Best Of The Weekend: Harlequins make it 8 out of 8

As the Heineken and Amlin Challenge Cups begin its pool stages next weekend, this was the last chance for clubs to make ground on the league standings for a fortnight, but who prospered and who floundered? Here are the best bits from the weekend’s action from England and France.

Harlequins back line

Robshaw stands out as Harlequins win comfortably against Bath

Harlequins’ winning ways in all competitions continued, as they registered their 10th consecutive win at The Recreation Ground. In what was a close match for the majority of the game, it was the breakdown that proved decisive, particularly the hard work of Quins skipper Chris Robshaw.

Bath lock, Dave Attwood, and Robshaw exchanged tries in the first twenty minutes but it could have been more for the home side as Sam Vesty missed two early attempts at goal. Nick Evans continued his good form, capitalising on any Bath mistakes in a kickable range, including fireworks from Nathan Catt as he was penalised for a brawl with fellow front rower Joe Marler. Mike Brown sealed victory for the visitors with a superb solo try, which included a one-on-one with opposite number Nick Abendanon.

London Irish finish with a sparkle as Leicester fizzle out

In what was a stark contrast from last weekend’s match away against Sale, Leicester threw away a 17 point lead to gift London Irish a 24-24 draw at Welford Road. Forward dominance led the way for the Tigers with a penalty try but that and Horatio Agulla crossing the line was not enough as they switched off for the last twenty minutes to allow the Exiles back into the game with a couple of late tries from Adam Thompstone and Matt Garvey. Toby Flood’s attempt at a drop goal towards the end of the match was not enough as Leicester let two vital points slip through their grasp.

Gloucester and Northampton win big matches away from home

Gloucester put their first home defeat in two years to the back of their minds as they were back with a bang to winning ways against Exeter Chiefs. It was a typical performance from the Cherry and Whites as the forwards completely dominated proceedings, putting Exeter on the back foot for most of the match. Tries from Freddie Burns, Akapusi Qera and Olly Morgan gave Gloucester the win, while Burns also added 9 points with the boot. Exeter went away with the losing bonus point as winger Matt Jess went over the line on 80 minutes to make the final score 24-19 to the visitors.

Wasps were denied a third win on the bounce in the league as they were out-muscled by Northampton. Despite going down to 14 men early on in the match after Tim Payne threw a punch, it was a close affair between the two sides as the impressive boot of Ryan Lamb proved decisive. Riki Flutey opened the try scoring in the first for Wasps, which was set up by wingers Tom Varndell and Christian Wade, but in the second half Soane Tongauiha and fellow prop Brian Mujati went over the line to give the win to the Saints, and leave Wasps without a losing bonus point to boot.

Sale and Newcastle stage late fight backs but it’s not enough

Charlie Hodgson’s first match for Saracens against his former club, Sale Sharks, finished with his new side taking the spoils but not before the visitors attempted a late come back. Once again it was Owen Farrell who made sure that Saracens took home the points, scoring 13 points with the boot as David Strettle and Matt Stevens added the tries. Sale, who didn’t score a point at all in the first half, had to wait until the 69th minute for their first points of the match as Mark Easter crashed over the line to deny the whitewash, followed by Rob Miller.

Lastly, Newcastle snatched a draw from the jaws of defeat as a 77th minute converted try from replacement hooker, Mike Mayhew, made the final score 16-16. Worcester scrum-half, Shaun Perry, went over the line just before the half hour mark in the game’s only other try as points from the boot of Jimmy Gopperth for the Falcons and Joe Carlisle and Andy Goode for the Warriors made up the rest of the scores. Newcastle will be lucky to have got the draw but they still remain rooted to the bottom of the table.

Perpignan defeated again as they start to lose touch with the Top 14 front runners

Perpignan’s blues continue as they went down 21-17 to a Luke McAllister inspired Toulouse. The former All Black scored six penalties with Lionel Beauxis adding one. For Perpignan, James Hook’s debut was one to remember despite the score line as the Welshman kicked out of hand and for goal really well, as well as setting up Farid Sid for the opening try of the match. Sadly it was not enough for the visitors as defeat leaves them 9th in the table, while Toulouse move to the top of the league above Clermont.

Three first half tries from Stade Francais caused a rare defeat for Clermont, who had prospered in the Top 14 during the World Cup, despite missing key players. France lock Pascal Pape went over for two tries, with Felipe Contepomi adding the third.

Bordeaux-Begles registered a convincing home win over Castres, not allowing the away side to reach double figures. The home team’s points were all scored by New Zealanders as Bruce Reihana, Gerard Fraser and Hikairo Forbes all made the score sheet.

Try of the Weekend goes to Freddie Burns of Gloucester for the opening try in their victory over Exeter on Saturday. Showing off his twinkle toes, he danced past the Chiefs defenders and over the try line, then adding the conversion.

Hero of the Weekend is Harlequins’ Chris Robshaw. With an opportunity for someone to take over England’s openside flanker jersey following Lewis Moody’s international retirement, Robshaw put his hand up for selection this weekend as he really impressed with both his play and leadership.

Lastly, this weekend’s Villain is Jeremy Staunton. It was his kick that was charged down by Matt Garvey, thus giving London Irish a share of the spoils at Welford Road. It’s not the first time he’s done it either, Leicester fans will groan at the thought of his pass which was intercepted against Gloucester last season.

What were your highlights this weekend?

by Rachel Simmonite

Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images

11 thoughts on “Best Of The Weekend: Harlequins make it 8 out of 8

  1. My highlight was watching Sarries maintain the pressure on Quins, and expanding the gap between us and third place. Farrell was again superb, and it’s good to see that Charlie Hodgson has learnt the Sarries way of defending. His tackling and work-rate yesterday was excellent. But Burger was absolutely immense. I’ve never seen anyone work harder on a rugby pitch than him. Not even the Great and all powerful Richard Hill MBE.

  2. Quins v Sarries is going to be a great game

    Anyone else think Mike Brown should be in the England squad?

    He’s not the fastest full back out there but he’s strong, hard to bring down and he scores so many tries through reading the game brilliantly and being in the right place at the right time

    Added to that, his defense is good and he has a huge boot on him

    1. Lots of plaudits for Mike Brown as new England full back, including myself. Robshaw has to be called into the England set up now, too many top class performances for him not to be noticed.

      Very glad I have tickets for Quins v Sarries at HQ, should be a blinding match!

    2. I haven’t seen much of Mike Brown this season, but he’s always struck me as a great club player, but not quite international-quality. Ben Foden is one of England’s best players, so can’t see Brown getting much of a look-in. Just my view though, and haven’t seen him play for a while!

      1. To be honest I think the main reason he won’t get a look in is because of what happened in Auckland in 2009. I seem to recall an altercation with a woman and Brown being at the centre of it.

        1. Angel Barbie?! I think Care and Strettle were involved in that as well, but seem to have put it behind them.

          Can’t wait for Six Nations squad announcements, marking the start of the new four-year cycle…I’m optimistic!

      2. Agree about MIke Brown and very happy about Quins progress this year…but can anyone tell me what has happened to Ugo Monye? Where is he? Both Quns and England need him! Phil

  3. At the moment I would rather have Brown than Armitage. He’s playing really well with Quins at the mo. Same goes for Robshaw. But this would mean someone in the coaching set up who is prepared to pick players on form!

  4. Robshaw for England captain. Great player, great leadership credentials. Right now the latter is what we so desperately need.

  5. Just reading the comments above – looks like we’re all waiting for the six nations squad announcement – is it going to be a changing of the guard, is it going to be form over experience and reputation, who will be picking the squad, who will be captain? So many questions for a national squad, yet bizarrely so much optimism, probably partly because there’s so much talent out there. Is the optimism unfounded? Will we win anything with boys! Really looking forward to putting the RWC 2011 behind us!

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