By Katie Field
Take a Bowe, Tommy
Out since November with a groin injury, it didn’t take Ireland wing Tommy Bowe long to get back into the swing of things when he returned to action for Ulster against the Dragons on Friday evening.
He scored two tries in three minutes mid-way through the first half, helping his team on their way to a 38-8 victory. Ulster head coach Mark Anscombe clearly thinks Bowe needs to ease his way back into the season and took him off at the start of the second half. If a half fit Bowe can score two tries, what will he achieve in the next couple of months?
More than a game
Even with precious Aviva Premiership points up for grabs, Harlequins reminded us all there is more to life than rugby as they set out to raise funds for Sport Relief at their game against Worcester Warriors. Their raffle for the charity raised around £37,000.
To add to the match-day fun, Quins also set out to break two Guinness World Records – one for the most jester hats worn in one place and one for the most consecutive rugby passes. The hats were handed out for free before the game and, subject to confirmation from World Record officials, Quins think they broke that record. They were not so lucky with the passing attempt, as by the time it took place, after the game, some of the participants had enjoyed a few too many matchday beers!
Two of Harts
Edinburgh have had their share of problems this season, with new faces appearing almost every week aas boss Alan Solomons re-assembles the squad as he goes along, and their Murrayfield pitch hit by a grass-root-eating parasite. They had to play this weekend’s “home” match at Meggetland instead of their usual HQ and with the play-off chasing Ospreys as their opponents, they knew they were in for a tough time.
However, Kiwi scrum-half Grayson Hart broke from the back of a maul twice to grab two critical tries and help Edinburgh win 31-25. Having lost to the Scarlets, Connacht and Munster in their last three games, it was a welcome change for Edinburgh and keeps them in the hunt for a top-half finish in the RaboDirect Pro 12.
A win for Wales
The Scarlets stopped Munster from completing a whitewash of home-and-away Pro 12 wins over the four Welsh regions this season by beating the Irish side 18-13 in Llanelli.
Tries from Gareth Davies and John Barclay helped Simon Easterby’s team defeat the league leaders and there was the added bonus for Wales and Scarlets fans of seeing centre Jonathan Davies make his return from injury and show some lovely touches as he came unscathed through 65 minutes of rugby.
Folau on fire
Israel Folau has started the new Super Rugby season with a bang, scoring a hat-trick in the Waratahs’ win over Western Force last weekend, then adding another two tries to his tally in the 32-5 victory over the Queensland Reds this week. It means the Waratahs have a maximum of ten points from their first two games but Folau is not willing to take any credit. “I think I was lucky tonight,” he said. “It was a great team performance to get back-to-back wins.”
Play to the finish
He had hoped to offer a serious challenge to Owen Farrell for the England No 10 shirt this season, but instead Freddie Burns finds himself in serious danger of losing his leading role at Gloucester after failing to deal with the mental hurdles he has faced in recent months.
Burns’ form slumped in the autumn, partly because he was playing behind a beaten pack and partly because – by his own admission – he was pre-occupied by whether to sign a new Gloucester contract or leave.
Having decided to do the latter, Gloucester fans hoped the clouds in his mind would clear and he would rediscover his irresistible form of last season. However, the mental frailty remains and was highlighted starkly during Gloucester’s 39-13 loss at Northampton on Saturday, when Burns looked a shadow of his former self – although he was far from being the only off-form player in the Gloucester team.
Nigel Davies chose to keep Burns on the bench when the Cherry and Whites met his likely new club Leicester last month, perhaps because he knows the young fly-half is having trouble playing for a club he is about to leave. But scores of other players manage to keep giving their all in their final few months at a club and Burns has to buck up his ideas if his time at Kingsholm is not going to end on a sour note.
Zebre are celebrating a RaboDirect Pro 12 double over Cardiff Blues after this weekend’s 15-10 triumph in Italy but the Blues were actually robbed of a chance to snatch a win at the death when Harry Robinson’s try was inexplicably ruled out by the television match official, Mauro Dordolo.
One of the assistant referees asked referee Gary Conway to let the TMO take a look at the score and he recommended it be disallowed for an obstruction by Ellis Jenkins, but it was a ludicrously harsh decision.
BBC TV pundit Jonathan Davies called into the question the neutrality of the Italian assistant referees and TMO, saying it was “the worst decision I have seen by a TMO”.
However, some credit needs to go to Zebre who were fielding five players on loan from Calvisano but still managed to score two tries against the Welsh side.