The Barbarians played it fast and loose, the weekend's Guinness Pro12 battles produced skills, smiles, and shakes of the head, while the LV= Cup turned out to be a crowd-pleaser.
Hats off to Barbarians coach John Kirwan and his team for pulling a few tricks out of the bag during their 36-40 loss to Australia at Twickenham on Saturday.
Inside the first ten minutes they sprang a surprise when No 8 Steven Luatua launched a long, American Football-style throw-in to a lineout. The plan was for Nick Cummins to catch it in midfield but sadly the ball drifted too far forward.
A couple of minutes later the Barbarians were at it again. When Australia conceded a penalty five metres out on the left, scrum-half Tomas Cubelli tapped the ball then chipped it backwards over his own head and into the in-goal area. With Australia caught off-guard, Barbarians No 10 Colin Slade charged up to try to take the ball and touch down for a try, but tighthead prop Angus Taavao-Matau and blindside Adam Thomson also jumped for the ball and the move ended with a knock-on. Ten out of ten for enterprise though! If you missed it on Saturday, take a look for yourself now.
Prop-goal falls short
Wales prop Adam Jones gave himself and everyone at Cardiff Arms Park a giggle on Saturday evening when he attempted a drop-goal for the Blues against Munster in the Guinness Pro12.
The scores were tied at 21-21 inside the last ten minutes, the referee was playing a penalty advantage for the Blues and Jones, of all people, dropped back into the pocket to have a pop at the posts.
He probably fancied his chances as he had been a goal-kicking hooker during his teens. Sadly, his attempt fell short but Jones had a little chuckle as Gareth Davies kicked the penalty for Cardiff, only to see Munster snatch a win at the death.
Like a hot knife through butter, Stuart Olding sliced through the Dragons’ line to score a magnificent try for Ulster in the Pro12. It was the first of a brace of tries for the full-back and showcased his ability to pick the right line and leave everyone standing.
The second try was a more straightforward run-in from close range and it was set up by a magical piece of work from inside centre Stuart McCloskey, who tipped the ball over an opponent so Olding could latch onto it out wide. Entertaining stuff.
Ospreys in the hunt
The Ospreys made it seven wins out of seven in the Pro12 when they beat Connacht 26-11, despite having nine players unavailable on Wales duty.
Steve Tandy’s side have equalled their best start to a league season since the regions were set up in 2003 and are on top of the table as the break for the November Tests begins.
In England the Aviva Premiership gave way to the lower-key LV= Cup this weekend, which means most clubs field a lot of Academy players in their teams, to give them experience. Despite the lack of star names on show, 50,787 rugby fans still paid their money and took their seats so they could cheer on their team in the six cup clashes played over the weekend. That’s an average of almost 8,500 per game, while the crowds topped 13,000 at Bath and Northampton. These English rugby fans seem to be a dedicated bunch.
Dan’s the man
Sale Sharks fought back from 17-19 down at half-time to beat Wasps 32-29 in the LV= Cup and their director of rugby Steve Diamond handed some of the credit to openside Dan Braid for the way he rallied his troops at the break.
“We physically weren’t in it in the first half, we were soft,” said Diamond. “Dan Braid did the team-talk at half-time, we, the coaches, didn’t go in and it was down to Dan to sort that physicality side of things out, but it got progressively better.”
The debate about taking an opponent out in the air reared its head again on Sunday when Harlequins wing Ollie Lindsay-Hague was sin-binned for tackling Saracens’ Jack Wilson in the air. Referee Leighton Hodges wielded the yellow card against the advice of his Television Match Official, having looked at a succession of replays on the big screen.
Lindsay-Hague undoubtedly grabbed hold of Wilson in the air, as both players went up for a high ball, but the Saracens man landed on his hands and knees and the Harlequin seemed to be doing his best to make sure his landing was safe. That is certainly what the TMO said and although the referee is entitled to over-rule the other officials, it looked like a harsh call from Hodges.
A pain in the neck
The delicate tissues of Joe Launchbury’s neck make it into the Sinners list this week, for ruling the Wasps lock out of England’s November Tests.
Launchbury has won 22 caps in the last two years and become a key figure in England’s pack, but now Stuart Lancaster’s team will have to face the All Blacks, South Africa, Samoa and Australia without him and Geoff Parling (concussion) powering the scrum from the engine room of the second row.
Scarlets full-back Steffan Evans was left red-faced after Zebre lock Valerio Bernabo charged down his clearance kick to score a try during their Guinness Pro12 match and Ulster’s Ian Humphreys was also wishing the ground would swallow him up when he broke the Dragons line with a nice dummy but then passed to no one in particular as he headed for the 22. As the ball bounced harmlessly on the ground, Humphreys just shook his head in disbelief.
Evans’ mistake came after he fielded a kick from Zebre scrum-half Brendon Leonard – it could have been a drop-goal attempt but turned into a grubber kick! Evans had plenty of time to clear his lines but Bernabo was up more quickly than he thought.
Happily for Evans and Humphreys, their mistakes didn’t cost their teams the match as the Scarlets won 28-13 and Ulster triumphed 23-6.