There was Rugby in all the World this weekend with all the competitions taking place at provincial level and at Test level as well. The domestic leagues (Pro14, Top14, Aviva Premiership) were going on in the same time than the good Round 3 in the Six Nations.
Also, Super Rugby was coming back for the franchises based in New Zealand, Australia and Japan. It was an opportunity to witness how the different franchises were performing. This is a long season but it is always better to start well in the Super Rugby.
This weekend was one of these weekends which may define many clubs’ season. With key players missing in the North, it is always difficult to keep the momentum. In the South, it was all about picking the points in these very important Super Rugby Rounds.
* France vs. Italy : Six Nations U20s (Jean Laville, Gueugnon)
Staged in the little town of Gueugnon in France, the French U20s team had to defend early with some big tackles. The Italy players were showing some intent but the France side scored some stunning counter-attacking tries in that very high-scoring first-half.
Fullback Gervais Cordin got a brace in the first-half while Louis Carbonel was also on the scoreboard, converting the tries as well. Italy could not follow the pace of the game and the France U20s were playing with confidence as winger Iban Etcheverry touched down.
The youngster, playing on the wing, got a brace in this encounter as well. The Italy U20s bounced back with Michele Rizzi, the fly-half, directing the backline. However, the French players remained in control and that was a big win for France U20s (FT : 78-12).
* Munster vs. Glasgow : Pro14 (Independent Park, Cork, Ireland)
The Munster players were hosting the Glasgow Warriors at Independent Park, in Cork. Munster started very well with fly-half Tyler Bleyendaal kicking an early penalty, Showing some strength, Munster scored a try thanks to a big maul and Niall Scannell.
Controlling the game well with number 8 Robin Copeland making the tackles, Munster had the territory. Tyler Bleyendaal added a penalty just before Half-Time. Nevertheless, Glasgow Warriors replied with a stunning try scored by Lee Jones from the midfield.
Munster re-gathered and prop James Cronin scored a quick try and Tyler Bleyendaal added a penalty. Glasgow Warriors attacked in the last quarter of the game but Munster stayed strong in defence. They managed to hold their lines and seal the win (FT : 21-10).
* France vs. Italy : Six Nations (Stade Vélodrome, Marseille)
It was the first Six Nations game staged outside of the capital in France. The French team started well with second-rower Paul Gabrillagues touching down early but Italy bounced back. They got a penalty try after a good driving maul with Sergio Parisse, leading them.
In a very scrappy game, scrum-half Maxime Machenaud scored two penalties and there was a 4-point advantage for France at Half-Time. Maxime Machenaud and Tommaso Allan traded some penalties before Hugo Bonneval scored a counter-attacking try.
Later, centre Mathieu Bastareaud carried over the line for the try. However, Italy bounced back with Matteo Minozzi, the second try for his team. The Italy hooker Luca Bigi was binned and France could not take bonus point but it was a good win (FT : 34-17).
* Crusaders vs. Chiefs : Super Rugby (AMI Park, Christchurch, New Zealand)
The defending Champions went through the phases thanks to their powerful forwards. Flanker Matt Todd scored the first try and Richie Mo’unga added a second after a costly loose pass from Damian McKenzie. However, the Crusaders really lacked discipline.
Richie Mo’unga was binned for foul play. Though, Jordan Taufua added a try but the Chiefs flanker Sam Cane scored an individual try. The Crusaders prop Michael Alaalatoa was yellow-carded. He made a high tackle as Solomon Alaimalo scored for the Chiefs.
In the second-half, the Crusaders backed their structures as Sam Whitelock scored. Penalty try was awarded as well with Lachlan Boshier yellow-carded for a high tackle on Ryan Crotty. George Bridge and Manasa Mataele sealed it with great scores (FT : 45-23).
* Waratahs vs. Stormers : Super Rugby (Allianz Stadium, Sydney, Australia)
The Waratahs put the pressure early on the Stormers and Bernard Foley kicked a penalty after Siya Kolisi’s deliberate knock-down. However, the Stormers replied straight away with Raymond Rhule making an assist for prop Steven Kitshoff who had a try.
The Waratahs bounced back and fullback Israel Folau re-gathered a high kick to score after a race. Michael Hooper added a try from a driving maul but Kobus Van Dyk touched down just before Half-Time. In the second-half, the intensity remained the same.
Hooker Damien Fitzpatrick concluded a Waratahs build-up while SP Marais got a try for the Stormers after a scrum. Rob Simmons was binned but the Waratahs held on. With the 82nd minute playing, Ned Hanigan snatched it with a try on the corner (FT : 34-27).
* Exeter vs. Northampton : Premiership (Sandy Park, England)
The Exeter Chiefs were put under an early pressure as the Northampton Saints scored a quicky try. However, the Exeter Chiefs came back with a penalty try but it was not enough. Fly-half Piers Francis added a penalty before Alec Hepburn replied for Exeter.
Nevertheless, the defending Champions could not keep the lead as Ben Foden found space on his left wing to score. The second-half was not better for the Exeter Chiefs as fullback Harry Mallinder touched down after a counter-attack for Northampton Saints.
The Exeter Chiefs had to react with Gareth Steenson kicking a penalty. Winger Olly Woodburn found space and linked up with Don Armand who scored. Number 8 Thomas Waldrom finished a build-up and Joe Simmonds’ conversion sealed the win (FT : 31-30).
* Bath vs. Sale : Premiership (The Recreation Ground, England)
Bath Rugby began really well the encounter with playmaker James Wilson kicking two penalties. Sale Sharks re-gathered and their direct approach caused disruption in the Bath’s defence. Winger Denny Solomona found space in the midfield to score the try.
Just after that, the ball was moved wide and Marland Yarde, the other winger, was on the scoreboard. Later, James Wilson and Faf de Klerk traded some penalties for the two sides. Bath went through the phases and back-rower Zach Mercer was the try scorer.
In second-half, Faf de Klerk kicked a few penalties again. Josh Bayliss carried powerfully to get a second try for Bath. Denny Solomona got a brace for Sale but Zach Mercer’s brace combined with James Wilson’s conversion earned the win for Bath (FT : 33-32).
* Scotland vs. England : Six Nations (Murrayfield, Edinburgh)
Scotland started this game with some attacking intent and they showed that with Greg Laidlaw kicking a penalty. Owen Farrell replied with a penalty as well for England but Scotland were the most dangerous side when Huw Jones picked up a loose ball to score.
England could not get the momentum though Owen Farrell added a second penalty. However, Scotland took some risks, throwing huge passes, and it paid for them. Winger Sean Maitland finished on the left corner while Huw Jones got a brace after a big run.
In the second-half, the English players mixed things up with Owen Farrell scoring a try. Lacking discipline, they could not come back as Sam Underhill was binned for a high tackle. John Barclay and Hamish Watson made turnovers and it was History (FT : 25-13).
* Scarlets vs. Ulster : Pro14 (Parc Y Scarlets, Llanelli, Wales)
The defending Champions, the Scarlets, trusted their brand as usual but it did not exactly work immediately. A cross-field kick was re-gathered by Tommy Bowe and Stuart McCloskey scored. Dan Jones closed the gap for the Scarlets with a penalty just after that.
Ulster had a try disallowed because of foul play leading to that try and the second-half came. The Scarlets had some field position and winger Ioan Nicholas scored on his wing. Meanwhile, John Cooney kicked a penalty and the game was tied with 30 minutes to go.
Showing patience, the Scarlets made the difference with Ryan Conbeer who scored a stunning try. Back player Paul Asquith touched down following a Dan Jones’ chip-kick. Later, second-rower Tadgh Beirne scored the bonus point try for the win (FT : 34-10).
* France vs. Italy : Women’s Six Nations (Armand Cesari, Furiani)
The France team wanted to make a statement, just like the France U20s and the Men Senior team. It started really well with winger Cyrielle Badet scoring twice on his right wing. Both tries were converted by the fullback Jesse Tremoulieres from the touchlines.
Fullback Jesse Tremoulieres also got his try as the bonus point try came quickly after that. The Italy side had to play with 14 players following a deliberate knock-down. In the second-half, the game became a bit scrappy and Italy were hanging on in their own half.
Having already scored in the first-half, backline replacement Mariane Menager got a brace. Fly-half Pauline Bourdon added a late score to the big win. Jesse Tremoulieres was awarded the Woman Of The Match Award after a brillant kicking display (FT : 57-0).
* Toulouse vs. Brive : Top14 (Ernest Wallon, France)
Stade Toulousain were looking for the points in that home game and it started with pace and intensity. Relying on their counter-attacking skills, they scored two tries. Wingers Cheslin Kolbe and Yoann Huget finished two counter-attacks following two turnovers.
Though, Brive came back with Thomas Laranjeira kicking a penalty and Mathieu Ugalde delivering an assist for Julien Le Devedec. Stade Toulousain made some huge tackles and another turnover allowed Zack Holmes to score but Samuel Marques replied just after.
The second-half began and Stade Toulousain went through the phases. Fly-half Thomas Ramos was on song with Yoann Huget having a brace and Maxime Médard scoring after cross-field kick. Defence was strong and penalty try delivered a bonus point (FT : 45-28).
* Saracens vs. Leicester : Premiership (Allianz Park, London, England)
The Saracens were targeting some momentum but Leicester Tigers came with a strong gameplan and outstanding skills. Centre Manu Tuilagi opened the scoreboard when he found space in the midfield and touched down. Ben Spencer replied with a penalty.
Though, Saracens could not take the ball and prop Greg Bateman scored a try, finding space again in the midfield. Later, Matt Toomua threw the offload to Telusa Veainu who touched down. The Saracens tried to bounce back in the second-half but they struggled.
Winger Nathan Earle dropped the ball just before touching down and Manu Tuilagi made an assist for Jonah Holmes. Max Malins had a brace for Saracens in last quarter but it was not enough as Leicester got the bonus point away from home (FT : 20-28).
It has been a fabulous and a fantastic weekend of rugby. First of all, about the Six Nations, Ireland remain the only team in contention for a Grand Slam. France finally won a Test in 341 days while Scotland made a huge statement against England at home.
In the Premiership, the Exeter Chiefs and Bath Rugby showed some character to win their respective game by a single point. Leicester Tigers got the bonus point win away to the Saracens. In the Pro14, Munster Rugby and the Scarlets got back to winning ways.
With the Top14, Stade Toulousain are still playing their attractive brand of rugby. La Rochelle and Clermont are struggling at the moment and they must correct that. About the Super Rugby, the Crusaders and the Waratahs won and so there is more to come.
What A Weekend ! Huge Games !