Following an emotional weekend to mark the end to a spectacular European season, here are the best bits from around the globe:
Quins reach the end of road to redemption with first Premiership title
Three years is a long time in Rugby. Harlequins reached rock bottom following the ‘Bloodgate’ scandal but under Conor O’Shea’s guidance have been reborn. On Saturday, when the Tigers looked set to take the game to extra time with a scrum inches from the Quins line, they held firm. The scenes of jubilation reflected an outpouring of emotion from a club that was in tatters, has taken stock, invested in exciting youth with the odd foreign world class talent and been born again.
At the heart of Harlequins rise to glory has been Chris Robshaw and the England captain was absolutely outstanding against Leicester, playing at first receiver to both protect Nick Evans and bustle forward into the heart of the Tigers defence. On the biggest stage, the quality of his performance enhanced his reputation. His try proved the decisive score, but Leicester were not ready to lose another final after the heartache of last year. Ben Youngs showed his vintage form by bursting into the loose for Anthony Allen’s try, so when Twelvetrees landed the crucial penalty to bring them within 7 it looked like the title was back on. But again, this was not to be their day. It meant a sad end to the Leicester careers of Alesana Tuilagi, but the day was about Quins. Steered by Nick Evans and ruddered by Robshaw, the glory is theirs.
Shane signs off in style as Ospreys pip Leinster for the title
It just had to be didn’t it? The great Shane Williams wriggled, darted and dived over into the right hand corner of the RDS to set up a grandstand finish to this year’s RaboDirect Pro12 final. The Welsh legend seems to rather enjoy playing in games dubbed as his last – with tries for Wales against Australia, in what we thought was his last game at the Liberty Stadium and now in his last ever game for the Ospreys – but to bow out the way he did on Sunday afternoon was more than fitting.
Leinster appeared to have the game sown up following Isa Nacewa’s second try, going into the final minutes with a 30-21 lead. But Nathan White was penalised and then sin-binned at the scrum giving Biggar the chance to bring the 2010 champions within seven. The rest was down to Williams and then Biggar’s boot, but their success is a credit to Ospreys coach Steve Tandy who has revolutionised the club in his three months in charge.
England produce record win over the Barbarians as their young guns shine
Rusty as expected in their first match of the summer, England comprehensively put away a talented Barbarians outfit, scoring 8 tries including a hat-trick for Chris Ashton and brace for debutant Jonathan Joseph. With few injury concerns to report – Phil Dowson was stretchered off following a bang to the head but is believed to be ok – Stuart Lancaster will be pleased with Ashton’s return to form but there were moments of concern regarding England’s defence and occasional handling errors in attack.
Reds cling on the Australian Conference as Hurricanes rack up nine tries
The Queensland Reds just about clung on to their playoff chances by moving within five points of Australian Conference leaders the Brumbies following their 13-12 win in Canberra. A tense derby saw little to celebrate apart from a superb try from Luke Morahan (look out for it later). Elsewhere the Hurricanes smashed the Melbourne Rebels at home, running in 9 tries including a hat-trick for Julian Savea. There were wins elsewhere for the Cheetahs, Highlanders, Chiefs, Force and Sharks.
Try of the Weekend goes to Luke Morahan for this outstanding individual effort:
This weekend’s Hero award is for the first time ever a tie between Chris Robshaw & Shane Williams for their outstanding contributions for their clubs this weekend.
The Villain award is picked up by Thomas Waldrom. Sin-binnings in finals count for double and Waldrom’s gamble did not pay off.
Last but certainly not least, a word on the late John Brain. The Gloucester stalwart passed away on Sunday at the age of 51 and the outpouring of sympathy and emotion from the players whose careers he played a part in speak volumes of the respect and admiration held for Brain throughout the sport. He will be missed.
by Ben Coles