Best of the weekend: Late drama at Welford Road

There were high-scoring games all over the world this weekend, from Bloemfontein to High Wycombe. Here are the highlights from the last weekend:

Fuimaono-Sapolu snatches a draw for Gloucester

The highest-scoring draw in Premiership rugby history came out of nowhere on Saturday afternoon, as Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu pounced on a pass destined for the arms of Thomas Waldrom and raced 80 metres to seal the famous result. Richard Cockerill was fuming, and rightly so, Leicester are not the kind of side to throw away substantial leads with the clock running down. Gloucester, as Sky persistently reminded us, were missing 11 first-choice players but played incredibly well considering their selection, and a win over Northampton on Tuesday will guarantee third place in the league, which is more than they deserve after a great second half to the season.

As for Leicester, they may still be top of the league, but this capitulation and being dumped out of the Heineken Cup show that they are in a bad patch. Their half-backs are stuttering, but the tries are still being produced. The problem lies in defence, when was the last time Leicester shipped 40 points at home? Anthony Allen’s absence on Saturday was noteworthy, his importance to the Leicester defensive system was obvious by his absence. It may have been a draw but the impact of the last few moments of this will have felt like a defeat.

The Reds rise to the top of the table

The resurgence of Queensland Rugby continued as the Reds beat the Bulls for the second season in succession at Suncorp Stadium, scoring six tries for their sixth win a row. The pack saw off the big reputations of the Bulls forwards, with Radike Samo and James Horwill both smashing over for powerful scores, but the magic was in the backs and the dancing feet of Quade Cooper. At times Cooper simply appears unplayable, no piece of skill is too fancy or inappropriate, and he constantly puts doubt in the mind of the defender. The Reds possibly have the quickest back three in the league with Luke Morahan, who grabbed a brace, Rod Davies and Digby Ioane, but they have to finish in the top three after such a positive start to the competition.

As for the Bulls, this was an improvement on last week’s horror show against the Crusaders. The power was back again in the forwards, and Bjorn Basson put in his best performance so far for the Pretorian province with a well-taken brace, including one try brilliantly poached straight from the kick-off. But they are a fading force. As the Aussie commentators remarked, their minds seem elsewhere, on the World Cup and the future after it. With the amount of quality they have though, they should be in contention come the season’s end.

Thrush snatches the win in high-scoring epic

With no time left on the clock, the Hurricanes raced away down the blind side from within their own half to snatch the win against the Cheetahs. The defence in this game left something to be desired, with the focus undoubtedly set on attack. There were 11 tries in total, but when tackles are as easily missed as the Cheetahs let them slip, it takes away the entertainment. The Crusaders/Sharks game at Twickenham was full of great tries but there was a defensive effort as well from both sides. But games like the one in Bloemfontein are the reason why so many scoff at the Southern Hemisphere tournament, and the Cheetahs are one of the worst culprits. Still, it was a great effort for the Canes to come back the way they did at the death, and Jeremy Thrush isn’t exactly a winger, making the lock’s sprint for the line all the more impressive for the 50-47 win.

Leeds battered by young Wasps

This was far from the potential win for Leeds that many justly predicted. This was an alarm bell. Led by the 18 year old Elliot Daly in the centre, Wasps recorded their biggest win of the season so far, breaking the 50 mark and running in seven tries. This was how the champions used to dispatch the league’s weaker sides, and for a moment it will have offered the home crowd a nice memory of the past whilst showcasing the talent of the future. But Leeds are not so fortunate. All their good work in recent weeks pretty much all came undone at Adams Park, all the confidence from those wins over Exeter and Newcastle seemingly misplaced. They drop back to the bottom of the league on points difference, and Neil Back will hope that his old club, wounded Leicester, take out their frustration on Newcastle before Leeds play their final home game of the season against Harlequins next weekend. Perhaps all they can do now is hope indeed.

Try of the weekend goes to Digby Ioane of the Reds, as much for his celebration as the actual finish. A crucial interception and clever kick through from replacement lock Adam Wallace-Harrison sent the ball flying up the right hand side of the pitch, with Digby emerging ahead of the pack on around half way, brilliantly controlling the ball with his foot as he hacked on, and then touching down with a well-timed finish. What happened afterwards, was very special. Here’s the footage.

The weekend’s hero award goes to Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu for that interception try that levelled the game against Leicester in 41-41 draw. He’s becoming quite the talisman at Gloucester, already more successful than during his time at Bath. The psychological boost that his try will have brought to the Cherry & Whites, who were stuck in a mini slump following their LV Cup success, will prove immeasurable.

This week’s villain, debatably harsh but it goes to JP Doyle for the use of “chillax” in the game between Sale and London Irish. Time and a place JP, time and a place.

Thank you for reading, what were your highlights?

by Ben Coles

4 thoughts on “Best of the weekend: Late drama at Welford Road

  1. “third place… more than they deserve…” – Take it there is a no missing there somewhere.
    With you on the Allen comment – although wasn’t his defence queried in his brief England career and when the Tigers beat Gloucester in the final? – if only as a counterpoint to Stuart Barnes’ gushing about Billy Twelvetrees.
    Quite what Twelvetrees has done to inspire Barnes so much one can only wonder. You would think he was the next Dan Carter, not merely rugby’s equivalent of a bits-and-pieces cricketer who can do a bit of everything, none of it at the highest level.
    Barnes possibly forgets how Twelvetrees probably cost Leicester victory at Kingsholm earlier in the season and he was certainly the only one who didn’t notice how he was entirely outplayed by the consistently excellent Fuimano-Sapolo on Saturday. Maybe because Barnes can pronounce Twelvetrees.
    Interesting point from Saturday about our mindset in northern hemisphere. A Super Rugby (rubbish name) ends up with that many points and we all ooh and aah at the devastating attacking play on view. It happens over here and everybody points fingers at the defences.

  2. robglaws

    firstly, the match was a draw! Glos didnt win…..

    Twelvetrees, who is 25 yo, played excellently and i do not think he was massively outplayed by Sapolo, who I admit shaded him just.

    12trees was forced into playing 10 earlier in the season due to injuries to flood, staunton, ford etc and did a good job considering he had no experience and is a 12!

    I am defo with barnes,12 trees has serious potential.

    However the 2nd best centre on the day was no 12 tress but Trinder, who i didnt realise was so talented. Where do glos get these young lads!

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