There were plenty of tries, and a few tribulations, as teams tried to stay in contention during the fourth round of European Champions Cup and Challenge Cup matches.
Measured and diplomatic are not words you might readily associate with the Leicester Tigers director of rugby Richard Cockerill. A fiery player in his day, he has shown more than the odd flash of temper as a coach, but when he found himself in the eye of the storm created by Martin Castrogiovanni’s outburst after round three of the European Champions Cup, he did not take the bait and his low-key response continued when the row was brought up again this weekend.
A week ago, after the Tigers hosted Toulon, Castro launched a foul-mouthed attack on Cockerill and the way Leicester handled his 2013 departure from the club. When reporters told Cockerill what the prop had said the Leicester man’s response was: “One day he’ll realise that it’s just sport. One day we’ll have a beer together and smile about it.”
When Cockerill was asked about the row again this weekend after the return match in Toulon, he simply said: “I like him – it’s just that he doesn’t seem to like me.” The Tiger wouldn’t take the bait.
Keeping the dream alive
Munster don’t like getting knocked out of Europe and Ian Keatley helped them stay in contention for this season’s Champions Cup with an injury-time penalty which earned them at bonus point at Clermont Auvergne.
The Irish side’s hooker, Duncan Casey, scored a try close to the posts in the dying minutes which Keatley converted to bring Munster back to 26-16 down and Keatley coolly slotted a 40-metre penalty with the last kick of the game to make it 26-19 and give Munster a bonus point which keeps them in the hunt in Pool One, three points behind Saracens and four behind Clermont Auvergne.
Hatful of hat-tricks
Northampton Saints walloped Benetton Treviso 67-0 with some fantastic flowing rugby – aided by some dubious defence from the Italians – and both Ken Pisi and Samu Manoa scored a hat-trick in the trouncing.
They weren’t the only ones to cross the whitewash three times this weekend. Matt Banahan set the trend on Friday in Bath’s 32-12 win over Montpellier in Pool Four of the Champions Cup and Tom Prydie scored three of Newport Gwent Dragons 11 tries in their 69-17 win over Bucharest Wolves in the European Challenge Cup.
No one from Wasps managed a hat-trick but they did score seven tries between them as they beat Castres 44-17 in their Adams Park swansong before their move to Coventry. It was quite some farewell for the fans who live near the High Wycombe ground.
Who says we only get try-fests when the grounds are hard?
What a first start Caolin Blade enjoyed for Connacht. Wearing the province’s No 9 jersey for the first time, the 20 year old scored two tries as Connacht came back from 11 points down to win 29-17 in Bayonne.
That European Challenge Cup Pool Two win leaves them just two points behind Exeter Chiefs and with a good chance of qualifying for the quarter-finals. Plaudits also go to skipper and outside-half Miah Nikora, who kicked five penalties and two conversions, including the winning one.
Lee lets Munster in
He was a Saint last week and still produced some excellent play for Clermont Auvergne against Munster this weekend, but Fritz Lee was involved in a couple of costly errors which allowed Munster to grab a late, late bonus point and stay alive in Pool One – something which might come back to haunt Clermont at some stage.
First, Lee spilled a high pass from Morgan Parra when he had the line at his mercy and a four-man overlap outside him midway through the second half.
With 74 minutes on the clock, Clermont were 26-9 up and looked set to send Munster home empty-handed, but Lee threw a pass which the Irish hooker Duncan Casey intercepted to score a try. Keatley converted and, a few minutes later, kicked the critical penalty which was conceded by Lee at a ruck around the 10-metre line.
The Ospreys went to Racing Metro needing a win to stay in contention in Pool Five and they might have grabbed one if their half-backs had just played it all a bit cooler.
With the score still at 0-0, Rhys Webb foolishly stuck out an arm across Juan Imhoff’s neck as he ran past, which led to ten minutes in the sin-bin. Fortunately for Webb, Racing only scored three points while he was off, so it could have been worse.
With 60 minutes gone Dan Biggar butchered a try-scoring chance. He made a lovely break from his own half, his kick ahead parried off an opponent and back into his arms but he tried to avoid contact by flipping the ball straight on to the two men outside him and the pass went astray. If he had held onto the returning ball, taken the contact and then passed, it would have been a certain try. As it was, Racing won 18-14 and the Ospreys are effectively out of Champions Cup contention.
Baker puts his foot in it
Pitch invaders can be annoying, but USA Sevens player Perry Baker overstepped the mark when he kicked a particularly idiotic supporter who had run onto the pitch during their match against South Africa at the HSBC Sevens World Series in Port Elizabeth.
The invader was already on the ground, apparently after tackling Baker, when the player booted him, but Baker realised the error of his ways later and Tweeted: “I would like to apologize for my actions. I hope that my greatest fan is well. Boy they do love their rugby down here.”
Watch the incident for yourself here.
The Salon of Shame
After pointing out Joe Webber’s daft hairstyle last week, there’s another player who needs a new look, in my opinion. Step forward Ian Madigan, who has taken Danny Care’s “high and tight” and added an unwanted element of flop.