Six Nations stars hitting top gear in domestic leagues

The league tables are starting to now take shape in the Gallagher Premiership and Guinness PRO14 after four weekends of action.

The league tables are starting to now take shape in the Gallagher Premiership and Guinness PRO14 after four weekends of action.

With the 2019 Six Nations and Rugby World Cup on the horizon, there seems be some added spice around in domestic rugby, with plenty of scintillating tries on show.

For anyone who missed any of the action, here’s our round-up of all the key events.

Itoje and Vunipola lead Saracens domestic domination

For the past few seasons Eddie Jones’ England have largely been dominated by a successful Saracens side, a trend that looks set to continue if the start of the season is anything to go by.

Following their ruthless 38-15 victory over Gloucester at Allianz Park, Saracens are officially the best starters to an English Premiership campaign, registering a maximum of 20 points after four games.

Gloucester had been in good form going into the fixture but had no answer to the north London club’s all-round game, with Maro Itoje grabbing two tries and causing numerous breakdown problems to his opposition.

Itoje’s England teammate Mako Vunipola was also inspired, making 21 carries and 16 tackles, whilst scrum-half Richard Wigglesworth became the league’s all-time appearance record holder – on 266.

England fly-half Owen Farrell also returned from injury with predictable class, proving faultless with the boot and impressing director of rugby Mark McCall.

“Owen was incredibly influential,” said McCall. “It wasn’t just his skillset, his passing and his kicking; it was the physical tone he set. Physically, he was incredible against Gloucester.”

International ambitions

Across the rest of the Gallagher Premiership, perhaps the most gripping game of the weekend came at Welford Road where Worcester Warriors downed Leicester Tigers.

Worcester memorably won at the ground for the first time in their history last season and repeated their heroics at the weekend with a last-gasp 44-37 win.

Scottish fly-half Duncan Weir did his international ambitions no harm with a two-try display in the win.

Worcester’s Jack Singleton is also on the fringes of the England squad and helped himself to a try, but all the headlines went to replacement Ted Hill, who notched a double on his Premiership debut.

The 19-year-old has been a star of England’s age groups and it was his late try that won the day for Worcester, after George Ford has scored a superb effort for Leicester.

No.8 Sam Simmonds touched down for two tries in Newcastle Falcons’ 24-17 defeat to Exeter Chiefs, while Wasps won away at Sale Sharks and Bristol Bears defeated Harlequins.

Wing Joe Cokanasiga is as of yet uncapped for England, but is currently in Jones’ training squad and notched his third try in two games in Bath’s 17-15 win over Northampton Saints.

King of the Hill

After four rounds of action the man standing at the summit of the tackle statistics in the Guinness PRO14 is Dragons captain and Wales lock Cory Hill, who appears to be a threat to attackers everywhere.

The 26-year-old has made 49 tackles thus far, no other player has made more and no other player has attempted more than 30 tackles without missing one – Hill has missed none.

The giant second row helped Dragons to a 16-5 win over Zebre despite Italy wing Mattia Bellini’s try, the Welsh region’s second win of the campaign that moves them up to fifth in Conference B.

Hill wasn’t actually the top tackler on the day however, that honour goes to No.8 Ross Moriarty, who made 17.

The granite-like back rower is back to fitness, back in Wales, and targeting a starting berth in the Autumn Internationals.

Ireland Six Nations stars power Leinster to summit

The Guinness PRO14 seems to go from strength to strength and that is exemplified by the fact that 168 tries have been scored in the first 28 games of the season – the first time that the running average for a season has ever hit six tries per game in the entire history of the Championship.

A good portion of those tries were scored in the Southern Kings’ 38-28 victory over Glasgow Warriors, where Scotland hooker Fraser Brown came on to score in defeat, and even more were scored in the Toyota Cheetahs’ 39-39 draw with Ulster.

Connacht beat Scarlets to move up to third in Conference A, one place below Ospreys, who were helped along by a try for Wales’ Justin Tipuric to defeat Benetton Rugby 27-10.

Cardiff Blues dispatched Munster 37-13 and Leinster are top of Conference B thanks to a 31-7 victory over Edinburgh, with Ireland’s Jordan Larmour, Jonathan Sexton and Garry Ringrose all in the tries.

Sexton also celebrated his 150th Leinster appearance with three conversions, two defenders beaten and ten tackles – a consummate all-round display, while back row Josh van der Flier chipped in with a whopping 23 tackles.