This weekend was going to be key for many sides in both Hemispheres. In the North, the regular season in the Top14 and in the Premiership were going to finish quickly. Meanwhile, in the Pro14, it already was the qualifiers to determine the semi-finals.
In the South, the Super Rugby competition was going on with the second half of the season already underway. The standings were showing that there was not much between the franchises. Almost all the franchises could still pretend to the play-offs.
Obviously, it was the last opportunities for the players to put their hands up for the upcoming World Cup. The coaches were already knowing most of their respective squads. There could still be a few surprises so the fringe players were in that big battle.
* Crusaders vs. Sharks : Super Rugby (AMI Park, Christchurch, New Zealand)
The Sharks got an early penalty with Curwin Bosch kicking it. The Crusaders relied on their forwards pack with Codie Taylor scoring the try from close range. However, Curwin Bosch kicked two more penalties for the Sharks in a very physical first-half.
In the second-half, the Crusaders were still lacking discipline and Curwin Bosch landed his fourth and fifth penalty. The Crusaders finally found some space in midfield and centre Jack Goodhue touched down. Nevertheless, the Sharks were still in the contest.
Curwin Bosch kicked a penalty, missed one and kicked another one. Braydon Ennor was denied a try for the Crusaders for a foot in touch. Though, the Crusaders kept playing and Mitch Hunt scored the try. His conversion snatched the home draw (FT : 21-21).
* Bristol vs. Sale : Premiership (Ashton Gate, Bristol, England)
The Sale Sharks began the game well as Denny Solomona intercepted to get a try. AJ McGinty kicked a penalty after that. The Bristol Bears came back with Charles Piutau concluding a nice move. The two sides later traded one penalty before Half-Time.
It was Faf de Klerk for Sale Sharks and Callum Sheedy for Bristol Bears. In the second-half, Sale Sharks were attacking and Faf de Klerk was the try scorer. The Bristol Bears shifted the ball wide and Alapati Leiua scored before the Bristol Bears were denied a try.
Though, Callum Sheedy tied the game up with a penalty. Jono Ross was binned for Sale Sharks for a shoulder charge. In a big finish, Ian Madigan and Faf de Klerk respectively missed the winning kick for Bristol Bears and Sale Sharks. It was a draw (FT : 20-20).
* Harlequins vs. Leicester : Premiership (The Twickenham Stoop, London, England)
The Leicester Tigers had the possession first and got a penalty kicked by George Ford. The Harlequins unleashed a build-up and Danny Care scored from close range. George Ford kicked a penalty for Leicester Tigers and so did Marcus Smith for the Harlequins.
George Ford kicked his third penalty as Jack Clifford was yellow-carded for an aerial challenge on Telusa Veainu. George Ford nailed another penalty. In the second-half, the Harlequins were physical and earned a few penalties as Marcus Smith scored two kicks.
In the last quarter, back-rower Semi Kunatani found space in midfield and touched down for the home side. The Leicester Tigers scored a consolation try from a set-piece play with Mike Fitzgerald. The Harlequins convincingly won the fixture (FT : 21-17).
* Hurricanes vs. Rebels : Super Rugby (Westpac Stadium, Wellington, New Zealand)
In Wellington, the Hurricanes started brillantly. Centre Ngani Laumape beat three defenders to score the opening try. Later on, on a well-worked lineout combination, playmaker Beauden Barrett found the space and scored a stunning individual try.
The Hurricanes kept the momentum with Wes Goosen touching down on the corner. Forward Vaea Fifita beat a few defenders as well and got his try. In the second-half, the Rebels had all the possession and Matt Philip along with Bill Meakes scored tries.
The Hurricanes were defending and conceding many penalties. The Rebels kept the intensity and Reece Hodge got a try on the left corner. The Hurricanes got a penalty scored by Jordie Barrett. The Hurricanes got a tough win in Wellington (FT : 29-19).
* Highlanders vs. Chiefs : Super Rugby (Forsyth Barr, Dunedin, New Zealand)
The Highlanders got on the attacking front and Josh Ioane scored a try. The Chiefs hit back with Brad Weber concluding a counter-attacking try. Though, the Highlanders scored under the posts with Ben Smith but the Chiefs did come back again in the game.
Luke Jacobson touched down in the left corner. The Highlanders moved the ball wide. Matt Faddes had a try and James Lentjies scored. The Chiefs replied with a set-piece play try from Angus Ta’avao-Matau. Throwing the offloads, the Chiefs got a stunning try.
Tyler Ardron was the try scorer. The Highlanders kicked a penalty with Josh Ioane. Nevertheless, the Chiefs got the ball back on the re-start and Angus Ta’avao-Matau got his brace. The Chiefs went for the win but still managed to get the away draw (FT : 31-31).
* Stade Toulousain vs. Pau : Top14 (Ernest Wallon, Toulouse, France)
Section Paloise got a penalty with Tom Taylor. Maxime Médard was denied a try for the home side for foul play but got it after a counter-attack. Cheslin Kolbe got the try with Tom Taylor kicking a second penalty. Sofiane Guitoune got a try for Stade Toulousain.
Yoann Huget had one too after a quick lineout throw as Selevasio Tolofua also touched down. Pita Ahki ran a great line for his try as well. Thomas Ramos was on the board with Antoine Dupont getting a try from a set-piece play and Chesline Kolbe scoring a brace.
Guillaume Marchand and Sébastien Bézy touched down. Thomas Ramos got his double out wide. Section Paloise had Martin Puech and Marvin Lestremeau binned for foul play. Gillian Galan got one last try for Stade Toulousain in an astonishing win (FT : 83-06).
* Bulls vs. Waratahs : Super Rugby (Loftus Versfled, Pretoria, South Africa)
The Bulls were on the attack early as Handré Pollard kicked a penalty. Remaining on the front foot, fullback Warrick Gelant got a great try. The Waratahs hit back with a great try from Nick Phipps. However, Duane Vermeulen scored from an interception for the Bulls.
Before the Half-Time, Handré Pollard kicked a penalty. In the second-half, the Springbok fly-half kicked another penalty but missed an attempt. The Waratahs came back again with a try from Kurtley Beale. Handré Pollard missed his second penalty for the Bulls.
Curtis Rona was denied a try for a knock-on but did score from a scrum play, after that. Though, the Bulls got the ball again and forward Simphiwe Matanzima carried over the line. The Bulls remained strong in defence to clinch a tough home win (FT : 28-21).
* Northampton vs. Worcester : Premiership (Franklin’s Gardens, Northampton, England)
The Northampton Saints did not waste time as Luther Burrell was on the board after a few minutes. Winger Taqele Naiyaravoro made a powerful carry to get a try as well. Worcester Warriors were back in the game with a penalty from fly-half Duncan Weir.
Nevertheless, they had Francois Hougaard sent to the bin for foul play. It allowed Taqele Naiyaravoro to get a brace while Tom Wood also got his try. Worcester Warriors replied with Ben Te’o. In the second-half, Dan Biggar kicked a penalty for Northampton Saints.
Relying on their big forwards pack, Reece Marshall touched down. Northampton Saints held their lines well in the last quarter and made a few turnovers. They convincingly won that home game with a strong forwards pack and an entertaining game (FT : 38-10).
* Munster vs. Benetton Treviso : Pro14 Qualifier (Thomond Park, Limerick, Ireland)
In this first Pro14 qualifier, Munster and Benetton Treviso were working a lot to secure possession. Munster opened the scoreboard with a penalty from Tyler Bleyendaal. However, Benetton Treviso replied straight away with a penalty from Tommaso Allan.
Before the Half-Time, they moved the ball wide and winger Iliesa Ratuva scored in the corner. In the second-half, Benetton Treviso made two handling mistakes near the Munster try line. Tyler Bleyendaal kicked a penalty for Munster to close the gap.
Tommaso Allan got a kick for Benetton Treviso. Munster made turnovers. JJ Hanrahan landed three penalties, the third kick coming from the halfway line. Benetton Treviso attempted two drop-goals but both were wide. Munster won and qualified (FT : 15-13).
* Clermont vs. Perpignan : Top14 (Marcel Michelin, Clermont, France)
The fixture was highlighted by many mistakes from both sides. Perpignan had a player binned from the start with Andrea Cocagi leaving the field. The Clermont back-rower Peceli Yato showed his power and got a first try and his brace in a few moments.
Perpignan had to come back quickly. Paddy Jackson kicked a penalty for them. In the second-half, David Mélé added a penalty as well. Clermont gathered a loose ball from a Perpignan attacking set and winger Alivereti Raka won the chase to touch down.
Seilala Lam scored a try from a maul for Perpignan but Tom Écochard was binned for foul play. Peceli Yato carried over the line for his Hat-Trick. Clermont sealed the win with Alivereti Raka getting his brace following Isaia Toeava’s superb offload (FT : 35-13).
* La Rochelle vs. Toulon : Top14 (Marcel Deflandre, La Rochelle, France)
Stade Rochelais began with scrappy plays as Toulon got the first try thanks to Raphaël Lakafia. Ihaia West closed the gap for La Rochelle with the penalty. Antony Belleau missed a penalty for Toulon as he hit the posts before the referee indicated Half-Time.
In second-half, Kirikiri Murimurivalu touched down from a grubber kick. Florian Fresia was binned at scrum time for Toulon. Ihaia West missed two penalties. Tawera Kerr-Barlow got his try after that. Toulon replied with a stunning try from Charles Ollivon.
Ihaia West got a penalty with Liam Messam binned for Toulon for foul play. Ihaia West got a penalty but Facundo Isa had a try from a set-piece play. Ihaia West launched a cross-field kick and Elliott Roudil scored to seal the win for Stade Rochelais (FT : 31-21).
* Brive vs. Bayonne : ProD2 (Amédée Domenech, Brive, France)
The home side could not handle the pressure well in the first-half. Bayonne were on the attacking front and Aymeric Luc scored the try. Scrum-half Emmanuel Saubusse also kicked a penalty. Brive scored their first points thanks to a penalty from Stuart Olding.
Brive had a player yellow-carded with Axel Muller dangerously tackling an opponent. However, Brive scored the try from a maul with Rory Scholes. In the second-half, Bayonne kicked another penalty with Manuel Ordas. Brive still made the turnovers.
Forward Retief Marais touched down for a stunning counter-attacking try. Later, winger Franck Romanet finished on the left corner. Bayonne replied with Arthur Duhau for the try. Brive managed to control the last quarter of the game and sealed the win (FT : 20-18).
* Bath vs. Wasps : Premiership (The Recreation Ground, Bath, England)
Bath Rugby began the game very well with centre Jonathan Joseph scoring an early try. The Wasps got the possession back and Nizaam Carr scored after Gabiriele Lovobalavu’s offload. The Fijian centre gave another offload assist for Nathan Hughes for another try.
The home side needed a reaction and Freddie Burns kicked a penalty. Josh Bassett was denied a try for the Wasps for a forward pass as Rob Miller landed a penalty. In the second-half, Bath Rugby had all the possession and Zach Mercer carried over the line.
Bath Rugby relied on their scrum platform and Joe Cokanasiga touched down on the left wing. On the last play, Bath Rugby went for the lineout. Zach Mercer had a powerful carry and he scored the bonus point try for his brace. Bath Rugby won (FT : 29-17).
This weekend has been entertaining. In Super Rugby, the Crusaders and the Chiefs had outstanding performances to snatch draws. Also, the Hurricanes kept the momentum while the Bulls got the home win. In the Pro14, Munster won their home qualifier.
Besides, in the Gallagher Premiership, Bristol Bears rescued a draw at Ashton Gate while the Harlequins delivered. Northampton Saints impressed again and Bath Rugby got a stunning win. In the ProD2, Brive won their home game and will play the semi-finals.
Finally, in the Top14, it was an immense performance from Stade Toulousain. Clermont got the bonus point win while Stade Rochelais clinched the home win. Next weekend, it will be the european Finals with Super Rugby taking place again so it should be great.