A day to remember in the West Country
A brace of tries from Johnny May helped Gloucester record a 28-23 victory over table-topping Saracens at Kingsholm, and also ensured that the ‘Shed’ will be enjoying Heineken Cup rugby next season. Young fly-halves Owen Farrell and Freddie Burns both put in accomplished performances, as they eye up potential international tours this summer.
Bath also upset one of the Premiership high flyers, triumphing 27-26 over Leicester Tigers at the Rec, in one of the most exciting games of the season. The game was played at a frenetic pace, with both sides looking confident with ball in hand, and their bravery was rewarded with some excellent tries from the likes of Tom Croft, Ben Youngs and Francois Louw.
The weekend was rounded off superbly by Exeter Chiefs who cruised to a 37-24 victory against London Wasps at Adams Park. Both teams needed a win to keep their Heineken Cup dreams alive, but Wasps’ defensive frailties were consistently exposed, and Exeter never really looked like losing. The only saving grace for Wasps in the comprehensive loss was the try-scoring antics of wingers Christian Wade and Tom Varndell, with the former continuing to stake his claim for a place on the plane to Australia.
Elsewhere in the Premiership, Northampton Saints secured their playoff place, routing Sale 47-7, and London Welsh failed to live up to their early promise against London Irish, as they eventually succumbed to a heavy 47-28 defeat at the Madejski Stadium.
Ulster maintain lead at the top, Glasgow keep pace
Comprehensive wins for Ulster and Glasgow over Connacht and Ospreys respectively helped improve their standing at the top of the RaboDirect PRO12, with wingers Tommy Bowe and Sean Maitland doing their Lions stock no harm at all, with praiseworthy performances. Prop Ryan Grant, an outside bet for the Lions since his heroics for Scotland in the Six Nations, displayed his try-scoring ability as he crossed the whitewash twice in Glasgow’s victory.
The Ospreys’ loss, coupled with an impressive 24-6 victory for the Scarlets over the Blues, means that the Scarlets currently hold the fourth spot, and have a four point advantage over the Ospreys heading into the final round of the season.
The Top 14 also offered up a surprising result as Grenoble arguably pulled off the comeback of the season to see off title-chasing Toulon with a 25-24 victory. Tries from Wesley Fofana and Sitiveni Sivivatu also helped Clermont secure a home semi-final with a convincing 39-17 win against third-placed Toulouse.
The Hero of the Week goes to Francois Louw. The South African flanker put in a huge defensive shift and seemed to be ever-present at the breakdown. He was also on hand to score the winning try late on in his side’s game against Leicester, keeping alive Bath’s Heineken Cup hopes.
In a fairly uncontroversial weekend of rugby, a tongue in cheek ‘Villain of the Week’ goes to the riches of French club rugby, which have lured numerous quality players across the Channel, and ensured a plethora of poignant goodbyes from fans and teammates alike at final home games this weekend.
Try of the Week belongs to Ben Youngs, for his superb weaving and winding solo score against Bath, narrowly seeing off competition from club colleague Tom Croft.
by Alex Shaw (@alexshawsport)