It’s time for Planet Rugby’s weekly round-up of who has their name in lights at the moment…and who is making the headlines for the wrong reasons.
They’re on fire!
Crusaders: Seven wins from eight games now for the Crusaders as they prove there is life after Richie McCaw and Dan Carter. Their new crop of talent have been expressing themselves this season and their 40-14 win at the Brumbies was an emphatic one. Led by the likes of Kieran Read, Nemani Nadolo and Andy Ellis, they were in great form again with other mentions going to Israel Dagg and two-try hooker Codie Taylor.
Harlequins: Too good for Grenoble in their Challenge Cup semi-final at the Stoop, Quins marched into the final in Lyon with a 40-6 victory. Jamie Roberts got the ball rolling with a try before Nick Evans celebrated his return from injury with one of his own and then George Lowe rounded things off in the wet-weather win. As we will mention in the ‘not’ column, there was one sour note for Harlequins in this triumph.
Sunwolves: A debut win in Super Rugby for the Sunwolves as they saw off the Jaguares 36-28 in Tokyo on Saturday. Coming off the back of a hammering at the Cheetahs, few expected a turnaround such as this. The Jaguares were poor but take nothing away from the Japanese team as they played with a high tempo and scored three tries in this impressive victory. Samoa international Tusi Pisi was excellent at fly-half.
Saracens and Racing 92: While it wasn’t pretty, so often at such stages of big competitions that isn’t a concern. Saracens and Racing 92 got their respective jobs done on Saturday and Sunday to set up a Champions Cup final in Lyon on May 14. Expect a showdown just as tense next month as in-form players such as Maro Itoje, Owen Farrell, Alex Goode, Chris Masoe, Dan Carter and many more battle for the title.
Jason Emery: Handed a rare start at inside centre, it will have been one to forget for Emery. The Highlanders youngster is far from a dirty player so taking out Willie le Roux in the air looks to have been accidental. A twitter exchange between the two players after the game was, however, a nice touch as an apology was made and accepted. His hearing is on Monday though so we’ll see what, if any, punishment comes down.
Sharks: Winners in Dunedin, sure, but it was hardly convincing. Even with two players in the bin the Sharks still had close to 50 minutes with a man advantage over the Highlanders after Emery’s red card, and they failed to score a try. That’s quite unacceptable. Only the Kings have scored fewer tries this year than the Sharks’ 14. Time for a re-think. Tendai Mtawarira’s attitude towards referee Ben O’Keefe left plenty to be desired too.
Stranded on an iceberg
Joe Marler: No sooner is he back from a suspension then another could be on the cards. Marler lost his cool against Grenoble as pictures appear to show him kick out at hooker Arnaud Héguy’s head on Friday. The England prop could well be cited later today.
Western Force: Michael Foley’s charges conceded 49 points and six tries in their Round Nine thrashing at the hands of the Waratahs and apart from a second-half five-pointer, from a line-out drive, they never threatened to cross the whitewash. That loss means the men from Perth are now on a six-match losing streak in Super Rugby with their solitary victory registered against the Reds way back in Round Two.
Simon McIntyre: Not the best of appearances off the bench for the Wasps prop, who was yellow carded for kicking out at Maro Itoje with the England lock holding onto his leg before Saracens maul secured a penalty try.
Leicester: There is of course no shame in losing by just three points to Racing 92, such is the quality in their side, but to spill the ball as many times as they did will frustrate Leicester. Countless handling errors ultimately cost Tigers as they crashed out of Europe.