An exciting weekend of rugby culminated in a relegation and a secured home semi-final in the Aviva Premiership, a significant encounter in the playoff hunt in the RaboDirect PRO12, and an enthralling top of the table clash in the Top 14. Here’s your weekly round-up.
London Welsh relegated following loss to Saints
Since their points deduction, relegation from the Premiership has seemed fairly inevitable for London Welsh, but a 31-14 loss at home to Northampton Saints confirmed it. Welsh were competitive early in the game, but Northampton began to canter away either side of the interval, and braces from both Tom May and Luther Burrell were enough to see off Welsh’s slim survival hopes.
At the other end of the table, Saracens took a big step towards cementing their place at the summit of the Premiership, marauding their way to a 47-17 victory over Worcester, securing a home semi-final in the process. David Strettle will also have done his claims for a place on England’s tour to Argentina no harm, as he bagged himself a hat trick in the space of 22 minutes in the first half, and was also instrumental in setting up a try for fellow winger Chris Ashton later in the game.
Fight for Heineken Cup places remains unchanged
Harlequins managed to end their recent poor run of form, thanks to tries from Danny Care and Ugo Monye, which helped them to a 23-9 victory over Bath. The loss will have damaged Bath’s European aspirations, particularly with Exeter Chiefs moving above them in table following a 27-6 victory against London Irish.
Losses for Gloucester and London Wasps to Sale and Leicester respectively, ensured that not much changed in the hunt for Heineken Cup places, although the win for Leicester does take them one step closer to securing a home semi-final in the playoffs.
Leinster emerge victorious at Thomond Park
The tie of the round in the RaboDirect PRO12 was undoubtedly the meeting of Irish heavyweights Munster and Leinster at Thomond Park. Both teams, recently successful in their respective European quarter-finals, played out a fierce encounter, with the visitors ultimately triumphing 22-16. Munster tired towards the end of the game, and their six day turnaround, as opposed to Leinster’s eight, was arguably enough to swing the game in the favour of the side from Dublin. Another top-class performance from young Ian Madigan has only further fuelled those calling for him to be on the plane to Australia this summer as a bolter.
Elsewhere, there were important wins for both Ulster (31-5 over the Dragons) and Ospreys (28-3 over Treviso) as they jostle for playoff positions, whilst the Scarlets breathed fresh life into their playoff ambitions by beating Glasgow 29-6, and now sit five points behind the Scottish side, with just two games left to play. A top of the table clash in the Top 14 between Clermont and Toulon ended in a thrilling 26-26 draw, as both sides sent out warning shots to their upcoming European opposition in the Heineken Cup.
The Hero, or more appropriately, Heroes of the Week, goes to Leinster’s Lions hopefuls. From one to fifteen, they were superb, particularly Cian Healy, Sean O’Brien, Jamie Heaslip, Brian O’Driscoll, Rob Kearney and Madigan, all of whom will have one eye on the upcoming Lions squad announcement. An honourable mention also goes to Strettle for his try-scoring feats.
The Villain of the Week is not going to a player, but London Welsh’s majority shareholder Kelvin Bryon. Prior to their game against Northampton, Bryon announced he would be withdrawing his funding at the end of the season, and went on a damning tirade against the RFU and Premier Rugby organisations. Although many will agree with him, his withdrawal puts the future of the now-relegated London Welsh, one of the most historic teams in England, into real jeopardy.
He may have, possibly unjustly, missed out on Hero of the Week, but Try of the Week goes to David Strettle for the second of his three tries, where he bobbed and weaved his way to a superb solo effort.
by Alex Shaw (@alexshawsport)