Some players managed to shine through the gloom of a largely windy and wet weekend in the Guinness Pro12 and Aviva Premiership, but others got blown off course.
Connacht beat Munster at Thomond Park for the first time since 1986 and retained their place at the top of the Guinness Pro12 after the 18-12 triumph.
Outside centre Bundee Aki sprinted in for the winning try with three minutes to play after Robbie Henshaw broke from the 22, foxed the defence with a glorious side-step and offloaded to Aki as he steamed up beside him.
Connacht have won seven out of eight Pro12 matches so far this season and their head coach Pat Lam celebrated the win, but made it clear he wants his team to believe their days of being Ireland’s also-rans are over. “I am tremendously proud,” Lam said. “I love history and I respect it because it tells you where you come from, but the vision decides where you are going.”
Leicester were celebrating on Sunday as they beat Bath 21-11 in the Aviva Premiership and Telusa Veainu was among their heroes as he stepped into the Bath back line as they raced up to the Tigers’ 22 with an overlap outside him, intercepted Nick Auterac’s pass and raced the length of the pitch to score a try which took them from 5-3 down to 8-5 up in the 33rd minute.
However, it was another Leicester try which grabbed the headlines later in the game, as England prop Dan Cole crashed over to score only his second try in 97 Premiership appearances – no less than six years after his first! He dived onto a loose ball at the side of a ruck and wriggled over the line with it, taking the Tigers from 14-11 up to 21-11.
The prop joked that he last time he scored a Premiership try (against Bristol on 13 March 2009) it was worth four points. That’s stretching the point a little, as the five-point try was introduced in 1992 when Cole was only five years old, but another of Sunday’s try-scorers, Bath full-back Anthony Watson, had only just celebrated his 15th birthday when Cole last dotted down over the whitewash!
Saracens scrum-half Ben Spencer put his hand up for a bit more game time with a great performance in his first Aviva Premiership appearance of the season, helping his side beat Worcester 48-18 at Twickenham.
The 23-year-old made a scorching break from his own half, then put a cross kick on a sixpence for Chris Ashton to score the first of his two tries. A little later Spencer ran a good support line inside Chris Wyles and took the scoring pass to give Saracens a 12-0 lead with 21 minutes gone.
Worcester were well beaten by a Saracens side which created some stunning tries, but they showed great character to rally in the closing minutes and a fantastic break from his own half by Bryce Heem, followed by good work from Charlie Mulchrone and Chris Pennell, put Gerrit-Jan van Velze over for the final try.
The passengers on a Virgin Atlantic flight from Nadi in Fiji to Brisbane were glad the Fiji Sevens squad were flying with them, when the players and medics stepped in to help with an in-flight emergency.
The Fiji team doctor, physio and coach helped the airline staff deal with a woman who had fallen ill during the flight, according to Australian news website www.news.com.au, and the players did their bit by taking over the serving of food and drinks to their fellow passengers in the mean-time.
Fiji head coach Ben Ryan Tweeted: “This bunch constantly make me proud.”
Two step up
Two players at almost opposite ends of the age and experience scales played vital roles in helping the Ospreys secure a 13-6 win over Cardiff Blues in the Guinness Pro12.
Alun Wyn Jones, in his 127th Pro12 appearance for the region, barged his way through two opponents as if they weren’t there to score a 59th minute try which took the Ospreys from 6-0 down to 7-6 up, courtesy of a conversion by Sam Davies.
Davies is eight years younger than Jones at just 22 and has made just 24 Pro12 starts, but he put in a Man of the Match performance that belied his relative inexperience after replacing Dan Biggar midway through this game. His positional kicking and game management in poor conditions were exemplary and he kicked two good penalties after converting Jones’s try
Gareth Steenson managed to rack up 21 points in Exeter Chiefs’ 26-25 win over Harlequins. On a weekend when most place-kickers were being thwarted by the windy conditions, Steenson landed four penalties and converted his own try, which he scored by picking up a dodgy pass off his toes and darting over from close range.
Centre of attention
Elliot Daly produced a couple of moments of magic in Wasps’ 33-15 win over London Irish at Twickenham, reminding everyone what a potent force he is at outside centre. He scored a cracking try in the first half, cutting a fine line through the Irish defence, then in the second half Daly took a short pass from Sailosi Tagikaibau on his own 10-metre line, zipped up to the 22 and put Frank Halai in for his second try and Wasps’ fourth.
Chance gone begging
Harlequins returned home from Sandy Park with two bonus points after losing 26-25 to Exeter but it could have been five points if only Tim Swiel had been able to land a late penalty.
It feels a bit harsh to label Swiel a sinner when kicking conditions were so bad, but the Chiefs’ marksman Gareth Steenson still found the target repeatedly and so perhaps Swiel could have done better with his kick from about 15 metres in on the right.
However, Chiefs fans almost had cause to label one of their own corner flags as the biggest villain of the weekend, as an over-cooked kick up the left by Harlequins looked like it was going harmlessly into touch-in-goal, only to bounce back extraordinarily off the flag. Tim Visser actually caught the ball between his knees and fell over the line, grounding it properly, to score the visitors’ bonus-point try.
Bath came away empty handed from their Premiership visit to Welford Road, losing 21-11 to the Tigers. They could have had at least a losing bonus point had they gone for the posts with a decidedly kickable penalty in the 75th minute, but they went for the corner – and, to be fair, that is a policy which they have employed on previous occasions this season and profited from, so perhaps that choice was understandable.
This time it all went awry, as, at the subsequent lineout, Leroy Houston seemed to misunderstand the call and instead of lifting Stuart Hooper from behind at the front, he turned to face the middle jumper. As a consequence, Hooper barely made it off the ground, Leicester stole the ball and the chance to score a try was gone.
The Dragons had no less than four players sin-binned during their 32-13 defeat at Edinburgh on Friday evening. A couple of the yellow cards wielded by Marius Mitrea looked harsh, but fly-half Dorian Jones was correctly sent to the cooler for a tip-tackle on Alex Toolis. The Edinburgh lock wasn’t hurt, and in one way it was good to see Jones tackling him strongly as the Dragons defended at 13-6 down with only 13 men on the pitch, (Boris Stankovich and Phil Price were both in the sin-bin at the time) but Jones did take Toolis slightly over the horizontal and the punishment for that is a yellow card.
The Dragons could not hold out any longer and Edinburgh pulled away for a comfortable win, with Nick Cudd also spending ten minutes in the cooler before the end.
Rain, rain, go away
We have been so spoiled this autumn by fine weather, allowing us to enjoy some fantastic, flowing rugby in mostly dry conditions. However, Mother Nature has taken her revenge in the last couple of weeks, with the majority of Premiership and Pro12 games being played in windy and wet conditions. Handling errors have come crawling out of the woodwork in their dozens and the try-count has taken a major tumble. Here’s hoping for some calmer and drier weekends to come.