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!
New Zealand: Not at their best and yet the world champions won by 28 points in Christchurch, underlining that they are streets ahead of the rest. Saturday’s win moves them to 15 in a row, and ever closer to that world record of 18. Chopping and changing the team around in the final two matches of the Rugby Championship, with the title already won, may put that record under threat, but we still expect them to finish with six wins out of six. The scariest part? By their performance standards Saturday was only a 7/10.
Australia’s fast start: Three tries in the first 12 minutes is a close to perfect way to start off a Test match, and while Argentina responded, having a 21-0 advantage so early meant the Wallabies were always in the driving seat. Superb no-look pass from Quade Cooper for Dane Haylett-Petty’s try, not forgetting Michael Hooper’s move for the opening score by Samu Kerevi.
Wasps: Fresh from ending an eight-year losing run at Welford Road, Wasps put 70 points – 70! – on Bristol to keep their phenomenal start to the season going. They look like certain semi-finalists come the end of the season. Also, you know your luck is in when a Danny Cipriani kick bounces back perfectly off the corner flag for Elliot Daly to score.
Luke Cowan-Dickie: A short-range hat-trick for the Exeter hooker where he gloriously managed to score all three of his tries from within only a few footsteps of the Harlequins line. Important win for the Chiefs too – having started with losses to Wasps and Saracens.
Cardiff Blues: Very impressive win for the Blues over Glasgow Warriors on Friday, keeping them unbeaten so far this season with a third straight victory. That keeps them right in touch with leaders the Ospreys and tied with Ulster. Rey Lee-Lo in particular was excellent.
Juan Imhoff: Excellent hat-trick for Racing in their win over Toulon, a rematch of last season’s Top 14 final. Imhoff’s brilliance is missed at Test level with the Pumas, especially when you consider what a great run of form he has been in over the last two years. A key win too, keeping Racing within a win of leaders Clermont.
Brrrr… Someone get these guys a warm cup of soup!
South Africa: The early promise of Bryan Habana’s early try soon evaporated. Within seconds in fact, after Elton Jantjies dropped the restart and Israel Dagg scampered over. South Africa’s main problems coming out of Christchurch lie with their defence and set-piece, along with questions about how many of this team are truly up to international level. It’s a sad sight.
Bristol: Oh boy. That early fright Bristol gave Harlequins on the opening weekend feels like a long time ago now after shipping 70 points to Wasps at the Ricoh Arena. Next up? A visit from the Exeter Chiefs. Yikes.
Grenoble: Worrying signs early on for Bernard Jackman’s men after another heavy defeat, this time to Castres on Sunday. Key players remain out injured and although the gap between Grenoble and the rest on the table at least isn’t large, more wins such as last week against Brive are sorely needed.
Zebre-Connacht postponement: Never a good sign, and the last thing defending champions Connacht need after two big losses is travelling to Italy only to have a game called off, and to have to repeat the trip later in the season. Right call though from referee Ian Davies given the horrendous conditions.
Joel Hodgson: Game on the line, metres from Leicester’s posts, back in the pocket… and Hodgson pulls it left. Watching the replays, he should have been deeper to allow himself more time facing the rush. A rough ended for Newcastle who look a more resilient outfit than last season. Hodgson will be chewing on that one for a while.