This weekend was going to a great rugby weekend. First of all, in the Northern Hemisphere, the european play-offs were taking place. The Champions Cup and the Challenge Cup Quarter-Finals were going to be a great opportunity for the players.
Meanwhile, in the Southern Hemisphere, the Super Rugby competition was going on. It was becoming more and more complicated to know which franchises would qualify for the play-offs. The race was on and definitely all the sides were targeting that goal.
Also, back in the Northern Hemisphere, there was some ProD2 as well. The rugby second division in France still was entertaining. Many sides could still get a ticket for the play-offs and the Top14 promotion. It really was a big battle to be part of this qualification.
* Sale Sharks vs. Connacht : Challenge Cup (Salford, Sale, England)
The Connacht Rugby side got the better start in this game with Jack Carty landing a penalty. However, the Sale Sharks quickly went through the phases. Winger Byron McGuigan scored from a maul. They played from quick ball and were threatening.
Following another good build-up, the other winger, Denny Solomana, touched down on the right wing. Building with some patience, Sale Sharks got a few penalties and AJ McGinty kicked two penalties. In the second-half, Connacht Rugby showed a reaction.
James Phillips was yellow-carded for the Sale Sharks because of a high tackle. Kyle Godwin got a try for Connacht Rugby while Curtis Langdon was also binned for the home side after a shoulder charge. Though, the Sale Sharks won and qualified (FT : 20-10).
* Blues vs. Stormers : Super Rugby (Eden Park, Auckland, New Zealand)
The two franchises battled in a very spectacular fixture. The Stormers played pretty well in the first-half as Jean-Luc du Plessis kicked two penalties. The Blues replied with a superb try scored by Tanielu Tele’a, beating three defenders to get the great score.
Playmaker Otere Black added a penalty before the Half-Time. In the second-half, Jean-Luc du Plessis kicked a penalty to make it a 1-point game. Though, from a set-piece play, Sonny Bill Williams unleashed the offload and Otere Black scored under the sticks.
Tanielu Tele’a was sent off for an aerial challenge on Dillyn Leyds. The Blues managed to defend well and Rieko Ioane got his try for the bonus point win. The Blues sealed that bonus point win with one last turnover in defence as they held their lines (FT : 24-09).
* Reds vs. Rebels : Super Rugby (Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane, Australia)
The Melbourne Rebels had possession and territory in the first-half but did not quite manage to get points. Quade Cooper for the Melbourne Rebels and Bryce Hegarty for the Queensland Reds both kicked two penalties. The Melbourne Rebels applied the pressure.
Quade Cooper unleashed the cross-field kick and Jack Maddocks gathered it for the try. In the second-half, the Melbourne Rebels set up a good maul and Anaru Rangi touched down. Later, Quade Cooper combined with winger Jack Maddocks who scored his brace.
The Queensland Reds had to come back and replacement prop Taniela Tupou carried over the line. Nevertheless, the Melbourne Rebels got another try with Robert Leota. It was a bonus point win and also some great win for the Melbourne Rebels (FT : 13-32).
* Edinburgh vs. Munster : Champions Cup (Murrayfield, Edinburgh, Scotland)
The scottish province went through the phases early and applied the pressure. The Munster second-rower Tadgh Beirne was yellow-carded for foul play. However, Munster made the turnovers and even scored the first try from a quick-tap thanks to Keith Earls.
Edinburgh replied with a try from centre Chris Dean as fly-half Jaco van der Walt also kicked a penalty. In the second-half, Tyler Bleyendaal got a kick for Munster and it was all square. Edinburgh got the lead back with another penalty from Jaco van der Walt.
Munster had an opportunity to come back when Pierre Schoeman hit Tadgh Beirne off the ball. They worked their play nicely and Keith Earls touched down on the corner for his brace. Munster brought their brillant defence to seal the great away win (FT : 13-17).
* Leinster vs. Ulster : Champions Cup (Aviva Stadium, Dublin, Ireland)
The Leinster side were under pressure as centre Garry Ringrose’s kick was charged down and Kieran Treadwell scored for Ulster. Leinster unleashed a big play and fly-half Ross Byrne touched down. In a very physical game, both provinces were going for it.
Ross Byrne for Leinster and John Cooney for Ulster both kicked two penalties. In the second-half, the Ulster winger Jacob Stockdale was denied a try for a knock-on. Leinster got the ball back and winger Adam Byrne scored a sensational try in the right corner.
However, Ulster were not out of it as centre Luke Marshall got his team on the scoreboard with another try. Leinster set up a maul and got a penalty. Ross Byrne nailed it and Leinster managed the game well to get the win and the qualification (FT : 21-18).
* Jaguares vs. Chiefs : Super Rugby (José Amalfitani, Buenos Aires, Argentina)
The two franchises gave away penalties. Joaquin Diaz Bonilla and Damian McKenzie shared a penalty with the Pumas playmaker kicking another one. The Chiefs still generated some intensity and Damian McKenzie scored and so did Tumua Manu.
Lacking discipline, Marcos Kremer was yellow-carded. Damian McKenzie kicked a penalty in the second-half. Nevertheless, the Jaguares came back thanks to Joaquin Tuculet gathering a cross-field kick and flanker Pablo Matera carrying over the try line.
Damian McKenzie kicked a penalty. The Pumas attacked and Matias Orlando gathered a loose ball for the try. The Chiefs later got a 5-metre scrum and Taleni Seu offloaded for Te Toira Tahuriorangi who scored a stunning try. The Chiefs got a great win (FT : 27-30).
* Stade Rochelais vs. Bristol : Challenge Cup (Marcel Deflandre, La Rochelle, France)
The home side kept the possession and Ihaia West kicked a penalty. Back-rower Gregory Alldritt touched down from a good maul. Bristol Bears replied with a penalty kicked by fly-half Ian Madigan. La Rochelle were powerful and so they got a great penalty try.
They attacked very well and centre Geoffrey Doumayrou scored the try. Steven Luatua hit back for the Bristol Bears with a good score in the first-half. Though, Vincent Rattez found a gap and he unleashed the offload to Wiaan Liebenberg for the stunning try.
Stade Rochelais still applied pressure in second-half. Ihaia West kicked his penalty. They defended well and turned the ball over with Vincent Rattez scoring a superb try. Piers O’Conor scored a consolation try for the Bristol Bears as La Rochelle won (FT : 39-15).
* Brive vs. Mont-de-Marsan : ProD2 (Amédée Domenech, Brive, France)
The Brive players started well as the back-rower Otari Giorgadze carried for the opening try. The Mont-de-Marsan scrum-half Christophe Loustalot was yellow-carded for foul play. Thomas Laranjeira kicked a penalty while Steven Shingler replied with one, too.
However, Otari Giorgadze got a brace for Brive. Steven Singler kicked a second penalty for Mont-de-Marsan as Brive added a third try with Damien Lagrange. In the second-half, Steven Shingler got another penalty while winger Wame Naituvi scored a great try.
Brive needed to react and following some offloads, Thomas Laranjeira finished the build-up for the great try. Mont-de-Marsan still played and Nacani Wakaya got an interception try while Alexandre de Nardi had a try on a counter-attack. Brive still won (FT : 29-27).
* Clermont vs. Northampton : Challenge Cup (Marcel Michelin, Clermont, France)
Morgan Parra and Dan Biggar both kicked a penalty. Clermont attacked and Peter Betham finished. Damian Penaud scored the try from a loose play. Taqele Naiyaravoro was yellow-carded as Clermont got a penalty try. Morgan Parra later kicked a penalty.
Peter Betham got a stunning counter-attacking brace. Northampton Saints got a try with Ahsee Tuala. From the re-start, Damian Penaud scored his brace but Northampton Saints came back with Luther Burrell. He was followed by Alex Mitchell and Rory Hutchinson.
Greg Laidlaw kicked a penalty and Tim Nanai-Williams got back inside for a try. Damian Penaud and Peter Betham both got good Hat-Tricks. Alex Moon scored some consolation try for the Northampton Saints as Clermont won that spectacular game (FT : 61-38).
That weekend was absolutely outstanding on all the pitches. In the Challenge Cup, Sale Sharks qualified for the semi-finals and so did La Rochelle with a convincing win. Clermont won a thriller as they scored some stunning tries in an entertaining game.
About the Champions Cup, Munster got a tough away win in Scotland while Leinster battled in Dublin in a physical contest. In the Super Rugby, the Blues earned a tough win and the Melbourne Rebels delivered in Brisbane with the Chiefs keeping the momentum.
Finally, in the ProD2, Brive got the home win to keep their Top14 promotion on track. Next weekend, the Northern Hemisphere leagues and the Super Rugby will go on. The play-offs races in all these leagues will be very entertaining with some great fixtures.