The Rugby Wrap : Weekend Review (Thursday, 09th, January, 2020 – Sunday, 12th, January, 2020)

Arthur Retière was a key player in La Rochelle’s win against Sale Sharks in the Champions Cup

That weekend was very important for a few teams in the Northern Hemisphere. It was one of the last Rounds of the european competitions : the Champions Cup and obviously, the Challenge Cup.

It was key for all the team still targeting the play-offs to pick up the points. The next two weekens will be defining for the rest of the season. Meanwhile, in France, the ProD2 was back, as well.

Following a break of two weekends, the clubs playing in the France second division, wanted to get momentum. It was all about getting one of the two tockets to play in the Top14, next season.

* Angoulême vs. Perpignan : ProD2 (Chanzy, Angoulême, France)

In the first-half, Perpignan got a kick with Jonathan Bousquet. They had Seilala Lam binned for a high tackle while Jonathan Bousquet missed a penalty. He was successful again on his third attempt.

The home side got a penalty with Dorian Jones. Perpignan built a few phases and Mathieu Acebes got the try. In the second-half, Jonathan Bousquet got a kick but Iban Etcheverry scored for Angoulême.

Dorian Jones landed a kick. Perpignan replied with a try from Shahn Eru. Jonathan Bousquet missed a kick. Angoulême scored late with German Kessler. Perpignan snatched the away win (FT : 20-23).

* Biarritz vs. Carcassonne : ProD2 (Aguiléra, Biarritz, France)

Early, Romuald Seguy got a kick for Carcassonne. Biarritz got a maul try with Romain Ruffenach. Charles Bouldoire scored and Pierre Bernard got a kick. Benoit Jasmin was binned for Carcassonne.

Pierre Bernard added a kick and Jarrod Poï was on the board. Carcassonne got the penalty try as Evan Olmstead was binned for Biarritz. Romain Ruffenach got a brace. Pierre Bernard added a kick.

Carcassonne hit back with Bakary Meïte and Damien Anon. Biarritz set up another maul and Lucas Peyresblanques scored. Winger Yohann Artru got the bonus point try. Biarritz won (FT : 43-22).

* La Rochelle vs. Sale : Champions Cup (Marcel Deflandre, La Rochelle, France)

In that game, Jean-Luc du Preez scored for Sale Sharks. Kevin Gourdon was binned for the home side. AJ McGinty got a kick. La Rochelle scored with Tevita Railevu and Tawera Kerr-Barlow intercepted.

AJ McGinty got a kick and so did Ihaia West for the home side. Jordan Williams landed a kick for Sale Sharks. Geoffrey Doumayrou scored for La Rochelle. Chris Ashton was binned for the Sale Sharks.

Valery Morozov was sent off for Sale Sharks and Lopeti Timani was binned for La Rochelle. The home side built. Gregory Alldritt scored. Curtis Langdon scored for Sale Sharks. La Rochelle won (FT : 30-23).

* Bordeaux vs. Edinburgh : Challenge Cup (Chaban-Delmas, Bordeaux, France)

The Edinburgh province kicked a penalty with Jaco van der Walt. The home side replied in the same way with Matthieu Jalibert. Bordeaux-Bègles had a counter-attack and Semi Radradra touched down.

He made the assist for Santiago Cordero for the try. In second-half, Edinburgh got an intercept and Duhan van der Merwe scored. Matthieu Jalibert kicked a penalty as Yann Lesgourgues concluded a build-up.

The home team kept attacking and Peni Ravai carried over the line. Edinburgh scored a late try with centre Mark Bennett. Bordeaux-Bègles got a very good bonus point home win (FT : 32-17).

* Clermont vs. Ulster : Champions Cup (Marcel Michelin, Clermont, France)

In the first-half, John Cooney got a penalty for Ulster. Camille Lopez replied with a drop-goal for Clermont. Ulster got a try with John Cooney. Morgan Parra got a penalty for Clermont but was binned.

Clermont held their lines and got a second penalty with Morgan Parra. In the second-half, winger Alivereti Raka touched down. John Cooney kicked a penalty for Ulster. Clermont hit back.

Replacement scrum-half Greg Laidlaw was on target on a penalty and centre George Moala scored a stunning try. It was a tough but precious win for Clermont at home (FT : 29-13).

* Connacht vs. Toulouse : Champions Cup (The Sportsground, Galway, Ireland)

The home province started with a penalty try as Joe Tekori was binned for Stade Toulousain. After that, Connacht also had a player binned with Colby Fainga’a. Stade Toulousain hit back with Jerome Kaino.

Hooker Julien Marchand touched down as well. In the second-half, Stade Toulousain built and Pita Ahki scored the try. Stade Toulousain had a second player yellow-carded with Yohann Huget.

Stade Toulousain even had a third player carded as Zack Holmes was sent off for a dangerous tackle. Though, Stade Toulousain held their lines and managed to get a valuable away win (FT : 07-21).

* Scarlets vs. Toulon : Challenge Cup (Parc Y Scarlets, Llanelli, Wales)

The Scarlets started very well with a quick try from Gareth Davies. Leigh Halfpenny also kicked a penalty. Toulon hit back with a maul try from Anthony Etrillard. They kept the momentum.

Winger Masivesi Dakuwaqa was also on the scoreboard. Julian Savea added a third try after some confusion. Replacement hooker Baptiste Soury also got another maul try for the team.

In the second-half, Anthony Belleau added a penalty for Touon. The Scarlets scored a late try with Steffan Evans. Toulon held their lines and clinched a massive away win (FT : 15-27).

* Northampton vs. Treviso : Champions Cup (Franklin’s Gardens, Northampton, England)

The Northampton Saints got a try from Harry Mallinder. Treviso got a kick with Tommaso Allan. Charly Trussardi was yellow-carded but Tommaso Benvenuti intercepted for the try, later on.

Henry Taylor scored for the home side but Hame Faiva replied on a maul for Treviso. Tommaso Allan missed a kick as Northampton Saints built and prop Francois van Wyk touched down.

Northampton Saints were denied a try after a knock-on. Though, they got a set-piece try with Fraser Dingwall and Andy Symons also got the try. Northampton Saints won a tough fixture (FT : 33-20).

* Racing 92 vs. Munster : Champions Cup (Paris La Défense Arena, Nanterre, France)

The Irish province started well with three penalties from JJ Hanrahan. Racing 92 came back with a penalty from Teddy Iribaren and a stunning try from Teddy Thomas. Teddy Iribaren added a penalty.

Munster were not out of it with Andrew Conway scoring an interception try. Teddy Iribaren and JJ Hanrahan added a penalty each. Teddy Iribaren got two more kicks and JJ Hanrahan scored one.

Racing 92 unleashed their attacking game and Teddy Thomas had an outstanding brace. Virimi Vakatawa touched down and so did Juan Imhoff. Racing 92 got a stunning win (FT : 39-22).

Conclusion

That weekend was absolutely outstanding. First of all, in the ProD2, Perpignan snatched an away win while Biarritz impressed at home. About the european games, that was incredible fixtures.

In the Champions Cup, Stade Rochelais got a good win while Clermont performed well. Stade Toulousain got the away win. Northampton Saints and Racing 92 had great performances.

Also, in the Challenge Cup, Bordeaux-Bègles and Toulon showed that they are favourites. Next weekend, it will be the ProD2 and the european fixtures again with some entertaining rugby.

Max.

The Rugby Wrap : Weekend Review (Friday, 03rd, January, 2020 – Sunday, 05th, January, 2020)

The Wales scrum-half Gareth Davies was key to the Scarlets’ Pro14 away win in Cardiff

That weekend was about the good management for all the Northern Hemisphere clubs. It was applying to all the three major leagues in that hemisphere : Premiership, Pro14 and Top14.

In fact, that weekend was about the league games. Nevertheless, the last two european Rounds would follow with Champions Cup and Challenge Cup. Some clubs were targeting both grounds.

That is why it was key for all the coaches to find the winning formula. The managers were looking for the good balance between rotation and keeping the good momentum before the european games.

* Cardiff vs. Scarlets : Pro14 (Cardiff Arms Park, Cardiff, Wales)

The Scarlets put pressure early and fullback Leigh Halfpenny nailed two consecutive penalties. The Cardiff Blues ran the ball and winger Owen Lane gathered his chip-kick and got the try.

On a Cardiff Blues lineout, Gareth Davies intercepted for the try for the Scarlets. Leigh Halfpenny kicked a third penalty before the Half-Time. In the second-half, Jason Tovey missed a kick for the home side.

The Cardiff Blues found space out wide and Josh Adams got the try. Jason Tovey missed the penalty to get the lead back. The Scarlets held their lines and snatched the massive away win (FT : 14-16).

* Sale vs. Harlequins : Premiership (Salford, Sale, England)

The Harlequins got an early try with Gabriel Ibitoye. Sale Sharks got a kick with Robert du Preez. Akker van der Merwe touched down and so did Sam James. Marcus Smith landed a kick for the Harlequins.

Luke James scored a scintillating try for the home side. Robert du Preez got a kick while Joe Marler was yellow-carded for the Harlequins after foul play. Rob Webber later got the great maul try.

Marland Yarde, for Sale Sharks, and Matt Symons, for the Harlequins, were binned after a brawl. Chris Ashton and Rohan Jansé van Rensburg scored set-piece tries. Sale Sharks won (FT : 48-10).

* Dragons vs. Ospreys : Pro14 (Rodney Parade, Newport, Wales)

The Dragons missed a penalty with Sam Davies. The Ospreys got the first try from George North after a cross-field kick. Luke Price added a penalty before the Dragons prop Leon Brown got the try.

In the second-half, Sam Davies kicked a penalty and Luke Price replied in the same way. The Ospreys added a second try with Tian Thomas-Wheeler. The Dragons defended well and came back.

Sam Davies made a cross-field kick for Rio Dyer who touched down and it was all square. The Dragons added another try with Adam Warren on the counter-attack. The Dragons won it (FT : 25-18).

* Racing 92 vs. Clermont : Top14 (Paris La Défense Arena, Nanterre, France)

The home side started brillantly with a maul try from Ben Tameifuna. Teddy Iribaren also kicked a penalty. Greg Laidlaw landed a kick for Clermont but Teddy Thomas got a stunning try for Racing 92.

Greg Laidlaw kicked a second penalty. In the second-half, he added two more penalties. Teddy Iribaren got a brillant try from a set-piece play. Though, Virimi Vakatawa was yellow-carded for foul play.

Clermont came back with a try from Damian Penaud. Teddy Iribaren kicked another penalty but Racing 92 had a second player binned with Baptiste Chouzenoux. Racing 92 still won (FT : 27-19).

* Montpellier vs. Brive : Top14 (GGL Stadium, Montpellier, France)

The home side started well with a penalty from Handré Pollard. Paniemi Narisia was yellow-carded for Brive. Handré Pollard added two more penalties. Brive replied with a penalty from Enzo Hervé.

Moreover, they had the lead when Rory Scholes scored at the base of the posts. Handré Pollard got a fourth penalty. In the second-half, fullback Anthony Bouthier got the try for the home side.

Enzo Hervé had two kicks. Handré Pollard added a fifth penalty as Thomas Darmon finished the try. Enzo Hervé landed a kick. Thomas Laranjeira scored late for Brive. Montpellier won (FT : 29-26).

* Pau vs. La Rochelle : Top14 (Le Hameau, Pau, France)

Stade Rochelais kicked a penalty with Jules Plisson. Antoine Hastoy replied for Section Paloise. Jules Plisson landed a second kick and Thomas Lavault finished a great attacking build-up for the team.

Jules Plisson intercepted for the try as Pau scored with Samuel Marques. Antoine Hastoy kicked a penalty and so did Jules Plisson. Stade Rochelais scored out wide with Victor Vito and kept playing.

Jeremy Sinzelle got a second interception try. Martin Puech was binned for the home side. Stade Rochelais were denied a try but Pierre Aguillon got a stunning counter-attacking try for the win (FT : 13-44).

* Bordeaux vs. Bayonne : Top14 (Chaban-Delmas, Bordeaux, France)

The home side scored early with Jean-Baptiste Dubie from close range. However, the player from Bordeaux-Bègles was yellow-carded. Maxime Lafage kicked a penalty for Bayonne, later on.

Bordeaux-Bègles kept attacking an Kane Douglas scored the try. Centre Remi Lamerat made a powerfully carry to get the try. Ben Botica also kicked a penalty for the home side which were in control.

In the second-half, it was very scrappy from both teams. Bayonne had a player yellow-carded with Arnaud Duputs. Bordeaux-Bègles remained in control and got the home bonus point win (FT : 22-03).

* Edinburgh vs. Kings : Pro14 (Murrayfield, Edinburgh, Scotland)

The Southern Kings scored the try with Erich Cronjé but prop Pieter Scholtz was sent off for foul play. Mike Willemse carried over the line for Edinburgh as JT Jackson kicked a penalty for the Southern Kings.

Duhan van der Merwe touched down for the home side from a set-piece play. Matt Scott also scored but JT Jackson got the try for the Southern Kings. Sam Johnstone got the bonus point try for Edinburgh.

They earned a penalty try as Aston Fortuin was binned for the Southern Kings. Eroni Sau, David Cherry, Charlie Shiel and Mark Bennett all grabbed coast-to-coast tries for Edinburgh. They won (FT : 61-13).

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

The Exeter Chiefs got the try with Sam Hill from close range. Belgium Tuatagaloa replied for the home side. The Exeter Chiefs got other big tries with Dave Dennis and Luke Cowan-Dickie.

Ollie Devoto got a great individual try. Sam Hill got a brace but London Irish had the try with Albert Tuisue. Ollie Hassell-Collins scored from close range but Stuart Townsend replied for Exeter Chiefs.

Olly Woodburn and Ollie Devoto were both binned for the Exeter Chiefs. Steve Mafi scored for the home side. Gareth Steenson got the penalty for the Exeter Chiefs. They got the big win (FT : 28-45).

* Wasps vs. Northampton : Premiership (Ricoh Arena, London, England)

Northampton Saints played expansively and Cobus Reinach scored. Jacob Umaga landed a kick for Wasps with Marcus Watson getting the try. Teimana Harrison carried over the line for Northampton.

In the second-half, Tom Wood charged Dan Robson’s kick down and scored. Cobus Reinach got a brace. The Wasps hit back from a lineout with Jimmy Gopperth. Matteo Minozzi also got the try.

Tom Collins was sent off and Cobus Reinach was binned, both for Northampton. The Wasps got a penalty try. Northampton unleashed Taqele Naiyaravoro for the try. It was a massive away win (FT : 31-35).

* Toulon vs. Castres : Top14 (Felix Mayol, Toulon, France)

The home side got the penalty try early as Jody Jenneker was binned for Castres. Though, Julien Dumora got the penalty and Romain Taofifenua was binned for Toulon. Castres had a second player binned.

Wayan de Benedittis left the field. Anthony Belleau got a kick and a second penalty try was awarded. Castres had a third player binned with Victor Moreaux. Louis Carbonel and Romain Taofifenua scored.

Gervais Cordin added one but Corentin Vernet was the second Toulon player binned. Daniel Ikpefan got a stunning try. Corentin Vernet got a second yellow card and was sent off. Toulon still won (FT : 43-03).

Conclusion

It was another brillant weekend. In the Pro14, the Scarlets won their derby away in Cardiff. The Dragons snatched the win in Newport while Edinburgh got the bonus point win, in Murrayfield.

About the Top14, Racing 92 got a stunning win while Bordeaux played well. Montpellier played well. Stade Rochelais and Toulon were outstanding. The Premiership had great games.

The Sale Sharks were outstanding. The Exeter Chiefs got the win with Northampton Saints snatching a tough away win. Next weekend, the ProD2 and the european games would come back.

Max.

The Cheetahs : Year 2020 Preview – Throwback Currie Cup Wins (2016, 2019)

The Year 2019 has been an incredible moment for South Africa and for many reasons. First of all, at Super Rugby level, there was the resurgence of a former Springbok powerhouse franchise : the Bulls.

They had a brillant campaign in the Southern Hemisphere, falling short in Quarter-Finals, in Wellington. Meanwhile, the Currie Cup which followed delivered a high level of competitiveness.

The Free State Cheetahs were crowned thanks to the talismanic coach Franco Smith. In 2007, when the Springboks last won the World Cup, the Free State Cheetahs had won the Currie Cup the same year.

Definitely, it was a good omen as South Africa won the 2019 World Cup in Japan. It was a scintillating performance through that journey. The Springboks won their 3rd World Cup Title, after 1995 and 2007.

South Africa are now joint with New Zealand for most World Cups won. They are also the only World Cup winning nation to never lose a World Cup Final. Starting in June, 2018, Rassie Erasmus is a Genius.

The Article’s Goal : Let’s review the Cheetahs’ first part of the 2019-2020 Pro14 season and preview the next year. Also, there will be throwbacks to the two Currie Cup wins in the past few years (2016 and 2019).

PART I : THE CHEETAHS IN THE CURRENT PRO14 SEASON

1) Ambitions for the new Pro14 campaign

The Cheetahs opened their 3rd Pro14 season in October, 2019. The start of the competition was delayed due to the World Cup taking place in Japan. The Cheetahs were carrying some momentum.

They were obviously crowned Currie Cup kings the month before. They also wanted to replicate what they had done during their first season, in 2017-2018, when they reached the play-offs.

The next season was not so cool with the Cheetahs unable to find form. The first two seasons were not easy as the Currie Cup overlapped with the Pro14. The Cheetahs had to field two sides a week.

2) Outstanding first block of home games

The Cheetahs started the Pro14 season with three home games in Bloemfontein. Initially set to go after the Currie Cup win, talismanic coach Franco Smith decided to remain for the three games.

The Bloemfontein-based franchise kicked off the new season with the Glasgow Warriors coming to town. Two Irish provinces followed with Ulster and Munster also facing the franchise.

The Cheetahs produced three performances of high-quality with three bonus point wins. Back-three players Anthony Volmink and Rhyno Smith lit up the competition with stunning scores.

3) Adapting to the Northern Hemisphere conditions

Following the first three games, the Cheetahs had four away games before the end-of-year break. It started in Galway as a red card to Dries Swanepoel did not allow them to get another win.

The next three games were against Welsh provinces. The Cheetahs came up short against the Scarlets. However, another red card to Jasper Wiese dashed their hopes against the Cardiff Blues.

For their last fixture before the break, the Cheetahs were facing the Ospreys, in Neath. The franchise held on until the very last play as they made the turnover at the maul to clinch a valuable win.

4) What is next for the Cheetahs ?

Franco Smith left the Cheetahs after the first three games to become the Italy interim coach. He has been replaced by Hawies Fourie who knows the team well, having been an assistant coach for years.

Despite their limited resources, the Cheetahs are still managing to recruit some new talents even if most players are loaned. However, they are still third on their conference with two games in hand.

The target would be keeping that third place to qualify for the play-offs. Second place could be possible. The Cheetahs are facing Zebre, the franchise from Parma, in Italy, before a raft of home games.

5) The Cheetahs squad : What is the best XV ?

THE CURRENT SQUAD :

Hookers : Wilmar Arnoldi*, Joseph Dweba, Marnus van der Merwe, Reinach Venter

Props : Johan Coetzee, Luan de Bruin, Erich de Jager, Neethling Fouché*, Gunther Jansé van Vuuren, Charles Marais, Kwezi Mona*, Ox Nché*, Boan Venter

Locks : Justin Basson, JP du Preez, Sintu Manjezi, Walt Steenkamp

Flankers : Aidon Davis, Daniel Maartens, Chris Massyn*, Teboho Mohojé, Gerhard Olivier, Junior Pokomela, Jasper Wiese

Number 8 : Sias Koen*, Henco Venter*

Scrum-halves : Dian Badenhorst, Ruben de Haas, Rewan Kruger, Tian Meyer, Ruan Pienaar

Fly-halves : Louis Fouché, Tian Schoeman, George Whitehead*

Centres : Benhard Jansé van Rensburg, William Small-Smith, Chris Smit*, Dries Swanepoel

Wingers : Carel-Jan Coetzee, Tapiwa Mafura, Rabz Maxwane, Duncan Saal, Rhyno Smith*, Anthony Volmink*

Fullbacks : Craig Barry*, Clayton Blommetjies, Adriaan Carelse, Malcolm Jaer

NOTES :

* Ox Nché and Henco Venter played the opening games before joing the Sharks.

* Wilmar Arnoldi, Kwezi Mona, Sias Koen, Chris Smit, George Whitehead and Anthony Volmink are on loan from the Griquas.

* Neethling Fouché, Chris Massyn and Craig Barry are on loan from Western Province.

* Rhyno Smith is on loan from the Sharks.

POTENTIAL MATCHDAY SQUAD FOR THE SECOND PART OF THE SEASON

(15-1) Blommetjies – Smith – Small-Smith – Jansé van Rensburg – Volmink – Schoeman – Pienaar – Koen – Pokomela – Olivier – Steenkamp – Manjezi – de Jager – Dweba – Coetzee

(16-23) Arnoldi – Fouché – Mona – du Preez – Wiese – Meyer – Whitehead – Swanepoel

PART II : THROWBACK TO THE CURRIE CUP WIN (MMXVI)

Note : The two parts about the Currie Cup wins will be treated in five points : the background (1), the format of the competition (2), the Cheetahs journey (3), the players which stood out (4) and what it meant (5).

1) Competition Background

In 2016, it was the 78th edition of the Currie Cup and the Golden Lions from Johannesburg were the defending Champions. The year 2016 was marked, by the way, by their Super Rugby domination.

The Lions reached the final where they were beaten by the Hurricanes in Johnnesburg. They were obviously the huge favourites for the new Currie Cup edition and were targeting a potential double.

Meanwhile, the Free State Cheetahs were coming from a not so bad Super Rugby campaign. That was an average campaign but the Free State Cheetahs already had the talent to win their 5th Title.

2) The Currie Cup Format for Year 2016

The Currie Cup is a very old competition and probably the oldest rugby competition in the World. His format always required some adjustments every year if it is needed for the competition.

The SARU (South Africa Rugby Union), back in 2016, gave his agreement to have 9 provinces involved in the Currie Cup Premier Division. The first four provinces would qualify for the play-offs.

It meant that the 9 provinces involved in the Currie Cup were : Blue Bulls, Boland Cavaliers, Eastern Province Kings, Free State Cheetahs, Golden Lions, Griquas, Pumas, Sharks and Western Province.

3) The Cheetahs Journey

The Free State Cheetahs opened with a thrilling away win against Boland Cavaliers. They won at home against the Blue Bulls before snatching an away win against the Western Province.

They had the bye in Round 4. After that, they enjoyed a great game against the Eastern Province Kings. They won away in Durban against the Sharks and remained unbeaten against the Lions.

The Free State Cheetahs had the win against the Pumas and won well against the Griquas. They defeated the Golden Lions in semi-final and won the Final against the Blue Bulls, in Bloemfontein.

4) The Players Who Stood Out

So many players sood out for the Free State Cheetahs. Fred Zeilinga was outstanding with his goalkicking. He built key away wins against the Boland Cavaliers and the Western Province.

The forwards, including back-rowers Paul Schoeman and Henco Venter, were outstanding, winning a few penalty tries. The backline racked up the tries with many significant performances.

Centre Nico Lee had a brace against the Eastern Province Kings. Winger Sergeal Petersen got a Hat-Trick in the semi-finals while Raymond Rhule was also a regular try scorer during the campaign.

5) What did it mean at the time ?

That Currie Cup win was massive for the Free State Cheetahs. It was the first Currie Cup in a decade as their last win before that was in 2007. It hugely restored the belief in Bloemfontein.

Free State Cheetahs remaining unbeaten through the whole competition showed that they were able to compete. They could match all the provinces in South Africa, home and away.

There was the idea that the Free State Cheetahs could rise at Super Rugby level. Unfortunately, there were not given enough time and they were kicked out of the competition the year after, in 2017.

PART III : THROWBACK TO THE CURRIE CUP WIN (MMXIX)

1) Competition Background

The Currie Cup 2019 definitely was an unpredictable competition. The last two editions had seen the two same provinces competing in the Final. Each time, the province which was playing away won it.

In fact, in 2018, the Sharks had won in Cape Town against Western Province. The year before, in 2017, it was the Western Province who had delivered a huge performance, winning in Durban.

As for the Cheetahs, they could not defend their Title in 2017. They did not have a chance in 2018 either. They even had to play a promotion-relegation game against the Griffons to remain in the elite.

2) The Currie Cup Format for Year 2019

As said before, the Currie Cup format can change from a year to another according to what the SARU (South Africa Rugby Union) decides. For 2019, there were the historic 7 franchises involved.

Compared to 2016, the Eastern Province Kings and the Boland Cavaliers were relegated. It meant that each province would play against each other, either home or away, with play-offs remaining.

The schedule was much more favourable to the Free State Cheetahs. The Currie Cup started early due to the World Cup. It meant that the Pro14 would not be played at the same time, for 2019.

3) The Cheetahs Journey

The Free State Cheetahs had the bye weekend, in Round 1. They began their campaign in Round 2 with a bonus point away win against the Blue Bulls. They carried their form against the Griquas.

In Round 3, they host the Golden Lions and lost as they turned down kickable penalties to go for the tries. They lost in the last moments against the Sharks but fought back to the win against Pumas.

For the last Round, the Free State Cheetahs snatched a huge comeback win against Western Province. It was the same against the Sharks in semi-final. They won the final against the Golden Lions.

4) The Players Who Stood Out

Centre Benhard Jansé van Rensburg got two braces during away wins in Pretoria and Nelspruit, against the Blue Bulls and the Pumas, respectively. Hooker Joseph Dweba was also a talismanic figure.

He scored during almost all the Currie Cup games. Winger William Small-Smith grabbed a few tries as well, including the memorable one he scored in the Final. Prop Ox Nché, another popular figure, did the job.

We could also mention Tian Meyer, who played winger, to accomodate Ruan Pienaar at scrum-half. Henco Venter, Junior Pokomela, Tian Schoeman and Clayton Blommetjies were great.

5) What did it mean at the time ?

It was another moment of History for the Free State. The Free State Stadium was filled with 43,000+ people. It was a moment of joy and friendship between the players, the coaches and the fans.

It was the 6th Currie Cup Trophy for the Cheetahs and the second in only four years. Given the limited resources and the inability to compete in the two previous editions, that is such an achievement.

That win was a decent farewell for coach Franco Smith who had given a decade to the Free State. It also built the hype around the Cheetahs to come back to the Pro14 play-offs for the year 2020.

PART IV : THE TWO MATCHDAY SQUADS WHO LIFTED THE CURRIE CUP

Note : Part of the throwback, here are the two matchday squads who lifted the Currie Cup, in 2016 and in 2019. A little comment for each player will be added to pay tribute to what they have achieved.

1) The Matchday Squad of 2016

(15-1) Blommetjies – Petersen – F. Venter (C) – Lee – Rhule – N. Marais – S. Venter – Jordaan – Cassiem – Schoeman – Hugo – Basson – Coetzee – van Jaarsveld – C. Marais

(16-23) : du Toit – Nche – Koster – H. Venter – Meyer – Zeilinga – Benjamin – van Vuuren

STARTING XV :

15. Clayton Blommetjies : Playing mostly at fullback even if he can be a winger, if needed, he has been a brillant rugby player. Enjoying the counter-attacking play, he set up many tries for his team.

14. Sergeal Petersen : Incredibly gifted winger, he has been one of the highest try scorers for the Free State Cheetahs. With so much pace, he has beat many defenders during the campaign.

13. François Venter : Skipper for the Free State Cheetahs, he has led the team by example. Strong carrier with the ball in hand, he won the metres and also scored a few tries. Inspiring player.

12. Nico Lee : Very strong centre, he was not bad in defence either. Making the tackles, his role in defence has always been underestimated. He fit in the team well and was never shy of an effort.

11. Raymond Rhule : Outstanding player, he was in scintillating form through all the campaign. Very quick, he could offload as well and he was a great finisher. He was a key player of the team.

10. Niel Marais : The fly-half started the campaign as a replacement but finished it as a starter. Excellent goalkicker, his game management was second to none. He was a very good tactician.

09. Shaun Venter : Very good scrum-half, his attacking mindset meant that the Free State Cheetahs scored many tries. His passing lines were accurate and were a good platform for his teammates.

08. Neill Jordaan : Uncompromising number 8 who can also play flanker if needed, he played his part. He ran down Piet van Zyl in the Final in a try-saving tackle which proved to be a turning point.

07. Uzair Cassiem : Clever flanker, he was a key part of the Free State Cheetahs scrum. His work rate on the field was obviously very high and his lineout knowledge helped the team a lot.

06. Paul Schoeman : One of the unsung heroes, his part and his work in that campaign has been important. He set up a lot of mauls, pushed hard at scrum and tackled his opponents well.

05. Reniel Hugo : One of the two starting second-rowers of the province. His commitment at the lineout combinations was key. He called the tricks and his defence was excellent through the campaign.

04. Justin Basson : In a similar way that his teammate playing the same position, his role at the lineout was key. His scrummaging was also excellent and he has always led by example on the pitch.

03. Aranos Coetzee : Powerful prop, he won a lot of penalties at scrum time. Very good at tackling, he maintained very high standards. His workrate at the maul as well cannot be underestimated.

02. Torsten van Jaarsveld : Very strong forward, his lineout throws were accurate. It allowed the Free State Cheetahs to get a platform to score tries. Showing a lot of power, he was a key figure for the team.

01. Charles Marais : Strong prop as well, his scrummaging was one of the best in the competition. He brought a lot of strength at the core of the team. He was a great addition to the forwards pack.

BENCH :

16. Jacques du Toit : Replacement hooker, he was considered as an impact player for the campaign. Able to throw at the lineout, his scrummagining was never diminishing the Free State Cheetahs.

17. Ox Nché : Already a popular figure at the time, the young prop was considered as the future of South Africa. He started on the bench and came on later to make the good impact.

18. Armandt Koster : Replacement second-rower, he was part of the players who always gave everything. He did not play a lot for the team but he was always committed to the Currie Cup.

19. Henco Venter : Another promising player at the time, the back-rower was a versatile prospect. Flanker or number 8, he remained very strong at scrum time and his carrying was excellent.

20. Tian Meyer : Facing a stern competition in the squad for a start at scrum-half, his professionalism was what you could expect. Putting the team first, his impact on the field was exceptional.

21. Fred Zeilinga : Started the competition as the main fly-half. He was on the bench for the Final but remained one of the key players. Excellent goalkicker, he set up a try during the Final.

22. Rayno Benjamin : Hugely talented player, he could play everywhere in the backline. Mostly used as an utility back player, his contribution to that campaign was of the highest quality.

23. Conraad van Vuuren : The other prop replacement, his work at scrum time was not too bad. Not often penalised, he always delivered for the team and deserved a huge amount of credit as well.

2) The Matchday Squad of 2019 :

(15-1) Blommetjies – Small-Smith – Jansé van Rensburg – Swanepoel – Meyer (C) – Schoeman – Pienaar – H. Venter – Pokomela – Olivier – Steenkamp – Manjezi – de Jager – Dweba – Nché

(16-23) du Toit – Marais – R. Venter – du Preez – Wiese – Nonkontwana – Fouché – Adonis

STARTING XV :

15. Clayton Blommetjies : Part of the Currie Cup success in 2016, he maintained high standards of excellence three years later. Scoring key tries, his attacking threat was the edge to the province.

14. William Small-Smith : Outstanding player, the speedster was one of the highest try scorers in the Currie Cup. His 50-metre try scored in the Final will leave forever in Bloemfontein.

13. Benhard Jansé van Rensburg : Definitely one of the unsung heroes. Getting a brace in the away win in Pretoria, he was one of the commanding player in the centre. His role was paramount.

12. Dries Swanepoel : Powerful centre, his carrying ball in hand was very powerful. His defence cannot be underestimated as he brought an edge in defence with more structure to the team.

11. Tian Meyer : One of the very few players to have won the Currie Cup in 2016, he started the campaign at scrum-half. He ended up playing brillantly on the wing to accomodate Ruan Pienaar.

10. Tian Schoeman : Part of the losing side with the Blue Bulls during the Currie Cup 2016, Tian Schoeman played brillantly. His goalkicking was great and his attacking skills were outstanding.

09. Ruan Pienaar : World Cup winner in 2007, he came back in the Free State. First used as an impact player, he earned his place and masterminded the team to another Currie Cup Triumph.

08. Henco Venter : Part of the Currie Cup 2016 winning brigade, he earned his starting spot at number 8 and had a huge impact. He brough power, physicality and passion to the Free State Cheetahs.

07. Junior Pokomela : Promising talent coming from the academy, he quickly delivered good performances on the pitch. Very good scrummager, he was also key on the powerful maul drives.

06. Gerhardt Olivier : Very good flanker, he made many key turnovers through the campaign. He was equally brillant at scrum time and at lineout time. One of the true unsung heroes of the province.

05. Walt Steenkamp : Outstanding second-rower, his calls at the lineout ensured that the Free State Cheetahs had a decent attacking platform. He made many tackles in defence and his efforts were great.

04. Sintu Manjezi : Another interesting prospect coming through the academy, he was part of the lineout magic around the team. He always gave his everything and managed to earn the respect.

03. Eric de Jager : Very powerful prop, his scrummaging was never a liability for the Free State Cheetahs. He brought some strength and physicality to the starting side and delivered on the pitch.

02. Joseph Dweba : A popular and talismanic figure, he was a crowd favourite from the start. His commitment has always been outstanding and his passion was everything to the Free State Cheetahs.

01. Ox Nché : Another popular figure in Bloemfontein, he was on the bench for the Currie Cup win in 2016. He won so many scrum penalties for his team. His carrying style was incredible and made him famous.

BENCH :

16. Jacques du Toit : Already on the bench for the Currie Cup win in 2016, he was again on the bench three years later. Not a sign of stagnation, he was used again as an impact player and delivered.

17. Charles Marais : Part of the Currie Cup win in 2016, he went from starter to bench player given the rise of a few academy players. Though, he still retained a place in the starting XV, showing his talent.

18. Reinach Venter : The other replacement prop, his commitment to the Free State Cheetahs was what you could expect. He scrummaged very well and had a good impact off the bench for the province.

19. JP du Preez : Replacement in the second-row, he started a few games during the campaign. Used as a bench player in the Final, he played his part and deserved some credit for his contribution.

20. Jasper Wiese : Inspiring player, he always put the team first before his personal situation. Versatile, able to play flanker or number 8, he was a true player and an outstanding rugbyman.

21. Abonghile Nonkontwana : Recruited from the Blue Bulls, he came in Bloemfontein with plenty of hope. Promising player, he had a physical impact on the side during all the campaign.

22. Louis Fouché : In competition for the fly-half berth, he never put a foot wrong. Each of his contributions which were mostly off the bench were valuable. His goalkicking was excellent.

23. Darren Adonis : Another promising player having come through the academy, he had limited but precious game time. He scored a key try against the Blue Bulls. He did well for the team.

3) Trivia

* In total, there are 6 players who played in both Currie Cup Finals wins : 4 forwards (Ox Nché, Henco Venter, Jacques du Toit, Charles Marais) and 2 backs (Tian Meyer, Clayton Blommetjies).

* Fullback Clayton Blommetjies was the only player to start the two Currie Cup Finals. Also, the hooker Jacques du Toit was the only player to start the two Currie Cup Finals on the bench.

* Three players were promoted from the bench to the starting XV between the two Currie Cup Finals : prop Ox Nché, back-rower Henco Venter and scrum-half Tian Meyer, who can also play on the wing.

* Prop Charles Marais is the only player to have dropped from the starting XV to the bench between the two Currie Cup Finals. It can be explained by the spectacular rise of prop Ox Nché.

Conclusion

The Free State Cheetahs have got a decent chance of performing during the second-half of the Pro14 season. They will be targeting the play-offs for the second time on only three seasons.

They achieved so much in the last few years such as the two Currie Cup wins, in 2016 and in 2019. The province does not have much budget, have to recruit loaned players but they have got the passion.

Talismanic coach Franco Smith has now left the Free State but he left an incredible legacy. The squad is pretty strong as there are a few players who were part of the Currie Cup wins in the last few years.

The Free State Cheetahs received many nominations at the South Africa Rugby Awards. The province is nominated for Team Of The Year. Franco Smith will try to get the Coach Of The Year Award.

Finally, Joseph Dweba and Ox Nché are nominated for the Currie Cup Player Of the Year. That is interesting times for the Free State Cheetahs who will keep building their legacy with passion.

Max.

The Rugby Wrap : Weekend Review (Thursday, 26th, December, 2019 – Sunday, 29th, December, 2019)

Darcy Graham celebrates at the final whistle after Edinburgh won the derby at Murrayfield

That weekend was going to be another interesting weekend. It was another weekend of New Year’s Eve derbies and Boxing Days fixtures. Many games were going to be absolutely outstanding.

Such fixtures were applying across all the Northern Hemisphere. That weekend was also involving some key management from the respective coaching teams. In fact, many sides had many goals.

The european competitions, the Champions Cup and the Challenge Cup, would come back the next weekend. So, it was all about keeping that momentum for all the sides going for some silverware.

* Cardiff vs. Dragons : Pro14 (Cardiff Arms Park, Cardiff, Wales)

The Cardiff Blues built a few phases. Jarrod Evans unleashed the offload and Sean Lewis-Hughes scored the try. Jarrod Evans kicked a penalty as the Dragons came back with Tim Basham’s try.

In the second-half, the Dragons took the lead with a try from Matthew Screech. The Cardiff Blues built some momentum again with a penalty from Jarrod Evans. He was off target on his next attempt.

Jason Tovey missed a penalty for the Cardiff Blues before succeeding. Ashton Hewitt was binned for the Dragons as Jason Tovey missed the penalty. Though, the Cardiff Blues won (FT : 16-12).

* Lyon vs. Bayonne : Top14 (Gerland, Lyon, France)

The home side started well with a penalty from Patricio Fernandez. Patrick Sobela carried over the line for the first try for Lyon. Romain Barthelemy landed a penalty for Bayonne. Lyon hit back.

Centre Charlie Ngatai scored. Romain Barthelemy added two kicks as Killian Geraci was binned for Lyon. They had a second player binned with Rudi Wulf. Though, Pierre-Louis Barassi got the try.

Lyon relied on the maul and Hendrick Roodt got a quick brace. Mariano Galarza was binned for Bayonne. Dylan Cretin showed power to score for Lyon as Jean-Marcelin Buttin sealed the win (FT : 52-09).

* Treviso vs. Zebre : Pro14 (Monigo Stadium, Treviso, Italy)

The home side got the maul try with Hame Faiva as Marcelo Violi landed a kick for Zebre. Ignacio Brex was sent off for Treviso after a high tackle as Johan Meyer got a maul try for Zebre.

Benetton Treviso replied with a brace from Hame Faiva. Zebre got the ball wide as Jamie Elliott scored. The home side did the same and Monty Ioane got the try. Zebre got a good try with Maxime Mbanda.

Playmaker Ian Keatley got a stunning try for the home team as Hame Faiva got a Hat-Trick. Engjel Makelara also scored. Zebre scored a late try with David Sisi. Benetton Treviso won with 14 players (FT : 36-25).

* Northampton vs. Gloucester : Premiership (Franklin’s Gardens, Northampton, England)

The Gloucester team got an early counter-attacking try with Louis Rees-Zammit. Northampton Saints kicked a penalty with Dan Biggar. Mikey Haywood got the maul try and Dan Biggar got a kick.

In the second-half, the home side got a great try with Cobus Reinach. Gloucester were back with a try from Chris Harris but Cobus Reinach got a stunning brace. Gloucester came back again.

Louis Rees-Zammit got a brace but Josh Hohneck was binned. Piers Francis kicked a penalty for Northampton. Louis Rees-Zammit got a Hat-Trick. Piers Francis landed a kick. Northampton won (FT : 33-26).

* Brive vs. Racing 92 : Top14 (Amédée Domenech, Brive, France)

The home team landed a penalty with Thomas Laranjeira. Racing 92 unleashed their attacking power. Finn Russell scored as he was followed by Louis Dupichot. Teddy Iribaren kicked a penalty.

Thomas Laranjeira was on target for Brive but Camille Chat scored for Racing 92. Mesake Doge replied with the try for Brive with Camille Chat getting a brace. Teddy Iribaren landed another penalty.

Brive came back with a maul try from James Johnston. Racing 92 spread the ball wide and Teddy Thomas touched down. He was denied a brace but Brice Dulin was also on the board. Racing 92 won (FT : 20-44).

* Edinburgh vs. Glasgow : Pro14 (Murrayfield, Edinburgh, Scotland)

The home scottish province got a great try as Viliame Mata offloaded for Darcy Graham. Glasgow Warriors replied with a build-up concluded by Huw Jones. Edinburgh went for the penalty.

Simon Hickey was on target. Glasgow Warriors got the lead with a try from Scott Cummings. Edinburgh unleashed a huge build-up and Henry Pyrgos touched down. Glasgow Warriors replied.

George Horne got the try. After that, Edinburgh earned a penalty try with Johnny Gray binned for Glasgow Warriors. On a turnover, Darcy Graham got a brace for a bonus point win for Edinburgh (FT : 29-19).

* Bath vs. Sale : Premiership (The Recreation Ground, Bath, England)

In a very contested first-half, Bath Rugby landed two penalties with fly-half Rhys Priestland. Sale Sharks were not out of it but could not build any sort of momentum in that first-half.

In the second-half, Jonathan Joseph concluded a great move for Bath Rugby. Sale Sharks got a maul try with Akker van der Merwe. They came back and got another one with Byron McGuigan.

Bath Rugby needed a strong reaction and Rhys Priestland got the penalty and the lead again. The home side managed the next phases of play well as they secured a tough home win (FT : 16-14).

* Harlequins vs. Leicester : Premiership (Twickenham, London, England)

The Harlequins landed a penalty with Marcus Smith. George Ford replied with two penalties for Leicester Tigers. The Harlequins scored from a scrum with Paul Lasike as Marcus Smith got a kick.

In the second-half, Kyle Eastmond intercepted for the try for Leicester Tigers. Marcus Smith got a stunning try for the Harlequins as Chris Robshaw was also on the board. Leicester Tigers came back.

Jordan Taufua scored. Marcus Smith and George Ford both added one penalty. Will Collier was binned for the Harlequins and Telusa Veainu scored for Leicester. The Harlequins snatched the draw (FT : 30-30).

* Montpellier vs. Stade Français : Top14 (GGL Stadium, Montpellier, France)

The home side had a good start with a penalty from Handré Pollard. They scored the first try with centre Arthur Vincent. Stade Français came back with a try from winger Sefanaia Naivalu.

Centre Gaël Fickou got the offload and the second try for Stade Français as well. In the second-half, Handré Pollard got a kick and so did Nicolas Sanchez for the away side which had Sekou Macalou binned.

Handré Pollard scored the try from a quick-tap. Joris Segonds kicked a penalty for Stade Français. Leva Chilachava was binned for Montpellier. Though, they snatched the home draw (FT : 20-20).

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

The Clermont side got a kick with Morgan Parra and Alivereti Raka scored. Morgan Parra landed a kick. Julien Dumora got a penalty for Castres but Jody Jenneker was binned. Morgan Parra added a kick.

Fritz Lee and George Moala were on the board. Sebastien Vahaamahina was binned for Clermont. A brawl happened. Rory Kockott was binned for Castres while Sitaleki Timani was sent off for Clermont.

Anthony Jelonch and Wayan de Benedittis got tries for Castres. Morgan Parra got a kick. Martin Laveau scored a try for Castres. Greg Laidlaw landed two penalties. Clermont got the win (FT : 39-22).

* Toulouse vs.Toulon : Top14 (Stadium, Toulouse, France)

The home team started well with a 50-metre penalty from Thomas Ramos. Scrum-half Sebastien Bezy scored a good set-piece try. Fullback Thomas Ramos kicked a second penalty, as well.

In the second-half, Toulon got more possession. Fly-half Louis Carbonel got the try while Anthony Belleau kicked a penalty. Toulon kept attacking and were awarded another penalty in that game.

Playmaker Anthony Belleau was on target with the penalty. Stade Toulousain tried to get the scrum penalty. They snatched the home draw in a very physical game with a lot of kicking game (FT : 13-13).

Conclusion

That weekend was entertaining. First of all, in the Top14, Lyon and Racing 92 got bonus point wins. Montpellier snatched a home draw. Clermont performed well as Stade Toulousain got the draw.

Moreover, in the Premiership, Northampton Saints got a stunning win while Bath Rugby got a tough win. The Harlequins got the draw. In the Pro14, Cardiff Blues got their win in the welsh derby.

Besides, Benetton Treviso won with 14 players. Edinburgh won the scottish derby in fashion, in Murrayfield. Next weekend, the league games would carry on before the other european fixtures.

Max.

The Rugby Wrap : Weekend Review (Thursday, 19th, December, 2019 – Sunday, 22nd, December, 2019)

Munster snatched a massive away win in Galway with Chris Farrell playing a part on the pitch

That weekend was much awaited in the rugby community. In fact, it was the weekend before Chirstmas Eve and there are always something special around the fixtures taking place that weekend.

There was rugby played in all the Northern Hemisphere and in the different leagues. For example, that was the case in France with the Top14 and the ProD2 as well, the second Tier league.

Obviously, the other games were involving the Pro14 and the Premiership. The fixtures would include some management given that many sides were still involved in the european competitions.

* Grenoble vs. Oyonnax : ProD2 (Stade des Alpes, Grenoble, France)

The Oyonnax side got a penalty with Yohan Le Bourhis. Enzo Selponi was off target for Grenoble but they counter-attacked and Nathanaël Hulleu touched down after a great move from Raymond Rhule.

Grenoble set up the maul and Leva Fifita carried over the line. Yohan Le Bourhis got a kick but Valentin Ursache was binned for Oyonnax. Enzo Selponi was off target again as Tim Giresse scored for Oyonnax.

Though, Julien Audy was the second player binned for Oyonnax. Leva Fifita got his brace and Bastien Guillemin got the try with his side denied three tries. Grenoble got the great win (FT : 28-13).

* Perpignan vs. Montauban : ProD2 (Aimé Giral, Perpignan, France)

In the first-half, Jérôme Bosviel, for Montauban, and Jonathan Bousquet, for Perpignan, traded penalties. Jérôme Bosviel got one more. Quentin Walcker and Shahn Eru scored for the home side.

Jérôme Bosviel landed a kick. Perpignan kept attacking and Daniel Faleafa scored. Jean-Bernard Pujol got a stunning try but Nicolas Lemaire was binned as Montauban scored the maul try.

Martinius van der Westhuizen got it. Though, Adrea Cocagi carried over the line. Robert Lilomaiava was binned for Montauban for a high tackle. Thibauld Suchier kicked a penalty. Perpignan won (FT : 41-14).

* Gloucester vs. Worcester : Premiership (Kingsholm, Gloucester, England)

The Worcester Warriors kicked a penalty with Duncan Weir who missed his second attempt. Gloucester had many try scoring opportunities but they were on the board with a penalty from Danny Cipriani.

In the second-half, Ryan Mills was yellow-carded for Worcester. From a scrum, Ruan Ackermann got the try for Gloucester. Centre Chris Harris touched down after some great skills from his teammates.

Also, winger Louis Rees-Zammit scored a try as he gathered a clearing kick. Ben Morgan scored from a maul while Louis Rees-Zamit got a brace. It was a huge win for Gloucester in a great game (FT : 36-03).

* Racing 92 vs. Montpellier : Top14 (Paris La Défense Arena, Nanterre, France)

The home side started brillantly with two penalties from Maxime Machenaud. Winger Louis Dupichot scored a try from a Finn Russell’s chip-kick. Though, Gelo Aprasidze scored for Montpellier.

Centre Jan Serfontein added another one. Maxime Machenaud got his third penalty while Virimi Vakatawa ran a great line and touche ddown for Racing 92. Handré Pollard landed a kick for Montpellier.

Maxime Machenaud and Handré Pollard added one more kick. Fullback Anthony Bouthier got a try for Montpellier. Racing 92 got a penalty with Teddy Iribaren. They secured the win (FT : 29-25).

* Bayonne vs. Brive : Top14 (Jean Daugé, Bayonne, France)

Under terrible weather conditions, Brive started to play and had the possession in the first-half. Fullback Thomas Laranjeira kicked a penalty for Brive. Both sides could not play their usual rugby.

In the second-half, Romain Barthelemy, following two missed attempts, landed a penalty for Bayonne. However, they had Arnaud Duputs yellow-carded for a high tackle. Brive also had a player binned.

It was Victor Lebas after too many infringements. Brandon Fajardo got a kick for Bayonne. Brive replied with a penalty from Thomas Laranjeira. They snatched the away draw (FT : 06-06).

* Castres vs. Lyon : Top14 (Pierre Antoine, Castres, France)

The home side scored with Geoffrey Palis. Lyon replied with a kick from Charlie Ngatai but Hendrick Roodt was binned. Castres added a try with Thomas Combezou as Lyon had another player binned.

It was Josua Tuisova. Rory Kockott also got a try for the home side but was binned, later on. Jonathan Wisniewski kicked two penalties for Lyon. Benjamin Urdapilleta nailed a drop-goal for Castres.

Jonathan Wisnieswki landed a kick. The home side got a maul try with Jody Jenneker. They had a second player binned with Ludovic Radosavljevic but Castres Olympique won (FT : 29-12).

* Zebre vs. Treviso : Pro14 (Sergio Lanfranchi, Parma, Italy)

On a very difficult pitch to play rugby, the two clubs tried their best. Benetton Treviso had Marco Riccioni yellow-carded after many penalties. Zebre landed a penalty with scrum-half Marcelo Violi.

In the second-half, Epalahame Faiva touched down from a maul for Benetton Treviso. Ian Keatley also added a penalty. However, they had a second player binned with forward Toa Halafihi.

Zebre got a maul try with Marco Manfredi. Ian Keatley nailed a penalty but Benetton Treviso had a third player binned with Nico Quaglio. Though, they made one last turnover to win it (FT : 08-13).

* Agen vs. Toulouse : Top14 (Stade d’Armandie, Agen, France)

The home team began the game very well with a penalty from Leo Berdeu. Also, Nathan Decron finished an attacking build-up for the try. Stade Toulousain needed to react very quickly in the first-half.

Romain Ntamack kicked two penalties. Later on, Arthur Bonneval scored a good try. Malino Vanai, for Agen, and Paulo Tafili, for Stade Toulousain, were both yellow-carded for scrum infringements.

Moreover, Stade Toulousain had a second player binned with Guillaume Marchand after a high tackle. However, they held their lines and managed to get a key away win in a tough game (FT : 08-13).

* Connacht vs. Munster : Pro14 (The Sportsground, Galway, Ireland)

The Munster side opened the scoreboard with a penalty from JJ Hanrahan. Conor Fitzgerald replied for Connacht. Though, JJ Hanrahan kicked his second penalty for Munster in that first-half.

Munster unleashed a huge build-up and back-rower Jack O’Donoghue carried over the line. Conor Fitzgerald and JJ Hanrahan kept trading penalties with the Connacht fly-half adding one more.

In the second-half, JJ Hanrahan landed his fourth penalty. Connacht hit back with a try from Jack Carty. Munster remained strong in defence and snatched the massive away win in Galway (FT : 14-19).

* Ospreys vs. Cardiff : Pro14 (Liberty Stadium, Swansea, Wales)

The Ospreys opened the scoreboard with a penalty from Marty McKenzie. The Cardiff Blues replied with two penalties from Jarrod Evans but they had Filo Paulo yellow-carded for a high tackle.

The Cardiff Blues even had a second player binned with Tomos Williams as the Ospreys were awarded a penalty try. In the second-half, Marty McKenzie got a kick and so did Jason Tovey for the Cardiff Blues.

The Cardiff Blues were building and Jarrod Evans managed to get the try. Marty McKenzie landed a kick for the Ospreys. Jason Tovey was also on target for the Cardiff Blues. They got the away win (FT : 16-19).

* Colomiers vs. Biarritz : ProD2 (Michel Bendichou, Colomiers, France)

In the first-half, Thomas Girard missed a kick but nailed the next one for Colomiers. They also got a penalty try. Biarritz scored with Steve Barry and Pierre Bernard kicked a penalty.

Though, Biarritz had Romain Ruffenach binned. Thomas Girard landed a kick. He added another later on as Pierre Bernard was off target. Thomas Girard kicked two more penalties in a tough game.

Maxime Granouillet was binned for Colomiers. Romain Bezian, for Colomiers, and Evan Olmstead, for Biarritz, were binned for a fight. Steve Barry had a late brace for Biarritz. Colomiers won (FT : 22-15).

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

Bath Rugby built from the start and prop Beno Obano carried over the line. Winger Anthony Watson scored on the counter-attack. London Irish landed a penalty with Stephen Myler.

Bath Rugby threw the ball wide and Semesa Rokoduguni got the try. Albert Tuisue was binned for foul play for London Irish. Bath Rugby got a penalty try and Will Chudley got a stunning try.

Tom Homer scored a coast-to-coast try for Bath Rugby. London Irish replied with Adam Coleman. Prop Christian Judge was binned for Bath Rugby for a high tackle but they won (FT : 10-38).

* Bordeaux vs. La Rochelle : Top14 (Matmut Atlantic, Bordeaux, France)

In a physical game, Bordeaux Bègles applied a huge pressure in the first-half. Playmaker Matthieu Jalibert kicked four consecutive penalties. Stade Rochelais needed a huge reaction before the Half-Time.

Jules Plisson kicked two penalties. In the second-half, he added two more penalties and it was all square. Matthieu Jalibert and Jules Plisson both added one more penalty with the game all square again.

In the last moments of the game, Bordeaux Bègles built a few phases of play and prop Peni Ravai carried over the line. Bordeaux Bègles made one last turnover and won that tough fixture (FT : 20-15).

Conclusion

That weekend was a ver entertaining weekend. In the ProD2, Grenoble got a bonus point win and so did Perpignan. Colomiers also secured a good win. In the Top14, Racing 92 gained some momentum.

Brive snatched an away draw. Castres Olympique won well. Stade Toulousain won away and Bordeaux Bègles performed well. In the Premiership, Gloucester and Bath Rugby played some great rugby.

Meanwhile, in the Pro14, Benetton Treviso, Munster and Cardiff Blues all won away. Next weekend, the league games in the Northern Hemisphere would go on before the next rugby year comes quickly.

Max.

The Rugby Wrap : Weekend Review (Friday, 13th, December, 2019 – Sunday, 15th, December, 2019)

Henry Chavancy played his 300th game for Racing 92 in Champions Cup against the Ospreys

That rugby weekend was another pivotal weekend for all the clubs in the North. Just like the weekend before, all the domestic leagues were taking a rest as other competitions were taking place.

In fact, it was the european competitions with the Champions Cup and the Challenge Cup. The Round 4 fixtures were taking place with some favourites already making their impression.

Meanwhile, it also was the last opportunities for a few clubs to pick up some points and maybe get some momentum. All the fixtures were going to be very interesting as both competitions showed quality.

* Racing 92 vs. Ospreys : Champions Cup (Paris La Défense Arena, Nanterre, France)

The Ospreys were first on the scoreboard with Luke Morgan. Racing 92 hit back with a good try from Luc Dupichot. Racing 92 played expansively and Juan Imhoff got a quick brace in the first-half.

Maxime Machenaud threw the offload and Simon Zebo finished the try. In the second-half, Georges-Henri Colombe and Yoann Tanga got powerful tries. The Ospreys came back with a try from Lesley Klim.

The Ospreys kept the momentum in attack and playmaker Luke Price touched down. Shaun Venter also scored and Lesley Klim got a brace. Though, Racing 92 still got the bonus point win (FT : 40-27).

* Bordeaux vs. Agen : Challenge Cup (Chaban-Delmas, Bordeaux, France)

The Agen side built a few phases and Leo Berdeu kicked a penalty. The home side got possession and Seta Tamanivalu scored from a kick-chase. Santiago Cordero also got a stunning try.

Leo Berdeu kicked a second penalty for Agen. In the second-half, Clement Maynadier carried over the line for Bordeaux-Bègles. Prop Beka Gorgadze also showed his power to get the bonus point try.

The home side kept playing. On a counter-attacking play, replacement scrum-half Baptiste Germain gathered a chip-kick to get another try. It was a bonus point win for Bordeaux-Bègles (FT : 33-06).

* Montpellier vs. Toulouse : Champions Cup (GGL Stadium, Montpellier, France)

In the first-half, Stade Toulousain ran the ball and Romain Ntamack scored a stunning try. Montpellier came back with a try from Fulgence Ouedraogo. Johan Goosen kicked two penalties for the home side.

Stade Toulousain got a try from a lineout with Rory Arnold. In the second-half, the second-rower intercepted a pass from Frans Steyn to get a brace. Montpellier were back with a try from Nemani Nadolo.

Stade Toulousain remained composed to make a few turnovers. On the last play, they spread the ball wide and Lucas Tauzin touched down for the bonus point try. Stade Toulousain won (FT : 18-26).

* Saracens vs. Munster : Champions Cup (Allianz Park, London, England)

The first-half was absolutely physical between the two sides. The Saracens opened the scoreboard with a penalty from Owen Farrell. Munster replied with a penalty from JJ Hanrahan, after that.

In the second-half, JJ Hanrahan kicked a second penalty for Munster before missing a kick. The Saracens came back and after a huge build-up, Sean Maitland touched down froma big scrum.

The Saracens kept the intensity and prop Mako Vunipola carried over the line. The home side remained very strong on defence in the next phases of play. They clinched a massive home win (FT : 15-06).

* Stade Français vs. Bristol : Challenge Cup (Jean Bouin, Paris, France)

In the first-half, Stade Français missed a penalty with Nicolas Sanchez. The Bristol Bears kicked a penalty with Callum Sheedy. The home side scored a try with Waisea but Pablo Matera was binned.

Will Capon scored a maul try for Bristol. Nicolas Sanchez kicked a penalty. He added another one later on and so did Callum Sheedy for Bristol. Nicolas Sanchez missed another kick.

Moreover, Joris Segonds landed a kick for Stade Français. Though, the Bristol Bears scored a huge try with Harry Thacker and Callum Sheedy converted. They made the turnover to win it (FT : 16-18).

* Exeter vs. Sale : Champions Cup (Sandy Park, Exeter, England)

The Sale Sharks kicked a penalty with AJ McGinty. The Exeter Chiefs were powerful and Sam Simmonds carried over the line. The Sale Sharks lacked discipline and Curtis Langdon was yellow-carded.

It allowed Joe Simmonds to cross over the line for the try while Sam Simmonds got a brace. The Sale Sharks hit back with a try from Sam James before the game was interrupted as it was hailing.

When the game re-started, the Exeter Chiefs built a few phases and prop Ben Moon scored from close range. Winger Jack Nowell scored in the same fashion. It was a big win for the Exeter Chiefs (FT : 35-10).

* Clermont vs. Bath : Champions Cup (Marcel Michelin, Clermont, France)

The home side started with a maul try from John Ulugia. Centre Damian Penaud concluded a try while Alivereti Raka and George Moala got stunning scores. Bath Rugby replied with a try from Jack Walker.

Clermont kept attacking. Alivereti Raka gathered a chip-kick for his brace. George Moala also got a brace. Ruaridh McConnochie got a try for Bath Rugby. Camille Lopez played the quick-tap and scored.

Bath Rugby relied on their maul to get tries from Tom Dunn and Josh Bayliss. However, Sam Nixon was binned and Clermont scored on the counter-attack with Jake McIntyre. It was a big win (FT : 52-26).

Conclusion

That weekend delivered some quality fixtures in the european competitions. In the Champions Cup, Racing 92 and Stade Toulousain secured bonus point wins. The Saracens delivered a great performance, too.

The Exeter Chiefs and Clermont kept the momentum. Meanwhile, in the Challenge Cup, Bordeaux-Bègles remained unbeaten and so did the Bristol Bears who got a tough away win.

Next weekend, there will be the domestic leagues again with the traditional Christmas derbies in the Pro14. The last two Rounds of the european competitions would take place in the new year.

Max.

The Rugby Wrap : Weekend Review (Thursday, 05th, December, 2019 – Sunday, 08th, December, 2019)

Fullback Tom Marshall scored a brace of tries against Connacht during the Champions Cup

That weekend was another very important weekend for the Northern Hemisphere. It was the Round 3 of the european competitions with all the sides targeting the play-offs qualification.

Also, other competitions were taking place at the same time. For example, in France, the second tier competition, the ProD2, was back for another run of three games before a resting weekend.

With the league showing huge competition, the clubs could not afford a bad performance. It was all about playing well and getting some momentum for the rest of the long season in that league.

* Perpignan vs. Biarritz : ProD2 (Aimé Giral, Perpignan, France)

The home side started well with a penalty from Jonathan Bousquet and a try from Damien Chouly. Biarritz hit back with two penalties from Pierre Bernard and a try scored by the winger Gavin Stark.

After that, Pierre Bernard added a penalty. He got a fourth. Jonathan Bousquet got a kick and Genesis Mamea Lemalu scored while Gavin Stark was binned. Jonathan Bousquet landed a kick but missed one.

Biarritz had a second player binned with Evan Olmstead. Jonathan Bousquet got a kick and Adrea Cocagi touched down. Pierre Bernard got a kick. Perpignan mande one last turnover to win it (FT : 29-25).

* Grenoble vs. Rouen : ProD2 (Stade des Alpes, Grenoble, France)

In the first-half, Rouen kicked a penalty with Matthew James. Enzo Selponi did the same for Grenoble. Marika Vunibaka was binned for Rouen as Nathanael Hulleu and Lucas Dupont scored for Grenoble.

Grenoble had Fabien Alexandre binned but Steven Setephano scored from a maul and Lucas Rey carried over the line. In the second-half, Ange Capuozzo concluded a good build-up for the home side.

Also, Steeve Blanc-Mappaz got the try and Lucas Rey had a brace after a strong carry. Andreï Ostrikov was the second player binned for Grenoble. It was for foul play. Though, Grenoble got the big win (FT : 46-03).

* Lyon vs. Treviso : Champions Cup (Gerland, Lyon, France)

The home side showed some attacking rugby from the start. Jean-Marcelin Buttin scored a good individual try. Centre Charlie Ngatai also concluded a very good attacking build-up for his team.

Meanwhile, Jonathan Wisniewski kicked a penalty and winger Xavier Mignot got a super counter-attacking try. In the second-half, Lyon kept attacking but Benetton Treviso defended their lines well.

They lacked discipline and Marco Barbini was binned. Patricio Fernandez kicked a penalty for Lyon and Liam Gill touched down from a maul. Lyon managed to get the bonus point win (FT : 28-00).

* Toulon vs. London Irish : Challenge Cup (Felix Mayol, Toulon, France)

The home team scored early with Baptiste Serin and Anthony Belleau landed a penalty. London Irish replied with a try from Steve Mafi but Pat Cilliers was sent to the bin. Bapstiste Serin got a brace.

Stephen Myler got a kick. Ramiro Moyano gathered a chip-kick to score and Masivesi Dakuwaqa got a great tries. Theo Dachary, for Toulon, and TJ Ioane, for London Irish, were both sent off for high tackles.

Anthony Belleau landed a kick while Tom Fowlie scored a late try for London Irish. Toulon sealed the win with a brace from Ramiro Moyano after a very good cross-field kick on the left wing (FT : 37-17).

* Ospreys vs. Racing 92 : Chapions Cup (Liberty Stadium, Swansea, Wales)

The Ospreys fullback was sent off after less than a minute for foul play. Racing 92 had Juan Imhoff binned after many penalties. The Ospreys scored the first try with the winger Hanno Dirksen.

Though, the Ospreys had Scott Williams yellow-carded. Teddy Baubigny and Teddy Thomas scored tries for Racing 92. They had a penalty try awarded as Aled Davies was binned for the Ospreys.

Teddy Thomas got a brace. Yoann Tanga scored. Ma’afu Fia and Aled Davies scored tries for the Ospreys. Henry Chavancy scored for Racing 92. Maxime Machenaud was binned. Racing 92 won (FT : 19-40).

* Gloucester vs. Connacht : Champions Cup (Kingsholm, Gloucester, England)

The Gloucester team attacked early and Tom Marshall scored a stunning try. Connacht replied with a try from John Porch and a penalty from Jack Carty. Gloucester had a try denied after a knock-on.

In the second-half, Louis Rees-Zamit got the try for the home side after an intercept from Danny Cipriani. Kyle Godwin was binned for Connacht. Tom Marshall got a brace and Jake Polledri touched down.

Gloucester were under pressure and Billy Twelvetrees was yellow-carded. Connacht was also denied a try after a knock-on but Quinn Roux later scored. Gloucester got the bonus point win (FT : 26-17).

* Oyonnax vs. Mont-de-Marsan : ProD2 (Charles Mathon, Oyonnax, France)

First, Yoann Laousse-Azpiazu got a kick for Stade Montois and so did Yohan Le Bourhis for Oyonnax. Christophe David scored for Stade Montois. Yohan Le Bourhis and Yoann Laousse-Azpiazu got a kick.

Yohan Le Bourhis got a kick and a drop-goal but Quentin MacDonald was binned. Leo Coly landed a kick for Stade Montois but Thomas Laclayat was binned. Jeremy Gondrand got a kick for Oyonnax.

Leandro Cedaro was binned for Stade Montois. Quentin MacDonald scored and Jeremy Gondrand added a kick. Stade Montois got a penalty try as Sacha Zegueur was binned for Oyonnax who won (FT : 23-21).

* Toulouse vs. Montpellier : Champions Cup (Ernest Wallon, Toulouse, France)

The home side were on the front foot early and Thomas Ramos kicked two consecutive penalties. Stade Toulousain built a few phases and Romain Ntamack scored but Montpellier replied.

Benoit Paillaugue kicked a penalty before Half-Time. In the second-half, Frans Steyn got a penalty but Romain Ntamack intercepted for his brace. Benoit Paillaugue landed another penalty.

However, Louis Picamoles was sent to the bin for Montpellier. Stade Toulousain kicked another penalty with Thomas Ramos. Stade Toulousain clinched the home win under terrible weather (FT : 23-09).

* Sale vs. Exeter : Champions Cup (Salford, Sale, England)

The Sale Sharks kicked a penalty with Robert du Preez. Though, Tom Curry was yellow-carded as the Exeter Chiefs were awarded a penalty try. Stuart Hogg re-gathered his chip-kick to get a second try.

The Sale Sharks hit back with a try from Akker van der Merwe. Though, Luke Cowan-Dickie carried over the line for the Exeter Chiefs. Akker van der Merwe got his brace for the Sale Sharks.

In the second-half, the Sale Sharks pushed for the try. Ben Moon was yellow-carded for the Exeter Chiefs as Jono Ross touched down. The Exeter Chiefs made one last turnover to win it (FT : 20-22).

Conclusion

That weekend was another entertaining weekend. First of all, in the ProD2, Perpignan gathered a hard-fought win. Grenoble and Oyonnax also clinched home wins to get some momentum.

Besides, in the Challenge Cup, Toulon remain unbeaten after their home win. Alos, in the Champions Cup, Lyon picked up the win while Racing 92 got the bonus point win and so did Gloucester.

Stade Toulousain and the Exeter Chiefs also picked up some key wins. Next weekend, the same competitions would carry on. The ProD2 and the european competitions as well would take place.

Max.

The Rugby Wrap : Weekend Review (Friday, 29th, November, 2019 – Sunday, 01st, December, 2019)

Edinburgh clinched an away win in Munster in more than a decade with a try from Eroni Sau

That weekend was a pivotal weekend for all the rugby clubs in the Northern Hemisphere. The clubs were coming from the first two Rounds of the european competitions : Champions Cup and Challenge Cup.

There were back for domestic fixtures that weekend before the next two Rounds of the european competitions. Once again, the managers were facing a tough challenge in terms of the squad management.

It still was the beginning of the Northern Hemisphere leagues but all the sides wanted to get as much momentum as possible. It was all about starting to perform really well for all the clubs.

* Munster vs. Edinburgh : Pro14 (Independent Park, Cork, Ireland)

The Edinburgh province were on the attack early and centre Matt Scott scored the try. Jaco van der Walt kicked a penalty but the home side came back. Ben Healy kicked a penalty for Munster.

Just before the Half-Time, Tommy O’Donnell scored for Munster and it was all square. In the second-half, Ben Healy added two more penalties. Though, Edinburgh got a penalty with Simon Hickey.

Relying on a strong attacking platform, the winger Eroni Sau gathered a ball from a cross-field kick and touched down. Edinburgh managed the last quarter well to get a famous away win (FT : 16-18).

* Wales vs. Barbarians : Friendly (Principality Stadium, Cardiff, Wales)

The Welsh team found space on the wing and Josh Adams scored. The Barbarians tied the game up with Josh Strauss. Though, Johnny McNicholl got the try on debut and Marco Van Staden was binned.

Wales gathered a loose throw and Ken Owens touched down. In the second-half, he got a brace and so did Josh Adams. The Barbarians hit back with Curwin Bosch and Shaun Stevenson.

Gareth Davies scored from close range for Wales. The Barbarians scored tries with Craig Millar and Pete Samu. However, Leigh Halfpenny kicked a penalty for Wales which earned the win (FT : 43-33).

* Northampton vs. Leicester : Premiership (Franklin’s Gardens, Northampton, England)

The Leicester Tigers opened the scoreboard with a penalty from George Ford. Northampton Saints played some brillant rugby and Matt Proctor scored. Guy Thompson got the try for Leicester Tigers.

Northampton Saints kicked a penalty with James Grayson as Matt Proctor got a brace after a stunning move. Api Ratuniyarawa added another one. George Ford landed a penalty for Leicester Tigers.

Prop Alex Moon was yellow-carded for the home side but Tom Collins scored. Later on, Northampton Saints gathered a loose throw and Fraser Dingwall touched down. They got the win (FT : 36-13).

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

The Exeter Chiefs relied on their forwards pack and Ben Moon got the try. The Wasps got a penalty with Jacob Umaga and Gareth Steenson also landed a penalty for the Exeter Chiefs in the first-half.

In the second-half, Luke Cowan-Dickie scored the try from a powerful maul. The Wasps prop Kieran Brookes was yellow-carded at scrum time as the Exeter Chiefs earned a penalty try from the resulting scrum.

The home side kept pushing for the bonus point try and Tom O’Flaherty scored a stunning try. Prop Alec Hepburn also carried over the line. The Exeter Chiefs clinched a home bonus point win (FT : 38-03).

* Pau vs. Toulon : Top14 (Le Hameau, Pau, France)

The home side started the game well with two consecutive penalties from Antoine Hastoy. However, Toulon came back with three penalties from their playmaker Anthony Belleau.

Later in the first-half, back-rower Sergio Parisse scored the try. The Pau hooker Quentin Lespiaucq was yellow-carded for foul play. In the second-half, Antoine Hastoy closed the gap with one more penalty.

Toulon replied with a penalty from Anthony Belleau. Though, they were under pressure as Brian Alainu’uese was yellow-carded for a high tackle. Toulon held on and got the great away win (FT : 09-19).

* Ospreys vs. Cheetahs : Pro14 (The Gnoll, Neath, Wales)

The Cheetahs threw the ball wide early and centre William Small-Smith touched down. The Ospreys scored a penalty with Luke Price. The Cheetahs also got the penalty with Ruan Pienaar.

The Ospreys got a try with prop Ma’afu Fia. Ruan Pienaar missed a penalty for the Cheetahs and so did Luke Price for the Ospreys, later on. The Cheetahs set up a maul and Wilmar Arnoldi scored.

Luke Price got a penalty for the home side. Tian Schoeman landed a kick for the Cheetahs. They had Sintu Manjezi binned but they defended their line brillantly to get the massive away win (FT : 13-18).

* Montpellier vs. Lyon : Top14 (GGL Stadium, Montpellier, France)

The home side began in a brillant way with winger Nemani Nadolo scoring the try. Montpellier set up the driving maul and Bismarck du Plessis got the try. Mickael Ivaldi was binned for Lyon.

Montpellier relied on the maul again and Louis Picamoles was on the scoreboard. In the second-half, Jonathan Wisniewski scored a penalty for Lyon but Montpellier got the possession.

Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg scored from a maul and forward Youri Delhommel carried over the line as well. Lyon scored a late try with winger Xavier Mignot. Montpellier got the bonus point win (FT : 33-08).

* Brive vs. Stade Français : Top14 (Amédée Domenech, Brive, France)

In the first-half, Stade Français kicked a penalty with Nicolas Sanchez but Jonathan Danty was yellow-carded. Thomas Lanranjeira kicked two penalties for Brive and Axel Muller got an interception try.

The home side got another try with Karlen Asieshvili after a strong carry. Julien Delbouis got a try for Stade Français as Axel Muller was binned. Nicolas Sanchez and Thomas Laranjeira both landed a kick.

In a physical game, Stade Français got a try with Kylan Hamdaoui from a scrum. Thomas Laranjeira got a kick for Brive and so did Joris Segonds for Stade Français. Brive held their lines and won (FT : 26-21).

* Harlequins vs. Gloucester : Premiership (The Twickenham Stoop, London, England)

The Harlequins kicked a penalty with Marcus Smith. Gloucester got the first try with Ollie Thorley. The home side replied with a stunning try from Ross Chisholm but Ollie Thorley got a brace.

In the second-half, Marcus Smith kicked a second penalty. Gloucester scored from close range with Ben Morgan. The Harlequins unleashed a big attacking build-up concluded by Alex Dombrandt.

James Lang missed a penalty for the home side and so did Billy Twelvetrees for Gloucester. The Harlequins got one last penalty with Marcus Smith and secured the home win in a tough game (FT : 23-19).

* Bristol vs. London Irish : Premiership (Ashton Gate, Bristol, England)

The home side kicked a penalty with Callum Sheedy as Ben Meehan got a try for London Irish. Oli Hoskins was sent off for London Irish. The Bristol Bears scored a great try with Nathan Hughes.

Stephen Myler kicked a penalty for London Irish as Charles Piutau got the try for the home side. Waisake Naholo got the interception try for London Irish but Ed Holmes scored for the home side.

However, John Afoa was binned. Tom Parton scored for London Irish and so did Harry Thacker for the home side. Stephen Myler kicked a penalty. It was a good draw for the Bristol Bears (FT : 27-27).

* Stade Toulousain vs. Bayonne : Top14 (Ernest Wallon, Toulouse, France)

The home side kicked a penalty with Thomas Ramos. Sofiane Guitoune found space in the midfield to get the try and Matthis Lebel scored on the wing. Matt Luamanu was sent off for Bayonne.

Brandon Fajardo kicked a penalty for Bayonne. Stade Toulousain scored as Clément Castets carried over the line. Aymeric Luc replied for Bayonne after a kick-chase but the home side lacked discipline.

Julien Marchand was binned but Gillian Galan got the try. Bayonne had another player sent off with Filimo Taofifenua. Paulo Tafili got a try and a penalty try was awarded. Stade Toulousain won (FT : 45-10).

Conclusion

It was an entertaining weekend. First of all, in the Pro14, Edinburgh and the Cheetahs clinched massive away wins. About the Premiership, Northampton Saints won their Midlands derby.

Also, the Exeter Chiefs got a bonus point win. The Harlequins performed well and Bristol Bears got a good draw. In the Top14, Toulon got a great away win as Montpellier, Brive and Stade Toulousain won.

Finally, Wales began their new era well with a great win. Next weekend, it will be the next two Rounds of the Champions Cup and the Challenge Cup. There should be other great european fixtures.

Max.

The Rugby Wrap : Weekend Review (Friday, 22nd, November, 2019 – Saturday, 23rd, November, 2019)

Toulon got a late win against the Scarlets with a converted try as the conversion hit the post

That weekend was the second Round of the european competitions, the Champions Cup and the Challenge Cup. A few teams already had to win to keep their chances to qualify for the play-offs.

With the World Cup having finished in November, the european competitions started later than the other seasons. It means that the third and the fourth Round would come very quickly, as well.

Actually, these two Rounds would be played in December so there was only one league game for the clubs. The respective coaches will have to manage their squad carefully to go as far as possible.

* Toulon vs. Scarlets : Challenge Cup (Felix Mayol, Toulon, France)

The home side started well as Anthony Belleau made a cross-field kick to Gervais Cordin who scored. Though, Johnny McNicholl intercepted for the Scarlets for the try and it was all square.

After that, Anthony Belleau added a penalty and Tevita Ratuva was red-carded for the Scarlets after an illegal tackle. In the second-half, the Scarlets kept the ball. Ryan Lamb kicked a penalty.

Also, Dan Jones added another and got a drop-goal. Toulon set-up a driving maul on the last play as Liam Messam touched down. Anthony Belleau kicked the winning conversion which hit the post (FT : 17-16).

* Toulouse vs. Connacht : Champions Cup (Ernest Wallon, Toulouse, France)

The home side could not defend well and Connacht scored the first try with Tom Farrell. Stade Toulousain hit back with Sebastien Bezy finishing a good build-up. Thomas Ramos kicked a penalty.

Though, Connacht kept attacking and Caolin Blade scored but Colby Fainga’a was yellow-carded for a dangerous tackle. Stade Toulousain spread the ball wide and Yoann Huget touched down.

Connacht got a penalty with Conor Fitzgerald. Though, Thomas Ramos landed aanother kick. Jerome Kaino scored from close range and centre Pita Ahki touched down for the bonus point win (FT : 32-17).

* Exeter vs. Glasgow : Champions Cup (Sandy Park, Exeter, England)

The Glasgow Warriors were on attack early and centre Nick Grigg scored. The Exeter Chiefs came back with a penalty from Joe Simmonds and a try from second-rower Johnny Hill who carried over the line.

Meanwhile, Adam Hastings kicked two penalties. Jack Nowell offloaded to send Henry Slade to the try line and Sam Simmonds touched down from a maul. Tom O’Flaherty gethered a chip-kick for a stunning try.

Kieran McDonald was binned for Glasgow Warriors. Joe Simmonds got a kick as Sam Simmonds was binned. George Turner scored a late try for the Glasgow Warriors as the Exeter Chiefs won (FT : 34-18).

* Munster vs. Racing 92 : Champions Cup (Thomond Park, Limerick, Ireland)

The home side kicked a penalty with JJ Hanrahan. Racing 92 started to play and Finn Russell scored a stunning individual try. JJ Hanrahan added a second penalty for Munster but Racing 92 attacked.

Finding space out wide, winger Teddy Thomas touched down on the right wing. Munster replied before the Half-Time with a try from Keith Earls. In the second-half, JJ Hanrahan kicked a penalty.

On the re-start, Racing 92 scored a great try with Juan Imhoff. It was all square when Andrew Conway scored for Munster. JJ Hanrahan missed a drop-goal as Racing 92 clinched a massive away draw (FT : 21-21).

Conclusion

That weekend has been pretty good with many thrilling games. First of all, in the Challenge Cup, Toulon snatched the home win thanks to a late converted try with the conversion hitting the post.

About the Champions Cup, Stade Toulousain got the bonus point win and so did the Exeter Chiefs who delivered a good performance. Also, Racing 92 clinched a massive away draw in Limerick.

Next weekend, the league games would come back in the Northern Hemisphere. There would be some big games in the Top14, in the Pro14 and in the Premiership. It should be entertaining.

Max.

The Rugby Wrap : Weekend Review (Friday, 15th, November, 2019 – Sunday, 17th, November, 2019)

Cameron Woki set up a great try for Seta Tamanivalu as Bordeaux Bègles defeated the Wasps

That weekend was very expected in the Northern Hemisphere because it was the start of the european competitions. The Champions Cup and the Challenge Cup were back for another thrilling season.

The two opening Rounds took place a little bit later than the previous seasons with the World Cup finishing in early November. It meant that all the clubs were not having their full-strength squad.

That is why the respective managers had to manage their players well. It was all about finding the good balance in their squad. These two opening Rounds were key for each side involved in european ties.

* Gloucester vs. Toulouse : Champions Cup (Kingsholm, Gloucester, England)

The French team scored first with a drop-goal from Zack Holmes. Joe Simpson got a quick brace for Gloucester. Thomas Ramos, for Toulouse, and Danny Cipriani, for Gloucester, both kicked two penalties.

Before the Half-Time, Danny Cipriani missed a penalty, In the second-half, Stade Toulousain got the possession. Romain Ntamack and Thomas Ramos both added a penalty for their side.

They later unleashed a massive build-up concluded by Sebastien Bezy. Thomas Ramos landed another kick while Yoann Huget was denied a try for a knock-on. Stade Toulousain held their lines and won (FT : 20-25).

* Bayonne vs. Toulon : Challenge Cup (Jean Daugé, Bayonne, France)

The home side started well with two penalties from Manuel Ordas. Toulon set up a driving maul and Marcel van der Merwe touched down. He got a brace in a same fashion just before the Half-Time.

In the second-half, Peyo Muscarditz scored for Bayonne. However, Maile Mamao was yellow-carded for a high tackle. Winger Julian Savea got try on the left wing but Toulon also had a player binned.

It was Raphael Lakafia after a dangerous tackle. Toulon defended well and got another maul try with Anthony Etrillard. Toulon remained strong in defence and clinched an away bonus point win (FT : 13-20).

* Glasgow vs. Sale : Champions Cup (The Scotstoun, Glasgow, Scotland)

Th Glasgow Warriors had plenty of possession in the first-half. Adam Hastings kicked a penalty. Ha was off-target on his second attempt but he nailed his next to kick his second penalty of the game.

Just before the Half-Time, winger DTH van der Merwe found some space and he got a very good try. Sale Sharks were not out of it and came back in the second-half with a try from Coenie Osthuizen.

The Glasgow Warriors managed the last quarter of the game well with some field position. Sale Sharks had an opportunity ot win it but the home side held their lines for a very good win (FT : 13-07).

* La Rochelle vs. Exeter : Champions Cup (Marcel Deflandre, La Rochelle, France)

The Exeter Chiefs were clinical as second-rower Dave Dennis scored from close range. La Rochelle were denied a try because of a forward pass. Tom O’Flaherty who got a stunning try for the Exeter Chiefs.

In the second-half, it was much better for the home side and Geoffrey Doumayrou got the try. The Exeter Chiefs were composed and Henry Slade got the intercept try as Sam Simmonds carried over the line.

The Exeter Chiefs even added a penalty with Joe Simmonds. Stade Rochelais got a consolation try with Kirikiri Murimurivalu, set-up by a cross-field kick. It was a great win for the Exeter Chiefs (FT : 12-31).

* Clermont vs. Harlequins : Champions Cup (Marcel Michelin, Clermont, France)

The home side kicked a penalty with Morgan Parra. They put pressure and Alivereti Raka scored the try from a loose ball. Flanker Peceli Yato got a brace and was denied a Hat-Trick for a knock-on.

The Harlequins had to react and Tom Lawday scored. Morgan Parra kicked his second penalty for Clermont. Centre Isaia Toeava finished some move as Elia Elia got a maul try for the Harlequins.

Clermont kpet attacking. Alivereti Raka got a double while George Moala gathered a chip-kick for the try. James Lang had a try for the Harlequins but Mike Tadjer sealed the win for Clermont (FT : 53-21).

* Bordeaux vs. Wasps : Challenge Cup (Chaban-Delmas, Bordeaux, France)

The home side kicked two penalties with Matthieu Jalibert. Billy Searle did the same for the Wasps. Though, Matthieu Jalibert kicked a third penalty and Seta Tamanivalu touched down before Half-Time.

Jack Willis scored and Billy Searle added a penalty for the Wasps. Matthieu Jalibert landed a kick. Tom Cruse got the maul try. Bordeaux Bègles reacted with a stunning try concluded by Yann Lesgourgues.

The home side kept attacking and Scott Higginbotham touched down. The Wasps came back with Dan Robson. Matthieu Jalibert set up the try for Romain Buros and it was a bonus point win (FT : 40-30).

* Northampton vs. Lyon : Champions Cup (Franklin’s Gardens, Northampton, England)

The home side started very strongly with two penalties from Dan Biggar. Centre Rory Hutchinson scored a superb individual try. Dan Biggar kicked two more penalties for the home side in the first-half.

In the second-half, Dan Biggar landed his fifth penalty but Teimana Harrison was yellow-carded following too many infringements. Lyon had space and Thibault Regard scored the try.

Later on, Lyon had a try denied after a knock-on. Dan Biggar kicked another penalty. Thibault Regard got a brace for Lyon from a scrum. Though, Northampton Saints secured the win (FT : 25-14).

Conclusion

There were some entertaining games for the opening Round of the Champions Cup and the Challenge Cup. First of all, in the Challenge Cup, Toulon got the away win while Bordeaux clinched the result.

Meanwhile, in the Champions Cup, Stade Toulousain began well with an away win. Glasgow Warriors performed at home while the Exeter Chiefs also started brillantly with an away win in France.

Clermont were in scintillating form and Northampton Saints also did the job. Next weekend, there will be another Round of Champions Cup and Challenge Cup. It should be another good weekend.

Max.