What’s Hot and What’s Not, in Aviva Premiership Round Four

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Harlequins v Leicester Tigers - Aviva Premiership
LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 23: Greg Bateman of Leicester Tigers gets away from a tackle by Mike Brown of Harlequins to score a try during the Aviva Premiership match between Harlequins and Leicester Tigers at Twickenham Stoop on September 23, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images)

Last weekend’s Aviva Premiership Round Four action saw Exeter Chiefs win, in the anticipated replay of last year’s final. If that was not ‘hot enough’ Leicester Tigers and Northampton continued to rejuvenate their seasons, after below par performances early on. And boiling away, there was also wins for Saracens, Newcastle, and Gloucester.

Knowing this, Last Word on Rugby consider ‘what or who stood out this week and, who has left themselves room for improvement?’ And generally, what is being spoken about, after the games concluded on Sunday last.

What’s Hot and What’s Not, in Aviva Premiership Round Four

Henry Slade – HOT!

The Exeter Chiefs 13 put in one of the standout displays of the Aviva Premiership Round Four matches, with commentator David Flatman backing him to start for England.

Henry Slade of Exeter Chiefs during the Aviva Premiership match (Photo by David Jones/Getty Images)

Slade displayed excellent control in midfield throughout the contest and his outside break for Olly Woodburn’s second try was one of the highlights of Round Four.

Slade has consistently been in and around the England set up without ever being able to put his mark down. Continuing in this vein of form will make Slade particularly hard for Eddie Jones to ignore, come the autumn internationals.

Fans of Exeter, are dearly enjoying Slade’s current contributions to the 2016/17 Champs season.

Gloucester’s Third Try – Very Hot!

The ‘Cherry and Whites’ final try in their Friday night contest with Worcester is a viable shout for Aviva Premiership try of the season… and we haven’t even left September yet.

Gloucester’s Henry Trinder cut a great line to break through the defence in his own half. He had the awareness to pass inside for halfback Will Heinz, before darting back across to receive the ball again. With the line fast approaching, and with a Worcester defender ‘hot on his heels’ Trinder popped the ball back inside for Billy Twelvetrees to finish off what was a breathtaking score.

Greg Bateman’s Try – Hot Prop

When it comes to rugby, what fans all want the most, is to be entertained. Think: length of the field tries, bone shaking tackles and magical moments.

For mine, I can’t think of many things better than a good solo effort try from a prop. Not one created by hanging at the back of the maul, or crashing over from one meter away. No, I’m referring to the type of runs where a ‘cannon ball’ of a man stretches his legs and scores a Hot Try.

Fans all over Twitter and Facebook were in utter agreement. Love a prop scoring, with a big step too.

Marcus Smith’s battle with George Ford – Heating Up

Much has been said of 18-year-old Marcus Smith’s inclusion in the England training squad, especially when the mercurial Danny Cipriani can’t seem to get a whiff of these honours. Will he make it into the test side? Only Eddie Jones can answer this question.

One thing rugby fans do know is Smith’s style of play is of a similar style to current England fly-half George Ford – which made the match up of these two this weekend in the Aviva Premiership Round Four, all the more interesting. The most remarkable thing I find is that, for an 18-year-old, Smith’s composure under pressure.

One previous criticism of Ford was his tendency to crumble under pressure, but fortunately this is something he seems to have improved on in 2017. Although for all his similarities to Ford, that is one area Smith doesn’t seem to mirror so far. While no fly-half relishes the fact they are about to be flattened when they play so flat, Smith seems eager to put himself in these positions over and over again. And has a pretty high success rate of evading those moments.

The red-hot battle between Ford and Smith itself was–unsurprisingly–won by the former, showing all his 37 caps worth of experience, in his return to Tigers. It must be said though, that the gap between the two play makers performances was remarkably slim (considering Ford is six years his senior).

So the applause go to George Ford…on this occasion. Fans will have to wait and see how Smith develops over the next few years, but under the tutelage of both Ford, Owen Farrell and Nick Evans, his potential is thrilling to witness.

Nathan Hughes Quick Thinking Action Admirable

This may be a bit of a cliche after this weekend, however, many admired Nathan Hughes awareness, for protecting an opposition player following his injury in Wasps Aviva Premiership clash with Exeter. Hughes went to immediately stabilise the head and neck of opposition number eight Sam Simmonds. It showed both quick thinking, and genuine sportsmanship that UK rugby should all be proud of.

Recently the story of Ed Jackson’s paralysis after breaking his neck diving into a pool has reached headlines across the world. Ed himself credited the quick thinking of his father for his impressive recovery [from being paralysed from the neck down] to walking independently within months.

Similarly, Simmonds was alright and managed to sit up in the stands, to watch the rest of the game with no lingering signs of injury–apart from looking slightly ruffled.

Of course, they play and we all watch a violent game, but when it comes down to it the safety of our athletes is paramount. Hughes example will hopefully inspire others at all levels, to act fast in protecting anyone from further harm, if the moment arises. Kudos Nathan.

Billy Vunipola’s Injury – Unhappy Times

England and Saracens star number eight was unfortunate enough to miss this summer’s British and Irish Lions tour, but yet another setback has been sent Vunipola’s way. It’s believed that he will be out of action for four months, and will miss the autumn internationals after picking up an injury against Sale, in the Aviva Premiership Round Four match.

Vunipola was absent for most of the Six Nations earlier this year, and sadly will now miss another vital part of England’s development under Eddie Jones. The unhappy times continue for Billy, who is undoubtedly a world beater when fully fit.

The only hope for the Red Rose’s squad now is that a deputy is able to genuinely step-up and demonstrates England’s strength of depth. But, for now things don’t feel so rosie within England’s back row.

Harlequins Time Clock – Unbearably Not Hot!

Strange I know, that a clock would make it into this week’s Aviva Premiership talking points, but had Leicester ended up losing their match in the dying moments, there certainly would have been uproar. The Harlequins ground clock appeared to be stuck on the five minute mark for what seemed like about 120 seconds, before it started ticking over again. It had spectators, viewers and commentators all questioning the Stoop’s facilities.

Leicester Director of Rugby Matt O’Connor saw the funny side, suggesting ‘Harlequins look to give their supporters true value for money’. Though, he may have not been in such a jokey mood, had it counted against his side.

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Follow Sam Meade, as he compiles a list of What’s Hot and What’s Not, in Aviva Premiership rugby week to week.

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