Best of the Weekend: Super Rugby set for tense finale

A thrilling round of Super Rugby has set up a tense finale with just one round of the regular season to go, before the playoffs begin.

The Reds are guaranteed a home semi-final after a last-gasp victory over the Force in Perth in a game they didn’t really deserve to win. David Pocock was immense as usual for the home team, but Quade Cooper stole the show in setting up the match-winning try for Dom Shipperley.

The Stormers bottled it in another huge match, losing to the Bulls at Newlands 16-19. It wasn’t a befitting spectacle for the game billed as the tie of the round, but the Stormers are still looking good for a home semi-final with a match with the Cheetahs to come next week.

The Crusaders, Blues and Bulls could all pinch second place for a home semi, whilst the Sharks and the Waratahs are also in contention for the top 6.

Here is the current table – the top team from each of the 3 country conferences automatically qualifies for the 6-team finals stage, and the remaining 3 final slots are filled by the next best 3 teams, regardless of conference.

Super Rugby

England Saxons line up Churchill Cup climax with Canada

Stuart Lancaster’s Saxons were impressive again in dispatching Tonga 41-14, particularly up front where the pack destroyed the opposition eight.

We thought two penalty tries for England against Australia last summer was remarkable – there were no fewer than three in this fixture, with Tonga unable to live with the Saxons scrum power. It’s another feather in the cap for Matt Stevens and must surely be in Johnno’s World Cup reckoning.

Jordan Crane was also outstanding, and should be in contention for New Zealand as well. We’ve been critical of his lack of dynamism on this blog in the past, but he went some way to ease those concerns. Exeter’s Tom Johnson was influential again, and here he is speaking to Talking Rugby after the game:

Listen!

Were there any other Saxons worthy of consideration for the World Cup squad?

Junior World Championship gets underway in Italy

The Under 20 World Championship kicked off in Italy on Friday night, with England narrowly defeating Ireland by 33-25. Elsewhere, there were victories for Wales over Argentina, as well as Australia, New Zealand, France and South Africa.

Mako Vunipola (another thoroughbred Englishman, clearly) caught the eye in England’s front row, whilst Matthew Morgan of the Ospreys looks like one to watch for Wales.

This week’s Hero award goes to Kurtley Beale of the Waratahs. His teammate Tom Carter grabbed a hat-trick of tries, but Beale had an exceptional game for the Tahs, and looks to be peaking in time to take the World Cup by storm. What a talent, and he’ll be a great addition to the Melbourne Rebels next season.

The Villian this week is Butch James. Despite turning in an outstanding performance against the Sharks, he spent ten minutes in the sin bin for a tackle that nearly beheaded flanker Keegan Daniel. He’s been cited already, which is hardly surprising – we’ll try and find the clip for you.

Did you spot anything that was worthy of a mention this weekend? Who is catching the eye ahead of the World Cup?

14 thoughts on “Best of the Weekend: Super Rugby set for tense finale

  1. “Mako Vunipola (another thoroughbred Englishman, clearly)”…. Nationalism isn’t biological and anyone who thinks it is is racist. How do you think the kid feels if he grows up here, talks English, supports the national team and all our culture and then people like you make out hes some sort of savage/mercenary just because he has a different name and isn’t white.

    1. There’s no racism here, and it wasn’t intended to cause offence – it was merely a reference to some of the discussion on here about players like Thomas Waldrom, Manu Tuilagi, Riki Flutey etc playing for England.

      England is obviously a multi-cultural society, and we have no issue with players qualifying on residency or by any other means…it was just pre-empting inevitable comments about the issue.

    2. Nick
      if you were/are a regular attendant on the rugby blog, then you would know that this is a totally friendly, non racist etc site where all are free to express views, as long as they are not idiotic.

      there has been past discussion re over seas players etc hence the remark you highlight. Although i do note it could easily be miscontrued as you have done, but as said by huchtoid , we are friendly here.

      And love of rugby is always the winner!

  2. Well said JimmyMc1. Compared to Planet Rugby, 606 or Rugby Rebels this is a very civilised site.

  3. I am a regular on this site (i read more than i post) and i do agree this is genuinely a better site than those mentioned by the other Nick.

    However I stand by my comment that the original remark was racist (I’m sure it wasn’t intended but I don’t believe it has to be conscious to be racist). I do not believe i have misconstrued the comment but perhaps we have different ideas of what racism is.

    The foreign player debate is one that i have seen and discussed many times before. But i think people enter it far too lightly without contemplating the implications of what is a socio-political debate than means far more than rugby.

    What we have to remember is that nations are socially constructed and not biological the word “thoroughbred” has implications of biology. This word contributes to a dominant discourse in our society that suggests certain people should be excluded from “imagined community” of our nation-state because of their race or heritage.

    Migration is a pretty integral part of this global economy. With our colonial legacy we have to expect a diverse community (as Hutch points out). Identities are not a given or birth right but learned along the way. Mako has settled here I’m assuming the lad has citizenship so why wouldn’t he be allowed?

    I’m a second year cultural studies student and I’ve just handed in an essay on the cultural politics of race and nation, so forgive me for getting all serious on this one.

    1. having said that, lets not get carried away with being politically correct, i find it sickly and mawkish and gets in the way of old fashioned banter.

      Nick H – i have old friends who play @ brive and Biaritz , one who is czech and the other british born nigerian. they got a lot of stick for being “english” in french clubs.

      simuilarly, i know that mike catt, matt stevens all got/get banter for being Saffers in the england team by their fellow players & fans.

      But its all friendly and taking offence to it is acknowledgement by the recipient that there is a problem.

      I think its fine to have your opinion that saffers, kwiws shouldnt play for england.
      Thats said the same die hard england fans dont realise they have a german royal family,so lets not look backward, its boring.

      Afrer all, just think how average NZ would be if they didnt raid the south pacific!

  4. No grudge held. As i said before this blog holds more respect from myself than most. Good to have this healthy discussion.

    On a lighter note i was just reading up on Mako ‘Billy’ Vunipola and realized i played against him (when he was playing for the Bristol academy) a few years ago and he is an absolute beast. Should be a fine prospect.

    1. Nick – There are two of them! Makovina and Villiami, or as most call them: Mako and Billy.

      Billy’s slightly younger than Mako (BV is 18 and MV is 20) and plays back row, as opposed to Mako who’s a prop. While Mako has just signed for Leicester, Billy’s been with the Wasps academy for a few years now and had some game time at the back end of this season. If you played Bristol academy then you could have faced either.

      They may play different positions but they are both absolute tanks!

  5. Sadly for JimmyMc, and I suppose Luke Narraway too, it is looking quite likely that it may come to a straight shootout between Jordan Crane and Narraway for a spot in the WC squad. Right now with Narraway injured and Crane impressing in front of Martin Johnson, you’d be inclined to think that the Leicester man is ahead.

    1. The Babaas game was a better examination of England and i thought Luke Narraway did well against a dream back row.

      The churchuill cup oppistion has been frankly dross and how crane can be compared on that basis i dont know.

      Dean Ryan made the comment that england should be looking for an alternative option @ 8 to help change games in NZ, rather than looking for a player (jordan Crane) who is essentially a poor mans nick easter.

      How good does Tom Johnson look!!

  6. Having watched the Reds all season i don’t think they’ve got the cojones to win the S15 this year. They are really struggling at the moment (in performance rather than results) and two of their tries vs the Force were completely against the run of play. Their centres look a bit light without Faingaa and that kiwi bloke whose name i forget (Mike something?). Genia’s still excellent and Higginbotham and Cooper are still in good form but their new 7 (Gill) was as out of depth as Steffon Armitage when he played for England.

    Crusaders are my bet. Maybe Stormers.

    1. Crusaders for me, Spike. Agree on the Reds – they didn’t really deserve to win at the weekend – and I don’t think the Stormers have the cojones either…they often fall short in the big games.

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