Olly Barkley's first start in the No 10 jersey for Bath since November 2010 went swimmingly for the former England international at Worcester yesterday.
In recent times Barkley has been deployed by Bath at inside centre (when he has not been injured), allowing the likes of Butch James, Stephen Donald and the currently injured youngster Tom Heathcote to have the pivotal role. All Bath's points in a 24-23 win at Sixways came from Barkley's boot, including his eighth and final penalty in the last minute.
Bath had not led until the 65th minute, when Barkley put them 18-15 up, after which it was tit for tat, as Worcester's lock James Percival crashed over for the only try of the match, then Barkley and opposite number Andy Goode exchanged penalties for Worcester to lead 23-21.
Further down the M5 there was another unhappy home start. Gloucester were beaten 24-19 by Northampton Saints, who had come within five minutes of knocking the eventual champions Harlequins out of last season's play-off semi-finals.
The Saints led 24-12 after 51 minutes, thanks to a try in each half by Samoan centre George Pisi. Northampton were reduced to 13 men in the final quarter when yellow cards were shown to forwards Gerrit-Jan van Velze and Paul Doran-Jones, and they conceded a penalty try at a collapsed scrum. But for fumbles by Jonny May and Henry Trinder, Gloucester might have done better than claim the losing bonus point.
No such brinkmanship at Sandy Park, where Sale Sharks were whipped 43-6 by Exeter. Six tries including two for the wing Matt Jess, added up to the Chiefs' record Premiership win and their third opening-day success on the trot, adding Sale to Gloucester in 2010 and Leicester a year ago.
Former England fly-half Danny Cipriani came on for his Sale debut when centre Sam Tuitupou went off injured in the first half.
Former England manager Sir Clive Woodward waded into the debate over the television match official trial in this season's Aviva Premiership, tweeting it was a "shocking new rule", and that dangerous foul play might be missed by assistant referees preoccupied with following the ball.Reuse content