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17 Jan 2019, Edition - 1283, Thursday

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Sports

Rugby union: talking points from the Premiership’s weekend action

The Guardian

1) Dignity not the winner in Diamond row

Steve Diamond. Discuss. Sometimes his bracing approach to life yields results, as when his team played with focus and fury to win at Gloucester. There is a long line of coaches in sport who have secured their legend through what has become known as “the old school”. But it is not a simple pact, the line fine between aggression and chaos. The director of rugby’s fracas after the match with the journalist Sam Peters, whom he invited “outside” – still furious over an article written in September – suggests he cannot help himself. What he thought he was going to achieve in a room full of journalists, or even just outside it, is anybody’s guess. Dignity was not the winner. Michael Aylwin

2) Quins and Wasps serve up old-school disappointment

It was more big shame than big game. Allegations of spitting, stamping, dangerous tackles and verbal abuse of the referee, coupled with bouts of scuffling, overshadowed what little meaningful rugby there was. The sell-out crowd reacted after another passage of play that had gone nowhere by practising the Mexican wave. There was something old school about the match, the settling of scores and desire for retribution, but with the number of the game’s purists shrinking, the modern audience demands something that is immediately accessible. Other than a few flourishes from Quins and a trick or two from Lima Sopoaga, they did not get it here. Paul Rees

3) Saints alive!

Northampton are stirring. The Saints recorded back-to-back league victories for the first time this season, balancing aggressive defence with the awareness in attack last summer’s arrival of Chris Boyd as director of rugby threatened. Like their previous success, at Worcester seven days before, Northampton prevailed despite being overpowered up front. They conceded 10 scrum penalties to Exeter, which would normally be turned into rolling maul tries for the Chiefs, but the home side contested the throw and made it a night to forget for Exeter’s hooker Elvis Taione. The play-offs look neither unrealistic nor ill-fitting for a team that is discovering itself. PR

4) Te’o can make a difference for Warriors

Ben Te’o began brightly on his first start for Worcester this season and there can be no doubting the Warriors are far stronger with him in their side. He is a different type of player to Ryan Mills, who has quietly impressed at inside-centre this season, but Te’o brings hard running and he showed his intelligence with a fine support run to score Worcester’s second try. He faded as the match wore on but Alan Solomons’ side will have a far better chance of beating the drop if they can get a decent run of games out of Te’o. They will lose him for the Six Nations but there is no reason why he should not be a mainstay of the side before and after he goes away with England. Gerard Meagher

5) Underhill impresses before ankle scare

Sam Underhill is due some good fortune when it comes to injuries so the hope must be that the ankle injury which forced his premature departure from Bath’s victory over Leicester is not serious. Eddie Jones was in the stands on Sunday to see him excel, dovetailing to superb effect with the equally impressive Francois Louw. Underhill seemed out of the England picture somewhat before the autumn internationals until a number of his rivals for a spot in the back row where struck down by injury but his performances throughout November mean he is the man in possession of the No7 jersey. It is a position no one during Jones’s tenure has managed to nail down but someone needs to sooner rather than later with the World Cup less than 10 months away. With a bit of luck Underhill will at least be fit enough to try and do so during the Six Nations. GM

6) Pincus gives hope to us all

The surest route to making the Premiership may be through an academy, but players can still dream. Bristol’s match-winning try in a match between two of the bottom three was scored by Tom Pincus, a 26-year old Sydney lawyer who fulfilled his ambition of being as professional rugby player last year when he joined Jersey Reds. He moved to Bristol last summer, but had to wait until Sunday to make his Premiership debut. “I am a commercial litigator in Sydney and am still on a leave of absence,” said Pincus, who played for Queensland Country before moving to Europe. “The biggest adjustment I have had to make here is that training is hugely competitive and the standard really high. You have to be able to adjust to the intensity and perform.” PR

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