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.
After the drama of the final round of the Champions Cup it was back to the domestic leagues in Europe, while the third round of the Sevens World Series took place in Wellington.
Let’s dive in.
They’re on fire!!
Akira Ioane: Play him in Sevens, XVs, in space, wherever – we’ll happily watch Ioane punish defenders and cause chaos. The player of the tournament in Wellington appears on the verge of an outstanding Super Rugby season and possible All Blacks call-up this year. Played a major role in New Zealand’s triumph.
Racing 92: Cruised through Saturday’s visit of Oyonnax. The away side weren’t awful as such but Racing are on a hot streak matched only on the continent by Saracens. A first try for Dan Carter was a nice bonus too. Jacky Lorenzetti is finally starting to see a return on his investment.
Newcastle: What an important win on Sunday. Having gone from 10-0 up to 19-10 down in the second half, other sides in a relegation battle might have folded. Instead, considerably down to the impact of Andy Goode’s boot, they fought back and won for only the second time in the league this season thanks to Rob Vickers’ try to move them off the bottom of the Premiership.
Telusa Veainu: One of the tries of the season in the Premiership for sure from arguably the signing of the season.
Connacht: Back on top of the PRO12 after defeating their closest rivals the Scarlets on Saturday. Connacht’s previous best finish came last year, when they were 7th having achieved ten wins. After 13 games this season they already have eight.
Blitzbokke: Did South Africa win in Wellington? No. Have they moved top of the World Series standings after losing in the final? Yes. Was the penalty count against them in the final contentious? You can bet any South Africa supporter reading this is still fuming. No, the Blitzboks didn’t win Wellington, but to perform as they did without key figures in Kyle Brown and Cecil Afrika was impressive.
Brrrrr someone get these guys a warm cup of soup!
Bath and Northampton: This season isn’t panning out as either side expected. Bath, last season’s Premiership finalists, had a golden chance to get one over Saracens, with a 13-0 half-time lead, only to be undone by the penalty count and fade away. Northampton were dire on Friday at home to Wasps in a loss Jim Mallinder described as “an unacceptable performance.”
London Irish: The Exiles are back at the bottom of the Premiership and on the basis of their thrashing at the hands of Sale and Newcastle’s character against Harlequins now look like the prime candidate for relegation. Next weekend’s game against Worcester is a must-win.
Fiji: A 31-0 defeat? Fiji are more used to handing those kind of results in recent years then being on the receiving end of such a one-sided thrashing as they took from South Africa in the semi-finals. After Dubai it’s not been a smooth campaign for Ben Ryan’s squad.
Pau: Colin Slade and Conrad Smith would have known that not everything on the field would go smoothly at Top 14 newcomers Pau when they signed. Saturday’s 54-3 loss to Toulouse though will have left a mark.