Tries, trophies and tributes - as the end of the season approaches the stakes get higher for teams in the Aviva Premiership and Guinness Pro12. Who stood tall under pressure and who crumbled?
Wasps wing Christian Wade found six ways to score a try at Sixways on Saturday as he crossed the whitewash half-a-dozen times in his team’s 54-35 rout of Worcester in the Aviva Premiership.
For the first try he finished off breaks by Rob Miller and Dan Robson with a simple run-in, for the second he received a pop pass from the back of a ruck and strode over in the right-hand corner, then he completed his hat-trick after 29 minutes with a skilful chip and chase from outside the 22. Wade found time for a fourth try before the break, collecting a grubber kick from Elliot Daly, then he had a bit more running to do for the fifth try as he snaffled an interception on his own ten-metre line and sprinted up the wing. He scored the sixth try in the 55th minute, dashing up in support of Charles Piutau after he had intercepted a Worcester pass in his own 22, and Wade ran the ball in from halfway.
His feat equalled the record of six tries in an Aviva Premiership match which had been set by Ryan Constable of Saracens exactly 16 years ago, to the day. Wade set a new record too, by reaching the milestone of 50 Premiership tries in the fewest games as this was his 78th game and Sale’s Steve Hanley set the previous best of 79. (Thanks to Stuart Farmer for the stats.)
Wade has moved up to second in the table of Premiership try-scorers this season with 11, but Thomas Waldrom is still ahead on 13.
Hurry up Harry
Hats off to Harry Thacker, who ran in a try from halfway for Leicester Tigers, helping them to a 30-24 win over Northampton Saints in the East Midlands derby.
Thacker had the No 2 on his back, but this hooker used to be a fly-half and has also turned out at openside for the Tigers, so he is faster than the average front row.
He put Leicester on the front foot in Saturday’s crucial match by out-sprinting the Northampton cover as he charged in from halfway to score under the posts, and even though he had Niki Goneva at his shoulder, ready to accept a pass, Thacker backed himself and did the job.
Gloucester’s Ollie Thorley also scored a try to remember this weekend, as he crossed at Kingsholm on Friday evening to help his club end their five-match losing streak with a win over Exeter Chiefs. The 19-year-old was making his Premiership debut on the wing and it is worth noting that the last Gloucester player to score a try on his Premiership debut was Jonny May. That’s quite an act to follow.
Kenya win one? Yes we Ken!
Kenya’s Sevens players became national heroes this weekend as they won the Cup at the Singapore Sevens – their first Cup triumph in their 114th HSBC World Sevens Series tournament.
Ranked eighth in the world, Kenya reached the final when Collins Injera kicked a 40-metre penalty late on in their semi-final clash with Argentina, to break the 12-12 deadlock.
They then met series leaders and form team Fiji in the final and raced into a 20-0 lead with tries from Oscar Ayodi, Injera (two) and Samuel Oliech. After the break Fiji hit back with one try, but Nelson Oyoo crossed to extend Kenya’s lead and Frank Wanyama put the icing on the cake at the death.
Injera is now within two tries of Argentina’s Santiago Gomez Cora at the top of the all-time try scoring charts. He was also named Player of the Final in Singapore.
England’s James Rodwell reached a notable landmark at the weekend as he set a new record of playing in 69 consecutive tournaments in the HSBC Series.
Fine work, Finn
Scotland fly-half Finn Russell stole the show in Glasgow Warriors’ 46-10 victory at Parc y Scarlets on Saturday, scoring two tries, four conversions and a penalty to see off one of their rivals for a top-four finish in the Guinness Pro12.
Russell collected his own chip over the Scarlets‘ defence for his first try early in the game and added the conversion, then after 20 minutes he dived through a tackle to finish brilliantly at full stretch in the corner for Glasgow’s second try.
Russell’s expertly-timed pass set up Henry Pyrgos for the bonus point try early in the second half, then he created a score for Tommy Seymour by taking an interception in his own half and staying strong through several attempted tackles. Before the end, the fly-half made a mazy run to put the Scarlets on the back foot again and when he was hauled down just short of the line, Lee Jones was on hand to score the points.
Pro12 plaudits are also due to Niyi Adeolokun, who scored twice for Connacht in their landmark 35-14 defeat of Munster, and to Ulster full-back Jared Payne, who scored a hat-trick in his side’s 47-17 win at Zebre, which lifted Ulster up into the top four. It was also good to see Tommy Bowe crossing the whitewash twice on his return from injury.
Chips with everything
Gareth Anscombe helped Cardiff Blues to their fourth Pro12 win on the bounce when his deft chip over the defensive line off his weaker left foot put Reynold Lee-Lo over for a try against Newport Gwent Dragons.
The score took the Blues from 11-8 up to 16-8 and from there they kicked on to win and keep their hopes of qualifying for the European Champions Cup well and truly alive.
The Dragons defence had been disrupted by the loss of scrum-half Sarel Pretorious to a harsh yellow card for a deliberate knock-on. He was hoping to snap up an interception, but just dabbed the ball forward and referee Peter Fitzgibbon decided it was worth a sin-binning.
Replacement hooker Neil Cochrane scored two tries from driving mauls to help Heriots win the BT Cup. They beat Melrose 21-13 in the final at Murrayfield and full-back John Semple, who kicked 11 points, was named Man of the Match.
Tribute to Dad
Praise is due to a very brave boy, Alfie Roberts, who walked out onto the pitch as a mascot before Gloucester’s match against Exeter, just six days after his dad, former Gloucester centre Martin Roberts, had died suddenly at the age of 48.
Alfie helped the club pay tribute to the man known as “Speedy” by accompanying Billy Twelvetrees onto the pitch and joining in the minute’s applause before kick-off. He had done the same for a midweek game at Chosen Hill rugby club, just a few days after losing his dad, because they were the club Martin coached.
London Irish lost their relegation showdown against Newcastle Falcons 13-6 and among the players having nightmares afterwards will be fly-half Greig Tonks, who threw out a looping pass in the general direction of Johnny Williams, only to see Marcus Watson swoop on the bouncing ball and race up the wing to score a crucial first-half try.
Williams wasn’t really at fault, as he had No 8 Nili Latu bearing down on him and the pass was not accurate enough to give him any chance of taking it.
Irish’s defeat was not just down to that one incident. They created several try-scoring chances but failed to take them. Early in the second half and trailing 10-6, they cut through the Falcons’ defence thanks to a great break by Alex Lewington and he passed inside to Asaeli Tikoiotuma, but instead of backing himself to score in the corner, the replacement centre passed to Andrew Fenby who was swallowed up by the relieved cover defence.
Before the beak
Fergus McFadden has some explaining to do this week after being cited for a wince-inducing high tackle on Damien Hoyland three minutes from the end of Leinster’s 30-23 Pro12 win over Edinburgh on Friday evening.
Hoyland was heading at full speed towards the Leinster 22, with a try on his mind, when McFadden raced up and launched himself at the Scottish wing, making solid contact with his shoulder onto Hoyland’s neck and jaw. The Edinburgh player’s head whipped backwards, but he managed to get back to his feet quicker than McFadden, who landed very awkwardly.
The referee, Marius Mitrea, decided the offence was only worth a penalty, but McFadden was cited for a dangerous tackle and so could face further punishment.
James Short has been Exeter’s own Bearded Wonder this season, scoring seven Premiership tries in his 18 matches, which is almost as many as his last three seasons put together. But the wing has now shaved off his trademark beard and maybe he has lost some of his powers in the process, as he made a comedy error in the closing minutes of the Chiefs’ 16-9 loss at Gloucester on Friday evening.
Short got the ball in his own half and, from a standing start, beat the first defenders to get into space and set up what looked to be a dangerous attack, with support outside him. Then he somehow contrived to chuck the ball onto the turf, a good few metres ahead of himself, which gave Gloucester the scrum and helped them regain composure and close out the win.
Worcester boss Dean Ryan effectively sent his own team to our Sinners bench this weekend by blasting them in his post-match TV interview, following their 54-35 home defeat by Wasps.
“I just think our first 40 minutes was unacceptable,” said the furious head coach. “The integrity of the league and the integrity of this club are really important to me so I am not going to dance around about the tries we scored in the second half, because this game should be a contest.” Ouch.
Take Care of the ball
Danny Care took England’s team camaraderie a step too far on Saturday at Wembley when he let England lock George Kruis rip the ball from his grasp at the back of a ruck on the Harlequins try-line and dot down for the simplest of tries.
Admittedly, the Quins scrum-half gives away a considerable amount to Kruis in terms of height and weight, but he won’t enjoy watching that part of the highlights reel, especially as Saracens won 22-12.
White line fever
Hallam Amos has done so much so well this season, but he butchered a try-scoring chance for the Dragons in the first half of their 28-8 loss at Cardiff Blues on Sunday. The Dragons were only 5-0 down when Amos was heading for the try-line and he dummied and was tackled, when he should have passed outside to full-back Carl Meyer, who had plenty of space to score himself, plus another team-mate outside him in support. Amos had scored six Pro12 tries in the last four matches, but he should have been provider, not scorer, this time.