We had a great weekend of finals rugby along with a taster of what’s to come in the international window. Also we saw Australia claim the women’s world 7s series here’s my round-up of all the action.
England 27 – 13 Wales
Wales started and were leading 5-13 with half an hour gone but it was one way traffic from there on in. It should have been even more convincing but Ford left 14 points out on the pitch with missed kicks. That’s more than a few as suggested by Eddie Jones below. Also he’s wrong to suggest that Wales were at full strength as they were missing players who are playing France for starters. Either way it was a good victory sets up England well for their tour of Australia where they have only beaten the Wallabies 3 times.
For the Welsh things are not looking so good. This might not have been a full strength side but it was still a decent one and they travel to New Zealand. It will be an upset if they come away with any victories against the All Blacks.
Saracens 28 – 20 Exeter Chiefs
1 from 1, the form side in Europe did the double.
Saracens had a dominant first half that was to win the game. Chiefs got their tactics all wrong and were up 23-6 at half time. Thankfully to stop the game being a damp squib the Chiefs came back in the second half. Chiefs got back to within 3 points until Goode scored a try with 4 minutes to go to seal the game.
It’s been a fantastic season for Saracens who finally won the European Rugby Champions Cup and then backed it up with another Premiership title. For Exeter it was disappointment on the day but also a successful season making the playoffs of the European Rugby Champions Cup and Aviva Premiership for the first time.
Hurricanes 27 – 20 Highlanders
Waratahs 45 – 25 Chiefs
Kings 29 – 22 Jaguares
Blues 21 – 26 Crusaders
Brumbies 66 – 5 Sunwolves
Stormers 31 – 24 Cheetahs
Bulls 20 – 56 Lions
Rebels 27 – 22 Force
5 from 8, a good come back after getting the first 3 games wrong.
The Canes and Landers played out a great game. The Canes jumped out of an early lead and managed to keep their heads in front until mid way through the second half. Landers though got themselves on level terms just after the hour mark. I the end it took a try after the time had run-out to win it for the home side reversing the result form the final last year. However the thing that the game will be remembered for is a moment of magic from Sopoage that I’ve linked below. It didn’t lead to a try and I think if it gets tried too often you’re going to get hit in the back but it was a great moment.
The Tahs pulled out a performance that amazed everybody, putting forty points into the Chiefs is a real statement and made everybody sit up. Folau ran for an amazing 156 meters which was nearly 3 times as much as anyone else in the game. But for me this game was characterised by the niggle that the Tahs brought to this game. There was plenty of on the edge stuff and the game was won upfront as the Chiefs didn’t manage to deal with the physicality. On a side note there were about third the amount of kicks from the Canes v Landers games but both were an entertaining watch.
The Kings managed their second win of the season against the Jags. It was far from a convincing performance though, the Kings only got into the lead with 5 minutes to go after the Jags lost 2 men in the first half. All the talk was about those 2 red cards for clearing out at the ruck with no arms and making contact with the head. You’ll see similar actions to the first incident in many games but that doesn’t make it legal. The clear out without arms is illegal and if you are going strike the head first then you’re risking a red card. The second incident really summed up the Jags season as it was totally needless. The Kings player wasn’t slowing the ball down or anything and with a player already in the bin for the same offence it was plain stupid. The Jags season has been great for it’s high risk offloading rugby and awful for it’s total lack of discipline.
The Blues put up a good fight against the Saders at Eden Park on a cold light. My 30 second full-time report from the stands is linked below. Initially the Blues had all the possession and then 1 loose kick to Nadolo saw the Saders break down the pitch and a couple of phases later the big man dropped over in the corner. The Blues came back well and whilst West’s overall play was good, his kicking is still letting the team down. Also he was unlucky to be the man to miss the tackle that allowed the Saders to get into the lead. In the end the Saders march on and the Blues get a LBP that could have been more.
As expected the Brumbies put the Sunwolves to the sword and they needed to after the Tahs win earlier in the round. It is down to these two teams for the Australian conference and watch my review of how the playoff race is panning out below.
The Stormers really struggled to put away the Cheetahs. This is a side that has been talked up by some pundits but from they are one of the disappointing sides this season. They have the players but they aren’t putting in the performances. Here they always looked like winning with their heads in front froth half hour mark. It’s that they failed put the Cheetahs away who were still within a converted try of tying the game in the final 10 minutes.
The Lions put down a real marker by going to the Bulls and putting them to the sword. This surprised a lot of pundits but I had them down as conference winners at the beginning of the season. I admit I wasn’t expecting scoreline like this where they totally dismantle a side like the Bulls. They stuck with their expansive rugby that’s NZ inspired where they ran for 3 times text distance with the ball than the Bulls. Whilst that is what will attract the headlines what won’t is that they also kicked more than the Bulls which will surprise some. Also their defence is they bedrock making 94% of their tackles where as the Bulls only made 78% of theirs.
The Rebels finished the round by beating the Force as expected. Whilst they dominated the game with over 60% possession and territory their lack of cutting edge really showed. The Force were well in this game and even on points up until the hour mark. Then the Rebels managed the 2 tries that put them clear. Even then the Force pulled one back to make it a nervous last 8 minutes or so.
Here is my round-up of how the playoff race is shaping up.
Connacht Rugby 20 – 10 Leinster
0 from 1, as the fairy tale had a happy ending.
Connacht finished the fairy tale season with a dominant win in the final. They led 15-0 at half time and Leinster didn’t cross the whitewash until there were only 13 minutes left. By then Connacht had crossed 3 times to build up their 20 points.
Pat Lam has done a great job in Connacht and they have been everybody’s second favourite team this season. You can say what you like about the disruption due to the Rugby World Cup but they have fully earned this title.
San Diego 44 – 23 Sacramento
San Francisco 35 – 20 Ohio
The league leaders Denver had the weekend off. San Diego overtook Ohio in the standings and are 3 points behind Denver with the sides meeting next weekend in the only game. San Francisco climbed off the bottom of the table with that win which has been coming after pushing Denver close the weekend before.
Watch my San Francisco v Ohio post game chat on Periscope.I talk about the game but also explain what ProRugby is and answer questions on a number of topics around American Rugby.
World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series
Canada were the party poopers who beat Australia in the final. Australia still won the series title after they had won the first 3 stops. New Zealand’s consistent performances got them second on the table having not won any stops. Canada and England were equal on points in third and fourth having won one stop each. Next up for the women is the Rio Olympics that this whole season has been building towards.
Also good news that it looks like Australia are bidding to host a stop in the series next season. Hopefully that will be an additional stop as the Women’s series had 5 stops this year compared to 10 in the Men’s series.
Check out the replies to this tweet from #RugbyChat for who people think will win gold at Rio.
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