As the title races in the Aviva Premiership and the Guinness Pro12 hot up, who is in scorching form and who is getting their fingers burned?
Leicester Tigers and Exeter Chiefs produced a Sunday-best performance in the Aviva Premiership, with the Tigers hanging on for a 31-27 victory after leading 31-6 with half an hour to go.
There were some magnificent tries, not least the one scored by Manu Tuilagi which featured marvellous approach play from Niki Goneva, Michael Fitzgerald and Peter Betham.
Wing Betham scored a terrific individual try of his own and Adam Thompstone finished one which was created by a cleverly overthrown lineout close to the line on the right.
Exeter played their part in a scintillating contest, with Ian Whitton also raced in for an eye-catching try.
Wasps had only dropped three Aviva Premiership points in the last six rounds and were certainly the form side in the competition when they arrived at Kingsholm to play Gloucester on Saturday, but the Cherry and Whites ended their six-match winning run with a 13-10 victory.
Bill Meakes, Jeremy Thrush and Matt Kvesic all shone for Gloucester. Meakes made 83 metres in attack – more than anyone else in this match – and beat six defenders, while Thrush and Kvesic were central to a magnificent performance from the home pack, with Kvesic out-playing George Smith at the breakdowns.
Steffan Evans was the star of the show for the Scarlets in their 24-15 Guinness Pro12 win over Benetton Treviso, as he scored two tries and was named Man of the Match.
For his first score, the 21-year-old wing he received the ball on the ten metre line and cut a beautiful diagonal line towards the posts, beating four defenders on the way to scoring under the sticks.
That helped the Scarlets build up a 14-3 lead at half-time. Treviso then fought back and went 15-14 up before Dan Jones kicked a penalty to put the Welsh side back in front. Evans then stepped up again to score his second well-taken try, beating a huddle of defenders inside the 22 with good footwork. The win keeps the Scarlets in contention for a top-two finish.
Will Addison scored a scorching try for Sale Sharks in their 29-23 win over Harlequins. A fine offload from Sam James gave Addison the ball on halfway and the wing sprinted 50 metres, fighting off two tacklers in his final strides, and score under the posts to put the Sharks 26-16 up.
At the double
A tip of the hat goes to Munster prop Dave Kilcoyne who scored a brace of tries in a match for the second time in three games. He scored a double against Glasgow on 19 February and was in the right place at the right time twice again in Munster’s 26-5 win over the Dragons this weekend.
Considering Kilcoyne had only averaged one Pro12 try per season in each of his previous four campaigns with Munster, this represents something of a purple patch for the Ireland prop.
Connacht also deserve some words of praise for notching up their third consecutive away with in the Guinness Pro12 – something they haven’t achieved since 2002-03. The 28-23 victory at Edinburgh keeps Connacht top of the table.
Te’o is the tops
Ben Te’o was in fantastic form for Leinster in their 19-16 win over the Ospreys. The Kiwi inside centre tested the Ospreys defence throughout with his powerful runs and slick offloads and was deservedly named Man of the Match.
Ian Madigan and Fergus McFadden also deserve a special mention for creating a superb try for Dan Leavy, with Madigan making a break from a scrum in his own half and McFadden taking the ball on from halfway to the 22, opening up the defence for Leavy.
Tom Homer produced a fantastic mid-air offload by to set up Semisa Rokoduguni’s try in Bath’s win over London Irish. Rhys Priestland and Matt Banahan made ground through the Exiles defence, Homer took the ball on and was heading for the right-hand corner when he was tackled, but as he flew horizontally towards the touchline he passed inside to Rokoduguni, who just had to stride over the line. It was a quite brilliant piece of work from the Bath full-back.
Scotland and Glasgow Warriors centre Mark Bennett made an uncharacteristic error in Sunday’s Guinness Pro12 clash with Cardiff Blues when he dropped the ball as he stooped to touch down for a try. Bennett was rounding off a fluent attacking move when the Warriors were already 10-0 up, but the try was quite rightly disallowed.
Glasgow went on to win 27-20, but could have had a four-try bonus point if Bennett had been more careful. The Warriors are still eight points behind fourth-placed Ulster in the table and even though they have two games in hand, that bonus point would have been most welcome.
Bath have undoubtedly had a disappointing season in the Aviva Premiership and so were delighted to get their 25-17 win over London Irish, but the post-match comments by Bath’s first team coach Toby Booth were surprising.
Booth, usually someone who talks a lot of sense, blamed the weather and pitch conditions for Bath’s poor season when he was speaking on TV after the game. “Today, since Exeter on the first day of the season, is the first time we have had some really positive, neutral conditions so we can show some of the stuff we used to show,” said Booth. Hmmm. I think you’ll find both teams play in the same conditions in any one match, so if Bath have been coping less well with those conditions then surely they need to look to themselves for solutions, not just continue under-performing until the weather dries up?
Scarlets scrum-half Connor Lloyd had a win to celebrate after making his Pro12 debut off the bench against Treviso on Friday, but also made a mistake he won’t want to be reminded of too often.
Receiving the ball from a lineout, the replacement scrum-half sent out a pass only to find Treviso No 8 Robert Barbieri had anticipated where the ball was going and was waiting to intercept it.
The Italian international raced in for a try which put Treviso 15-14 up, but fortunately for Lloyd his Scarlets team fought back to win the game 24-15.
There were a few costly misses from goal-kickers in the Aviva Premiership this weekend, and none more important than Craig Willis’s conversion of Rob Vickers’ try in the last ten minutes of Newcastle Falcons’ 14-15 home defeat by Worcester Warriors on Friday.
He sent the kick wide of the right-hand post, whereas if it had been on target the Falcons might have won the game against their fellow-strugglers.
Fortunately for Newcastle their main rivals in the relegation battle, London Irish, lost too and didn’t even manage to grab a losing bonus point as Greig Tonks missed a conversion from wide on the right after Alex Lewington’s late try, making the final score Bath 25, London Irish 17.
Jimmy Gopperth could have snatched a draw for Wasps at Gloucester but missed a drop-goal from the middle of the pitch, about 39m out, with the last kick of the game in their 13-10 defeat.
Queensland Reds have sacked their coach Richard Graham after just two matches of the new Super Rugby season.
Graham has been the Reds coach for three seasons and was reappointed last August after a re-structure, despite the fact Queensland had only won four games last season. To dismiss him now, so soon after the start of the new campaign, suggests the management board were split over the decision to reappoint him in the first place. Not great work by the powers that be at the Reds.