Worcester hammer Bristol to ease away from relegation
Relegation battles don’t tend to serve up too many tries, and rarely do one team run away with it, but Warriors were dominant on Sunday afternoon. They were a penalty-try and a man to the good within two minutes, and had secured a bonus point before the first half was complete. The half-time score was a heady 31-10.
The West Country outfit gave it their best after the break, coming close to securing a double bonus point when Tom Varndell took his try total to 92 in the Premiership when he scored Bristol’s third try, putting them a mere 12 points down. However, Wynand Olivier had the final word as he kicked his way to the line. The 41-24 result leaves Bristol 7 points adrift, and with not many games to play, their fate looks sealed.
Wasps wreck The Rec, Quins win away, Tigers implode again, Saracens and Saints both victorious
Bath’s good run came crashing down against a Kurtley Beale inspired Wasps on Saturday. The Australian scored two of his team’s three tries, with Christian Wade adding the other, to maintain the Coventrian’s hold on top spot with a 24-3 win.
Harlequins won a wonderful see-saw fixture in Gloucester. The hosts went in 15-10 down at the interval, but built a 27-15 with less than ten minutes to go. Disaster struck when Richard Hibbard was sin-binned and the Londoners scored 15 unanswered points to steal the game, which doubled as a pivotal fixture for Champions Cup qualification.
Like Bath, Tigers has built up a steady pace after coming off the rails somewhat, but Exeter put them back in their place with a smash and grab job at Welford Road. Despite struggling in certain areas, they were so much more clinical than their hosts in a bonus-point 34-27 victory, which puts them well in the hunt for top spot.
Saracens welcomed back Billy Vunipola as they navigated a tricky fixture against Newcastle 35-27. Northampton also recorded an impressive win at Sale 32-12.
Leinster flex their muscles in Pro12
The Pro12 played out mostly as was expected at the weekend, with only the margins causing some raised eyebrows. Leinster were the biggest of the winners, as they trounced fellow top 4 outfit Scarlets 45-9. The bonus point puts them in a fantastic position for a home semi-final as the season enters its closing stages. It was a close run first forty minutes, with the scores set 12-9 after two Luke McGrath tries to a few Dan Jones penalties. The hosts ran riot after the interval, scoring from every angle and laying down a statement for the run-in.
Munster were rekindling a love affair with winning (after a very brief flirtation with losing), sinking Cardiff 23-13. Glasgow finally gave themselves their first thing to smile about since their progression to the Champions Cup quarters, when they walked all over Dragons, pummelling them 47-17. Ospreys and Ulster both won, but will feel senses of regret having failed to capture bonus points, beating Edinburgh 13-9 and Treviso 19-7 respectively. Connacht also continued with their quiet march up the table, scoring five tries against Zebre, who they beat 33-3.
Top 14 roundup
Castres and La Rochelle put in a phenomenal double-act to usurp Clermont at the top of the table. The former beat Auvergne 26-16, moving up to third themselves, whilst allowing La Rochelle the opportunity to capitalise, which they did with aplomb, turning over Toulouse 27-21 away. Racing’s uninspiring season continued, as they were embarrassed by lowly Grenoble 19-10. Pau and Bayonne played out a high-scoring 25-all draw and Lyon stalled Vern Cotter’s future Montpellier side 16-3. The other games looked like this: Stade Francais 32-9 Bordeaux, and Brive 15-5 Toulon.
Rugby Europe Championship
Germany continued their fine start to the Championship, keeping the pressure on Georgia and Romania with their victory over Belgium at the weekend. They outscored the visitors 4 tries to 3 in a 34-29 result. Georgia also won, albeit in a tense encounter in Spain, 20-10. Romania also showed some steel in a tough trip to Russia where they came away with a splendid 30-10 scoreline.
There were, incredibly (if not all that surprisingly), an average of nearly 63 points scored in every Super Rugby game at the weekend. Yes, tries came thick and fast, and tight defences were at a premium – we have come to expect that – but who won? Force edged Reds 26-19 in an Aussie derby, and were the only team from their conference to win. Rebels were slaughtered by champions Hurricanes 71-6, whilst Waratahs lost to Lions 55-36 and Brumbies also lost to South African opposition in the form of the Sharks 27-22. Crusaders came from 27-6 down to defeat Highlanders 30-27, and in the other all-NZ fixture Chiefs beat Blues 41-26. Stormers saw off Jaguares 32-25, Cheetahs squeezed past Bulls 34-28 and Southern Kings beat fellow whipping boys Sunwolves by 37 points to 23.
Hero of the week
The Worcester coaching team deserve a lot of credit for going into a tense relegation battle with a mindset of more than just keeping it tight and grinding out a result. They were great value for a big win. Honourable mention to Nigel Owens and the ball boy who he awarded a yellow card to. Watch the video; it sums up the spirit of the game.
Villain of the week
Casting doubt over your future on Twitter is an incredibly negligent thing to do. So, even though he says he was taking responsibility, Laurie Fisher deserves this ‘award’ for putting his side in a more uncomfortable position than they were already in.
Try of the week
Bryce Heem’s first for Worcester was important and quality on so many levels. It sealed the game before the interval, secured a bonus point and it also owed to a brilliant pass before showing a quality finish. As usual, my choice for this is entirely open to debate…….
Bristol’s season has taken a dramatic turn for the worse, but can they salvage it? If so, which games will they win?
The top three positions all look fairly well set, but who will sneak that all-important fourth place in the Pro12?
The French league has a number of surprise packages going well, but who looks best-placed?
Is it time to start thinking about expanding the World Cup to give teams like Germany and Spain exposure?
Does the Super Rugby philosophy of more tries=more entertainment work for you?
By Joe Large