Best of the Weekend: Premiership and Pro12 playoffs confirmed
The final round of league fixtures confirmed who were set to make the final four of the Aviva Premiership and RaboDirect Pro12, along with who was destined for the drop. Here, as always, are the best bits:
Newcastle all but down as Northampton seal fourth spot
The tries came all too late for Newcastle in their must-win match against London Wasps, finishing two scores short of the necessary four that would have given them an essential try bonus point. In a game that was almost scoreless until half time – matching both sides struggles in attack this season – Wasps opened up a 10-0 lead thanks to a Nicky Robinson penalty and then an excellent converted try from Christian Wade.
The Falcons might well have given up at that stage, but the resilience they’ve shown in abundance in recent months shone through with scores from James Fitzpatrick and Peter Stringer. They came close on two more occasions but both were correctly ruled out by the TMO, highlighting the desperation of their cause. Wasps clung on, boosted by a passionate home crowd. Their future remains uncertain though until new investment is confirmed, with Newcastle in a similar boat until the Championship is concluded.
Up the other end of the table, Northampton secured the final playoff place following their bonus point win over a spirited Worcester side at Franklin’s Gardens, Chris Ashton limping off after scoring a farewell try in his final home appearance. Saints position was confirmed after Exeter’s heavy 22-40 defeat against Saracens, finishing what has been a fantastic season in 5th. The league’s other results saw Harlequins finish in 1st place by defeating Sale, London Irish hammer Gloucester 52-18 in the biggest win of the season at the Madejski, whilst Leicester confirmed their home semi-final by beating Bath 28-3 at Welford Road.
Glasgow clinch final playoff spot ahead of the Scarlets
Three tries from Glasgow Warriors at Firhill proved too much for visitors Connacht as the Scottish outfit made the playoffs ahead of the Scarlets. Canadian winger DTH Van Der Merwe touched down for a second try in two games after returning from injury, Duncan Weir adding 14 points with the boot. The Scarlets did everything they could to keep their chances alive against the Blues, scrum-half Gareth Davies crossing twice for the home side, but it wasn’t enough.
Elsewhere Paul O’Connell is a major injury concern for Munster’s semi-final against the Ospreys after hobbling off in his side’s 36-8 victory over Ulster. The home side carried out revenge for their Heineken Cup quarter-final loss last month, scoring four tries in Mick O’Driscoll’s final appearance at Thomond Park. The other results included a farewell try for Chris Paterson in Edinburgh’s heavy win over Treviso, Greig Laidlaw racking up 24 points, whilst there were also victories for Leinster and the Ospreys.
Blues stay rooted to the bottom as Bulls close in on the top
The nightmare continued for Pat Lam as the Blues lost their 9th match on the bounce, this time in Wellington against the Hurricanes with their feeble defence conceding five tries. The Rebels on the other hand scored five tries and still lost, Morné Steyn’s boot kicking the Bulls to victory in Melbourne and moving his side two points behind leaders the Chiefs, who picked up a win against the Lions. There were victories elsewhere for the Crusaders, Cheetahs, Sharks and Brumbies.
Try of the Weekend goes to Christian Wade. In yet another disappointing result for Wasps, Wade’s try was outstanding, conjured up by the brilliant run of Richard Haughton. Special mention to London Irish’s Kieran Roche for his chip assist in his final game before retirement.
Hard to pick out an individual Hero for this weekend so to all of those retiring stars who have given years of service, we salute you.
Last but not least, David Paice and Jim Hamilton are the week’s Villains for their brawl, which overshadowed what was a fantastic win for London Irish:
by Ben Coles