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: The All Blacks showed once again why they are the world champions with another scintillating allround performance in their 37-10 victory over the Wallabies in Auckland. The men in black outscored their opponents by five tries to one and the result secured Steve Hansen’s men their place in the record books as this was their 18th successive Test win – the most for a tier one Test nation.
Saracens, Clermont and Connacht: True to form, the tabletoppers in the Premiership and Top 14 have carried on where they left off in their domestic competitions while Connacht are showing that last season’s PRO12 triumph was not a flash in the pan. All three teams are sitting pretty at the top of their respective pools in the Champions Cup, after winning their respective matches after two rounds of action.
Canterbury and Tasman: The two provinces from the northern part of New Zealand’s south island will face off in what promises to be an entertaining Mitre 10 Cup Final in Christchurch this weekend. Canterbury got the better of Counties Manukau in Christchurch and have the chance of winning their eighth title in nine years. Tasman secured their spot in the final after claiming a deserved away win against Taranaki in New Plymouth.
Munster: After an emotional week, in which they said goodbye to their head coach, Anthony Foley, it would not have been a surprise if the Irish province opted not to play their Champions Cup match against Glasgow. The Munstermen deserve plenty of credit for the way they dealt with their grief and delivered a superb display to claim an emphatic 38-17 victory over the Warriors in front of their passionate fans at Thomond Park and despite playing most of the match with 14 men after Keith Earls was red-carded.
Free State Cheetahs: The men from Bloemfontein finished their season on a high with an impressive performance in their win over the Blue Bulls in the Currie Cup Final. Playing in front of a capacity crowd at the Free State Stadium, Franco Smith’s charges dominated from start to finish to win the tournament for the first time since 2007. Special mention goes to pivot Niel Marais who slotted seven penalties which is a record for a final.
Unbeaten Challenge Cup teams: With just two rounds of matches played in Europe’s secondary cup competition, Edinburgh, La Rochelle, Gloucester, RC Enisei, Cardiff Blues, Bath and the Ospreys are all on the right track with victories in their respective fixtures. La Rochelle and Gloucester are on a collision course in Pool 1, with two bonus-point wins apiece, and the Ospreys and Edinburgh also have a full house of points in Pool 2 and 5 respectively while Cardiff and Bath are neck and neck in Pool 4. RC Enisei are the tournament’s suprise package in this year’s competition and are sitting comfortably at the top of Pool 3.
Someone turn up the heater!
Keith Earls: Although Munster deserve plenty of credit for their superb performance against Glasgow Warriors, their left wing didn’t read the script and received his marching orders for a dangerous tip tackle on Glasgow’s Fraser Brown midway through the first half. Earls’ angry reaction to referee Jérôme Garcès’ decision leaves a lot to be desired and the performance of his team-mates, after his departure, was remarkable considering the circumstances.
Michael Cheika: The Wallabies head coach had a go at the match officials, the media and, surprisingly, the All Blacks after his side suffered another defeat to the world champions at the weekend. While Cheika might have a case for his emotional outburst against referee Nigel Owens and TMO Shaun Veldsman – for disallowing Henry Speight’s try – and an illustration depicting him as a clown, his rant – especially the timing thereof – at the All Blacks over the Sydney bugging incident from earlier this year was bizarre, to say the least, and looks like sour grapes from a man who won World Rugby’s Coach of the Year award in 2015.
Zebre: While the Champions Cup is still in its infancy and several teams are yet to win matches, the performances of the Parma-based outfit have been woeful so far. After their opening matches – against Wasps and Connacht – Zebre have a points difference of minus 113 and they have conceded a half century of points in both those fixtures – the latter result being a 52-3 against Connacht in Parma at the weekend.