Who’s hot… and who’s not!

Date published: May 19 2015

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It is time for our 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! 

Fiji and USA Sevens: First of all congratulations to Fiji for securing the overall Sevens World Series title thanks to their quarter-final win over South Africa. They've been the most consistent side this season and deserve a first title since 2006. However it was the USA who grabbed the headlines in London winning their first-ever World Series leg. Hammering Canada, England and then Australia in the final, they looked formidable, with sprint duo Carlin Isles and Perry Baker proving unstoppable.

Ma'a Nonu: Is there anyone in Super Rugby in better form than Nonu? In his 50th Super Rugby game alongside Conrad Smith, Nonu scored a double, and almost had a hat-trick as the Hurricanes continued their march towards the semi-finals. Just as he did four years ago, Nonu seems to be stepping up his form to force Sonny Bill Williams into a luxury replacement role for the All Blacks.

Conor Murray: A hat-trick for the Ireland scrum-half as Munster secured a home semi-final in the Pro12 by hammering the Dragons. Given that no team has ever won an away semi-final in the tournament, Munster were grateful for Murray's efforts, and will now welcome the Ospreys to Thomond Park in the last four.

Ryan Tongia: Two tries in 16 minutes for Tongia, who must think this Super Rugby lark is pretty easy. Granted the Cheetahs offered little resistance, but the former league man showed plenty of finishing ability to get over for his two scores. A penalty given away for diving on a man on the floor later on reminded us that he's still a little raw, but what a talent.

Finn Russell: Admittedly it wasn't a full strength Ulster side, but Russell produced a stunning display, running in two tries and finishing with a personal haul of 22 points as Glasgow sealed top spot overall in the Pro12. Their reward is a rematch with Ulster at Scotstoun, although it will likely be a tougher test than this weekend. The Warriors will be denied a final on home soil if they win though, after the midseason decision to introduce neutral finals, with Belfast to host the first.

Chris Ashton: We have to take it with a pinch of salt because he was playing against London Welsh, but Ashton can't have done his England chances any harm with four tries to help Saracens into the play-offs. His three tries in a five-minute second-half stretch showed that he is still a lethal finisher. Will that be enough to convince Stuart Lancaster?

Taylor Paris: The Canadian flyer would probably have been at home in the Sevens at Twickenham, but instead Paris was helping Agen to the ProD2 play-off final and a chance of promotion. Check out this length-of-the-field effort against Perpignan.

Stade Français: Back in the play-offs for the first time in six years, Stade gave a fitting farewell to stalwarts Pierre Rabadan, after 347 matches for the club, and Jérôme Fillol, who will be retiring at the end of the season. Gonzalo Quesada has done a fantastic job in the capital, and with a week to go, they are already guaranteed a home play-off game at least. With a formidable scrum and dangerous backline, Stade are dark horses to win it all.

La Rochelle and Castres: ProD2 play-off champions La Rochelle haven't lost in the league since January secured their Top 14 safety on Saturday with a draw at home to Racing-Métro. Castres meanwhile have completed the great escape, with their bonus-point success over Brive ensuring their survival having spent much of the season bottom of the table.


Broken Thermostat 

Clermont: They got the win and moved back into the top two but this was hardly convincing from Clermont as they struggled past Toulon's second team at home. Morgan Parra's try proved just enough in the end, but on this form they won't be getting their revenge for European disappointment.


Brrr….. someone get these guys a warmmmm cuppa soup!

London Welsh: It's finally over! A winless season of misery came to a close on Saturday as the Exiles were hammered by Sarries. As has often been the case this season, they kept it respectable early on before completely falling apart as Welsh conceded their 1000th Premiership point this campaign.

Manu Tuilagi: It's been covered in depth elsewhere but worth repeating, what a stupid thing to do, and what a waste. After his antics in the Auckland harbour four years ago, it seems that World Cups and Manu don't go well together. Let's hope he can finally learn from his mistakes.

Montpellier: Well-beaten in Paris, Montpellier cannot now reach the Top 14 play-offs, and need a miracle to even reach the Champions Cup play-off game. Jake White was supposed to transform things but so far it's been more of the same under the South African. White has already started an ambitious recruitment drive, with the Du Plessis brothers set to be the next signings announced. It's a shame for the club though, once renowned for their academy set-up, but now turning into another home for big money foreign stars.

Super Rugby conference system: The three best teams in Super Rugby this season all come from New Zealand, so it seems wrong that one of them will be on the road throughout the play-offs because of the conference system. While it's understandable to want representatives from each of the three countries involved in the knockout stages, home advantage should be done on merit not geography.

Use of the TMO: It wasn't a great weekend for the officials, with Dave Rennie understandably fuming at Vinny Munro's failure to point out a blatant infringement from a Hurricanes player on the floor leading to a knock-on by the Chiefs on the line that decided the game, presumably because of the question he was asked. There was more controversy in Sydney where Rohan Hoffman and George Ayoub left Sharks fans seething with a dreadful display of officiating, while up north Pascal Pechambert and his TMO somehow deemed a crucial late Morgan Parra try to be a double movement handing Toulon an unlikely bonus point as a result.

Cheetahs: The Highlanders are a good side, but this was an embarrassing display from the Cheetahs, and three late tries shouldn't distract from the fact that they were humiliated on home soil. Naka Drotské is retiring at the end of the season, by the looks of this performance, a few players are on holiday already.

Reggie Goodes: Goodes picked up a one-week ban for his no-arms charge on Michael Allardice that has left the Chiefs lock out for the season. It's exactly the sort of offence which needs to be stamped out, and whether it was clumsy or more cynical, Goodes put his full force onto an exposed joint, causing serious damage.

 

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