Opening Round for the Guinness Premiership
Last seasons Guinness Premiership was one of the best.
There have been many changes to teams this year. Some players have moved to France to ply their trade there, some players have been banned for drugs charges, some are in court for varying reasons and some players and coaches are feeling the effects of "Bloodgate".
With these stories dominating the front and back pages, the opening round of Premiership matches was an event some of the media would allow to come and go.
But some of the games in this first round showed why rugby union still is an entertaining, tough, fair and exciting game.
Glorious win for Gloucester
Probably the most tantalising fixture for the opening round of fixtures Gloucester hosted Bath. Two teams famous for powerful forward play, big tackling defence and never giving an inch in the opening round of fixtures.
But it was Gloucester who were able to get their season up and running this time as the home side, helped by a James Simpson-Daniel double were able notch up a total of 24 points to Baths 4. And it seemed the more the visitors pushed to get back into the game the more they gifted the ball and the impetuous back to Gloucester allowing Simpson-Daniel at one stage to run in a try from his own half.
Sharks bite back against Tigers
With all the talk about Sale being about the players they had lost it would seem inevitable that an opening day visit from Leicester Tigers would end in defeat.
Sale have seen some high profile departures this summer including their captain Juan Lobbe, French stars Bruno and Chabal to name but a few. Looking at these departures many people had suggested Sale would only just remain in the division.
However when the game started it was sale who looked the hungrier, their pack showed signs of early desire against the highly rated Tigers 8, and a quick look across the Sharks back line showed experience dotted throughout.
As the game progressed both defences performed well but with Sales line-out faltering it was Leicester who were piling on the pressure. Despite this it was 9 all at half time. The teams both edged further forward and on 78 minutes the game was poised with the Sharks leading 15-12 and Leicester pummelling away on the home sides try line.
With the last play of the game the referee deemed that the Tigers had used "truck and trailer" and the Sharks were able to kick the ball to touch for the win.
Wasps put the sting into the Quins
It was the team on everybody's lips for the whole summer but for all the wrong reasons. Harlequins fresh from the loss of their coach, some of the back room staff and a player in the fallout of the "bloodgate" scandal were to travel to Wasps for their opening fixture.
Someone at the RFU must have had a sense of humour about all this as the referee for the game was called Dean Richards, the namesake of the former Harlequins coach banned from coaching for three years.
Quins were unable to put the scandal behind them and overcome a Wasps side some are tipping to be ones to watch this season. Wasps were the highest scorers this week running in a total of 26 points but this was not the main talking point of the game.
Harlequins were down to 14 men after just 46 seconds after second row George Robinson aimed a head butt at Wasps scrum half Joe Simpson, but even with this in mind it was Harlequins who looked the more dangerous of the two sides with Ugo Monye amongst the scorers in a bright Quins side looking for inspiration.
But it was an important début for Tom Varndell who scored twice in an exciting game which ended with a penalty try for Wasps and a 26-15 win.
Saracens spirit helps halt Exiles progress
The two clubs have done some different business over the summer. London Irish have looked to build on their good performance last year by signing only a few players trying to enhance the already talented squad.
Saracens on the other hand have had a clearout and signed no less that 12 new players. Were they about to have teething problems bringing a large South African contingent to the club?
Well at the break none of these teething problems could be seen as Saracens took a commanding 18-3 lead into half time, thanks to tries from Glen Jackson and Andy Saull.
But the Exiles were not done yet, London Irish came out after half-time and looked a different side as they closed the gap to 12 points with half an hour to go. After some good scrummage work for Irish they closed the gap still further with a good try following a reduction in numbers for both sides.
With seven minutes to go Irish kicked a penalty to make the score 18-14 and give Saracens a nervy finish. Despite the much improved performance London Irish were unable to catch Saracens and this was how the game ended.
Saints March in Late Win
Northampton faced a Worcester side many have tipped for relegation in the opening round of fixtures in the Guinness Premiership.
But it was Worcester who raced ahead early on showing that although many people tip them for the drop they will not be rolling over at all.
After seeing off some early pressure from the Saints and a bit of luck with them missing a penalty kick, Worcester were able to score a try against the run of play thanks to a smart charge down. They converted the try and followed with a penalty kick to lead 10-0.
Northampton looked to apply some pressure but it was the visitors who were next to score with number 8 Kai Horstmann ploughing over the line to help Worcester to a 17-0 lead after just half an hour gone.
The Saints eventually converted some pressure into points to go into the break only 10 points down.
A penalty kick brought Northampton still closer in the second period and when Worcester were reduced to 14 men the Saints took full advantage and scored a converted try to finish the game 20-17 up.
The Luck of a Draw on Top Flight Return
Leeds Carnegie return to the Guinness premiership this year and there are many people believing that they will finish bottom of the top flight.
They were however able to take away something from their opening fixture against the Newcastle Falcons.
Both teams were forced to share the spoils in a fixture many Newcastle fans would have expected to take all the points.
Jonny Wilkinson's departure to French outfit Toulon has been well documented but would his replacement be able to fill the void. It was the job of Jimmy Gopperth the New Zealand born fly-half to be first to attempt this.
Nerves seemed to be the winner in this case however as the New-Zealander missed four penalty kicks which gifted Leeds a 9 all draw and more importantly two early points on the premiership board.