It’s time for our Monday wrap of who has their name in lights and who is making the headlines for all the wrong reasons.
THEY’RE ON FIRE!!
Joey Carbery: So much to celebrate in Leinster’s win over Wasps, but young Carbery stole the show with two exquisite passes for Leinster’s first two tries for Isa Nacewa and Jack Conan. We’re right in the thick of the season for Lions bolter conversation, with the announcement due on April 19… but given his ability to cover full-back and fly-half, combined with excellent form, does Carbery have a shot? It would be wrong to rule him out after that performance.
Munster: Not always plain sailing against Toulouse but Munster more than got the job done by racking up over 40 points. This was a full-on tussle which Munster dominated, exemplified by those powerful short-range tries for John Ryan and CJ Stander, with the icing on the cake coming from Darren Sweetnam’s chip and chase finish. Their clash against Saracens in Dublin will be some game…
Saracens: …after the defending champions were outstanding in Sunday’s win over Glasgow Warriors. Mark McCall’s side finished with 38 points but it could have easily been more, after top defence kept out Chris Ashton and Sean Maitland. Saracens though were relentless, their phenomenal decoy runs and passing giving Glasgow no chance. The only side from last year’s semi-finals to return look in fine touch.
Rémi Lamerat: The fourth and final quarter-final was without doubt the scrappiest of the lot, but even then Lamerat was outstanding for Clermont, carrying relentlessly and giving les Jaunards direction when it was sorely needed. The double carry in the build-up to Noa Nakaitaci’s try proved to pivotal.
Highlanders: Comfortable winners over the Rebels and that was without Lima Sopoaga, Ben Smith, Elliot Dixon, Liam Squire and Waisake Naholo. If you put up over 50 points without that quintet, things are going well. It just shows how insanely tight the New Zealand Conference is that even with that victory they sit in fourth place.
TJ Perenara: Try scorer for the Hurricanes in Brisbane as Perenara became the highest ever try-scoring scrum-half in Super Rugby history – picking off a loose Reds lineout move before racing home. Putting the fact that he tested referee Angus Gardner’s patience to one side, Perenara must be pushing for the All Blacks starting role after just eight starts in his 29 Tests so far.
Sikhumbuzo Notshe: Finished Saturday’s thrashing of the Cheetahs with a hat-trick, and with the Stormers back-row seemingly always in the right place at the right time. That said, Notshe did show off his pace and power for his third and final score. The uncapped back-row is knocking on the door.
Zebre: After Treviso’s win over the Ospreys last week this was another stunner, as Zebre upset Connacht 25-22 in Parma in a win that was arguably more deserved given that Zebre were well ahead in the first match between these two sides before it was called off due to a storm back in September. This was just Zebre’s second win of the season.
COLD AS ICE
Australia’s Super Rugby franchises: Dire weekend for the four Australia sides in action, with the Waratahs, Rebels, Force and Reds outscored 64-150. The gap between the New Zealand and Australian sides couldn’t be clearer at the moment, although some credit should go to the Force for at least giving the Blues a contest.
Willie le Roux’s drop: Oh Willie. What a shocker this was from the experienced Springbok. Down 8-0, Kurtley Beale’s outstanding break deserved to be rounded off with a score. Instead, this happened…
— Planet Rugby (@PlanetRugby) April 1, 2017
Clermont-Toulon: “Boring” was the most popular adjective in the match report comments and we can’t really disagree, save for Lamerat’s performance and the one try of the game from Nakaitaci (with Damien Penaud’s effort coming in the dying seconds). More big bodies smashing into each other and then an exhibition of skill, the breakdown in particular seemed a complete mess. Leinster will not be overly intimidated.
Josaia Raisuqe: The Stade Français winger has form for illegal activities, after his 15-week ban for gouging on CJ Stander last season, and this stamp was another mindless act that will be punished. Referee Matthew Carley’s reasoning that the officials didn’t have a close enough shot of the incident felt a little tenuous, given Raisuqe lashed out with a clear stamp. Given he was off the field for ten minutes in the first half and then most of the second half, it’s amazing Stade actually defeated the much-fancies Ospreys.
Henco Venter’s spill: Nearly at the exact moment the Le Roux was hoping the Dublin turf would swallow him up, Venter was banging the Newlands pitch with his hand after spilling the ball over the line with the Cheetahs in desperate need of a try against the Stormers.
— Adam Kyriacou (@PlanetRugbyAK) April 1, 2017