The tension is rising as the season reaches its climax, bringing the best and worst out of some of the players - and the fans
Josh Turnbull may be leaving the Scarlets to join the Cardiff Blues at the end of this season, but he is still showing 100% commitment to his current club’s cause and has played a big role in helping them secure a place in next season’s European Rugby Champions Cup.
The flanker was Man of the Match in this weekend’s 34-23 win over the Dragons, a victory which gave the Scarlets the points they needed to guarantee a place at rugby’s top table – a privilege the Blues and Turnbull will not enjoy.
Scarlets forwards coach Danny Wilson had plenty of praise for him, saying: “Josh Turnbull was outstanding. His work rate was phenomenal. I think he’s getting better and better.”
With one hooker off with a leg injury, and the replacement then crocked as well, Bath faced the prospect of playing the remaining 26 minutes of their crucial Aviva Premiership match against Northampton with 14 men, because the laws state that if an injury leads to a game going to uncontested scrums, the injured player cannot be replaced.
Just as referee Matt Carley was passing on that piece of unwelcome news to the incredulous Bath skipper Stuart Hooper, Bath’s replacement prop Nathan Catt decided it was time to take one for the team.
He bravely said he could play hooker, which allowed Bath to play out the game with a full team, helping them battle to a 19-19 draw. Bath were awarded a penalty at two of the scrums Catt had to endure and he was penalised for popping up at another, which allowed Stephen Myler to kick three points, but every credit should go to Catt for stepping into the breach and to openside Guy Mercer who took on the job of throwing in at the lineouts.
Bath’s former hooker Lee Mears was full of praise for Catt. “He did a fantastic job. To put your hand up and say ‘I’ll do it’ under that pressure and at that time of the season – he did wonderfully.”
The Bath v Northampton game turned out to be a tough day at the office for referee Matt Carley, as not only did he have to deal with a full-blooded encounter between two teams trying to get the upper hand in the Aviva Premiership title race, but he also had a little known point of law to deal with (as highlighted above) and other tremendously tough calls to make.
He kept a cool head and refused to be influenced by the players or the crowd, and made the right calls in a frantic last five minutes, when he yellow carded Bath replacement Anthony Perenise for a tip tackle and then refused to give a potentially match-winning penalty against Courtney Lawes in stoppage time.
Carley can be proud of his performance and he received lots of praise on social media, including this Tweet from James Haskell: “One of the best referee performances, in terms of communication, consistency and making informed decisions.”
Rock on, Tommy
Glasgow Warriors are enjoying a run of seven consecutive RaboDirect Pro 12 victories and are hot favourites to make it eight and finish in the top two of the league next weekend as they take on Zebre at Scotstoun.
This week’s big hero for the Warriors was wing Tommy Seymour, who grabbed a hat-trick of tries in their 38-16 victory at Benetton Treviso.
Warriors coach Gregor Townsend sung the 25-year-old’s praises. “He has been in great form all season and in the last few weeks he has been outstanding.
“He had a great game against Ulster and he scored a crucial try against Ospreys. It’s great to see him playing with so much pace and power and making great decisions.”
Up for the Cup
The qualification rules for the new European Champions Cup seem to have had the positive effect of spicing up the RaboDirect Pro 12 already, as teams now have to fight for a place in next season’s new premier club competition instead of being permitted to walk into it by default.
Since the qualification process was announced last month, and Zebre knew they had to finish above Italian rivals Benetton Treviso in the league to qualify, they have earned a losing bonus point at the Scarlets, then beaten Edinburgh and the Ospreys to earn nine points.That run of form has taken them above Treviso in the table on points difference, with one week to go.
Unfortunately for Edinburgh, Cardiff Blues, Connacht and Dragons fans, they are not close enough to their national rivals to have a chance of qualifying, but the signs are that the tougher qualification rules will make the Rabo more exciting next season.
Have you ever seen a player disallow his own try? Toby Flood did just that when Leicester Tigers played Sale Sharks on Saturday.
The Tigers were 28-3 up when Flood crashed over the line in into the post, ending up in a heap with two or three defenders. Referee JP Doyle blew his whistle, but before he had a chance to call for the TMO, Flood shouted up at him: “It’s not a try, it’s not a try!”.
It was amazingly honest of the former England fly-half and as Leicester were so far in front he was in a position to be charitable, but I am not sure Tigers boss Richard Cockerill will want to encourage this kind of generosity!
Scotland Sevens gave the home fans something to cheer at the Emirates Airline Glasgow Sevens, as they reached the Cup semi-finals for the first time in this year’s HSBC World Series. They lost 10-7 at that stage to Canada, and then 17-10 to Fiji in the third-place playoff.
It trumped Scotland’s previous best performances of the season, when they reached the Cup quarters in Dubai and gave them 15 points in the series table. A trio of wins against Australia, the USA and Spain on day one had sent them into the quarters, where Scotland toppled South Africa 12-7.
Boo to you too
There was a sorry sound at the end of the Bath v Northampton game as the home fans booed referee Matt Carley and his colleagues off the pitch, unhappy with some of the decisions during the incident-packed 19-19 draw. It brought back unhappy memories of the abusive chanting that referee Tim Wigglesworth had to endure after the Gloucester v Bath match last month and it is something which needs to stop, immediately.
Being a rugby fan means you support your team by shouting, clapping, singing and cheering, as loud and long as you like. It also gives you license to indulge in a bit of friendly banter with the opposition. What it does not and should not entitle you to do is hurl abuse at players, opposing fans or match officials.
If you want to do that, watch the game at home on TV or in the pub, but please do not poison the friendly, happy atmosphere which we all enjoy at our rugby grounds. If a referee makes a mistake or interprets the law in a way you do not agree with, that does not give you the right to call him all the names under the sun.
Northampton player Christian Day sprung to referee Carley’s defence on Twitter, saying: “Walked off next to the ref at the end and the abuse he got was shocking. Don’t care if he got it right or wrong. Doesn’t belong in rugby.” Dave Flatman, who used to play for Bath and still works for the club, backed up Day in a Tweeted reply.
Gloucester reminded their fans of the game’s code of conduct after the sour atmosphere at the end of the derby game and it seems it is time for other clubs to follow that lead and stamp out this abuse of officials.
Tom Court spoiled his own Ravenhill leaving party as the prop was sent off just 16 minutes into his final home match for Ulster, before his summer move to London Irish.
Court was shown a red card for a dangerous tackle on his fellow Ireland international Devin Toner. Ulster went on to lose the match 22-20 to Leinster, and instead of being able to play through to the end of the season, Court could well finish his time in Northern Ireland serving a ban.
Court is one of the game’s nicest guys, and he took to Twitter to apologise to Toner for a “moment of carelessness”.
He continued: “Apologies also to the boys & esp the fans, who are always unbelievable. Not how I wanted to finish at Ravenhill. Thanks for the memories.”
Exeter Chiefs’ hopes of snatching the European playoff place from the grasp of London Wasps died a death in a fashion they will not be happy with. Leading Harlequins 23-5 early in the second half, the Chiefs looked like keeping their season alive, but somehow they allowed Quins to take control of the game and win 30-29.
It was a great shame for Exeter and the defeat overshadowed a magnificent try by Matt Jess, set up with a magical run by Ian Whitten. The Chiefs will need to rediscover their old never-say-die spirit next season.