For the second week in a row, the Exeter Chiefs are at the top of our ‘Best of the Weekend’ list as Ben Coles looks back at the highlights.
Chiefs shock the Tigers
Predicted widely by most as a walkover, Exeter proved last weekend’s win against Gloucester was no fluke, and they really will threaten anyone, anywhere. Not many teams go to Welford Road and have Leicester worried but Exeter certainly did, and their tries were fantastic; Philip Dollman’s second one especially stood out. It all means that sides like Newcastle and Leeds really will be looking over their shoulders, and sets us up for another nail-biting relegation dogfight.
Luck off the post
Surely one of the luckiest things that can happen to you in a rugby match is going for a penalty, missing, but picking up a try as a result. This happened not once, but twice this weekend. Firstly up at Kingston Park on Friday night, Tom Varndell’s pace was there for all to see as he latched onto Van Gisbergen’s penalty attempt, the ball falling wide of the left post, and Varndell being the quickest to the ball to touch down. Bizarrely enough, this happened again at Kingsholm where Gloucester faced Leeds. Christian Lewis-Pratt’s penalty came off the left post; madness ensued as Gloucester failed to recover the bouncing ball and Luther Burrell leapt to score. You could safely bet that it will not happen again this season.
Stowers harshly sees red
The sending off against Irish Number 8 George Stowers in real time looked like a good call from referee Dave Pearson. But from a replay, whilst careless, there appears to be no malice or bad intent. Thankfully Abendanon was ok enough to carry on and eventually score the winning try. With luck on review, the Disciplinary panel will see this was the case, and make sure that Stowers does not receive a ban. It was certainly a penalty and a yellow card, but a red seems too much.
New Zealand do it again
They have won with ease, come from behind and edged out sides both home and away. The victory against Australia in Sydney marked a clean sweep for New Zealand is this year’s Tri-Nations, and the first since the tournament was expanded to its 9-match format. The title may have been already won, but that didn’t mean they took their foot off the gas. Trailing 22-9 with 13 minutes left, they fought back to clinch victory at the death through Kieran Read’s try. It was a performance of class from the best team in the world and the All Blacks look so good that surely, surely, the World Cup is there’s next year. Right?
Try of the weekend this time goes to Wasps’ Ben Jacobs, who was on hand to finish off a scintillating break from within the Wasps half. Richard Haughton’s gas down the wing opened up the defence and the switch inside to Varndell, followed by good hands from Simon Shaw sent Jacobs over for a great try.
This weekend’s Hero title was a hotly contested affair, Lachie Turner put his hand up for the Wallabies with a great tackle of Mils Muliaina after the full back looked all but away in the Bledisloe contest. Another contender was Nick Abendanon, who seemed to recover from being nearly knocked out to latch on to Michael Classen’s bouncing grubber behind the Irish defence.
But the winner is Nicky Robinson, who rescued Gloucester from a rollicking from coach Bryan Redpath with his last gasp-penalty kick to edge out Leeds 22-21 at Kingsholm. He showed excellent composure and will no doubt hope to re-create the form that he showed in his last season at Cardiff Blues in order to not only get Gloucester into the play-offs, but knock on the door for the Wales No.10 shirt. An excellent effort.
And as for the Villain, not so much a villain singular, but plural: empty seats. There were plenty on view at the Rec, Vicarage Road, Kingsholm and Kingston Park, and so early on in the season it doesn’t bode well for the clubs mentioned. Prices too high? People not interested? What’s going on?
Let us know what caught your eye this weekend.
By Ben Coles (@bennycoles)