It’s time for Planet Rugby’s wrap of who has their name in lights at the moment…and who is making the headlines for the wrong reasons.
They’re on fire!
Brive and La Rochelle: Two of the Top 14’s unfancied sides hit the headlines after notching unexpected victories on the road at the weekend. Brive claimed a shock win over a star-studded Toulon side at Stade Félix Mayol and La Rochelle proved too strong for Castres at Stade Pierre Antoine.
Saracens: Barely lifted themselves out of third gear against Worcester and yet still started the season with a bonus-point win. Alex Lozowski’s man-of-the-match performance on debut proved there’s life after Charlie Hodgson’s reliable touch when Owen Farrell is away, while Schalk Burger capped off his debut with a try. It looks like business as usual for the back-to-back champions.
Canterbury and Auckland: Two of New Zealand’s traditional powerhouses showed their intent in this year’s Mitre 10 Cup tournament by notching a half century of points on their way to impressive victories. Unbeaten Canterbury got the better of Northland in Whangarei and Auckland moved in to play-off contention after cruising past Southland in Invercargill.
Western Province: The men from Cape Town finally seem to be finding their form in the Currie Cup. After two consecutive losses to the Blue Bulls and the Cheetahs, they are on a two match winning streak after two emphatic victories against the Kings with a 36-6 and then more importantly a 34-27 win over the unbeaten Sharks. Western Province played a well balanced and exciting game, and were clearly missing the like of Robert du Preez who was incredible.
The Goodhue and Ioane brothers: Northland second-row Josh Goodhue scored a hat-trick for the Taniwha against Canterbury on Saturday in an impressive display while his brother, centre Josh, crossed once for the opposition. Quite a night for the Goodhue family while the Ioanes were also in good form as Rieko scored twice for Auckland in their victory against Southland, while his brother Akira was excellent again.
Gloucester: It looked so rosy for the Cherry and Whites when they were leading Leicester 31-7 in the second-half at Kingsholm on Friday. But then came a superb fightback from the Tigers who went on to win 38-31, leaving Gloucester shell-shocked. Lessons from the defeat will be both positive and negative as early on they looked like title challengers but the cold hard fact is they shouldn’t have lost this game.
Bristol: Seven long years Bristol have waited for a chance to get back into the Premiership and they nearly had the perfect start, edged out by Harlequins for a 21-19 defeat even though they outscored their opponents by three tries to two. A positive start for Andy Robinson’s squad, who certainly fared better at Twickenham than Worcester.
Cardiff Blues’ kicking… plane?!: This is obviously the most blatant bit of sponsorship we’ve ever seen on a rugby field. And yet we also don’t hate it, even though everything tells us we should do. Let us know which side of the fence you sit on in the comments.
— Cardiff Blues (@cardiff_blues) 3 September 2016
Connacht: The PRO12 champions made a forgetful start to their 2016/17 campaign in their own backyard. The Irish province looked anything like champions as they suffered a humiliating 41-5 defeat to Glasgow Warriors and their head coach Pat Lam will have to go back to the drawing board if he wants team to defend their title.
Grenoble: Suffered their third straight defeat in the Top 14 on Saturday as they went down 32-13 at Lyon. That leaves them rooted to the bottom of the standings and next week it doesn’t get any easier as they play host to the league’s in-form team, Brive, at Stade des Alps.
Hawke’s Bay: Not the start we were expecting from the Magpies as they have now lost three on the spin in the Mitre 10 Cup, their latest seeing them go down 48-20 at home to Counties Manukau. They let in some sloppy scores on the night and with a half-back pairing of Brad Weber and Ihaia West, more is expected from the team from Napier. Credit to the Steelers though who jumped to second spot with this win.
Pumas and Kings: It must be disappointing for these two Currie Cup-table bottom feeders to play with such intensity and show such promise and yet have nothing to show for it as they remain winless. The Pumas are in a slightly better position than the Kings as they have five points from losing-bonus points compared to the Kings’ one point.