Although the season is a little longer than that of the NFL, it isn’t by such a great distance that a look back at the first couple of rounds isn’t warranted. And it doesn’t look good at this stage for some.
Saracens undefeated start to the season hasn’t really been a surprise, and most commentators expected Northampton to be up there as well after their summer signings. Nonetheless, their win away at Quins will have convinced some that they are the real deal – this is a team that is looking for a top two finish this season, and if they carry on this way things will get interesting. But the real surprise package in the undefeated category has to be Bath – their defeat of Newcastle may have been expected, but that impressive scoreline was a mere taster for the victory over a heavily fancied Leicester team. Not sure what happened to the Tigers this week, certainly they let Bath run away with a lead and when trying to come back appeared to be at fault for a number of penalties (which can easily happen when chasing a game). I do know that a lot of Bath teams thought that their team was underrated for the season, and if that is the case then they are making their mark now.
The other end of the table makes for very sorry reading though. Many will know why, but for the love of God what on Earth are Gloucester playing at? Granted they apparently put in a better performance against Saracens than that against Sale, but you can’t take on a team of the quality in depth that Saracens possess – at their own place – when in an 80 minute game you decide to play with 14 men for, oh, let’s say 80 minutes shall we! A half-time lead showed some character, but 44-12 final score was what I would expect from a team down by a player against Sarries. I haven’t seen the incident, so I can’t comment on whether it was a stamp or whether Burger headbutted Wood’s boot – only kidding, nobody is saying it was anything other than a red card and the punishment has to reflect that. I have banged on for years about the pathetic wrist slapping that is dished out for serious foul play/cheating/abuse of officials (it still disgusts me to see Hartley on the field when a 12 month ban should have headed his way), and this time it will bite my own team.
All that said, it isn’t panic time yet. Problem do need to be addressed, but I don’t think Gloucester are relegation candidates. Worcester, however, are in a bit of trouble. The defeat at home to London Irish will have shaken them even at this early stage as so many predict a battle between these two for the bottom place. Wasps are also without a win, but only narrowly lost to Quins, and then faced Exeter at Sandy Park where the home team would be looking to get on the board after defeat at the Saints in round one.
So after two rounds Bath would appear to be the team with the most to celebrate about the start of the season, and although Worcester won’t be happy I think that Gloucester will be the most disappointed. A clearer picture will probably be seen after round 4, or more likely after round 5 when the teams are off doing something or other for three weeks. By then we will most likely have identified the teams that will be looking to secure themselves at the top, those fighting for the play-offs, and those looking over their shoulder at the ground facilities of the leading Championship sides. And then we’ll see how bad the pre-season predictions are looking…