We were at Twickenham on Saturday afternoon for the rather disappointing contest between the Barbarians and Australia. Here are this weekend’s highlights:
Disappointing exit for Matfield as the Wallabies run in eight tries
Not the best way for the great Victor Matfield to bow out. Nor was it the ideal Twickenham return for Danny Cipriani. Tri-Nations champions Australia looked sharp and committed after a long year, running in eight tries, including braces for Digby Ioane, Lachie Turner and substitute James Horwill.
Australia clearly fancied getting a big win out of this fixture, forgetting the occasion and dominating the breakdown. David Pocock really is a joy to watch, the way he can control matches almost unrivalled from his position. The Wallabies had little trouble breaking through some poor defence and decision-making under pressure, the worst being Cipriani’s cough-up metres in front of his own line into the grateful path of Rob Horne. Horwill’s second try also was pretty flimsy. Credit to Sam Tomkins though. He looked completely lost when I deliberately followed him from the stands early on, but stuck at it, listened, and improved, getting a try at Twickenham on his Union debut as a reward. Good fun? Sure, but more results like this one are something the Barbarians could do without.
Northampton dominate at home, Leicester gaining momentum
Returning to the Aviva Premiership this week, after Round 9 eight points separate the teams between 3rd and 11th. The sides depleted by the World Cup are replenished and starting to click, whilst others are scraping out the tights games through moments of magic. In a neat way, Toby Flood’s disallowed fingertip effort to score against Gloucester is an accurate metaphor for the league right now. The smallest margins matter.
In fact, Flood’s performance this weekend, whilst we’re on it, was truly excellent. 14 points, including one allowed and one disallowed score, reflected just how comfortable, and well, how dramatically different he looked for England at the Rugby Cup, when running out for the Tigers. Some excellent kicking in difficult conditions, neat hands, complete control. A rare English positive at the end of a rough week. Gloucester gave everything at the end, but this was their third home loss in a row, which does not bode well.
Harlequins continued their remarkable run by thumping Newcastle, six tries to the good to win 39-8. 1st against 12th meant a rout was on the cards, and the Falcons obliged with some unimpressive defence. How Seb Stegmann finished his first try will have Alan Tait and Paul Moriarty in tears. The pace of Quins wingers and the hard work up front by the Chris Robshaw-inspired pack all proved too much. On this form, you expect Quins to keep this run going until they face Toulouse. Northampton are also coming back into contention, up into fourth and the playoffs following a big 30-8 win against Saracens. Tries from George Pisi, making up for last week’s howler against the Scarlets, Lee Dickson and Phil Dowson did the job.
Elsewhere, Worcester picked up an important home win against inconsistent Bath, Stephen Donald slumping from Man of the Match against Montpellier to fluffing kicks and passes throughout against the Warriors. A top try from Miles Benjamin and well-timed drop goal from Andy Goode brought home the bacon. London Irish ground out an ugly home win over London Wasps, top points scorer Tom Homer hitting 7 from 8 kicks with Christian Wade the only tryscorer as Irish dominated in the scrum. And lastly up at Edgeley Park, Exeter produced one of the comebacks of the season against Sale, flipping a 23-7 deficit on it’s head to emerge 30-23 winners. More on them later.
Top 6 all win in the Pro 12, with Cardiff smashing Aironi
Form dictated the fixtures in Celtic Rugby over the weekend, with the Ospreys, Leinster, Munster, Glasgow, Cardiff and the Scarlets all picking up wins. Cardiff’s was the most impressive, running in four second half tries against Aironi to win 38-0. Leinster also put 30 points on Treviso, but conceded 20 of their own. Another try for Eoin O’Malley means his star continues to rise. There was also a bonus point at Thomond Park for Munster against Edinburgh, with the brilliantly named Simon Zebo crossing for one of their scores.
All square on Giteau’s debut for Toulon as Montpellier shock Clermont
A frustrating debut for new big money import Matt Giteau saw Toulon end up with a draw away at Castres, with Jonny Wilkinson kicking 17 points for the star-studded outfit. Replacement Pierre Barnard slotted the crucial kick late on for the hosts to level the game in the 80th minute. Elsewhere Perpignan slumped to their sixth domestic defeat in a row, leaking four tries against Stade Français. Montpellier pulled off the big result of the weekend however, scrum half Benoit Paillaugue kicking 19 points and Fijian winger Timoci Nagusa grabbing a brace in their 6 point win over 2nd placed Clermont.
Fiji win the Gold Coast 7s with excellent second half performance against New Zealand
Despite losing to New Zealand in the group stages, Fiji produced a superb second half performance to take the Gold Coast 7s title, which included an incredible effort from Joeli Lutumailagi which put Fiji ahead early on. They ended up winning 26-12, with some truly fantastic celebrations at the final whistle.
Try of the Weekend this week had a fair few contenders; Luke Narraway against Leicester, Lachie Turner’s second try after great work from Adam Ashley-Cooper for the Wallabies. But we’ll give it to Lutumailagi of Fiji. Raw pace.
This week’s Hero is Ignacio Mieres of Exeter. Brought on with 50 minutes on the clock, Mieres instigated the Chiefs comeback, scoring two penalties and converting the penalty try, before intercepting Tasesa Lavea’s pass and racing home under the posts. Mission accomplished.
Last and certainly least, this week’s Villain is James O’Connor. The guy is quality, but he takes ages to kick his goals, and Peter Stringer pounced to stop his conversion on the edge of half-time. O’Connor’s smile summed up the match, but no way would he have been grinning if it was in a game that mattered.
Lastly (because I shamefully nearly forgot), congratulations to the England Women’s side for their win over the Black Ferns at Twickenham on Saturday evening. A brutal encounter that saw England manage to nil the New Zealand side, Maggie Alphonsi was the sole try scorer with Katy McLean adding 5 points from the boot in a 10-0 win.
by Ben Coles