Tough times continue for Leicester and Bath
Ben Botica battled tricky conditions to kick 18 points on the way to Harlequins’ 25-19 victory over Leicester. Marland Yarde provided the killer blow, latching onto Botica’s chip for the final try after Leicester had scored in the first half through Harry Thacker. Leicester have now lost three Premiership games on the bounce and drop below Harlequins to fifth in the Premiership table.
Wasps meanwhile recorded their fifth consecutive Premiership victory with a 24-18 defeat of Bath at The Rec. Winger Frank Halai scored tries either side of half-time and Simon McIntyre crashed over from close range to give Wasps a seemingly unassailable lead. However, Tom Homer collected a Matt Banahan grubber to score with fifteen minutes left and Amanaki Mafi rolled over in the midst of a maul to give Bath a losing bonus point for their troubles. For those counting, Bath have lost four of their last five in the Aviva Premiership.
Worcester took a crucial step towards surviving this Premiership season by beating Sale 31-23 on an uncharacteristically off day for Danny Cipriani. Carl Kirwan, Francois Hougaard and Chris Pennell crossed for the Warriors’ tries, all three coming in the first 45 minutes, and Tom Heathcote was on the mark with two conversions and four penalties. Meanwhile, Sale rumbled over for two driving maul tries from Dave Seymour and Tommy Taylor and Mike Haley crossed for two of his own. However, Cipriani missed all four conversions, leaving eight points on the field that could have saved Sale’s blushes.
Newcastle continued the upsets by beating Northampton 26-25, the Falcons’ third win in their last four league fixtures. After Marcus Watson’s try was disallowed, Alex Tait kicked off the scoring for Newcastle after eight minutes and Chris Harris joined in after half an hour. Andy Goode kicked both conversions as well as four further penalties to finish with 16 points. Saints scored an early try themselves through Jamie Gibson and Lee Dickson crossed twice in the second half as Saints sought to drag themselves into the game. Ultimately coming up short, Saints handed Newcastle a relegation lifeline.
Saracens have been criticised in the past for winning ‘ugly’ but this was perhaps the least appetising of their recent victories, a 25-12 defeat of Gloucester. On the one hand, there was the discipline, which saw captain Brad Barritt sin-binned for a tip tackle and Schalk Brits handed a straight red card for punching Nick Wood. On the other, there was just the one try that came from Ben Ransom for Sarries with Charlie Hodgson and James Hook kicking the remainder of the points.
London Irish came closer to beating Exeter than many would have expected, gaining a bonus point in a 15-22 defeat. Topsy Ojo was instrumental in both Exile tries, offloading to Ofisa Treviranus for the first, before a chest-heaving 80 metre sprint for the second. Chiefs scrum-half Dave Lewis scored Exeter’s try but this victory was down to Gareth Steenson who, as he so often does, kicked five penalties and a conversion and secured an unconvincing win.
Aviva Premiership Star Man: Simon Hammersley
Connacht back to top spot; Glasgow sneak past Munster
Reigning Pro12 champions Glasgow Warriors squeezed past Munster 27-24 thanks to a late Glenn Bryce try. The first half saw props from each side score a brace of tries, Sila Puafisi for Glasgow and Dave Kilcoyne for Munster with Ian Keatley adding a penalty to give the Irishmen a lead at the half. The Warriors’ Duncan Weir, who was wayward from the tee for much of the afternoon, made no mistake finishing off a try just after half-time and adding a penalty in the 62nd minute. Munster then scored from a lineout through Mike Sherry and Keatley converted, before Glasgow launched a wonderful back-line move which was finished off by Bryce.
Edinburgh slumped to their fourth consecutive defeat in all competitions, losing 27-13 to Ospreys. The Scots led 13-6 in the first half after Alan Dell’s converted try and two penalties from Greig Tonks. However, Sam Davies continued his impressive run of recent form, kicking five penalties and converting Sam Underhill’s try to finish with 17 points. Scott Otten sealed the deal four minutes before the end with a late try.
Benetton Treviso may be launching an unlikely run of form from the bottom of the Pro12 table, recording their second consecutive league win, beating Newport Gwent Dragons 19-17. Angelo Esposito and Hallam Amos traded early tries before Treviso landed a further blow just before half-time through Filo Paulo who drove over for a 14-10 half-time lead. Ludovico Nitoglia added another score five minutes into the second period and although Cory Hill brought the Dragons to within two points, Angus O’Brien’s drop goal couldn’t find the mark at the death.
Connacht went top of the Pro12, and notched their 10th bonus point of the season in their 51-34 victory over Zebre. Winger Matt Healy scored a hat-trick and Niyi Adeolokun (2) and Kieran Marmion also got themselves on the scoresheet. Zebre bagged a four-try bonus point of their own after scores from Dries van Schalkwyk, Federico Ruzza, Johan Meyer and Kelly Haimona, who also contributed 14 points from the tee.
Leinster and Cardiff offered a rather different match at Arms Park with Leinster edging it 14-13. The conditions made tryscoring difficult which meant that Ian Madigan and Gareth Anscombe were left to duel it out from the tee, giving Leinster a 9-6 lead. Despite the presence of returning internationals in both sides, it was Isa Nacewa who broke the deadlock after combining with Jack Conan, and Leinster seemed to have done enough for the four points. Cardiff surged late however and Josh Navidi’s converted try in the dying moments brought the Blues to within a point. Unfortunately Rhys Patchell’s drop-goal attempt was snuffed out.
Ulster and Scarlets finished the weekend with Scarlets earning a surprise 21-20 win. Both of the Welsh side’s scores came from Michael Collins, with Aled Thomas adding extras from the tee, while Ulster saw Craig Gilroy and Luke Marshall score in the right corner. Paddy Jackson’s late penalty brought Ulster to within one point, but no openings presented themselves to the Irishmen.
Guinness Pro 12 Star Man: Matt Healy
Winning ways return for Toulon and Clermont
With Clermont Auvergne’s focus now solely on domestic competition, they were able to keep themselves in the top three of the league table by beating Castres 28-17. Clermont found a second wind after starting quickly with with Flip van der Merwe’s try; Brock James and Sebastien Vahaamahina scoring in the final 10 minutes to hold off a Castres comeback. The losing side’s points all came in a furious 20 minute spell, Remi Lamerat and David Smith the tryscorers with a combination of Ben Urdapilleta and Rory Kockott supplementing from the tee.
Stade Francais resumed Top 14 action with a win over Brive by 32-17, with all of the tries coming in the second half. Morne Steyn and Gaetan Germain kicked the sides into half-time with Brive leading 12-6, with Guillaume Namy extending the lead to 11 points after 49 minutes. It took a yellow card for Fabien Sanconnie to give Stade the opening they needed as Djibril Camara and Jeremy Sinzelle pounced to score, with Jonathan Danty finishing off the win in the 75th minute.
Zack Holmes kicked La Rochelle to a 28-8 upset victory over Toulouse. The Australian kicked 23 points including the conversion of fellow Antipodean Romana Graham’s try in the 7th minute. Paul Perez scored Toulouse’s only try with a Toby Flood penalty doing little to ease the pain.
Bordeaux Begles added a win to their recent run of form, albeit not the most convincing of victories, 24-19 over Top 14 strugglers Agen. Sofiane Guitoune, Julien Rey and Sekope Kepu all crossed for Bordeaux, with Pierre Bernard converting all three and adding a penalty. Agen’s sole try came from Arsene Nnomo after an hour.
Grenoble and Racing 92 played out a scorcher at Stade Lesdiguieres, with Racing securing a 39-35 win with two late tries and a Dan Carter penalty. Starting in style, Racing scored three times in the opening 25 minutes through Antonie Claassen, Teddy Thomas and Juan Imhoff, all three of which were gratefully converted by Carter. Xavier Chaveau and Joe Rokocoko both went over in the last five minutes of the match to bag the win. Their opponents thanked Jonathan Wisniewski for his 25 points, and also saw Loick Jammes and James Percival cross the whitewash.
Pau chalked up their fifth league win of the season as Colin Slade scored all of their points in a 19-16 victory over Montpellier. Marvin O’Connor scored the first try of the game after forty minutes, adding to Benoit Paillaugue’s two earlier penalties giving Montpellier a healthy 13-6 lead. Slade, however, was not to be cowed and crossed for a 70th minute try and added two further penalties, the latter of which gave Pau the lead they held until the final whistle.
Toulon haven’t looked themselves in the Top 14 since December, but they resumed normal service by beating Oyonnax 44-13. Mathieu Bastareaud, Jonathan Pelissie, Bryan Habana, Ma’a Nonu and Irakli Natriashvili were the scorers as they romped home. Soane Tonga’uiha scored the solitary try for Oyonnax.
Top 14 Star Man: Colin Slade
Try of the Week: The Aviva Premiership continues to exhibit some of the best disallowed tries in world rugby, and this weekend saw Worcester Warriors’ centre Wynand Olivier score a corker, only to have it chalked off. The nod this week goes to Joe Rokocoko (but also Dan Carter) for their crossfield kick score that secured victory over Grenoble. Honourable mention also must go to Dave Seymour and Sale’s destructive rolling maul try.
Video credit: Sports Clip
Hero of the Week: Harlequins’ Ross Chisholm for chasing down Telusa Veainu and preventing a certain try that might well have changed the result for Leicester Tigers.
Villain of the Week: It will be discussed all week but Schalk Brits’ punch on Nick Wood was the ugliest moment of the weekend. I have heard that Brits was concerned with the clear-out after a serious knee injury last year, but Wood was left with a rather graphic split lip and concussion by Brits lashing out. Brits is a fantastic player and he isn’t particularly mean-spirited, but this was a rush of blood to the head.
By Fraser Kay (@fraserkay)
Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images