Agonising loss for Worcester keeps them winless
In a grim season for Worcester, Dean Ryan’s men endured their most agonising loss yet on Saturday, as they slipped to a 21-20 defeat at The Stoop. Worcester had Harlequins rattled early on, racing into a 13-0 lead in the first half, thanks to penalties from Ryan Lamb and Chris Pennell, and a converted try from David Lemi. Two Ben Botica penalties either side of the interval brought Quins back into the game, before tries from Sam Smith and Harry Sloan put the home side into a commanding position. A late converted try from Pennell reignited Worcester’s hopes, but it was too little too late, as the Warriors succumbed to the slimmest of losses. The defeat signals Worcester’s 21st straight in the Premiership, as they continue to endure a winless season, and almost certainly now face relegation.
Sale’s 21-17 win over London Wasps at Adams Park solidified their hold on sixth position in the Aviva Premiership, and potentially cuts adrift the seventh placed Wasps, with a gap of eight points now separating the two teams. Saracens look to have ended any hopes Bath had of a home semi-final, as they put in a superb defensive effort to win 23-10 at The Rec, and extended their lead over the West Country side to 13 points. On Sunday, the Tigers stormed to a 41-18 win at Kingston Park, Vereniki Goneva stealing the show as Manu Tuilagi put in a rusty 70 minutes on his return.
Scarlets upset title challenging Munster
Munster were denied an historic sweep of the Welsh regions on Saturday, as the Scarlets pulled off an impressive and hard-fought 18-13 win at Parc y Scarlets. The Scarlets looked in control in the first half, but a late try from Gerhard van den Heever meant that the visitors took a 13-8 lead into the halftime interval. An Aled Thomas penalty brought the Scarlets to within touching range of Munster in the second half, before John Barclay intercepted a Duncan Williams’ pass, and sprinted 60 metres for the pivotal score of the game. The Scarlets’ win keeps alive their slim hopes of making the playoffs, whilst the loss for Munster, only their third of the season, sees them drop to second, as they’re leapfrogged by rivals Leinster.
Leinster’s rise to the top of PRO12 was facilitated by a 28-25 victory over Glasgow, with an Ian Madigan penalty all that ultimately separated the two teams. Other notable results included Edinburgh’s impressive 31-25 victory over the Ospreys, helping them climb the table after their disastrous start to the season, whilst Zebre’s 15-10 win against the Cardiff Blues marked the first time they have done the double over any side since their introduction to the PRO12.
Young Rebels a force to be reckoned with
The Melbourne Rebels turned in the performance of the weekend in their 2014 Super Rugby debut, defeating the Cheetahs 35-14 at AAMI Park. Although the Rebels had home advantage, many predicted the game would it a bridge too far for them given the respective form of the two franchises in last year’s campaign, and that the Cheetahs were already two games into their season. The youthful Rebels side looked extremely composed for their first game of the season, with Lachlan Mitchell, Jason Woodward, Luke Burgess, Bryce Hegarty and Scott Higginbotham all crossing the whitewash for the home side in an efficient display of attacking rugby. The Rebels are unlikely to be a force in the playoffs, especially with the Waratahs already looking like Australia’s best hope in the tournament, but they certainly showed they are on the way up, and a team to watch in the Australian conference.
The Waratahs continued their impressive start to the season, beating the Reds 32-5, and recording their second bonus point win in as many games, whilst the Stormers bounced back from their opening day embarrassment at the hands of the Lions by edging out the Hurricanes, 19-18, at Newlands. The New Zealand conference also offered up a pair of exciting games as the Highlanders pushed the reigning champions, the Chiefs, close in Waikato, but ultimately succumbed to a 21-19 defeat, and the Crusaders are still winless, after they lost 35-24 to the Blues in Auckland.
Try of the Week goes to Tevita Li for his score against the Crusaders. The winger scored an important try just before the interval, which helped move the Blues into a position from which they could take control of the game. Patrick Tuipulotu made a superb catch and offloaded in the build-up to try, which allowed Li the space he needed, and the winger used his searing pace to beat three men before scoring the try. Check it out below.
Zebre are the Heroes of the Week for managing to record a double over the Cardiff Blues this season. The Italian side were not spectacular, but the accolade itself is worthy of praise, given that this is just Zebre’s second season in the PRO12 and their learning curve has been a very steep one.
Two late tries sugar-coated the score line for Western Force in their 27-14 loss to the Brumbies, but their dire performance in the first 70 minutes was enough to earn them the Villains of the Week award, especially with no individual standouts for the dishonour. For 70 minutes, Ben McCalman was the only Force player to perform well, and although the attacking threats of Kyle Godwin and Nick Cummins surfaced in the dying minutes, by then the game had been over for some time.
by Alex Shaw (@alexshawsport)
Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images