Morning everyone, what a fantastic weekend of rugby all across the globe. Here, as always, are the best bits:
Wasps appear to move safe as Harlequins ruin the party
A monumental weekend in the Aviva Premiership at both the top and bottom of the table was concluded on Sunday afternoon at Adams Park. Trailing 24-23 with minutes remaining, talented youngster Elliot Daly stepped up to land the winning penalty kick for Wasps. With Nicky Robinson misfiring it was down to the rising star to secure the invaluable win, which keeps them 8 points clear of Newcastle with three rounds remaining.
The home side had looked to have the game under control following Hugo Southwell’s score in the second half, but two tries for Gloucester from Charlie Sharples and Akapusi Qera put the visitors in front. Robinson then missed two penalties to regain the lead, before Daly stepped up.
In the weekend’s biggest match however, Saracens set a remarkable world record for attendance at a club rugby match with 83,761 at Wembley Stadium. Unfortunately the result did no go their way, where an outstanding defensive performance from Harlequins spearheaded by George Lowe saw the league leaders stretch their lead at the top of the table to 6 points. Lowe also finished off a brilliant try in the first half to serve a reminder of his potential. Quins were clinging on at the death and lost both Joe Marler and Nick Easter to the sin-bin, but this was an important win and one that leaves Saracens tied with Leicester on 60 points.
The Tigers picked a fourth consecutive bonus point win by routing 14 man Worcester on Friday, aided by former fly-half Andy Goode being sent off for an idiotic charge on Tom Croft. Northampton also handed out a heavy defeat, completing the double over a poor Bath side, Stephen Donald’s return from injury not bringing a great performance. The other matches in the Aviva Premiership were closer affairs, Jimmy Gopperth bringing Newcastle from behind to win against Sale (their 8th loss in their last 9), whilst Exeter finally killed off London Irish despite fly-half Ignacio Mieres missing five shots at goal.
Leinster stretch gap to 10 as Glasgow hammer the Blues
The stellar battle between Ireland’s finest saw current league leaders Leinster defeat last year’s champions Munster, increasing the deficit between first and second in the RaboDirect Pro12 to 10 points. In front of a sell-out crowd at Thomond Park, Leinster accumulated four penalties from Johnny Sexton plus another from Fergus McFadden and a drop goal from Ian Madigan. Isa Nacewa caused constant havoc for the Munster defence, who despite three penalties from Ronan O’Gara were penalised all too often, as a result dropping to third in the table below the Ospreys.
The weekend’s other big result came in Glasgow where the Warriors ended Cardiff Blues chances of making this year’s playoffs in a thumping 31-3 win, scoring four tries with three coming from the back row, number 8 Ryan Wilson grabbing a brace in a brilliant performance from the home pack. Ulster produced the other heavy win of the weekend over Aironi, scoring six tries in a brutal 45-7 win. The other results saw Connacht win away at the Dragons, Edinburgh sneak past the Scarlets and the Ospreys hammer Treviso 41-10 to move second in the table.
Reds routed as the Cheetahs win thriller
It goes from bad to worse for the 2011 champions. Two weeks, over 100 points shipped, the Reds picked up their fourth consecutive loss after being hammered by the Western Force, for whom full back David Harvey was on form. A combination of injuries, confidence and sloppy defence are starting to derail the Reds title bid, meaning their match against the Brumbies next weekend is huge.
The Cheetahs and the Hurricanes produced the game of the weekend though, racking up 85 points between them in a 47-38 win for the visitors. There were 8 tries in the first half alone, but the Cheetahs found themselves 32-11 down at one stage before starting the comeback, inspired by the brilliant Johan Goosen. The Highlanders also racked up 40 points, this time against the Rebels in a powerful second half performance to move them back up to 2nd on the log.
In the weekend’s other matches, the Chiefs took apart a tired looking Waratahs side in Waikato, Aaron Cruden on form with the boot. There was also some redemption for the Sharks following missing out late on last week, scoring four tries including a brace for full back Riaan Viljoen against the Brumbies. The Crusaders also won in Johannesburg against the Lions, Tom Taylor on kicking duty rather than Dan Carter, whilst Peter Grant once more was there to win it for the Stormers with a 77th minute penalty in their win against the Bulls, keeping them top of the table.
Try of the Weekend goes to Liam Messam of the Chiefs for this effort below:
This weekend’s Hero could have been Jimmy Gopperth, Peter Grant or George Lowe, but the winner is Elliot Daly of Wasps for holding his nerve for the winning kick.
Finally, on to this week’s Villain. The latest twist in the Gavin Henson tale saw the Wales centre spend an all-nighter in Glasgow after his team’s hammering by the Warriors, drinking to excess before boarding the flight back to Cardiff. On the plane, he reportedly continued to drink before throwing ice cubes around the plane, then becoming “violent and aggressive” when asked to calm down. He has since been suspended by the Blues.
by Ben Coles