The Rugby Wrap : Weekend Review (Friday, 27th, April, 2018 – Sunday, 29th, April, 2018)

 

The Wasps playmaker Jimmy Gopperth and the Northampton Saints winger Ben Foden battle for the ball during the 2017-2018 Premiership game

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).

Conclusion

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 !

Max.

The Rugby Wrap : Weekend Review (Friday, 20th, April, 2018 – Saturday, 21st April, 2018)

 

The Cardiff Blues winger Owen Lane on the charge against Pau during the 2017-2018 Challenge Cup semi-finals in Cardiff, Wales

This weekend, the news were dominated by the european competitions play-offs. The Champions Cup and the Challenge Cup semi-finals were taking place with home advantage, a defining factor. The two finals were going to be contested in Spain for 2018.

In the Southern Hemisphere, with Super Rugby, it was starting to become more difficult for a few franchises which were losing momentum. The franchises from New Zealand were winning comfortably and the competition was not going to be so strong definitely.

Many franchises had now lost many games with the second-half of the season beginning. There was going to be some outsiders from the different countries outside of New Zealand. However, no franchise seemed to be able to contest the New Zealand power.

* Gloucester vs. Newcastle : Challenge Cup (Kingsholm, England)

For that Challenge Cup semi-final, the two English clubs were facing each other. The Newcastle Falcons took the better start with Scott Lawson scoring from a driving maul. Gloucester reacted immediately with Tom Marshall finishing a great set-piece move.

Playmaker Billy Twelvetrees added a penalty before Motu Matu’u got a score before Half-Time after a powerful driving maul. Billy Burns found a gap and scored another try in the second-half as Newcastle Falcons hit back with Scott Lawson getting a double after.

Gloucester still built a good pressure with Billy Twelvetrees nailing two penalties. Scrum-half Ben Vellacott scored a stunning try at the end with Jason Woodward making his second assist of the night. Gloucester qualified for the Challenge Cup final (FT : 33-12).

* Crusaders vs. Sunwolves : Super Rugby (AMI Stadium, Christchurch, New Zealand)

The Crusaders did not waste time as Mike Delaney made early metres and threw a long pass to Ryan Crotty who touched down after 58 seconds. In the opening quarter, the Crusaders dominated and a powerful driving maul allowed Matt Todd to get a score.

Nevertheless, the Sunwolves put their hands on the ball as the weather conditions were terrible. Centre Michael Little grabbed a try in the corner and the Sunwolves built pressure at the start of the second-half with two penalties scored by Hayden Parker.

The Crusaders kept the composure and Ryan Crotty got a brace after a good run. Winger Manasa Mataele was on the scoreboard and Jack Stratton scored his first try with the Crusaders. It was bonus point win for defending Champions in Christchurch (FT : 33-11).

* Reds vs. Chiefs : Super Rugby (Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane, Australia)

The Chiefs began the game with accuracy in their attacking moves and it got them some rewards early. First-five eighth Damian McKenzie kicked an early penalty before second-rower Tyler Ardron carried over the line for the first try. The Chiefs had the momentum.

Quickly after, the Chiefs spread the ball wide and the move was finished by Charlie Ngatai. The Queensland Reds could not find the answer to the Chiefs’ gameplan as the other second-rower, Brodie Retallick, scored from close range. It was the Half-Time.

In the second-half, Samu Kerevi got the Queensland Reds on the board but the Chiefs showed some reaction with Liam Polwart. Targeting the bonus point win, the Chiefs eventually got it with prop Samisoni Tauke’iaho after a driving maul to win (FT : 12-36).

* Cardiff vs. Pau : Challenge Cup (Cardiff Arms Park, Wales)

The Cardiff Blues had the possession at the beginning of the game with Jarrod Evans managing well the game. His pass to second-rower Seb Davies was accurate as the ball reached Gareth Anscombe. The fullback raced on the wing and scored the great try.

Section Paloise hit back in the contest when Tomos Williams’ kick was charged down with centre Conrad Smith touching down. Then, Jarrod Evans and Tom Taylor respectively traded a penalty each with Half-Time coming and it was just all square.

In the second-half, it was an arm-wrestle between these two sides. Section Paloise pushed to come back but Jarrod Evans added a penalty to make it a 6-point gap. Finally, a great work at the breakdown from Ellis Jenkins and Olly Robinson secured it (FT : 16-10).

Conclusion

In the Challenge Cup, Gloucester Rugby and Cardiff Blues booked their tickets for the Final. Gloucester were accurate at home while the Cardiff Blues worked hard at the breakdown. It will be a very close final but surely the Cardiff Blues could win that game.

In the Super Rugby, the New Zealand franchises are posting some good results. Despite a few changes and a storm, the Crusaders won against the Sunwolves. In Brisbane, the Chiefs won convincingly as they were facing the Queensland Reds in that great contest.

The domestic leagues (Premiership, Pro14 and Top14) will come back next weekend. There are only a few games before the beginning of the play-offs. The standings are remaining very close and many teams could just still qualify and win some silverware.

Entertaining games. Good weekend.

Max.

The Barrett Review : Super Rugby 2018 (Round 9 – Chiefs)

The New Zealand first-five eighth Beauden Barrett running the ball for the Hurricanes against the Chiefs during Super Rugby 2018 in Wellington

The Hurricanes had got out of jail last weekend with a very contested win against the Sharks. The Hurricanes got a great win in Napier thanks to a very late try scored by Ngani Laumape. This performance, despite the win, raised a few eyebrows, definitely.

In New Zealand, a big performance is expected each weekend. The Hurricanes knew that they were far from their best in that Sharks game. The whole team, players and coaching staff, were looking for improvements as they were going to host the Chiefs in Wellington.

I- Team Informations : Disruption with the Half-Backs

There had been many casualties with this game played against the Sharks. It caused some disruption in the legendary half-backs pairing. First, Beauden Barrett had to withdraw from the game due to a tight quad sustained in the build-up to the fixture.

Moreover, just before Half-Time, scrum-half TJ Perenara injured his knee and had to go off the pitch. His medial cruciate ligament had been damaged and TJ Perenara was going to be unavailable for this game. Chris Boyd and John Plumtree had to make a re-shuffle.

II- The Players : Backline Options

The Hurricanes coaching staff allowed himself to make a few turnovers in the forwards pack particularly in the front-row. Flanker Ardie Savea was still unavailable for this game. However, the team selection for the Chiefs game showed plenty of back options.

Winger Julian Savea did not start the game as Matt Proctor and Wes Goosen were coming back to full fitness. With Ben Lam and Vince Aso delivering, some calls had to be made. Nehe Milner-Skudder would come back quickly and add to these picking options.

III- The Hurricanes line-up : Consistency is Key

(15-1) Jordie Barrett – Vince Aso – Matt Proctor – Ngani Laumape – Ben Lam – Beauden Barrett – Jamie Booth – Gareth Evans – Sam Henwood – Brad Shields – Sam Lousi – Vaea Fifita – Jefferey To’omanga-Allen – Ricky Riccitelli – Toby Smith.

(16-23) James O’Reilly – Chris Eves – Ben May – Michael Fatialofa – Reed Prinsep – Richard Judd – Ihaia West – Wes Goosen.

IV- Game Summary : All Blacks Trial

The New Zealand coaching staff, including Steve Hansen, was at Westpac Stadium, to assess their options before the June Internationals against France. Contrary to the weekend earlier, the Hurricanes kept the ball during the opening exchanges, definitely.

Playing with confidence, scrum-half Jamie Booth, starting in TJ Perenara’s place, distributed well. Number 8 Gareth Evans provided the go-forward along with Vaea Fifita. It paid when winger Ben Lam got the ball and beat three Chiefs defenders to score a try.

It was a great individual try which was converted by Jordie Barrett with Beauden Barrett only focusing on leading the plays. The Chiefs put their hands on the ball as well with Brodie Retallick and Sam Cane threatening the lines. They were awarded a penalty.

First-five eighth Damian McKenzie kicked it very well and the Hurricanes fullback Jordie Barrett replied a bit later. It was a tight tussle between the two franchises. The Hurricanes had the possession and the props, including Toby Smith, were doing well.

Ngani Laumape beat some defenders but the Chiefs were stunning on the counter-attack. In the centres Charlie Ngatai was outstanding with Sean Wainui and Solomon Alaimalo gaining the metres. Damian McKenzie kicked a second penalty just later (HT : 10-6).

In the second-half, the Hurricanes started in the best way possible. Picking up a loose ball, Beauden Barrett raced forwards and made a little chip-kick. He re-gathered it and won his duel with Brodie Retallick to dot the ball down. Paul Williams asked to the TMO.

Following the review, the try was awarded by the referee and the Hurricanes did not waste time after that. Rushing back in the Chiefs’ 22-metres, Beauden Barrett made a cross-field kick which was collected by Ngani Laumape who scored a stunning try.

Just after that try, the Hurricanes remained in defence and the Chiefs attacked and attacked again. The Hurricanes held on with massive tackles made by the likes of Jefferey To’omanga-Allen, Sam Henwood and centre Matt Proctor who did the job.

Nevertheless, despite some strong defensive systems, the Hurricanes conceded one try before the hour mark. The Chiefs were on the board thanks to flanker Lachlan Boshier after some footwork from Solomon Alaimalo. The Hurricanes had to react very quickly.

It was tough as the Chiefs were going for another try to come back into this game. Nevertheless, the Hurricanes were smarter in defence, making many turnovers, and Jordie Barrett kicked one last 40-metre penalty to seal the great win, there (FT : 25-13).

The Barrett Review : All-Rounded Performance

Kicks : N/A – Following last weekend when he withdrew from the Sharks game due to a tight quad, Beauden Barrett was not going to kick. His Brother Jordie Barrett took the goalkicking duties. It is expected that Beauden Barrett gets the duties back at some stage.

General Play : It was magnificient from Beauden Barrett. He scored a try and made an assist. In defence, he saved a try with an ankle tap and made a quarterback throw to play a lineout quicker. His game management could have been better but he played brillantly.

Conclusion : Despite not goalkicking, Steve Hansen would have been pleased. Beauden Barrett was incredible during the attacking plays and he showed his skills in defence as well. He will work on his kicking management to get better but he is playing outstanding.

Max.

The West Review : Super Rugby 2018 (Round 8 – Sharks)

The Hurricanes playmaker Ihaia West playing against the Sharks during the 2018 Super Rugby in McLean Park, Napier

The Hurricanes were performing pretty well so far during the 2018 Super Rugby season. Since their opening game against the Bulls in Pretoria where they lost, the Hurricanes bounced back. They have found their attacking game and the defensive structure again.

Last weekend, they won in Melbourne in a very convincing way and they were back at home this weekend. The Hurricanes were hosting the Sharks and there was not going to be any complacency. The Sharks were going into this game after a win against the Blues.

I- Team Informations : Late withdrawal

The Sharks game was one of these Super Rugby games that the Hurricanes were playing outside of Wellington. The franchise had decided to play that Super Rugby game in McLean Park, Napier. That contest was going to take place in the Hawke’s Bay province.

Meanwhile, Chris Boyd and John Plumtree had options in the prop position with Ben May and Jefferey To’omanga-Allen available. However, there was a big blow in the build-up to the game as Beauden Barrett had to withdraw due to a tight quad during training.

II- The Players : Some adjustements

For that game against the Sharks, the players were expected to step up with the coaching staff making some adjustements. For example, second-rower Michael Fatialofa was given the nod as Vaea Fifita was relegated to the bench. Though, Vaea Fifita was doing well.

In the back-row, Ardie Savea was still unavailable so Sam Henwood had another opportunity to impress. The backline had to be re-shuffled with Beauden Barrett unavailable. Ihaia West was given the nod with Jackson Garden-Bachop on the bench.

III- The Hurricanes line-up : Consistency is Key

(15-1) Jordie Barrett – Julian Savea – Vince Aso – Ngani Laumape – Ben Lam – Ihaia West – TJ Perenara – Gareth Evans – Sam Henwood – Brad Shields – Sam Lousi – Michael Fatialofa – Jefferey To’omanga-Allen – Ricky Riccitelli – Chris Eves.

(16-23) Asafo Aumua – Fraser Armstrong – Ben May – Vaea Fifita – Reed Prinsep – Jamie Booth – Jackson Garden-Bachop – Wes Goosen.

IV- Game Summary : Thriller in Napier

In McLean Park, the Sharks opened the scoreboard with fly-half Robert du Preez. The Hurricanes got the possession back and the backline moved well. TJ Perenara and Ihaia West combined to unleash Jordie Barrett. The fullback just scored from the left wing.

The Hurricanes kept the momentum and first-five eighth Ihaia West beat a defender and offloaded to Ngani Laumape who scored between the posts. Nevertheless, the Sharks bounced back as they relied on the set-pieces to create havoc in the Hurricanes defence.

Gaining some metres thanks to their forwards pack and skipper Tendai Mtawarira, centre Lukhanyo Am dived to score. There was a TMO review and the try was awarded as the ball was grounded on the line. Few minutes later, the Sharks had a 5-metre scrum.

Scrum-half Louis Schreuder picked the ball up and took a gap and scored the Sharks’ second try in that game. The Hurricanes were put under pressure but managed to make some turnovers in their 22-metre zone. Brad Shields and Sam Henwood worked hard.

As they were trying to exit their 22-metre zone, a little chip-kick was made. Vince Aso managed to grab the ball and win the race against the Sharks winger Sbusiso Nkosi to score the try. The Sharks did not quit and got 3 points back thanks to Robert du Preez.

Just before Half-Time, the Sharks kept playing their expansive rugby and centre Lukhanyo Am concluded a build-up for a double. Nic Berry checked with the TMO but as there was no separation between the hand and the ball, the try stood (HT : 19-27).

In the second-half, the Hurricanes built a pressure on the Sharks and were rewarded with a few penalties. Skipper Brad Shields pointed at the sticks as Ihaia West was successful with two penalties. Nevertheless, Robert du Preez kicked one for the Sharks.

The Hurricanes could not find the line and take the advantage once again. With less than 10 minutes remaining, there was another penalty for the Hurricanes. Ihaia West kicked it and on the re-start, he chose to exit his 22-metres with a garryowen but with no chase.

Fullback Curwin Bosh took the ball and rushed back in the Hurricanes’ half as flanker Tyler Paul scored. Robert du Preez converted and it was a 9-point advantage for the Sharks with 5 minutes to go. Infringing, the Sharks conceded another penalty quickly.

With 2 minutes to go, Ihaia West closed the gap to 6 points and the Hurricanes had to score from 85 metres. Keeping the composure, they gained some metres and came back to their opponents’ half. Prop Franco Marais was binned for a professional foul, after.

Going for the lineout, the Hurricanes got the driving maul going and the ball was spread. Jamie Booth and Ihaia West set up Ngani Laumape for the 84th-minute try on the right of the field. Ihaia West hold his nerves and nailed the kick for a famous win (FT : 38-37).

The West Review : The Unsung Hero

Kicks : 7/8 – Ihaia West had a very good night with the boot. He kicked 3 conversions and 4 penalties. He only missed the first kick after Jordie Barrett’s try. However, he converted the last try after the siren. Ihaia West delivered on the last kick and was the unsung hero.

General Play : Ihaia West had a huge influence on this game. He made an assist on Ngani Laumape’s first try. He directed well the backline and tackled well. His cross-field kick, directly into touch, and his garryowen both led to Sharks tries but he bounced back well.

Conclusion : Ihaia West had to replace Beauden Barrett when he withdrew from the game. With few time to prepare, he played pretty well and showed that he is more than a decent back-up. It is unfortunate that he has signed with La Rochelle for the next season.

Max.

 

The Rugby Wrap : Weekend Review (Friday, 13th, April, 2018 – Sunday, 15th, April, 2018)

 

The Wasps back player Craig Hampson, ball in hand, against Worcester Warriors during the 2017-2018 Premiership at the Ricoh Arena, in England

This weekend, the leagues fixtures were taking place before the european competitions semi-finals. With the sides still fighting for the play-offs in their domestic leagues, the contests were going to be very close. The coaching staffs needed to manage that well.

In the Premiership, it was still very competitive with a big fight to take the fourth play-offs place. That was exactly the same in the Top14 with many clubs targeting some points. Also, in the Pro14, there was some good competition for all these qualifications.

Finally, in the Super Rugby, the season was always going to be very contested between all the franchises. Giving a new format to the competition has definitely closed the gap. All the games were going to be unpredictable with the talent on show each weekend.

* Hurricanes vs. Chiefs : Super Rugby (Westpac Stadium, Wellington, New Zealand)

The Hurricanes got the possession from the beginning of the game and they played with pace. Keeping the accuracy, scrum-half Jamie Booth organised the backline well. Winger Ben Lam got the ball and managed to beat four defenders before scoring a stunning try.

The Chiefs hit back with two penalties scored by Damian McKenzie while Jordie Barrett replied with one for the Hurricanes. In the second-half, the Hurricanes were accurate in defence. Beauden Barrett picked the ball up and made a grubber to re-gather and score.

Later, he made an assist as his cross-field kick found Ngani Laumape for the try on the left wing. The Chiefs came back into this game with a try as Brodie Retallick and Sam Cane worked tirelessly. Though, the Hurricanes sealed a win with a penalty (FT : 25-13).

* Glasgow vs. Connacht : Pro14 (The Scotstoun, Scotland)

It was not the greatest of the starts for the Glasgow Warriors as they conceded an early try from a Connacht driving maul. Nevertheless, they found their attacking game later as Stuart Hogg and Alex Dunbar touched down after some stunning build-ups on the pitch.

Connacht tried to come back into this game with fly-half Jack Carty directing things and number 8 John Muldoon carrying. Glasgow Warriors added more tries including one in the second-half for scrum-half Henry Pyrgos. It was the bonus point try for the province.

Later, Glasgow Warriors conceded too many penalties as back-rower Rob Harley was sent to the bin. Connacht came back thanks to a try scored by Caolin Blade. However, it was not enough as Glasgow remained in control of that game to win it (FT : 35-22).

* Newcastle vs. Sale : Premiership (Kingston Park, England)

The Newcastle Falcons did not waste their time in that first-half with their quick approach rewarding them. Throwing the ball wide, they got the two opening tries thanks to flanker Calum Green and fullback Simon Hammersley who gave them the momentum.

It was all Newcastle Falcons in that first-half before the Sale Sharks got their hands on the ball. Scrum-half Faf de Klerk was impressive and ran the attack. Marland Yarde got a brace for the Sale Sharks and they reclaimed the lead again after a AJ McGinty penalty.

As the second-half was not far from the end, the Newcastle Falcons got back in the Sale Sharks’ 22-metre zone. Hooker Rob Vickers got over the line and the try was awarded after a TMO review. The home side controlled the last minute and won it (FT : 35-30).

* Waratahs vs. Reds : Super Rugby (Sydney Crickey Ground, Sydney, Australia)

The Waratahs stepped up well into this game with Bernard Foley rewarding the forwards pack’s work with two early penalties. James Tuttle replied for the Queensland Reds with one penalty before the Waratahs relied on Kurtley Beale on counter-attacks.

Following a nice build-up, back-rower Michael Wells made the assist for Jake Gordon. The Queensland Reds could not find the key as wing Taqele Naiyaravoro got a brace in second-half despite Filipo Daugunu’s try. Set-pieces were very accurate for the Waratahs.

Also, towards the end of the game, as the Waratahs were searching for the bonus point, they had the possession. After some composure, prop Harry Johnson-Holmes touched down as prop Paddy Ryan was celebrating his century. It was a great win (FT : 37-16).

* Toulon vs. Montpellier : Top14 (Stade Vélodrome, Marseille, France)

For once, Toulon were not playing a Top14 game at Félix Mayol but the game took place in Marseille. The Toulon players were on the front foot early and there were some good counter-attacking plays. Winger Chris Ashton got a try and his 22nd try of the season.

Later, it is the versatile back Semi Radradra who got there before Anthony Belleau’s chip-kick was re-gathered by Mathieu Bastareaud for a great score. The Pumas back-rower Facundo Isa scored another try before Half-Time with Montpellier completely lost.

However, they did react in second-half with wing Gabriel Ngandebe who touched down. It was not enough to get back into this game as Toulon slotted another penalty thanks to Anthony Belleau. Toulon did not get the bonus point but secured the big win (FT : 32-17).

* Wasps vs. Worcester : Premiership (Ricoh Arena, Coventry, England)

The two Premiership sides showed their physicality during the opening exchanges. Worcester Warriors tried to control the possession but the Wasps made the turnovers. They launched a good attack and their winger Christian Wade was in for a great finish.

Worcester Warriors managed to get some points on the board but the Wasps turned every opportunity into points. Skipper Joe Launchbury scored after a good carry while Christian Wade got a double. In the second-half, Jack Willis was sent to the bin quickly.

He was guilty of a lifting tackle on Chris Pennell who worked hard. Centre Ben Te’o tried to generate some go-forward but it was not enough. In the last quarter, replacement winger Josh Bassett got intercept and raced forward to get the bonus point (FT : 30-15).

* Clermont vs. Bordeaux : Top14 (Marcel Michelin, France)

Not sure yet to stay in the league next season, Clermont needed to pick up some points. The game was very scrappy with too many handling mistakes. That is why Clermont decided to build pressure through early penalties landed by scrum-half Morgan Parra.

He kicked 4 penalties in the first-half as Bordeaux Bègles replied with only one. In the second-half, Clermont showed better strength in defence but struggled to find their attacking game. Still, John Ulugia and Loni Uhila were both awarded important scores.

Towards the end of the game, Clermont were pushing for a potential 3rd try and bonus point. Sébastien Taofifenua worked hard for Bordeaux Bègles but he could not prevent Jacobus Van Tonder from scoring. Clermont won and secured the Top14 spot (FT : 33-3).

* Kings vs. Cardiff : Pro14 (Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth, South Africa)

In Port Elizabeth, the Cardiff Blues showed plenty of intent as winger Alex Cuthbert crossed the whitewash early. Later in the first-half, second-rower Seb Davies got a try after a stunning offload from Willis Halaholo. Jarrod Evans converted both of the tries.

As the pressure was mounting on the Southern Kings, flanker Josh Turnbull carried powerfully for his try while Willis Halaholo got the bonus point try, a few minutes before Half-Time. The Southern Kings got a bit more of possession during the second-half.

It resulted in some good moves as they managed to score two tries thanks to Ntubeni Dukia and Lindo Velemu. Though, the Cardiff Blues always remained in control of that game as Kirby Myhill got a brace, one try in each half, and seal the win (FT : 12-45).

* Lyon vs. Stade Français : Top14 (Gerland, France)

It was an important contest for both sides which had some different goals. Lyon were targeting the play-offs while Stade Français were still fighting to stay in the league. It started terribly for Stade Français which had two players binned in quick succession.

Alexandre Flanquart had to go for a ruck infringement allowing Baptiste Couilloud to score for Lyon. On a counter-attacking play, Morné Steyn was guilty of some foul play and was binned as well. It resulted in more bad news with a penalty try to Lyon, too.

Playing with confidence, Lyon quickly got the bonus point secured. Adding some width to their game, winger Toby Arnold and scrum-half Jonathan Pelissié added their names to the party. Liam Gill and Mike Harris also got a decent game in that win (FT : 44-3).

* London Irish vs. Exeter : Premiership (Madejski Stadium, Reading, England)

In Reading, the London Irish had no answer against the Exeter Chiefs’ power. There was an early try for them and later, number 8 Sam Simmonds had his first try after a run on the right wing. He kept on the momentum and he got a double after a good driving maul.

London Irish managed to get one try on the board thanks to their winger Joe Cokanasiga. The Exeter Chiefs remained focused on the task and prop Mitch Lees carried powerfully to score the try. The London Irish relied on James Marshall to run the attack after that.

The Exeter Chiefs had got the bonus point with the four tries as replacement forward Jack Yeandle touched down after a driving maul. They controlled the remaining stages of the game and they got the win to make sure that they will host their semi-final (FT : 5-45).

* Toulouse vs. Racing 92 : Top14 (Ernest Wallon, France)

Stade Toulousain started the game really well with an opening penalty from Thomas Ramos. Dan Carter replied for Racing 92 with one kick before Thomas Ramos added a second. Then, there was a real big period of sustaining pressure from Stade Toulousain.

Following a few phases of play, second-rower Yoann Maestri got a try before Zack Holmes found a gap in the midfield to score a stunning try. After that, the home side played with confidence as fullback Maxime Médard touched down for the home team.

In the second-half, Stade Toulousain was defending as Gaël Fickou turned defence into attack to score. Thomas Ramos added one more try before Racing 92 had a late surge with Dimitri Szarzewski, Juan Imhoff and Joe Rokocoko but Toulouse won (FT : 42-27).

Conclusion

It has been a good rugby weekend with some surprising away wins with no lack of respect for any team. It just showed that the rugby season is unpredictable. The Hurricanes kept the momentum in Super Rugby and the Waratahs did the same thing.

The Premiership delivered some stunning games once again with Newcastle Falcons and Wasps chasing the play-offs. The Exeter Chiefs are the favourites to retain the Crown. With the Pro14, Glasgow Warriors and Cardiff Blues got impressive bonus point wins.

In the Top14, Toulon and Stade Toulousain are in contention to win the Title. Clermont needed the win to stay in the league and they got it while Lyon could be outsiders to win it. The european competition are coming back next weekend with Super Rugby going on.

Great Weekend ! Massive Results !

Max.

The Rugby Wrap : Weekend Review (Friday, 06th, April, 2018 – Sunday, 08th, April, 2018)

 

The Wallaby back-rower David Pocock scoring a try for the Brumbies against the Reds during the Super Rugby 2018 in GIO Stadium, Canberra

This weekend was part of a 2-week window which was separating the quarter-finals and the semi-finals of the european competitions (Champions Cup and Challenge Cup). For all the teams still involved in the two competitions, they had to re-focus on leagues games.

In fact, there were not many games left so few points to be collected to make the play-offs. In the Southern Hemisphere, Super Rugby was going on with derbies between New Zealand franchises offering good rugby. The teams were reaching half of the season.

About the Northern Hemisphere clubs still involved in the european competitions, it was about finding the right balance. Coaches wanted to have their best players for the european semi-finals. However, picking points in the leagues games was also defining.

* Hurricanes vs. Sharks : Super Rugby (McLean Park, Napier, New Zealand)

The Hurricanes started strongly with a Jordie Barrett try. The Sharks fly-half Robert du Preez had opened the mark with a penalty. Though, the Hurricanes kept the possession. Playmaker Ihaia West made a great assist for Ngani Laumape but the Sharks came back.

Lukhanyo Am and Louis Schreuder both scored from close range while Vince Aso had one try back for the Hurricanes. Before Half-Time, Lukhanyo Am got a double after a counter-attacking play. In second-half, Ihaia West and Robert du Preez traded penalties.

Back-row Tyler Paul scored late for the Sharks. However, the Hurricanes built phases as Franco Marais was binned by Nic Berry. The Hurricanes kept playing and Ngani Laumape scored. Ihaia West had a conversion to win and he snatched it (FT : 38-37).

* Sunwolves vs. Waratahs : Super Rugby (Prince Chichibu Memorial, Tokyo, Japan)

In Tokyo, it escalated quickly as the Waratahs were on the board early thanks to scrum-half Jake Gordon. The Sunwolves hit back with centre Michael Little scoring. Though, the Waratahs played their brand as Curtis Rona touched down and Will Miller scored, too.

The Sunwolves were back in the game when Sam Wykes finished a stunning counter-attacking play. The Waratahs finished the first-half stronger. Jake Gordon had a brace from the back of the scrum and Kurtley Beale made a stunning assist for Bryce Hegarty.

In the second-half, Michael Hooper had a try early after a driving maul. Nevertheless, he was binned later for foul play as Semisi Masirewa and Kazuki Himeno touched down. The Waratahs re-gathered and a try from Taqele Naiyaravoro sealed the win (FT : 29-50).

* Chiefs vs. Blues : Super Rugby (FMG Stadium, Hamilton, New Zealand)

The Chiefs did not start the game very well as the Blues built an early momentum. Playmaker Stephen Perofeta kicked two penalties. The Chiefs replied with a kick from Damian McKenzie who made an assist later, allowing winger Sean Wainui to score.

However, the Blues were back in this game with Stephen Perofeta kicking a 3rd penalty as Damian McKenzie replied with two as well. Though, the Blues had some territory and after a confusing phase of play, James Parsons was awarded a try after a TMO check.

Before Half-Time, Stephen Perofeta added another penalty for a 5-point lead. In the second-half, the Chiefs built pressure with 90% of ball possession. Josh Goodhue was binned for infringements at scrum. The Chiefs got a penalty try and won (FT : 21-19).

* Brumbies vs. Reds : Super Rugby (GIO Stadium Canberra, Australia)

The Brumbies lost the ball early in this first-half as the Queensland Reds played their physical game with intensity at the breakdown. Prop Taniela Tupou and Chris Feauai-Sautia finished some great build-ups for the Queensland Reds with that 15-point lead.

The Brumbies reacted with Folau Fainga’a scoring from the back of a maul. Isireli Naisarani scored from close range before Chris Feauai-Sautia was sent to the bin. The Brumbies had the licence to play in the second-half as wing Chance Peni touched down.

Second-row Rory Arnold had a run to score a superb individual try. Then, James Tuttle kicked a penalty for the Queensland Reds but the Brumbies finished strongly. Sam Carter scored, Isireli Naisarani got a brace and David Pocock had one last score (FT : 45-21).

* Scarlets vs. Glasgow : Pro14 (Parc Y Scarlets, Llanelli, Wales)

In Llanelli, this was an arm-wrestle during more than the opening 30 minutes of the game. The Glasgow Warriors fly-half Finn Russell missed two kicks at goal while Leigh Halfpenny was also off target with his first kick. Though, that first kick hit the posts.

With a great chase, the Scarlets re-gathered the ball and Rhys Patchell found space to score the try. Leigh Halfpenny could not convert but added a penalty later. Glasgow Warriors went for the scrum just before Half-Time but the Scarlets’ pack just held on.

In the second-half, Peter Horne, on for Finn Russell, and Leigh Halfpenny traded penalties. Then, Gareth Davies scored a try from interception. Glasgow Warriors hit back with a try but Rhys Patchell got a double, finishing a good build-up for the win (FT : 26-8).

* Kings vs. Munster : Pro14 (Outeniqua Park, George, South Africa)

The Munster players were struggling to break the Southern Kings’ defence early. Ian Keatley slotted a penalty but the Southern Kings built some momentum. The Munster forward Gerbrandt Grobler was binned for a very dangerous clean-out during a ruck.

It benefited the Southern Kings who scored two tries, including one from Michael Makase. Though, Munster did not panic as hooker Niall Scannell scored quickly after. Winger Calvin Nash came to midfield and he found some space to touch down as well.

Munster re-gathered and back-row CJ Stander scored. Dan Goggin got the try bonus after a sublime offload from Rory Scannell. Rhys Marshall and Dave Kilcoyne had a try each while Michael Makase got a brace for Southern Kings but it was too late (FT : 22-39).

* Jaguares vs. Crusaders : Super Rugby (José Amalfitani, Buenos Aires, Argentina)

The Crusaders came into this game focused on defence and ready to strike on the counter-attacking plays. Winger George Bridge got a brace in a quarter. He finished a good build-up from his team and scored his second try after picking up a loose ball.

Later in the first-half, the Crusaders threw a good combination at the lineout and the other winger, Manasa Mataele was on the scoreboard. The Jaguares bounced back after that, well laid by Nicolas Sanchez. They had two tries and built pressure at scrum time.

Nevertheless, the Crusaders managed to get the turnover and scored two tries in as many minutes. Ryan Crotty charged a kick down to score while Manasa Mataele got a double on another counter-attack. The Crusaders made one last turnover to win it (FT : 14-40).

* Exeter vs. Gloucester : Premiership (Sandy Park, England)

Gloucester started this contest with some possession and they were awarded a penalty. Owen Williams was successful but after that, Gloucester had to defend a lot. Prop Alec Hepburn scored from close range while Sam Simmond got a second try for Exeter Chiefs.

It was just after a rolling maul and the Exeter Chiefs did not stop as Olly Woodburn finished a great build-up before Half-Time. Gloucester replied with an early try in the second-half but Joe Simmonds kicked a penalty to regain a 15-point advantage, there.

Later, winger Jack Nowell was on song and got a brace in a quarter. Also, Gareth Steenson scored at the end of the game after picking up a loose ball. Gloucester could not find any momentum and the Exeter Chiefs got that good bonus point win (FT : 46-10).

Conclusion

It has been a very entertaining rugby weekend in both Hemispheres. In the South, the Hurricanes got out of jail against the Sharks. The Chiefs showed in Hamilton that they have some potential while the Brumbies performed very strongly at home, in Canberra.

Besides, the Waratahs should not be underestimated following their win against the Sunwolves. Also, the Crusaders got an important win in Argentina. In the North, in the Pro14, the Scarlets and Munster sealed impressive wins and are favourites to win it.

In the Premiership, the Exeter Chiefs are the first qualified side for the play-offs. This is a statement as there are still 3 Rounds to be played in the league. They will be tough to play as they will target more points next weekend with more leagues games to be played.

Great Weekend ! Great Rugby !

Max.

 

The Barrett Review : Super Rugby 2018 (Round 7 – Melbourne Rebels)

The Hurricanes first-five eighth Beauden Barrett celebrates his try with TJ Perenara against the Melbourne Rebels during the Super Rugby 2018

The Hurricanes were going to face the Melbourne Rebels for the Round 7 of Super Rugby. With a win against the Highlanders, the Hurricanes had some confidence for that first game involving a Wallaby franchise. The Melbourne Rebels were their next opponent.

It was the first time that a franchise from New Zealand was facing a franchise from Australia during the Super Rugby 2018. The Melbourne Rebels had impressed before that contest, getting some impressive wins against the Reds, the Brumbies and the Sharks.

I- Team Informations : Trans-Tasman contest

For that first Trans-Tasman contest of the Super Rugby 2018, the Hurricanes did not want to take the Melbourne Rebels lightly. Their opponents had strenghtened from last season given that the coaching staff and some players from the Western Force came.

With Super Rugby re-structuring, the Western Force was axed from the competition. Though, the coach Dave Wessels was named the Melbourne Rebels coach at the start of the season while Adam Coleman, Michael Ruru and Dane Haylett-Petty joined the team.

II- The Players : Back-row Re-shuffle

After the game against the Highlanders, the Hurricanes had some casualties, including the flanker Ardie Savea. The New Zealand back-rower injured his ribs during a carry and had to be replaced during the game. The coaching management gave an update.

It was confirmed during the week that Ardie Savea would be unavailable for a few weeks. The coaching staff had to re-shuffle the back-row and Chris Boyd made a call. He decided to give the vacant jersey to the great Counties Manukau flanker Sam Henwood.

III- The Hurricanes line-up : Vaea Fifita comes back

(15-1) Jordie Barrett – Julian Savea – Vince Aso – Ngani Laumape – Ben Lam – Beauden Barrett – TJ Perenara – Gareth Evans – Sam Henwood – Brad Shields – Sam Lousi – Vaea Fifita – Ben May – Ricky Riccitelli – Chris Eves.

(16-23) Asafo Aumua – Fraser Armstrong – Jefferey To’omanga-Allen – Michael Fatialofa – Reed Prinsep – Jamie Booth – Ihaia West – Wes Goosen.

IV- Game Summary : Second-half Blitz

The Hurricanes started that Super Rugby game with some control as they were awarded an early penalty. Beauden Barrett kicked the penalty in front of the posts but the Melbourne Rebels got some possession. Jack Debreczeni replied with a penalty as well.

Just after that, the Hurricanes backline moved better with TJ Perenara playing quickly. The ball reached Ngani Laumape and winger Ben Lam who managed to score in the left corner. There was a TMO call and the try was awarded but it will not be converted after.

With that first try conceded, the Melbourne Rebels were targeting a strong reaction. Putting the Hurricanes under pressure, Jack Debreczeni landed 3 penalties to get a 4-point advantage. The 2016 Super Rugby Champions could not built some momentum.

The Melbourne Rebels rushed back in the Hurricanes 22-metre zone and second-rower Matt Philip touched down. Another TMO call came to decide whether it was a try. It seemed that the second-rower had grounded the ball short but the try was awarded.

Keeping the composure, the Hurricanes did not panic and first-five eighth Beauden Barrett landed a penalty kick. Then, he made a cross-field kick which was not collected immediately on the field by one of his teammates or by a Melbourne Rebels player.

It became costly for the home team as the ball bounced in Ben Lam’s hands who raced forward to get his double. The Hurricanes threatened their opponents’ lines once again before Half-Time and Beauden Barrett sold the dummy for the great try (HT : 25-19).

As the second-half came quickly, the Hurricanes maintained the momentum with Beauden Barrett kicking his 3rd penalty goal. There was only one team on the field as back-rower Gareth Evans spotted a gap to score the 4th try for the Hurricanes team.

The hour-mark came in Melbourne and the Hurricanes were playing with freedom. Centre Ngani Laumape got the ball on a wing and carried powerfully. He beat several defenders and the opponents could not stop him as he touched down for another try.

Scrum-half Jamie Booth had a good impact on his game and he built the next try for the Hurricanes with Ben Lam scoring a Hat-Trick. The winger became the first Hurricanes to score 4 tries in a Super Rugby game when he had one last score at the end (FT : 50-19).

V- The Barrett Review : Close To His Very Best

Kicks : 6/8 – It was a very good night for Beauden Barrett with the boot. He scored 3 penalties and 3 conversions. He had two tricky conversions that he missed (Ben Lam’s first try and Gareth Evans’ try). However, he nailed some tough kicks and it was pleasing.

General Play : It was not conventional but his cross-field kick for Ben Lam’s second try can be considered as an assist. Beauden Barrett also scored a try and was involved in the attacking movements. His management was accurate and he made his tackles as well.

Conclusion : That game against the Melbourne Rebels was one of the best for Beauden Barrett. The Kiwi first-five eighth was very close to his best as he scored 20 points. He has now scored 3 tries in 5 games and his performances are really improving that season.

Max.

The Rugby Wrap : Weekend Review (Friday, 30th, March, 2018 – Sunday, 01st, April, 2018)

 

The Scarlets celebrate Rhys Patchell's try against La Rochelle during the 2017-2018 Champions Cup Quarter-Finals, at Parc Y Scarlets, Llanelli

There were no domestic games this weekend with the Champions Cup and the Challenge Cup play-offs coming back. The Quarter-Finals were set to be played and it was the first step for all the teams involved there. There were some entertaining fixtures in the North.

In the Southern Hemisphere, Super Rugby was going on with the New Zealand franchises still leading the way in the standings. The franchises from Australia and South Africa are improving but it is still very difficult to win against the Kiwi sides, definitely.

The end of the season will come quickly for the Northern Hemisphere. There are not many games left in the different leagues. In June, the Summer Internationals will take place and it will be good to witness which part of the world claims the bragging rights.

* Scarlets vs. La Rochelle : Champions Cup (Parc Y Scarlets, Llanelli, Wales)

In front of 15,000+ fans at Parc Y Scarlets, the Scarlets started with intent and their usual attacking game. Leigh Halfpenny kicked an early penalty but La Rochelle went through the phases. On a cross-field kick, skipper Romain Sazy grounded the ball and it was a try.

Despite that try, the Scarlets kept their composure and Leigh Halfpenny kicked three more penalties as Stade Rochelais were penalised at the breakdown. Scrum-half Alexi Balès replied with one before half-time with the Scarlets taking that 2-point advantage.

Later, Leigh Halfpenny nailed a penalty and Rhys Patchell scored after a great build-up. Forwards pack held their lines but Will Boyde was binned. Scott Williams scored later and Pierre Boudehent had a late try for La Rochelle with Scarlets qualifying (FT : 29-17).

* Pau vs. Stade Français : Challenge Cup (Stade du Hameau, France)

Section Paloise began the game pretty well with Jale Vatubua concluding a counter-attack. Though, Stade Français replied straight away with scrum-half Clément Daguin. The home side re-gathered and centre Benson Stanley found the space to score a try.

Going through the phases, Pau had a 3rd try from close range thanks to Thibault Daubagna. Stade Français scored before Half-Time with Charlie Francoz and kept the momentum in the second-half with a Jules Plisson penalty and a Djibril Camara try.

Under pressure, Section Paloise delivered with hooker Quentin Lespiaucq scoring in the corner. Jules Plisson added a penalty as Tom Taylor replied for Pau. Marvin O’Connor had a try for Stade Français in last minute but Pau sealed the great win (FT : 35-32).

* Brumbies vs. Waratahs : Super Rugby (GIO Stadium, Canberra, Australia)

It was a very physical encounter in Canberra with a great duel in the back-row as David Pocock (Brumbies) and Michael Hooper (Waratahs) were facing each other. It started slowly though with Bernard Foley and Wharenui Hawera trading some penalties, there.

The Brumbies got some possession and Lausii Taliauli scored the first try of the game after a grubber from Christian Leali’ifano. However, the Waratahs re-gahered and winger Taqele Naiyaravoro touched down on the corner with Bernard Foley converting.

In the second-half, the Waratahs backline made many garryowens. Taqele Naiyaravoro got a double on the other corner and Bernard Foley nailed two more penalties. The Brumbies had last opportunity to draw it but Waratahs defended and won (FT : 17-24).

* Munster vs. Toulon : Champions Cup (Thomond Park, Limerick, Ireland)

In Thomond Park, Munster felt the early pressure as they could have conceded a penalty try for a deliberate slap in their own-goal area. Toulon built on that momentum and kicked two penalties before a very long TMO call. It was about a try from Conor Murray.

Andrew Conway had not knocked the ball on and the Toulon hooker Guilhem Guirado made a knock-on. With no off-side line, Conor Murray picked the ball and scored. The try was awarded before Ian Keatley added one penalty from either side of the half-time.

Toulon came back with a penalty from François Trinh-Duc. He set up a try for Chris Ashton, converted it and added a penalty. Though, Munster’s winger Andrew Conway scored after some magic. Ian Keatley converted and defence sealed that win (FT : 20-19).

* Lions vs. Crusaders : Super Rugby (Ellis Park, Johannesburg, South Africa)

The Lions showed some physicality from the start of the contest. Playing with pace and intensity, they eventually found the space out wide as winger Madosh Tambwe scored the opening try. The Crusaders went through the phases after that but did not score.

It was very good defence from the Lions but with the second-half coming, the Crusaders finally found the key. Skipper and second-row Sam Whitelock touched down from close range. Later, centre Jack Goodhue scored a try after a good build-up with some offloads.

Relying on their scrum, the Crusaders won some important penalties. Though, the Lions came back with a late penalty from fly-half Elton Jantjies. The Crusaders re-gathered and their forwards, including Matt Todd and Jordan Taufua, worked hard to win (FT : 8-14).

Conclusion

About the european competitions, there has been some huge wins for the Scarlets and Munster who will have to play their respective semi-final away. The rule says that the semi-finals should be played on neutral grounds but Leinster wants to play in Dublin.

In the Challenge Cup, despite rotating their squad, Section Paloise qualified for the semi-finals. It will be much more difficult for them in the semi-finals as they will also play away. In Super Rugby, there were stunning wins for the Waratahs and the Crusaders.

It will be all about the domestic leagues in the coming weeks as many teams are still fighting to be part of the play-offs fixtures. Picking the points will be defining and in Super Rugby, it will be just the same. It will be too close to call the Summer Tour as well.

Good weekend. Good games.

Max.