Battling back from behind to win proved something of a theme in this weekend's Aviva Premiership and Guinness Pro12 matches. But whose heroics won the day, and who were the villains of the piece?
Newcastle lifted themselves off the bottom of the Aviva Premiership with a 26-19 win over Harlequins on Sunday. Trailing 19-10 with just over 20 minutes to go, the Falcons staged a great revival with a strong performance from their pack to the fore, and terrific goal-kicking from Andy Goode getting the scoreboard moving.
Goode – who has come out of retirement to take up a ten-game deal at the Falcons – kicked three penalties in his first ten minutes on the pitch, after coming on with his team trailing 19-10. Two of the kicks were from close to halfway, so although the fly-half paid tribute to openside Nili Latu for his great work over the ball which helped earn the penalties, they still took some kicking.
Newcastle then snatched a win at the death when Rob Vickers was driven over from close range and Goode converted.
Wasps full-back Rob Miller played a major role in his club’s first win at Franklin’s Gardens for over a decade as he scored one try, set up another and collected the Man of the Match award in the 24-11 victory.
Miller pounced on a loose ball and barged through some weak tackling by Northampton to score Wasps’ second try, then with his team 17-3 up, he collected a high ball on his own 10-metre line, stepped the first defender and scorched his way up field before finding Josh Bassett with an inside pass to set up a terrific try.
A number of Leicester Tigers players need to take a bow after they overturned a 15-7 half-time deficit to win 19-18 at Gloucester.
Peter Betham takes many of the plaudits for setting up a simply spectacular try for Telusa Veainu. Tommy Bell caught a downfield kick, passed to Betham inside his own 22 and the wing sprinted up the left flank and produced a superb back-handed offload when tackled, which found Veainu in support. He passed quickly on to Jordan Crane who made more ground then unselfishly passed to Veainu to score the try.
Hats off too to Marcos Ayerza who scored his first try in 96 games, and to full-back Bell who kicked the winning conversion for Leicester from midway out on the right in the final minute of the game, when they were 18-17 down after Logovi’i Mulipola had charged over the line.
Sharp work, Sam
Sam Davies ensured the Ospreys didn’t slip any lower than their current seventh spot in the Guinness Pro12 with a Man of the March performance in their 20-20 draw with Glasgow Warriors.
The Ospreys came from behind twice to earn the draw and Davies kicked two conversions and two penalties and set up their final try with a great step through the defence and a brilliant offload to Dan Evans who was steaming through on his right-hand side.
Hooker, line and sinker
Saracens hooker Schalk Britz scythed his way to the Bath try-line to score a critical try at Allianz Park when his team were trailing 13-6 with ten minutes to go. Earlier in the same attacking move, Britz was hitting a ruck on the left, but he tracked quickly over to the far side and took a pass at pace to give him unstoppable momentum, then just reached over the line to score and bring Saracens level on 13-13. From there they kicked on to win 19-13 and plaudits also go to Maro Itoje for terrific carrying and pilfering at the breakdown.
Blacks are back
New Zealand’s Sevens team notched up their first HSBC World Series win for 12 months, snatching the cup at their home tournament in Wellington with a dramatic 24-21 win over South Africa in the final.
Akira Ioane was the star of the show, scoring five tries, making 19 carries, ten line breaks and five offloads during the tournament.
New Zealand won the final in red time, three minutes after the buzzer had sounded, when Joe Webber charged over for the winning try.
Northampton looked strangely dozy in the first half of their clash with Wasps on Friday evening and let Wasps build up a 24-3 half-time lead, which it was always going to be tough to overhaul.
Scrum-half Tom Kessell and No 8 Sam Dickinson both missed the chance to stop Rob Miller when the full-back picked up a loose ball and charged through the defence to score Wasps’ second try, which put them 17-0 up. Dickinson did atone to an extent when he powered over for a try of his own at the death, but it was sleepy defending from the duo.
Costly for Gloucester
A couple of mistakes cost Gloucester dear as they snatched defeat from the jaws of victory against Leicester Tigers.
Ben Morgan picked up a silly yellow card for pulling Telusa Veainu back by the shoulder when he was running a line in support of Mathew Tait. The contact was minimal and Veainu made the most of it to milk a soft yellow card from referee JP Doyle, but it was silly of Morgan to give them the opportunity to penalise him.
Earlier in the match hooker Richard Hibbard had stepped up out of the defensive line a few yards from his tryline, letting Marcos Ayerza through a gap for his try.
Man in the middle in a muddle
Referee JP Doyle had his own moment of madness, when he brought his red card out of his pocket instead of his yellow one for the second time in a few weeks. He showed David Paice a red instead of a yellow during London Irish’s win over Newcastle in mid-January and did the same to Gloucester’s Ben Morgan on Saturday. Both times Doyle immediately corrected himself, but he needs to get his cards sorted out.
The Scarlets had fought back from 13-0 down in their Guinness Pro12 clash with Connacht to 13-10, before they shot themselves in the foot by picking up two yellow cards and handing the initiative back to the Irish side, who went on to win 30-17.
First in the bin was prop Phil John, who was yellow carded after a scrum penalty went to Connacht. Jack Carty kicked the resulting penalty to make it 16-10 and just three minutes later the Scarlets were down to 13 men when Tom Price was sin-binned for a high tackle on Caolin Blade. Connacht rubbed salt into the wound by kicked the penalty to the corner and driving over for a try which extended their lead to 23-10.
Bath replacement David Wilson earned himself a senseless yellow card for pushing Saracens prop Petrus Du Plessis as the two packs walked away from a scrum. As Wilson went past him he pushed one hand into his jaw and neck and one onto his shoulder. He added a comedy moment by saying “It’s not me” when the referee was looking at replays on the big screen, which clearly showed Wilson giving Du Plessis a push.