May’s fine form helps Tigers beat champions
Being as it was the official 150th anniversary game of Wasps, I was intending to write about their fixture against Bath first. However, it was a particularly dull affair, which was infuriatingly disappointing for the hosts, so I shall leave that with a short report: Bath won 25-9 and Semesa Rokodoguni scored a try.
Whilst Wasps have dropped off the pace in the last three rounds, fellow Midlanders Leicester Tigers have been able to turn around their disastrous start. Exeter’s ominous form was all set to continue, but a Matt Toomua-inspired Tigers didn’t allow them to get into any sort of rhythm after the initial passages. Nick Malouf, who was very lucky to be on the pitch for the entire game, gave the hosts the lead with a well taken try. The boot of George Ford increased that to a 10-3 lead at the break. A penalty try brought the Chiefs back into contention, but the free-scoring Jonny May sealed a 20-13 victory.
Newcastle briefly went top of the league with a 29-17 win over London Irish. They had stormed into an early lead, but failed to really capitalise and stick the knife in. Still, they secured a bonus-point and already they must surely be looking at top four as a target. Saints were the team that removed them from top spot on Saturday, continuing their fine form with yet another bonus point win. They beat the inconsistent Harlequins 30-22, but never really looked like losing.
Surprisingly, considering the statistics, Sale won massively against Gloucester 57-10, with Byron McGuigan bagging a hat-trick. Saracens put in a typically business-like winning performance to get past Worcester 25-3, but could only manage three tries.
Warriors still the only unbeaten side in top European leagues
And then there was one. With Ulster’s unbeaten start coming to an end at the weekend in Italy against Zebre, Glasgow are now the only side yet to taste defeat in the premier ‘European’ leagues this season. They brushed aside a resilient Benetton outfit 37-21, with tries by Tommy Seymour and Peter Horne contributing to a bonus point victory. Ulster, meanwhile, let a half-time lead slip, as Zebre turned on the gas with three converted tries after the break to win 27-23. The Italians move up to fourth in a Conference A packed with illustrious names, whilst Ulster slip to third in B.
Dragons finally gave the Newport faithful something to cheer about, beating Southern Kings 29-13. Hallam Amos and Elliott Dee both bagged braces for the hosts in a 29-13 win. A first half lead was let slip by Cardiff Blues as they succumbed to Munster 39-16.
If one South African side is still to find their feet in the Pro14, the other is skipping and dancing along. After an initial two defeats, Cheetahs haven’t looked back, winning again with a bonus-point, this time over Ospreys 44-25. Leinster just about held Edinburgh at the length of an arm 21-13 and a high scoring Scarlets Connacht game ended 36-27 in favour of the Welsh.
Australia and South Africa draw gifts All Blacks the title
New Zealand were confirmed as champions before they had even kicked off their game against Argentina on Saturday. That was due to their closest rivals – South Africa – being unable to beat Australia at home. A see-saw encounter, in which Marika Koroibete scored a brace for the Wallabies, ended 27-27. When New Zealand took to the field in South America, they played like the champions they are to demolish the Pumas 36-10. The first half was a blitz of points, but a couple of yellows allowed the hosts to minimise damage.
Lyon flying in Top14
2016 champions Racing 92 were undone at home by a Lyon side with real prospects of challenging this season. Forgotten maverick Freddie Michalak’s penalty was the difference between the sides in a 20-17 result. Montpellier put in a massive statement as well, bouncing back from last week’s heavy defeat to Bordeaux to beat Brive 54-10. Toulon edged out La Rochelle 26-20 and Stade Francais had an equally nervy encounter with Pau, which they won 25-23. Bordeaux smashed Oyonnax 39-9, Toulouse beat Agen 30-10 and Castres beat Clermont 29-23.
Villain of the week
I will keep it light this week. Scott Baldwin and his lion petting was arguably the most surreal story we will hear in any sport this season – sticking his hand in an enclosure, getting bitten, thus being ruled out of Ospreys’ game against the Cheetahs. Simpleton.
Hero of the week
Which leads me onto the hero. Coach Steve Tandy’s no-nonsense comments on the situation were to be admired and must have made Baldwin feel like even more of a plonker.
Try of the week
Denny Solomona’s rather tasty chip ahead for one of his two tries in the fixture against Gloucester deserves it this week. Honourable mention to Hallam Amos’ opening effort as well.
– Will Glasgow’s winning run continue into Europe?
– For how long will Newcastle defy expectations?
– Which players have been putting their hands up for international recognition?
by Joe Large