Who’s hot… and who’s not!

Date published: April 21 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 fiiiirrrrreeeeee!

Waratahs: The first side to topple the Hurricanes this year, the Waratahs went from being out of sorts the week before against the Stormers to right at their best in Wellington. In a high-quality match boasting eight tries, the champions produced their best rugby of the year to clinch a valuable win.

Toulon: They might have needed extra time, but Toulon are through to a third-straight European final, something that hasn't been achieved since Toulouse's run in 2003-2005 (they won twice, against Perpignan and Stade Français). Yes, they've invested heavily, but actually achieving success is another matter.

Brock James: The man doesn't always get that much credit (any really) but in the battle of two titanic packs on Saturday in St Etienne it was James' subtle touch of skill with the boot which set up Wesley Fofana's try, the only score of the game. 

Leigh Halfpenny: Minus a tooth and a contact lens, Halfpenny kept his nerve to boot Toulon into the final. It says something about the Welsh full-back that people were shocked at his only miss, from the touchline in the second half. He will be key to the French giants' hopes of a third-straight title.

Rebels: This year's Force? Whisper it, but the Rebels are starting to threaten the Brumbies and Waratahs in the Australian Conference following their win over the men from Canberra on Saturday. Their fourth win from eight games, the Rebels' best record is five back in 2013 and they already look on track to surpass that with a hungry young squad.

Edinburgh: A first-ever European final for a Scottish team, and it was achieved in style by Edinburgh. Newport Gwent Dragons were blown away at Murrayfield, and Edinburgh will fancy their chances of downing Gloucester in the final at the Stoop. Sam Hidalgo-Clyne will particularly relish his battle with Scotland rival Greig Laidlaw.


Broken thermostat

Champions Cup semi-finalists: 160 minutes of regulation time from the top four teams in Europe produced only one try. Yes, no one wants to take risks in knock-out games but the lack of enterprise shown was disappointing. Let's hope for a better final.

Highlanders & Blues: Outstanding in the first half against the Blues, when the Highlanders scored three tries to lead 24-0 at half-time, then threatened to throw it all away as their visitors hit back with four tries of their own. It was entertaining stuff but Jamie Joseph must have been losing his mind in the coaching box when his side were clinging on. Still, the more we get to see Malakai Fekitoa and Waisake Naholo with the ball in hand, the better. For the Blues, it was another defeat but picking up two bonus points with a courageous fightback shows all is not lost and they will still have plenty of offer in the second half of the season.


Brrrrr, someone get these guys a warm cuppa soup.

Frédéric Michalak: Not a great afternoon for the Toulon fly-half, the hero a fortnight ago against Wasps. He kicked poorly from hand, and failed to give his backline direction as they struggled in the wet conditions against Leinster. He looked surprised at being hauled off after 46 minutes, but it was the right call from Bernard Laporte. He won't have done his World Cup chances much good with that display.

Ian Madigan: Some very good kicking under pressure to keep Leinster in a game where they rarely threatened. However it was Madigan's long miss-pass that was spotted a mile off by Bryan Habana for the decisive try, while the Ireland centre will think back to a simple second-half penalty that bounced away off the post.

Officials in St Etienne: More or less a strong game for George Clancy and his time except for they completely missed the blatant no-arms tackle by Chris Ashton that prevented Naipolioni Nalaga from scoring in the corner, even after extensive replays from the TMO. A clear penalty try and yellow card for Ashton which could have had a massive effect on the outcome of the game.

Joe Pietersen: Always tough to single out a kicker but Pietersen's late miss against the Reds in Bloemfontein cost his side a win, given that the attempt looked fairly basic for a kicker of his pedigree over the years in Super Rugby. The kick hit the post, the Reds tidied up and a first win on the road in Super Rugby was theirs.

Sharks: With a win for the Stormers in Australia and having succumbed to the Bulls in Durban, the Sharks hopes of making the playoffs took a big dent. Their campaign is surprisingly still alive, as the Bulls are only seven points ahead of them in the South African Conference, but a lot of work needs to be done.

Exeter: The Chiefs have a had a great campaign but were out of sorts on Saturday at Kingsholm, finding their form too late and eventually being killed off by a Jonny May interception try. A European semi-final loss after defeat in the LV= Cup Final not so long ago isn't exactly ideal preparation ahead of a playoff run.

Ardie Savea: Apart from this shocker, the Hurricanes flank had a very good game against the Waratahs. But this botched try in the opening minutes was unforgivable and is the leading candidate for the Howler of the Month Award…

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