A relatively quieter weekend than usual in domestic rugby, with most eyes on the clash between the England Saxons and the Irish Wolfhounds. Here are the best bits:
Solid but few spectacular performances for the Saxons and Wolfhounds at Sandy Park
With only a few days to understand each other’s play and gel in time for an intense encounter, this was never going to be a classic match. As a result, several players on both sides failed to leave their mark down in Exeter, meaning that it seems less likely that there will be call-ups to the senior squad this year unless for injuries. That being said, there was a promising try from scrum-half Ben Spencer for the Saxons, after good work from his forwards at the lineout from James Gaskell and then Paul Doran-Jones in the maul.
The Wolfhounds continued to come back however, nearly scoring from a superb break from fly-half Ian Keatley, with only a controversial tackle from Matt Banahan on Simon Zebo preventing the score. Zebo would finally get his try at the end of the match, taking the Irish side’s tally for the day to three after earlier tries from David Kearney and the impressive substitute Tomas O’Leary.
Ultimately it was the boot of Freddie Burns at fly-half and Thomas Waldrom’s try in the second half that made the difference. England had greater control setting up their platform, plus superiority in the scrum due to a strong showing from Matt Mullan. In fact, the performances of the Worcester prop and Zebo were arguably the best of the evening, doing enough to make their coaches ponder their promotion.
Big wins for Newcastle, Bath, Gloucester and Saracens in the LV=Cup
A good start for Newcastle in the Gary Gold era saw them grab a try bonus point against the visiting Sale Sharks. Four tries, with a total of 22 points for Jimmy Gopperth playing at full back, came easily against a Sale side who were not missing many international players. Still 10 points adrift at the bottom of the Aviva Premiership, turning Kingston Park into a fortress once again is a priority if Newcastle are to stay up, and this was as good a start as they could have hoped for.
Bath look set to reach the LV=Cup semi-finals following their 46-14 win at home over a heavily depleted Northampton Saints side, the third time they have scored 46 points in the LV=Cup this season. Three of their five tries came from the Front Row Union, including a super try from Anthony Perenise. Northampton did as best they could despite the international call-ups, but were disappointingly bullied at the breakdown and unable to handle Bath’s physicality.
Cardiff were another side on the wrong end of a hammering against Gloucester at Kingsholm, the home side running in five tries including a brace for James Simpson-Daniel. The Blues had lost so many players to the Wales training camp in Poland that making this match a contest was never going to happen. One side who did cope without several of their stars however was Saracens, who ran in five tries against Worcester at Vicarage Road, with Joel Tomkins grabbing two scores himself on his union debut.
Beauxis the only injury concern in the Top 14 before the Six Nations
French coach Phillippe Saint-André had spoken of his concern over the well-being of his players during the final round of Top 14 matches before the Six Nations this weekend, but the only casualty initially appears to be Toulouse fly-half Lionel Beauxis, who left the field against Racing Métro with a suspected broken nose, though he should be fit to face Italy. The injury happened during a close result in Paris, with Toulouse taking the lead with four minutes to go and extending their lead in first place of the Top 14 to ten points over Clermont, winning 13-19.
In the result of the weekend in the league, Toulon thumped Bayonne by 40 points in their 50-10 victory at the Stade Felix Mayol, with former London Irish flanker Steffon Armitage grabbing two tries and Jonny Wilkinson kicking 24 points.
Try of the Weekend looked set to be Anthony Perenise’s, until this beauty emerged from France scored by Montpellier winger Martin Bustos Mayano. Watch it below:
This weekend’s Hero however is Perenise. His try might not have been the weekend’s best, but it was a superb effort for a big man, showing a surprising sidestep.
As for a Villian, we’ll give it to the TMO at the match between the Scarlets and London Irish, for giving Deacon Manu’s try without any real conclusive evidence to work with.
by Ben Coles