It’s time for our wrap of who has their name in lights and who is making the headlines for the wrong reasons.
They’re on fire!!
Munster and Racing’s supporters: Magnificent first half at the Stade Yves-du-Manoir and that was all Munster needed to wrap up the result, a bonus-point win that moves them to the top of Pool 1 in the process. The usual suspects were exceptional but a big shoutout to Donnacha Ryan, who was a menace in that second row and played out of his skin. Plus, he sure knows how to remove a headband.
— Munster Haka (@MunsterHaka) 7 January 2017
Joking aside, this was a unique occasion and while the result of course was fitting, the way Racing’s supporters opened up their doors to Munster fans, formed a guard of honour for the players at the stadium, that the Racing players and coaches wore red t-shirts with ‘8’ and ‘A.Foley’ on the back… all of it was a remarkable gesture to remember a remarkable Munsterman in Anthony Foley. That’s the spirit of the game right there.
Jon Welsh and Newcastle: What a glorious moment for the front row union ruined by England’s Anthony Watson. In the process he closed a timewarp to a future where Welsh discusses this chip and chase and the try that followed at over a thousand speaking events. Still, a top effort, and more important the Falcons are up to sixth in the league after seemingly throwing away the lead against Bath before clawing it back again. No relegation worries for them this year.
Christian Wade: We have seen enough by now to be convinced; Wade will break the Premiership’s all-time player record for the most tries scored. The footwork he displayed on this bit of houdini magic was amazing. Mike Fitzgerald, the poor Leicester number five, won’t mind not seeing Wade for a while.
Special footwork from Christian Wade ???? pic.twitter.com/7IGBp3ZPAP
— Planet Rugby (@PlanetRugby) 8 January 2017
Ospreys: With Munster on Champions Cup duty the Welsh region capitalised, moving top of the PRO12 by three points after their win over injury-ravaged Connacht. Steve Tandy must be thrilled with the performances of those Ospreys often forgotten who don’t spend their time with Wales, the likes of Olly Cracknell, Ashley Beck and Dan Evans. That’s now ten wins in the league this season.
Clermont and La Rochelle: Out on their own in first and second in the Top 14, separated by just a point after their respective victories over Toulon and Castres this weekend. Clermont truly bludgeoned Toulon upfront and the French international trio of Lopez, Fofana and Lamerat all bagged five-pointers. La Rochelle meanwhile are the gift that keeps on giving, this time thanks to the 17-point boot of Zach Holmes.
Blaine Scully: Not on the winning side but huge respect to the USA international, who on the day his grandmother passed away took to the field for Cardiff Blues and was a try scorer in their game with Glasgow Warriors.
Jason Woodward: We picked him out as one of the best signings of the season so far and Woodward is doing everything in his power to keep Bristol up, scoring 21 points in their loss to Northampton including a try. Fun fact: he qualifies for England through ancestry. Wonder if Eddie Jones has been watching…
Winter is coming…
Brad Barritt’s non-punishment: First off, good work from referee Ian Tempest on the red card for Richard Barrington. By the letter of the law, he has no other option. But, Brad Barritt’s swinging arm to Geoff Parling was bizarrely left out of the punishment. Barritt has to be cited – even in slow-mo it looks hideous – and Exeter were unlucky that their hosts weren’t down to 13, even if Barritt only saw yellow. Whereas on Friday…
Jake Ball’s yellow card: The new directives threw up a number of scrutinised calls but this yellow card for Jake Ball was the biggest, and because it seemed accidental rather than reckless. Penalty? Yes. Yellow card? Surely not.
A yellow card?
Now Scarlets’ Jake Ball is sin-binned for a high tackle…
???? @BBCTwo Wales
— BBC ScrumV (@BBCScrumV) 6 January 2017
Toulon’s front row: Pummelled at the Stade Marcel Michelin to the extent that Mike Ford subbed off his starting props after half an hour, and even then things didn’t improve. Toulon’s big problem over the last two seasons remains very much unresolved.
Zebre: Shipped 70 points against Leinster on Friday and it could have been more, in another disastrous outing for the Italian franchise. They appear so often in this section we may have to start charging rent.
Worcester: Worrying defeat away to Gloucester as the Warriors shipped over 50 points. While Bristol continue to feel like they have turned a corner, the same can’t be said for Worcester even with that recent win at home to Harlequins. The gap at the bottom has shrunk from eight points to one.