Best Of The Weekend: Tigers Beat Champions, Falcons Still Soaring

Ben Youngs

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.

Discussion points

– 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

20 thoughts on “Best Of The Weekend: Tigers Beat Champions, Falcons Still Soaring

  1. Exeter really missed a line-breaker against Tigers. For all Don Armand’s efforts, he isn’t a Sam Simmonds who can step and power through a defence at pace.

    Good to see May getting some quality form back, however on form, McGuigan, Woodburn and Roko are up there in the try scoring stakes.

      1. Agreed! He’s a monster. I met him at a minis rugby event last year and couldn’t get over the size of him.

        As far as I’m aware he still rehabilitating from his injury at the end of last season. Not sure on time frame.

  2. Warriors have started well but I think the calibre of opponent will increase come the Champions Cup. And with their first game being away at Sandy Park, I can see the winning run end there.

    The same answer for Newcastle, away at Sandy Park next. They do play a nice brand of rugby, and with players like Flood and Mermoz yet to feature they could still have another gear or 2.

    Personal nomination for villain(s) of the week, a second nomination of the season, are the officials. IMO too many inconsistencies and too many infringements being missed/not punished properly. The hair pull by Folau and the illegal fend by Hughes (this one was less clear but Carley’s assessment of changing hands whilst pushing to the chest was laughable) both went unpunished, and yet there is supposed to be greater scrutiny over incidences like these. The new scrum laws also seem to have been forgotten already.

  3. Wade’s performances over the last two weeks against Exeter and Bath have proven to me why he simply can’t play for England. His defence is so poor, particularly against top quality opposition, as he just seems rather non-committal in every tackle he attempts to make.

    1. Ed
      Have you ever looked @ his attack as well though? Could work on any perceived ‘D’ weaknesses & 1 this game isn’t sufficient to judge. Nowell, e.g., also got exposed defensively on the Lions’ tour & perhaps that’s why he didn’t feature as 1st choice? And JN can’t sidestep a mile off either peg like CW.

  4. – Which players have been putting their hands up for international recognition?
    Not Scott Baldwin

    Strange section heading “Australia and South Africa draw gifts All Blacks the title” I didn’t think it was a gift so much as an inevitability. Regardless of the results other teams put out there the AB were always going to win the championship even before kick off in week 1

  5. – Which players have been putting their hands up for international recognition?
    Interesting question. I’m particularly thinking about who Eddie will choose to replace Mike Brown at 15? I would like to think he will stick Watson there and have a wing combination of May and Nowell? Haven’t seen much of Daly’s form lately but I would like to see him at 13 outside Ford and Farrell.

    1. Was thinking the same thing whilst watching yesterday. I guess Wasps backline as a whole hasn’t been firing but Daly has been pretty anonymous. There wasn’t much of a “battle” he and JJ but I would say that the latter showed why he’s the favoured no. 13 for England. I think Daly still has a way to go to usurp JJ; itll take more than the big boot.

    2. I’d like to see Youngs, Ford, Farrell, Daly, May, Nowell and Watson.

      Daly, May and Nowell have all played at 13,11,14 and 15 for their clubs. Not saying this means they’re all able to play those positions for England, but that versatility allows for a bit more experimentation from the bench.

    3. Dazza
      Do you not think Brown plays a valuable leadership role in the team as well as his back play at 15 for England. Watson would merely provide backplay without the leadership and senior head!

  6. I watched three games this weekend, and by Sunday evening I was wondering why I bothered. Boring, formulaic rugby with the emphasis on defence and a dire lack of spark or creativity. The game looks more like rugby league every season, the new scrum feed law is a complete farce, and the refereeing is inconsistent. Mercer showed tremendous promise for the future, Launchbury was again outstanding in a losing cause, and Haskell has surely played his last game for England. Mikey Haywood again showed that he is the best hooker at Saints and Woodburn looks as good as anybody at present.

    1. I think Woodburn must have interfered with EJ’s favourite dog at some point. Woodburn has consistently been the one of the best wingers over the last two seasons. He has an all-court game, a lethal finisher, postionally astute and a dependable defender.

  7. NZ still had to win their last game in order to have a shot @ a clean sweep of the RC. And yellows notwithstanding, they did start the game with 7 ‘irregulars’ & finished with even more, so this may also had some bearing on the final scoreline. Needed to have kept up the standard of the 1st 1/2 IMO & not chucked too many passes to no one in particular. Bit of homework to do before nxt Sat.

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