It is time for Planet Rugby's weekly wrap of who has their name in lights right now…and who is making the headlines for the wrong reasons.
It is time for Planet Rugby's weekly wrap of who has their name in lights right now…and who is making the headlines for the wrong reasons…
Ulster and Connacht: It truly was a remarkable performance from the Ravenhill outfit down in Cardiff on Friday as they returned to PRO12 action for the first time since the unfortunate death of team-mate Nevin Spence. With the initials NS on the shirts, Ulster put in their best showing for some time as tries from Michael Allen, Nick Williams (2), Tommy Bowe (2), Jared Payne and Andrew Trimble saw them prevail 48-19. That same night, Connacht recorded a 34-6 bonus-point win over Heineken Cup champions Leinster in Galway. It was a five-try, five-star effort.
All Blacks: A mention first of all for hat-trick man Cory Jane and the impressive Kieran Read but this inclusion is more for the collective. New Zealand claimed the inaugural Rugby Championship title in La Plata over the weekend in some style with a fine win in Argentina. No doubt they celebrated the success but now, can they finish the job in Soweto for a six from six record. It promises to be some event, with South Africa eager to crash the party.
Bryan Habana: Put simply, it was an outstanding performance from the veteran. While critics have been quick to slam the Springboks in the past, Habana has never given up trying to lift his side. He made nine runs for 117 metres at his former home ground on Saturday and was fully deserving of his hat-trick. It is set to come down to a straight shootout with Cory Jane (5) and Habana (6) in Johannesburg for who tops the Rugby Championship try tally.
Canterbury: Not a bad day at the office was it. 84 points, twelve tries and a big fat zero by the side of Southland on the scorecard on Sunday. Johnny McNicholl scored a hat-trick, Telusa Veainu and Paea Fa'anunu picked up two while there was one score apiece for Willi Heinz, Robbie Fruean, Adam Whitelock, Nasi Manu and George Whitelock. Meanwhile, Tom Taylor kicked all twelve conversions in a victory that sent a warning to their ITM Cup play-off rivals.
Get these guys a cup of warm soup!
Mike Phillips and Cedric Heymans: The Bayonne duo received suspensions for what was described by club president Alain Afflelou as “unacceptable off-field behaviour” after their loss to Toulouse. Heymans' indiscretion was a surprise but Phillips was also suspended by Wales last year when he misbehaved during a late-night incident in Cardiff outside a fast food restaurant. The Welshman's suspension has now been lifted but tut-tut Michael.
Sale: The Premiership's bottom-placed team's horror start continued when they suffered a 31-10 loss to Bath last weekend. That means that Bryan Redpath's men have now lost five successive matches and have gathered just one point from a potential 25 on offer already this season! Forwards coach Steve Scott became the sacrifical lamb when he was fired in the run-up to the Bath match and Sale CEO Steve Diamond has promised to replace him with someone “with a real proven track record at the highest level,” by the end of the week. We await that appointment with anticipation. Next up, a home clash with Leicester Tigers.
Laser in La Plata: All Blacks coach Steve Hansen brushed it off as “no big deal” but shining a laser into a player's face while he is lining up a goal-kick is seriously uncool. New Zealand had already notched 50 points in their 54-14 success over the Pumas when an Argentine supporter shone the laser into Aaron Cruden's face but one can't help but wonder what Hansen's reaction would have been if his team held a narrow lead or were trailing matters.
Wallaby injury count: To say coach Robbie Deans was in charge of a depleted Wallabies side in their 31-8 loss to the Springboks in Pretoria would be an underestatement. Injury-ravaged is a term which best describes what Australia suffered in that Test. Adam Ashley-Cooper (concussion) and Berrick Barnes (chest), Tatafu Polota-Nau (head and shoulder), Digby Ioane (knee) and Radike Samo (shoulder) were all forced off the field on Saturday.
By Adam Kyriacou and David Skippers