All square in Paris as France lose Grand Slam chance
Sometimes the “kissing your sister” saying cannot be avoided. Fortunately, Declan Kidney wasted no time after Ireland drew with France to throw it out there. The smile was brave but within Kidney must have been cursing the fact that Ireland had been 17-6 up at half time, yet unable to not only keep France at bay in the second half, but put any more points on the board at all.
Opinion on how Ireland performed will be split straight down the middle. On one hand, they produced their best first 40 minutes for some time, brilliantly physical in both defence and attack. Rob Kearney and Tommy Bowe appeared half a yard faster than normal, Bowe in particular showing some of his best finishing by first pouncing for the interception, then again before half time with a superb chip and chase for his second try.
Then there is the realistic side. Up by over 10 points in the second half, the energy levels dropped. The Irish bench failed to make the same impact as their French counterparts. The penalties that came in the first half at the breakdown and from desperate offsides disappeared with everything slowed down. Some big kicks from Morgan Parra and a wonderful turn of pace from the impressive Wesley Fofana later and the French were level. Thus it stayed, Ireland cursing their luck.
Wasps back to winning ways as Bath run hot and Leicester thump Gloucester
It was a case of tenth time lucky for London Wasps this weekend, finally picking up a Premiership win against local rivals London Irish. There were no tries from the home side, but six penalties from Nicky Robinson eased the pressure on the club and opened up an eight point gap between them and bottom placed Newcastle.
The Falcons came very close to moving within four points of their relegation rivals against leaders Harlequins on Friday night, but an injury time penalty from Nick Evans snatched a draw in what was a very ill-tempered affair, keeping the citing commissioner busy this morning. Other relegation contenders Worcester were on the wrong side of a hammering at the Rec against Bath, letting in five tries including braces from Tom Biggs and Michael Claassens.
There were also huge wins for Leicester Tigers and Exeter Chiefs. A drenched Welford Road crowd saw the Tigers run in five tries, an interception score from Alesana Tuilagi sealing the deal and keeping the form team in the Aviva Premiership on their winning run. Exeter also managed to run in some tries, five to be exact, after a few weeks of relying on the boot of Ignacio Mieres in a dreadful performance from Sale Sharks. Finally in the battle of the boots at Vicarage Road, Saracens emerged victorious against Northampton, 18-12.
Glasgow secure playoff spot as Scarlets & Ulster win big
A gutsy performance from the Warriors meant that the Ospreys lost only their second match at home in the league since October 2010. Hanno Dirksen impressed for the hosts but the Glasgow pack was outstanding, creating easy tries for the backs. John Afoa was named Man of the Match as Ulster thrashed Edinburgh, running in six tries with Ruan Pienaar pulling the strings to great effect. Stephen Jones was another outstanding fly-half, racking up 13 points and winning the Man of the Match award against Connacht in a 38-10 win. There were also victories for Leinster, who remain 12 points clear at the top, Munster and the Blues.
Chiefs and Highlanders spring some surprises as the Bulls hammer the Cheetahs
The form book was torn to shreds half way through Round Two of Super Rugby as an injury-ridden Chiefs side comfortably saw off the dreadful Blues in Waikato, before the Highlanders continued their great start to the season by seeing off last year’s finalists the Crusaders in Dunedin. The Melbourne Rebels then took a hammering from the wounded Waratahs, Tom Carter silencing his critics after he picked up a fair bit of flack during the week. The Hurricanes also edged a narrow thriller with the Lions in Joburg, final score 28-30.
Saturday aside from the Chiefs saw the Reds struggle with the Western Force before edging away. The Bulls then romped home against the Cheetahs, bringing up the first 50 pointer of the season scoring six tries. They also received the first red card of the season, Francois Hougaard sent off for a dangerous tackle. Finally, Peter Grant made his first appearance of the season off the bench to clinch the win for the Stormers against the Sharks with a penalty four minutes from time.
Try of the Weekend goes to Tommy Bowe for his chip and chase effort against the French. Notable mentions to Israel Dagg and Zane Kirchener.
This weekend’s Hero is 20 year old Beauden Barrett for his 79th minute match-winning penalty against the Lions.
As for a Villain, Adam Byrnes comfortably stands out. Originally white carded against the Waratahs, the Russian lock has since been banned for 10 weeks for gouging Tom Carter.
by Ben Coles