It was the last games and the last opportunities for all the clubs in the Northern Hemisphere. It was the end of the regular season for the three domestic leagues (Premiership, Pro14 and Top14). The standings were remaining very close, though.
Obviously, some clubs were still targeting a play-offs spot with a chance of silverware. Due to the new Pro14 format, there would be qualifiers with the two winners playing in the semi-finals. The Top14 would finish later as the season is longer in the league.
In the Southern Hemisphere, the franchises are still battling to take some points in that play-offs race. If the New Zealand franchises are in great form, there could be an opportunity for teams in other countries to qualify. All the games would be contested.
* Hurricanes vs. Sunwolves : Super Rugby (Westpac Stadium, Wellington, New Zealand)
The Hurricanes made a few mistakes as the Sunwolves scored the first try thanks to Lappies Labuschagne. The Hurricanes got some possession back and winger Julian Savea scored the try on the right wing. Hayden Parker kicked a penalty for the Sunwolves later.
As the intensity was growing, the Hurricanes got some good momentum with Finlay Christie scoring after a good scrum. Back-rower Reed Prinsep touched down for another try after a set-piece move once again. The Hurricanes started the second-half strongly.
Fullback Jordie Barrett found a gap to score before Kenki Fukuoka had a try for the Sunwolves. Going for the bonus point, Vince Aso finished a move before delivering a great assist for Brad Shields who scored. Finally, Vince Aso got a brace to win (FT : 43-15).
* Brumbies vs. Crusaders : Super Rugby (GIO Stadium, Canberra, Australia)
The Brumbies started the contest in a brillant way as Joe Powell’s pass set up Henry Speight for a try on the right wing. The Crusaders hit back with a great build-up with Seta Tamanivalu offloading for Tim Bateman. Fullback Israel Dagg was replaced later.
His replacement winger Manasa Mataele came on and had an impact as he scored a try. After, the Brumbies winger Chance Peni was binned for a tackle in the air. The Crusaders kept the ball and Manasa Mataele got a double after a great work from Jordan Taufua.
In the second-half, the Crusaders had to defend and lacked discipline. They had two players sent to the bin : Scott Barrett and Ryan Crotty. Though, they forced the turnovers, remained strong at scrum and despite no bonus try, they got an away win (FT : 8-21).
* Toulon vs. Castres : Top14 (Felix Mayol, France)
Toulon started the game on the front foot as they got the possession. Playing with accuracy and a very good intent, they scored early as Josua Tuisova was on the scoreboard. Toulon had powerful ball carriers and Facundo Isa got agood try later on.
Castres Olympique were put under a massive pressure as Chris Ashton’s chip-kick on the wing was re-gathered by Ma’a Nonu who scored. It was red waves in the stadium as winger Josua Tuisova beat his defender and got his brace. Toulon came back again.
Centre Mathieu Bastareaud finished a stunning build-up before the second-half started. The intensity was not so high as Castres got a try. Though, Toulon finished strongly with 3 more tries including another one for Chris Ashton who set a new record (FT : 52-13).
* Gloucester vs. Bath : Premiership (Kingsholm, England)
Bath Rugby were playing for the jersey and it worked pretty well with hooker Tom Dunn concluding an attacking move after just a minute. Playing with some confidence, Bath Rugby re-discovered their form as fly-half Rhys Priestland touched down for his team.
Gloucester Rugby replied with a penalty from Billy Twelvetrees but it was all Bath Rugby who kept scoring and Tom Homer got the bonus point try at the 32nd minute. They managed to get the momentum in the second-half with Rhys Priestland adding a penalty.
Nevertheless, Gloucester came back into this game with Jason Woodward scoring on his wing. Bath Rugby remained composed and Kahn Fotuali’i threw the long pass as Cooper Vuna dived on the corner to score before James Wilson added one last try (FT : 20-43).
* Exeter vs. Sale : Premiership (Sandy Park, England)
The Exeter Chiefs opened the scoreboard with a penalty from Joe Simmonds but Sale Sharks got a counter-attacking move finished by Marland Yarde. Relying on their set-piece, the Exeter Chiefs eventually came back with a try from scrum-half Nic White.
Fullback Lachie Turner delivered a massive performance capped off by a stunning try. The Sale Sharks were never out of it with winger Byron McGuigan closing the gap at Half-Time. The Exeter Chiefs re-gathered and their driving maul was the key again.
Hooker Jack Yeandle scored after a good assist from Don Armand. They had to defend during long phases with opponents pushing. Though, Gareth Steenson kicked a penalty to secure the result before Greg Holmes touched down to get the bonus (FT : 34-19).
* Dragons vs. Scarlets : Pro14 (Principality Stadium, Cardiff, Wales)
Part of “Judgement Day”, the first fixture was invloving the Dragons and the Scarlets. In a scrappy game, the Scarlets got the better start thanks to Ryan Elias, scoring from the back of a maul. The Dragons were hanging on with Zane Kirchner organising things.
The Scarlets needed some time to put their gameplan in place but they eventually succeeded. The Referee awarded a penalty try to them following repeated infringements from the Dragons. Later, they moved the ball wide and Tadgh Beirne was the try scorer.
Playing in the back-rower for this game rather than the second-row, the Irish lock got a deserved brace later after a good carry. The Dragons had a late try before winger Steffan Evans got over the line. Bonus point win meant home qualifier for Scarlets (FT : 8-33).
* Munster vs. Ulster : Pro14 (Thomond Park, Limerick, Ireland)
Munster had made a few changes to their side to give opportunities to their fringe players. Scrum-half Duncan Williams scored the opening try of the game but Ulster replied. The try was scored by centre Stuart McCloskey after a well-built counter-attack.
However, Munster got the ball back and prop Brian Scott carried over to score. After that, there was a switch of momentum as Robin Copeland was binned for a maul infringement. Ulster relied on their forwards pack as Rory Best got a brace very quickly.
In the second-half, Munster managed to find some good attacking moves. The Ulster centre Luke Marshall was binned and Robin Copeland scored. JJ Hanrahan kicked a penalty to tie the game up. Munster defended until the end to earn a draw (FT : 24-24).
* Wasps vs. Northampton : Premiership (Ricoh Arena, Coventry, England)
The Wasps were targeting some early opportunities and they built some phases. Fullback Willie Le Roux made a good assist and winger Christian Wade scored. Northampton Saints replied quickly when back-rower Teimana Harrison found a gap and had his try.
Jimmy Gopperth kicked a penalty and Willie Le Roux unleashed his second assist for Elliot Daly. The Wasps could not defend well as Api Ratuniyarawa touched down for Northampton. Christian Wade had a brace after a third assist for fullback Willie Le Roux.
Juan de Jongh also scored after a good move. Northampton came back with Alex Mitchell and Ahsee Tuala scores. The Wasps had a Josh Bassett try disallowed after a high tackle from James Haskell. Though, Guy Thompson made a turnover to seal the win (FT : 36-29).
* Toulouse vs. La Rochelle : Top14 (Ernest Wallon, France)
Under the rain, the two teams made handling mistakes. Stade Rochelais were first on the scoreboard after a penalty from Alexi Balès. Stade Toulousain replied when fullback Thomas Ramos landed a penalty. Having the territory, Toulouse backed their set-piece.
After a powerful scrum, forward Piula Fa’asalele got over the line. Just before Half-Time, Thomas Ramos and Alexi Balès traded penalties again with one more kick to the Toulouse fullback. In the second-half, as the rain stopped, it was a tough arm-wrestle.
Centre Jeremy Sinzelle made a chip-kick re-gathered by Victor Vito for the score to La Rochelle. Toulouse kept composure and Thomas Ramos kicked a penalty. There was a red card for Gillian Gallan. Arthur Retière kicked a penalty as Toulouse won (FT : 19-14).
About the Northern Hemisphere leagues, in the Top14, Toulon and Stade Toulousain have secured their play-offs spot and will contest the Title. Moreover, in the Premiership, the Exeter Chiefs and the Wasps might meet each other in the semi-finals, definitely.
Bath Rugby got a massive win against Gloucester despite a tough season. Besides, in the Pro14, the Scarlets got a bonus point win and despite a much-changed team, Munster earned a draw against Ulster. The Pro14 will begin the play-offs before the Premiership.
Finally, in the South, the Super Rugby is entertaining. The Hurricanes and the Crusaders got wins respectively against the Sunwolves and the Brumbies. Next weeks will be great with the league play-offs, Super Rugby going on and the Summer Tour not so far away.
Great Weekend ! Great Games !