The All Blacks broke the record for the most tier 1 wins in a row, the Currie Cup and NRC champions were crowned and it was a big weekend of European action. Here is my round-up of it all.
Bledisloe Cup 3
New Zealand 37 – 10 Australia
1 from 1, this one was very predictable.
Initially the Wallabies had the ball but weren’t going anywhere and then suddenly we saw why the All Blacks are the best team in the world. Having not had any ball 2 tries were quickly scored. Barrett couldn’t hit the side of a barn from the kicking tee and this meant that the Wallabies were able to stay in touch. The Wallabies started to cross the gain line and that allowed them to score a try in reply but they weren’t being clinical and this released pressure on the All Blacks. A charged down kick led to another try meaning it was 15-7 at the break.
Early in the second half came the big moment of controversy. The Wallabies broke through and their winger touched down. After the try was awarded the TMO called it back for obstruction as a Wallabies player ran across the All Blacks defender’s running line. It’s the kind of thing that we have seen previously called in a kick chase but not in this situation. The feeling in Eden Park was that it was the right call unsurprisingly but on social media there was uproar. It was really telling that the next time the All Blacks scored Cruden took a quick conversion so there could be no questioning that try. As we have seen so often the All Blacks pulled away in the last quarter to blow out the score on what had been a close game until the 55th minute. A couple of notes, Savea is back to form and showed why he is considered 1 of the best wingers in the world. Coles again showed what great pace he has on both defence and attack. That pace helped save the All Blacks as it did get a bit lose at times late on but the Wallabies were knackered.
So the T1 record of consecutive wins now belongs to this team and the question is when will the run be brought to an end?
European Rugby Champions Cup
Sale Sharks 5 – 15 Toulon
Munster 38 – 17 Glasgow Warriors
Castres 41 – 7 Northampton Saints
Clermont Auvergne 49 – 33 Bordeaux Begles
Saracens 44 – 26 Scarlets
Ulster 19 – 18 Exeter Chiefs
Montpellier 22 – 16 Leinster
Toulouse 20 – 20 Wasps
Zebre 7 – 52 Connacht Rugby
Leicester Tigers 27 – 17 Racing Metro 92
7 from 10, with a draw in there it’s not too bad.
Munster put in a big performance in memory of Foley and top pool 1 even though they have only played 1 game. With Leicester’s win over Racing it’s looking like a pool where the teams will win their home games and in so taking points off each other. That should mean this is a pool only the top team qualifies and at this point it could be any of them.
Connacht top pool 2 having got into their stride just in time for this tournament. Wasps got a good draw away in France and their home and away double-header with Connacht looks like deciding who will top the group. Toulouse though can’t be counted out just yet.
Saracens are in control of pool 3 with 2 wins and their hardest game behind them. Toulon got the needed win away to Sale but still aren’t firing and have just changed their head coach with Ford taking over. They should have too much talent for Scarlets but will need to up the game to qualify as a best second place.
In pool 4 everyone has won 1 and lost 1 with Leinster top of the pill due to their 2 bonus points. Castres, Montpellier and Northampton have all looked inconsistent and it will depend on who turns up for key games. That makes this pool difficult to call but Leinster look the best placed so far.
Clermont are dominating pool 5 are the top seeded team after 2 rounds with their 2 TBP wins. It looks like Bordeaux, Ulster and Exeter will be scrabbling around to try to get enough points to try and be a best second place. With Exeter having 2 losses it’s unlikely to be them even if they have had 2 hard fixtures.
European Rugby Challenge Cup
Stade Francais 27 – 0 Timișoara Saracens
Bath 22 – 6 Bristol
La Rochelle 51 – 24 Bayonne
Cardiff Blues 27 – 12 Pau
Enisei-STM 38 – 18 Newport Gwent Dragons
Gloucester Rugby 37 – 8 Benetton Treviso
Worcester Warriors 24 – 25 Brive
Edinburgh 36 – 35 Harlequins
Lyon 13 – 31 Ospreys
Newcastle Falcons 50 – 7 Grenoble
8 from 10, happy with that as you never know what teams might try to do in this competition.
La Rochelle and Gloucester backed up their opening round TBP wins with another and so both sit on 10 points. Clearly pool 1 will be decided in the next 2 rounds when those sides play home and away. Bayonne and Treviso are effectively out of the competition.
Osprey’s with their 2 TBP wins are top of pool 2 but Falcons have pulled themselves back into this with that half century point win. I don’t think that the French teams are interested in this competition and so aren’t really in the running.
Enisei top pool 3 with 2 wins but uniquely they have had 2 homes games and lost all their away games last season. Dragons and Brive have 1 win each with Worcester yet to open their account. This pool is wide open and even Worcester could go through if they put in a good run from here.
Blues and Bath both have 2 wins in pool 4 and this is another pool that will be decided in the home and away double-header in rounds 3 and 4. The lack of bonus points will hurt their seedings come the playoffs. Pau and Bristol are jus making up the numbers from here.
Edinburgh have made a good start in pool 5 and they needed to as they had perhaps the easiest schedule they could have. Quins with those 2 bonus points up in Edinburgh are still favourite to top the group and Stade can’t be counted out yet.
Cheetahs 36 – 16 Blue Bulls
1 from 1, Cheetahs duly delivered the expected result.
Cheetahs completed the perfect season by wining the final and could this single the start of something big for them? The Lions built through the Currie Cup and made the Super Rugby final last season.
Otago 27 – 20 Bay of Plenty
Wellington 37 – 40 North Harbour
Canterbury 22 – 7 Counties Manukau
Taranaki 29 – 41 Tasman
4 from 4, always great to have a perfect weekend and I picked the 2 upsets!
Canterbury will host Tasman in the Premiership final and Otago will host North Harbour in the Championship final meaning both will be on the south island. Canterbury have looked the best side all season in the Premiership whilst Otago started great but stumbled towards the end.
NSW Country Eagles 16 – 20 Perth Spirit
0 from 1, the Spirit came good when it mattered.
Spirit finished the season strongly with a run of 4 wins and reversed the 48-24 loss in the regular season. They become the second team to win this competition and for a full write-up check out Green and Gold Rugby.
Join the #RugbyChat on twitter for an hour of discussion about the action this weekend. If you can’t make the hour then you can still give your view as the conversation keeps going over the following day.
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