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.
The final round of Champions Cup action was full of twists and turns as some teams scorched their way into the last eight. Others seriously fluffed their lines.
Let’s get into it!
They’re on fire!!
Wasps: Rampant. That’s how we’d sum up Wasps this season when they flick the switch and play their best rugby. Up 12-10 against Leinster at half-time, they scored 39 unanswered points in the second half.
Jared Payne: Ulster came up short in their bid to make the last eight but Jared Payne was on fire at full-back. His footwork and decision-making when given the space and time to attack that comes with playing that position make him a huge threat. Will Joe Schmidt switch him to 15 for the Six Nations? Let us know in the comments.
James Short and Thomas Waldrom: Exeter’s whole effort on Sunday against the Ospreys should be commended but these two players with their brace of tries each in Sunday’s game. Waldrom has been doing it all season but Short is a different story. Surprisingly released from his contract with London Irish last July, he has been reborn in Devon.
Stade Français: Irresistible when they get it going. Stade’s pack gave Leicester a fight upfront but it’s their dangerous backs such as Jonathan Danty, called up by France this year, and Waisea Nayacalevu who impressed us. Winning a tough quarter-final at Welford Road would be one hell of a statement.
Bordeaux-Bègles: After going down 14-0 after four minutes at the Stade Marcel Michelin we expected UBB to roll over. Instead, they defeated last year’s finalists 37-28 and denied them the losing bonus point they needed to win Pool 2 thanks to Pierre Bernard’s penalty. We go on about French sides not turning up on the road or not having the hunger to win if there’s nothing to play for, but UBB were the opposite of that. Sunday’s game felt like a sign that this group, under Raphaël Ibanez, is set for bigger things in the future.
Panasonic Wild Knights: Congratulations to Robbie Deans’ side, who clinched their third straight Top League title with a win over Toshiba on Sunday.
Brrrrr someone get these guys a warm cup of soup!
Morgan Parra and Clermont: If this isn’t the greatest mistake in European Cup history – we’re looking at you, Monsieur Poitrenaud – then it’s easily top three. Fritz Lee says Clermont knew they only needed a losing bonus point. But with UBB giving up a kickable penalty right in front of the posts, Parra goes quickly. Clermont are held up and lose by more than seven points. Get the losing bonus point and they win Pool 2 on points difference and advance to the last eight. They blew it. Unbelievable.
Ospreys: Sandy Park is a tough place to go. But, the Ospreys were on the brink of reaching their first quarter-final since 2010 having secured that brilliant victory over Clermont in Round 5. And they fluffed their lines. The PRO12’s best chance of making the quarter-finals couldn’t get it done.
Treviso: Heading into February here is Treviso’s overall record this season. Played: 18, Lost: 18, Points Difference: -314. Moving on.
Francois Steyn: Who’d be a kicker? Unfortunately, Steyn’s conversion miss meant that Toshiba lost Sunday’s Top League final to Panasonic by a single point, losing 26-27.
Owen Farrell: Last but certainly not least, this is not how to impress Eddie Jones before the Six Nations. D’oh!
— BT Sport Rugby (@btsportrugby) January 23, 2016