Weekend Rugby Review – 9 May

We had another exciting round of rugby action as the Aviva Premiership and Pro12 finished their regular season. Super Rugby, Top 14 and ProRugby all continued to entertain us as well. Here is my round-up of all the action. 

Aviva Premiership

Bath 38 – 27 Leicester Tigers
Gloucester Rugby 20 – 28 Northampton Saints
Harlequins 24 – 62 Exeter Chiefs
Newcastle Falcons 15 – 21 Sale Sharks
Wasps 38 – 12 London Irish
Worcester Warriors 19 – 43 Saracens

5 from 6, Bath finishing on a high blotted my copy book.

Bath put in a big defensive shift to see off Tigers. They trailed by 9 at halftime but managed 4 second half tries to pull away. They needed to make twice as many tackles as Tigers and managed to force 21 turnovers so that the Tigers couldn’t get the points their possession deserved.

Gloucester had the upper hand in the first half and pulled out a 20-8 lead and it took a last play of the half try to pull things back to 20-15. In the second half though it was a different story as Saints dominated and scored 13 unanswered points.

Chiefs put in a very impressive shift dominating Quins on their own patch. The stats aren’t as one sided as the points but Chiefs were always on top. Three early tries put Chiefs in control and even a try for Quins on halftime didn’t dent their progress. The points just lepton coming as Chiefs racked up seven tries the second half to secure a home semi final in the playoffs.

Sale looked to have things under control as they opened up a 5-15 lead. Falcons scored a try either side of halftime to even things up. Sale though then managed to kick themselves to victory and secure a Champions Cup slot. Falcons will be ruing the 4 missed kicks at goal that would have been enough to take the victory.

Wasps also secured their playoff semifinal spot but even though they got the TBP couldn’t overhaul Chiefs and so will have to play away. They drew first blood via a couple of penalties only for Irish to take the lead though a converted try. That’s as good as thing got as Wasps forced their authority on the game with three tries before halftime helped by a yellow card to Irish. There was no coming back from that but a late second yellow also didn’t help the cause.

Saracens confirmed their status as the top team in the league with a win over Worcester. As we have seen this season Worcester kept themselves in touch for most of the first half. Saracens though really pulled away in the second half and the results was never really in doubt.

Finally here is my video on how things stand after the last round of regular season games.

Super Rugby

Crusaders 38 – 5 Reds
Brumbies 23 – 6 Bulls
Sunwolves 22 – 40 Force
Chiefs 13 – 26 Highlanders
Waratahs 21 – 6 Cheetahs
Sharks 32 – 15 Hurricanes
Kings 18 – 34 Blues

4 form 7, a poor week on the picking front. At least the machine got the same result and so we are still neck and neck in the picking race.

The Saders took the Reds to the cleaners even though they only had 30% possession and 32% territory. The Reds were only asked to make 41 tackles but missed 18 of those, when the opposition has to make 137 and only misses 13 it’s going to be hard to win. The Saders cross for the first time on 5 minutes and led from there on in, even losing a man to the bin in the second half didn’t slow them down.

The Brumbies win over the Bulls was a much more traditional in nature. The Brumbies had the upper hand on possession and territory. The first half stayed relatively close and then the pressure told in the second half for the Brumbies to pull away.

The Sunwolves v Force game stats were much more even than the scoreline suggests. The Sunwolves actually had the slight upper hand in any of them. The problem was clinical execution with the Sunwolves turning the ball over 19 times. When you do that you can’t build up sustained pressure and if the opposition get their heads in front like the Force did the errors just compound themselves.

The Chiefs lost at home to the Landers in a game that didn’t live up to the hype. There were far too many handling errors especially from the home side with 22 turnovers. The Landers just feed off that kind of play and came out winners. There were a couple of talking points from the game though. First Sopoaga was allowed to take a kick at goal and immediately go off for a HIA. That is disgraceful and he shouldn’t have been allowed to take the kick even though he came back on having passed the tests. Secondly was the tip tackle/take out a player in the air by Nagtai. The player somersaulted and ended up landing on his side so a yellow card was given. Personally as he did a near full 360 I think it should have been red even though he didn’t land on his head.

The Tahs have been looking much better with Foley pulling the strings. They got themselves in the lead and just kicked to play in the right areas of the field. 31 kicks from hand is a very high number but clearly it worked against a limited Cheetahs. The Tahs though will be concerned that they couldn’t get the third TBP try and that led to the main talking point from the game. There were two correctly disallowed tries but the second one was after it had been given. With the rules being that it can be overturned if the conversion hasn’t been taken we are going to see teams taking snap drops at goal to secure the try going forwards. I can see a rule change coming in after a couple of controversial last minute winning tries.

The Sharks played a good structured game that again relied on a lot of kicking with 33 from hand by the home team. The Canes were leading at halftime but a dominant second half from the Sharks saw them home. Since then it’s come out the 5 Canes broke a curfew and will be stood down but we have no idea how much that affected their performance.

The Kings were competitive for a lot of this game and the stats are fairly even. The Blues led by 12 at halftime but the Kings managed to get back in touch by the hour mark. In the end though their defence let them down and the Blues pulled away. Missing 37 tackles just gives the opposition too many opportunities.

Finally here is my review of how things stand after round 11.

Pro12

Connacht Rugby 14 – 7 Glasgow Warriors
Edinburgh 17 – 21 Cardiff Blues
Leinster 50 – 19 Benetton Treviso
Munster 31 – 15 Scarlets
Ospreys 26 – 46 Ulster
Zebre 47 – 22 Newport Gwent Dragons

4 from 6, I didn’t pick the top two games and followed the crowd a little too much.

You can watch my summary of how things stand below or read it here. Leinster topped the table and will host Ulster who confirmed their playoff place with a good win over Ospreys. The Other semi final will be a repeat of this round with Connacht hosting Glasgow. The home team has won every playoff semifinal in Pro12 history.

Scarlets and Munster claimed the other two merit based Champions Cup places. Zebra’s win over Drgaons, means that they overtook Treviso and finish in 11th place to claim the Italian Champions Cup spot.

Top 14

Grenoble 14 – 20 Bordeaux Begles
Stade Francais 69 – 8 US Oyonnax
La Rochelle 36 – 10 Montpellier
Section Paloise 10 – 16 Clermont Auvergne
Brive 33 – 27 Racing Metro 92
Toulouse 52 – 19 Agen
Toulon 17 – 7 Castres

With three games to go Clearmont opened a gap at the top of the table as the only two of the top six to lose were those who are in European finals next weekend. Clearly both those sides rested players a head of next weekend’s clashes. At the other end of the table Oyannax and Agen are fifteen and sixteen points adrift and so we can confidently say relegated.

ProRugby

Sacramento 11 – 31 Ohio
San Francisco 33 – 46 San Diego

Ohio and San Diego both picked up their second wins and are tied on 11 points in the table ahead of meeting next week. Denver who had a bye this weekend remain top of the table with 13 points. Sacramento will host Denver next weekend and will probably stay 4th with their only win so far over San Fransisco. San Fransisco prop up the table and will be looking forward to their bye after four losses on the trot.

Next Week

Super Rugby and ProRugby continue on as Europe turns it’s attention to France. Lyon will be hosting the Champions Cup and Challenge Cup finals as Paris host the World 7s Series.

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