Who’s hot and who’s not!

Date published: December 19 2016

It’s time for our 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!!

Scarlets: The upset of the weekend, no doubt, and one that looks to have prematurely ended the contest to top Pool 4 with Toulon now a whopping eight points behind leaders Saracens with two games and a trip to Allianz Park to come. The Welsh region are unlikely to progress as one of the best runners-up but this was magnificent, one of the Scarlets’ great wins in Europe, from the soft hands for Scott Williams’ early try to how they clung on in the second. Leigh Halfpenny’s penalty of course would have changed everything had it gone over. Not on Sunday though.

Leinster: Rampant once a stuttering half an hour was out the way in Dublin, with the three-time champions slaughtering a weakened Northampton outfit. Phenomenal finishing helped Leinster put up 60 points and they now sit in a fantastic position with two rounds to go, well in the hunt for a high seeding. Isa Nacewa as well is ageless out on the wing, scoring twice on Saturday.

Clermont: Blew Ulster away in the first half, heading in up 21-0, in a fantastic response to last weekend’s defeat away in Belfast. A fast start certainly helped, scoring after no less than 58 seconds through Isaia Toeava’s cracking solo effort, and the cross-field kick from Camille Lopez to Nick Abendanon was a beauty. On a weekend where UBB slipped up, Clermont are now cruising in Pool 5.

Owen Williams and Jack Carty: Young kickers making big plays with the pressure on as Leicester and Connacht came away with victories off the back of late kicks. Williams might have had less of an angle but walloping over his penalty from 52 metres took plenty of concentration. Carty’s kicking percentage in recent weeks has been a concern, but he landed the match-winning conversion when it mattered most. Top work.

Finn Russell: How special was that? Russell nudged his way into the Lions spotlight in Glasgow’s impressive win over Racing 92. Our suggestion? Mail that tape to Warren Gatland. Highlights included his ability to scythe through into open space and the fizz on that pass to Fraser Brown.

Saracens: Far from their best performance of the year in the away win over Sale but notable for two reasons; Will Skelton’s offload to Owen Farrell for his try was brilliant, and more importantly, Saracens equalled Munster’s record for the most European Cup wins in a row of 13.

Ice cold…

Racing 92: Never got off the bus/plane. Racing are already out of the hunt a year on from reaching the final, which is an enormous letdown considering what we have seen them achieve with their success earlier in the year. Last season’s finish to the season, appearing in two finals, suggested the start of a dynasty. Now Racing are bottom of Pool 1 and eighth in the Top 14. Perhaps one trophy was enough.

Rules mishap in Galway: EPCR, the governing body, revealed on Sunday that Connacht’s lineout which led to the try that defeated Wasps should never have taken place given the time was up on the clock when the ball was kicked to touch from a penalty. Who to blame then. John Muldoon, the Connacht captain? Convincing the assistant referee Mathieu Raynal, who had taken over from the injured Jérôme Garcès, that the ball could be kicked to touch should arguably be commended. Raynal however will look back on this with horror, as will Wasps fans. Were Pool 2 not competitive then it wouldn’t matter, but it is exceedingly, with Connacht and Wasps and Toulouse now all tied on 13 points. Wasps have every right to feel aggrieved. What a mess.

Munster: Sunk by that Williams penalty but overall Munster were incredibly disappointing, having promised so much the week before when they wiped Leicester at Thomond Park. The yellow card for Simon Zebo seemed very light, but this match was lost elsewhere, with Tyler Bleyendaal oddly quiet.

Zebre: We’ll keep this brief. Played four, lost four. Five tries scored, 33 conceded. Points difference, -182. Table points, 0. (That last one is the same number as the champions of France though.)

Grenoble: Sent a second-string side to Swansea and were rightfully pummelled, the latest black mark in a season that has gone right off the rails for Grenoble. Ten points adrift in the Top 14 and so much work is required.

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