Following the return of international players to their respective club sides, we review round 10 of the Aviva Premiership.
Pacific Falcons Shine Through
Friday evenings entertaining matchup between Newcastle Falcons and Northampton Saints was a cracker. It was the Falcons Pacific Island contingent that stole the show, with Tane Takulua, Josh Matevesi and Sinoti Sinoti causing havoc for the Saints defense.
The tries from Sinoti and Matavesi were testimony to the level of skill that the Islands pump out regularly. With Maxime Mermoz, DTH Van de Merwe and Juan Pablo Socino all still to be added, the former relegation contenders have staggering strength in depth. The effort of South African hooker Kyle Cooper and newly capped Scotland international Chris Harris deserve a mention. Both of whom came up with crucial turnovers, displaying exceptional jackling technique.
Chiefs Lead Proves Too Much For Late Bath Comeback
Exeter Chiefs showed true form worthy of the title as Champions, putting Bath to the sword for 70 minutes for a 42-10 lead. Whether Bath finally clicked or Exeter fell off the pace, an impressive Bath fightback saw the visiting side earn the try bonus point with 4 tries in the last 14 minutes.
The return to fitness of James Short on the wing further bolsters Exeter's back three options. Summer British and Irish test Lion Jack Nowell returned looking desperate for every second of rugby he could get, obviously keen to earn his England jersey back from Leicester's Jonny May.
Despite running out well against Australia at fullback, Bath's Anthony Watson was caught out of position by Exeter fly-half Gareth Steenson. With Mike Brown and Watson the only players to start at fullback under Eddie Jones, Mike Brown's fitness may be more important than previously thought.
A tip of the hat to Chiefs lock Sam Skinner, often found attacking down the wing, was possibly the most involved forward of the weekend. A very well deserved man of the match performance for the 22-year-old.
Carr Shifts Through Gears To Fans Delight
Following his Super Rugby and Currie Cup season, number 8 Nizaam Carr got his first home start at the Ricoh against Leicester Tigers. The standout moment for most Wasps fans will be Carr's try in his man of the match performance. With a hint of a return to Coventry next year, Carr may well become a fan favourite for some time.
Despite the return of England regulars Ben Youngs, George Ford, Ellis Genge, Dan Cole and Jonny May, Tigers lost out in a heartbreaking 79th minute Kearnan Myall try. The return of the 9-10-12 axis of Dan Robson, Danny Cipriani and Jimmy Gopperth proved crucial for Wasps. Robson in particular made many once again question his persistent exclusion from the England squad.
Danny Care Special Sends Harlequins Over The Whitewash
Danny Care continued his excellent Premiership form, taking on extra responsibility minutes before kick off with Marcus Smith pulling out through injury. Playing more off 9 than usual allowed Care meant he was very much running the show. Fans were treated to two Danny Care specials, both Charlie Walker and Tim Visser crossed for tries with two exceptional cross field kicks from the base of the ruck.
Three straight losses for Saracens despite the return of Mako Vunipola, Maro Itoje, Nick Isiekwe, Alex Lozowski, Sean Maitland and Owen Farrell will concern head coach Mark McCall. They currently sit third in the league, nine points behind champions Exeter. Have Saracens lost their usual fortitude? Or have the rest of the Premiership finally begun to catch up?