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NBC Sports offered the start of the English Aviva Premiership professional league last weekend, airing four contests. Most of the matches were streamed while some were delayed and shown on NBCSports.
On Saturday, Saracens, last year’s league winners, easily defeated Worcester 35-3, the game played at Twickenham. On Sunday, a more interesting match at Richoh Arena (32,000, Wasps home grounds) took place between Wasps and the Exeter Chiefs, two teams that fought each other in last May’s semi-final game when Exeter prevailed 34-23. This time, it was Wasps winning 25-20 after trailing 17-8 at the half.
More important to American viewers than the outcomes of these games, was the quality of play, especially to college and high school players curious to witness top, pro rugby for the first time on television.
Both contests demonstrated the fluidity of the professional game, not that evident in the US at the club or university level. In addition, younger American players could see the vital importance of the maul. All teams showed how winning mauls could set up scoring opportunities. Perhaps the most interesting on field rugby event was when a tight head prop received a yellow card, and what followed were rarely seen unopposed scrums until the prop's return.
The Aviva action returns to NBC again this weekend, again, streamed or delayed on NBC Sports.