By Alan Dymock
AS A nimble Tom Varndell danced up the touchline against Northampton Saints at the weekend – an act of human dressage so well timed that both teams must have choreographed it a week in advance – he notched his twelfth try of the season and his 72nd in Premiership history, only five behind leader of the pack Mark Cueto, who has 77.
This is impressive outright, but it also makes the Wasps winger the most prolific try scorer in the top European leagues.
So if, like football, rugby had a Golden Shoe competition where the most prolific poacher in the Aviva Premiership, RaboDirect Pro12 and Top 14 where compared, who would have bouquets throw down as they are fitted with a shiny espadrille at the end of the season?
As it stands, Varndell’s 12 tries in 16 games sees him edge ahead of Naipolioni Nalaga of Clermont Auvergne and Tim Visser of Edinburgh Rugby, who both have 11 tries (although having only played 11 games, Visser has an impressive strike rate of one try per game).
Fellow Wasp Christian Wade is a step down with nine tries and Timoci Matanavou of Toulouse, Metuisela Talebulamaijaina of Bordeaux-Begles, Andrew Fenby of Scarlets and DTH Van Der Merwe of Glasgow Warriors are all locked on eight tries apiece.
There are four rounds left in each of the three competitions before it is playoffs time. So if this is restricted to the Regular Joe, hustle and bustle of week-in-week-out elite rugby and only regular season rugby scores are taken into account, who will claim the shoe?
It would be no surprise if Varndell continues his rich form, but with the Wasps still to face miserly defences Saracens, Leicester Tigers and Exeter Chiefs as well as Sale Sharks on the last day there is no guarantee he will score. And predators like Visser and Nalaga will still be lurking…