We had another big weekend of rugby with the European Cups Quarter Finals up North Super Rugby down South and stops for both the mens and ladies world sevens series. Here is my round-up of all the action.
European Rugby Champions Cup
Wasps 25 – 24 Exeter Chiefs
Saracens 29 – 20 Northampton Saints
Leicester Tigers 41 – 13 Stade Francais
Racing Metro 92 19 – 16 Toulon
4 from 4, a good weekend picking as all the games went to the home sides
Wasps and Exeter played out a thriller, the first points were to Wasps via a couple of penalties. A couple of tries in the last ten minutes gave Exeter a 6-14 halftime lead. Wasps struck first in the second half but Exeter went on to build a 13 point lead with a little over ten minutes to go. That would normally be enough to win a game but Wasps came back with two converted tries and the last kick of the game won it.
Saracens were far from their best but had enough to contain Saints. Saints had the better of the first half aided by a yellow card to Fraser and built up a 6-10 lead. In the second half, after an exchange of penalties Saracens got on top and scored twenty unanswered points. A Saints try at the death makes the scoreline look closer than it really was.
Tigers thrashed Stade six tries to one and never looked in danger of losing this one. Stade only made 71% of their tackles and it’s amazing to think they were Top14 Champions last season.
The lowest scoring games was between the two French heavy weights. You wouldn’t have expected this with seventeen points scored in the first ten minutes! The other seventy minutes didn’t yield any tries and came down to Pelissie missing one more kick than the Racing duo. On such fine margins games are won and lost and that brings Toulons’ attempt at four titles on the trot to an end.
European Rugby Challenge Cup
Sale Sharks 19 – 25 Montpellier
Gloucester Rugby 21 – 23 Newport Gwent Dragons
Harlequins 38 – 30 London Irish
Grenoble 33 – 32 Connacht Rugby
2 from 4, there were two big upsets and I didn’t call either.
Sale did all the running and had most of the territory but the boot of Paillaugue kicked Montellier to victory. Again Gloucester did all the running but they must be short of confidence with three recent losses to the bottom four in the premiership. Dragons kept in it with the boot and a late try sealed a much needed win as they are looking for new owners. Irish put up a good fight and early in the second half pulled out to a 18-30 lead. The last half-hour though was all about the Quins fight back to seal a semifinal spot. After half an hour it all looked good for Connacht who had scored three tries for a 3-19 lead. Grenoble pulled it back to a three point game by halftime only for Irish to start the second half quickly and pull out another lead. Grenoble came back again and sealed it with a late drop goal.
Chiefs 29 – 23 Blues
Force 19 – 20 Crusaders
Stormers 46 – 19 Sunwolves
Hurricanes 40 – 22 Jaguares
Reds 28 – 27 Highlanders
Sharks 9 – 24 Lions
Kings 6 – 38 Bulls
6 from 7, so close but I don’t think many people called the Reds win.
Blues had the possession and territory in the first half but were not penetrating and going too much side to side. Chiefs had few trips into the Blues 22 but each time were coming away with points to lead 10-6. Two early second half tries for the Blues gave hope of an upset. After that though the Chiefs got their game going and managed the possession and pressure to get the points for the win.
The Crusaders nearly slipped up against the Force who managed to respond to every Saders score with a penalty. That kept them in a game where they were out scored three tries to one. In the end a late try form a lineout Maul was just enough to see the Saders home.
After missing out on their best chance of a win against the Kings no one gave the Sunwolves a chance in this game. The Stormers ran out to a 27-0 lead before the Sunwolves managed their first try on the half hour mark. In the second half the Sunwolves dominated possession and territory but never looked like winning the game even if the Stormers dropped out of top gear.
The Canes saw off the Jags who again turned the ball over too many times. The first half was close until the last three minutes when the Canes grabbed two tries to pull away. In the second half The Canes continued to rack up the points and pulled away even with a disallowed try.
Can I drop the game of two halves cliché? In the first half the Landers were poor and the Reds took full advantage to rack up a 22-6 halftime lead. I spotted the score on twitter and couldn’t believe it so switched on the TV. The Reds stretched that lead with a couple penalties the second half to 28-6 and yet the commentators were still talking about a Landers come back and win. It so nearly happened in the last twenty odd minutes. The Landers had right already had two tries disallowed but went on to score twenty one unanswered points but the Reds just held on for this upset victory.
The Lions played a very disciplined but still attacking game to dominate the Sharks. They gave up fifteen turnovers to the Sharks twenty six and only six penalties to thirteen. Their two tries came after pressure on the Sharks line but by restricting them to only three kicks at goal they had the game under control.
Kings picked up the expect loss against the Bull. This time round they were architects of their own design giving up their first try via a charge down. The Bulls even went down to 13 men at one point due to two yellow cards but still the kings couldn’t get over the white wash. In all the Bulls scored six tries including two from kicks that the Kings couldn’t catch.
Zebre 14 – 43 Glasgow Warriors
1 from 1, a very predictable result.
This result has kept Glasgow’s fate in their own hands and they should make the playoffs. After a disrupted start to the season they have come good at just the right time for the playoffs.
Hong Kong 7s
The Hong Kong 7s is the oldest and largest stop on the HSBC Sevens Series. Fiji beat New Zealand in the final and they along with South Africa have won all the stops in the series this season. Those three teams have put themselves above the rest with Australia the clear next team. After that there is a group of teams that can win any game but don’t have the same consistency.
Australia won their third tournament and in doing so have won all of them this season. This obviously has them installed as the favourites for the Olympics later this year. New Zealand made their first final and moved clear of Canada claiming second for themselves. Canada lost out to England in the third place playoff who moved up to forth in the standings.
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