Rugby returns to the Northern Hemisphere with a bang

After five long months away, rugby returned in the northern hemisphere this weekend with a feast of action.

After five long months away, rugby returned in the northern hemisphere this weekend with a feast of action.

It had been 159 days since the last Premiership game took place until Quins ran out at Twickenham Stoop as they hosted Sale Sharks on Friday evening.

The COVID-19 pandemic-enforced suspension of sport has left rugby fans in the northern hemisphere dearly missing live action but there was lots to celebrate on its return this weekend.

Fans were treated to a thrilling resumption to the Premiership season full of entertaining encounters, intrigue and players making debuts for their new clubs after a busy period of moves during lockdown.

Leaders Exeter Chiefs picked up where they left off as they beat a new-look Leicester Tigers 26-13 at Sandy Park.

Scotland captain Stuart Hogg crossed for the hosts alongside efforts from Dave Ewers, England hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie and a penalty try.

The result meant former England forwards coach Steve Borthwick suffered defeat in his first game in charge of the Tigers as head coach, but he would have been optimistic for the future as his side showed glimpses of promise against the Premiership leaders.

Elsewhere, Gloucester turned in a stylish performance as they eased past 14-man Worcester Warriors 44-15 at Sixways.

Warriors lost full-back Melani Nanai to a red card for a no-arms tackle on England winger Jonny May in the 18th minute and never recovered from there.

The visitors ran in six tries through England hooker Jack Singleton, an Ollie Thorley double, Jason Woodward, Stephen Varney and Louis Rees-Zammit, who scored his eighth of the campaign to go to the top of the Premiership try scorers list.

Bath beat London Irish 34-17 courtesy of a Tom Dunn double as they welcomed rugby back in formidable fashion.

England duo Ben Spencer and Jonathan Joseph – as well as Jack Walker – added further scores while Wales international fly-half Rhys Priestland contributed nine points with his boot.

Bristol Bears’ battle with Saracens was a slow burner but reached a crescendo as the hosts were awarded a late penalty try, reward for mounting pressure, as they pipped Saracens 16-12.

England internationals Kyle Sinckler and Ben Earl both made Bears debuts from the bench.

On Sunday, Wasps leapfrogged opponents Northampton to climb into the top four for the first time this season with a 34-21 win at Franklin’s Gardens.

Winger Josh Bassett scored twice while flanker Jack Willis and prop Ben Harris added one try apiece as the visitors claimed a deserved bonus-point win.

And on Friday Harlequins got rugby’s restart going with an attritional 16-10 victory over high-flying Sale Sharks, wit Wales hooker Scott Baldwin scoring Quins’ only try.

The Sharks had one of the biggest new signings of the lot on show, with England centre Manu Tuilagi starting after moving from Leicester.