What a way to kick-off the Premiership season. The first set of fixtures broke the record for the most points scored on an opening weekend, and some of the tries were a sight to behold.
So many players put their hands up for the Team of the Week, and there’s a very good argument to be made for it being made up entirely of Saracens players from the first half of their clash.
Unfortunately, not everyone can make the cut but here’s our week one Team of the Week.
1. Ellis Genge (Leicester Tigers)
Genge ran with real venom whenever he got his hands on the ball. Carries with such intent and passion that he is impossible to stop dead. Didn’t give away a single penalty and won the scrummaging battle in a tight game. Looks to be balancing his fiery energy and solid set-piece work. A good start.
2. Schalk Brits (Saracens)
Brits was the player of the weekend. The man is defying the rules of age. Fizzed and Bristled all afternoon and seemed to have a hand in every try. Insane to think Saracens have a playmaker with the number 2 on his back. Solid at the lineout, but it was the offloads, clean breaks, side-steps and physicality that set him apart this weekend. Jamie George will have his work cut out when he returns. A freak of nature.
3. Vincent Koch (Saracens)
A close second for player of the weekend. Only played 51 minutes, but by this point the damage was done. Seen on multiple occasions cantering in open field and showed soft hands for two tries. Looks fit and agile in a front row that appeared to be playing in perfect sync with one another. Carried aggressively and the set-piece looked rock solid when he was on. A huge first-half to kick-off the season.
4. Callum Green (Newcastle Falcons)
Not the best game to watch, but the Falcons will be ecstatic with how their tight five fronted up. Green is such an underrated cog in the machine and often goes unnoticed, but his eleven tackles were part of a stifling defensive effort. Essential to success in the rolling maul and ensuring ball retention for Sonatane Takulua. Deserves more recognition.
5. Tom Savage (Gloucester)
21 tackles is nothing to be sniffed at. Although the ex-Gloucester skipper started at lock, he played as an extra flanker. Many thought the Gloucester pack was going to be lightweight this year, but Savage embodied the hard-nosed mentality that Juan Ackerman has engrained into the squad. Toiled hard and made sure the Chiefs couldn’t get up a head of steam with their pick and go.
6. Lewis Ludlow (Gloucester)
26 tackles. I’m going to say that again, 26 tackles. Along with Savage, Ludlow was vital to the Gloucester defensive effort. Chopped low and stopped Exeter’s big midfield runners in their tracks. Also, Ludlow was one of the primary lineout options, being utilised often to great effect. Even for a blindside flanker he looks insanely fit, lasting the full 80 minutes and made Ross Moriarity’s absence less noticeable. Looks to be a great young grafter.
7. Blair Cowan (London Irish)
Francois Louw was incredible at the breakdown against the Tigers and just misses out. Cowan had a great tussle with Chris Robshaw on Saturday. With performances like this, Cowan could find himself back in contention for a Scotland shirt. He and Mike Coman were tenacious at the breakdown and his 17 tackles exemplified London Irish’s surprisingly tight defence. But the real highlight was his delightful offload in the tackle to set up Tommy Bell’s try. Could be key to Irish staying competitive, if he can smother some of the top back rows in the league.
8. Sam Simmonds (Exeter Chiefs)
Simmonds absolutely exploded on Friday night. Not the biggest man, but can step hard off either foot like a winger and pumps his legs like a number 8, which, as a combination, looked truly frightening. The way he ghosted past two Gloucester defenders in the first half was a demonstration of his explosive power and ability to accelerate. Simmonds offered himself all afternoon, carrying with intent until the end. A titanic effort, crashing over the gain line eight times and made 16 tackles. Despite the score, he was my Man of the Match. Two tries, well-deserved.
9. Dan Robson (Wasps)
So many good performances at 9 this weekend. Sonatane Takulua Steered the Falcons expertly. Richard Wigglesworth controlled the game with his box kicks and delivery. Mentions also to Chris Cook, Will Heinz and Ben Youngs. However, it simply had to go to Robson. Four tries capped off a scintillating day in the sunshine. Although two of his tries looked simple, the effort he makes to offer support should be stated. Nipped, sniped, scurried and buzzed around the fringes and needs to be in the England squad. One of the most dangerous scrum-halves on the planet.
10. Alex Lozowski (Saracens)
If we can put his missed kicks to one side, then Lozowski’s performance was mesmerising. Made Harry Mallinder look amateur at best. He is such an elegant, graceful runner and attacks the line in a similar manner to George Ford. Fizzes his passes beautifully to his back line and knows exactly when to kick for territory. On top of this, despite his slight frame, never shirks his defensive duties. Deserves all the praise he is getting. It’s amazing to think Owen Farrell was missing and no-one even batted an eyelid. Very exciting prospect for English fans.
11. Topsy Ojo (London Irish)
Special mention for Tom Collins, who was one of the few positives in a sorry Northampton side but the London Irish flyer turned back the clock to remind everyone of his blistering pace. Over 100 metres with ball in hand, a try and an assist, Ojo was showing the young guns how it’s done. His partnership with Tommy Bell and Alex Lewington could be very fruitful and looks full of tries. Great way to start the season.
12. Max Clark (Bath)
Clark is a very intelligent footballer. In what is his second season, he showed great rugby IQ for his two tries, spotting the gap to outfox Ben Youngs and showing great awareness to support Matt Banahan. Furthermore, he had the unenviable job of looking after the Ford-Toomua-Tuilagi axis, and it must be said he shackled them brilliantly. Showcased some crisp hot-stepping in midfield as well. A young man to watch out for as the season progresses.
13. Gabriele Lovabalavu (Wasps)
Honourable mentions for Joe Marchant, Andy Symonds and Ciaran Hearn, who all had good showings. But Lovabalavu gets the nod after his Premiership debut. Came up with a good turnover and looked comfortable feeding his wingers. His assists for both the Alex Rieder and Dan Robson tries highlighted his ability to fix the man and give the pass. Carried when required, passed frequently and popped up at important moments. A good start from the Fijian. Will have his work cut out to keep Elliot Daly, Kyle Eastmond or Juan De Jongh at bay, but looks promising.
14. Christian Wade (Wasps)
So many options here. Alex Tait took his try brilliantly, as did Olly Woodburn for Exeter. Semesa Rokoduguni showed his gas and tackled brilliantly whilst Sean Maitland can feel aggrieved to have missed out despite scoring a hat-trick. But Wade was responsible for setting up two of Dan Robson’s tries and scored one himself. His scampering runs down the touch and calm head despite travelling at such speed aided Robson’s try-scoring antics. Will Wade once again be near the top of the try-scoring charts and once more be branded by Eddie Jones as too weak in other areas to play for England? Probably, but in this form it just seems bizarre that he is behind Marland Yarde and Jonny May in the pecking order.
15. Tommy Bell (London Irish)
Simon Hammersley was fantastic at the back for Newcastle, but Bell, the hero of Twickenham, sneaks in ahead for his hand in 24 of Irish’s 39 points. Kicked his goals brilliantly whilst demonstrating his finisher’s instinct and gas to skin Mike Brown for his try. Gives Irish stability at the back as an experienced veteran but, like Ojo, he seems to have found an extra drop of pace with age. A great start for London Irish who aren’t going to go quietly with these boys running it from deep.
Max Hamid, Pundit Arena