The official Aviva A League season is already over, just 7 weeks into the season, as Tigers Extras have failed to progress to the semi finals stage. Gloucester beat Northampton to ensure both sides progressed at Kingsholm on Monday night.
In the last round of fixtures Tigers traveled to Sale with a strong side featuring both Deacon brothers and Matt Tait. They romped to a 10 try 61-20 victory with a hat trick from burgeoning winger Alex Lewington and a brace from the impressive Irishman Michael Noone. Other scores came from Andy Forsyth, Henry Purdy, Micky Young, Matt Tait and Pat Phibbs. Matt Cornwell added 11 points with the boot.
Over the course of the 5 game season Tigers used 43 players, with 31 different starter, 9 have been involved in all 5 games but only 3 players (Matt Cornwell, Fraser Balmain and Alex Lewington) have started every game. 11 players have featured a single time, from Louis Deacon and George Chuter at one end of the spectrum to Tom Bellak and George Oliver at the other.
Top try scorer has been summer signing from Wasps Henry Purdy who has touched down 6 times in only 4 starts. Alex Lewington scored 4 and Michael Noone scored 3. Matt Cornwell notched 20 conversions from 31 attempts and was also succesful with 2 penalties for a grand total of 46 points. Overall 17 players a scored a try and a penalty try was also scored when Alex Lewington was taken out with the line begging.
Tigers outscored their opponents 201 to 142 points over the 5 games, including winning the try battle 31 to 17.
This has been a mixed season for Tigers Extras. They lost against the only 2 decent sides they faced but romped to massive victories against the weaklings in the group. They looked pretty handy in the two home games I saw but the standard of the competition has collapsed from a high point of the mid noughties. It used to be a better standard than the Championship but now resides somewhere around National League 1's mid table. So it is very difficult where to place even the standout players like Henry Purdy, Alex Lewington or the two young props Fraser Balmain or Kieran Brookes. Are they ready for the first team or not? Who knows and with Cockerill's less than progressive use of the academy we may never find out. It's definitely a grim life for the ones that struggle at this level.
Really the A league has evolved into a joke tournament. England is a small country and a regional competition is unnecessary and makes the competition weaker. It is frankly a shame that Tigers can't play the likes of Harlequins, Saracens or Exeter on a regular basis and instead have to schlep to Sale to put 61 points on a side that isn't fit for competition. Last year we put 80 points on Leeds. We could get games as uncompetitive as that by playing Nottingham, Moseley and Bedford and save a lot of money on diesel for the team bus. Instead the A league should move to two national divisions of 6 with promotion and relegation between the divisions, and playing a full 10 game double round robin fixture list. This could be supplemented with friendlies and local derbies as desired by the individual clubs. What ever happens it can't, surely, stagger on with this ridicules micro schedule for much longer.