Best of the Weekend: Super Rugby returns
With the Summer Tours all finished, Super Rugby returned last weekend whilst there was also some major news from the Aviva Premiership. Here are the highlights:
Canes stun the Crusaders in Christchurch
The shock of Round 16 definitely came at Rugby League Park, with a Beauden Barrett penalty proving to be the winner late on for the Hurricanes a major upset. The Crusaders still had a chance to win the game at the death but replacement kicker Tyler Bleyendaal fell short with his long-range effort, meaning that the Hurricanes kept their spot in the wildcard spots ahead of the Reds and Sharks purely on points difference. Conrad Smith grabbed two tries for the Canes continuing his impressive form from the All Blacks series against Ireland, with Zac Guildford grabbing the only try for the hosts who stay in 5th spot despite their defeat.
With the Crusaders losing, the Chiefs extended their gap at the top of the New Zealand conference to 10 points after they defeated the Highlanders on Friday night. Aaron Cruden was on form with the boot kicking 17 points whilst Robbie Robinson and Tim Nanai-Williams picked up the tries for the away side for their 12th win out of 14 this season, keeping them in 1st spot.
Sharpe and Mortlock sign off with defeats as the Bulls take 4th spot
Two of Australia’s elder statesmen signed off with defeats in their final home matches over the weekend. Nathan Sharpe led out the Force to rapturous applause at the NIB Stadium but they were comprehensively outscored by the Brumbies in the first half, trailing 22-0 at half-time. Nick Cummins came back with a brace in the second half for the home side but the damage was already done. It was a similar story in Melbourne where the Reds raced away into a 24-3 lead by half-time thanks to tries from Chris F-Sautia, Dom Shipperley and Adam Wallace-Harrison. Kurtley Beale and Lachlan Mitchell both responded with tries for the hosts but it wasn’t enough, replacement scrum-half Nick Frisby grabbing the bonus point try for the visitors late on.
The remaining results in South Africa saw substantial wins as expected for the Stormers and the Bulls. Replacement flanker Jebb Sinclair, on loan from London Irish, grabbed the crucial try at Newlands before Gerhard van den Heever grabbed his first try for the Stormers to wrap up a 27-17 win. It meant that the Stormers stayed top of the South African Conference and 2nd overall, just four points ahead of the Bulls who lead 40-0 after 60 minutes against the Cheetahs at Loftus. The away side battled back to leave the scoreline looking a bit more respectable with four tries, including a double for Edinburgh bound WP Nel.
London Welsh win historic appeal to seal Aviva Premiership spot
After conflicting news reports and widespread confusion amongst both clubs and media organisations, the news was confirmed around 6:40 on Friday evening that London Welsh were to be promoted after their appeal against the Professional Game Board ruling was overturned. It means that Welsh will play their games at the Kassam Stadium in Oxford and are now on the hunt for Premiership quality players, with a certain Gavin Henson already linked with the club 48 hours after the announcement.
Here are two highlights from statements made by London Welsh and relegated Newcastle:
London Welsh: “The club has always believed in the strength of its case for admittance into the Aviva Premiership, as winners of the RFU Championship, and today’s outcome confirms that we were right to appeal against the decision that London Welsh should not be promoted. The fundamental strength of our case was based not only on overwhelming legal merits, including in particular anti-competition grounds, but also, equally importantly, on the fairness and justice of rewarding through promotion the team winning on the pitch.
It is therefore not only a victory for London Welsh, its players, coaching staff and all its supporters but also for sport in general and the game of rugby union in particular, reinforcing the ethos and fundamental sporting ethic that the best team should receive the appropriate rewards.”
Newcastle Falcons: “We are extremely disappointed with the decision and the representations witnessed at the appeal hearing and we will leave our options open as to where we go from here. We do not underestimate the competitiveness and challenges we face in the Championship but under the tutelage of Dean Richards we will have one, and only one goal – to win. Dean has been in this situation with Harlequins and he understands what it takes to navigate through the Championship, whilst putting together a team that will be successful with immediate effect on our return to the Aviva Premiership.
As a club rich in Premiership history and tradition we urge all of the region’s public, businesses and corporate bodies to get right behind the team and show the rest of rugby a message from this region. Many of you have already committed for 2012-13, and for that we thank you. For all of you who are still wondering what you should do, commit to the Falcons, join the journey now and have the pride in being able to say “I was there at the new beginning.”
USA win the Junior World Rugby Trophy in thrilling fashion
Despite intense Japanese pressure in the closing minutes, the USA clung on to win the Junior World Rugby Trophy on home soil in Utah. The competition saw eight sides competing in two pools, featuring Chile, Russia, Tonga, Zimbabwe, Georgia and Canada, with Japan and the USA topping the two Pools to meet in the final. Winger Noah Tarrant grabbed a hat-trick for the hosts with his final try proving to be the winner in the 76th minute.
Try of the Weekend goes to Bjorn Basson of the Bulls for his superb solo effort against the Cheetahs.
The weekend’s Hero is Beauden Barrett, who after making his All Blacks debut last week did enough with the boot to clinch the win against the Crusaders for the Hurricanes.
Finally, the Villain award goes to the whole eligibility process that meant London Welsh had to take their cause for promotion to an appeal in the first place. An absurd saga, it can never happen again.
by Ben Coles