguni, Jonathan Joseph, Kyle Eastmond, Matt Banahan; George Ford, Chris Cook; Paul James, Ross Batty, David Wilson; Stuart Hooper (Capt.), Dominic Day; Alafoti Fa’osiliva, Francois Louw, Leroy Houston.
Replacements: Rob Webber, Nick Auterac, Henry Thomas, Matt Garvey, Carl Fearns, Micky Young, Ollie Devoto, Sam Burgess.
Wasps v London Irish
It was hinted at over last weekend that Brian Smith would be leaving London Irish at the end of the season, while strength and conditioning coach Steve Walsh and commercial director Jim O’Toole have already left the club. The visitors are 11th in the league and have lost 7/9 matches.
The Exiles have trailed at halftime in 7/9 matches (led by 1 at Newcastle and 7 at Leicester – their 2 wins) but performed better in the 2nd half and only been outscored after the break in 3 of the previous 13 league games.
It will be Wasps first match in their new era at the Ricoh Arena. They fed off the emotion of their farewell game at Adams Park against Castres and should have another good atmosphere this weekend.
They’ve won 10/12 home matches against this opposition, by an average score of 29-21. The most recent meeting did see a 20-23 loss – a slightly unusual game in that London Irish had a player sent off, yet were only outscored by 3 points in the following 32 minutes with 14 men.
The 2nd half has been highest scoring in 6/9 London Irish matches this season and they have scored 66% of the points after the break. Wasps have scored 61% of their points 2nd half and it has been the highest scoring half in 7/9 matches.
There has been at least 1 card shown in 7/9 Wasps and 7/9 London Irish matches, while 9/12 contests between the teams have seen a card. This is Foley’s 3rd Premiership match – he took charge of Wasps 71-7 demolition of London Welsh in round 7.
Will have a look at Wasps -5 on the 1st half handicap.
Wasps: Andrea Masi; Christian Wade, Elliot Daly, Chris Bell, Sailosi Tagicakibau; Andy Goode, Joe Simpson; Matt Mullan, Edd Shervington, Jake Cooper-Woolley; Bradley Davies, James Gaskell; Ashley Johnson, James Haskell (Capt.), Nathan Hughes.
Replacements: Tom Lindsay, Simon McIntyre, Lorenzo Cittadini, Kearnan Myall, Sam Jones, Charlie Davies, Alex Lozowski, Rob Miller.
London Irish: Tom Homer; Topsy Ojo, Eoin Griffin, Eamonn Sheridan, Andrew Fenby; Shane Geraghty, Scott Steele; Tom Court, David Paice, Geoff Cross; George Skivington (Capt.), Kieran Low; Jebb Sinclair, Blair Cowan, Luke Narraway.
Replacements: Harry Allen, Leo Halavatau, Halani Aulika, Sean Cox, Conor Gilsenan, Darren Allinson, Chris Noakes, Alex Lewington.