It is time for our weekly wrap up of who has their name in lights at the moment…and who's making the headlines for the wrong reasons.
It is time for our weekly wrap up of who has their name in lights at the moment…and who is making the headlines for the wrong reasons.
They're on fire!
Force and Lions: The underdogs are dishing out humble pie to all those (including us!) who didn't think they had much hope at the start of the Super Rugby season. The Lions – incredibly – sit in fourth position while the Force have won three in a row thanks to Saturday's upset of the defending champions. It's a funny old game.
Sacarens: Their victory over Harlequins took them to the top of the Aviva Premiership table but the club also deserves credit for taking Saturday's game to Wembley where they drew a word record crowd of 83,889 spectators. What a boost these numbers for England ahead of a Rugby World Cup year.
Sale Sharks: Sale have come a long way since battling to avoid survival last year. They're now a team to be reckoned with, as Northampton found out on Saturday. The Saints, who arrived in Salford top of the table with only one loss to their name, were well beaten by the Sharks, who won 19-6 as tries from Mark Cueto, Marc Jones and Tom Brady saw off a XV that included Tom Wood, George North, Luther Burrell and Dylan Hartley.
Fiji Sevens: They claimed their second IRB Sevens Series title of the season when they won the Tokyo leg of the season at the weekend. It was no mean feat from the Pacific islanders, who edged the Series' two leading outfits – New Zealand and South Africa – in their semi-final and final matches respectively. What a final it was too as with the scores at 26-26 and no time left, Fiji went over for a great match-winning try.
Toulouse: What an incredible comeback. From 27-5 after half an hour, Toulouse recovered to claim a 27-all draw against Stade FranÃ§ais in Paris on Saturday. Toulouse are looking in much better form of late as in their outing before the Paris trip they smashed Perpignan 37-9. This, remember, is all building up to what promises to be an epic tussle with Munster in their Heineken Cup quarter-final on Saturday, April 5.
Bulls: It wasn't pretty, but the men from Pretoria became the first team to beat the Sharks this season on Saturday, taking revenge for the defeat in Durban earlier this year. They did it without their captain Flip van der Merwe, winning 23-19 as flanker Jacques du Plessis and centre JJ Engelbrecht scored their two tries at Loftus Versfeld, as they stay in touch with their visitors in the South African Conference.
Israel Folau: The Wallaby full-back's dream run in the Super Rugby continues after he scored two tries in the Waratahs' victory over the Rebels in Sydney. This pushes him further ahead in the try-scoring stakes with eight tries from four fixtures. His nearest rivals are on four.
Super Rugby referees: We were amongst those who applauded SANZAR's decision a while back to appoint referees to games irrespective of their nationality since most match officials can be trusted to try their best to be impartial. This is a professional game, after all. But in light of recent events, we're having second thoughts. We are NOT accusing anyone of deliberately favouring any one side, human beings make mistakes, that's part of the game. But the inevitable fallout that results from errors by a 'home town' ref playing a role in the local team getting a positive result does nothing good for the reputation of match officials in general. Being a ref is hard enough already without doubt being cast over the decisions based purely on the colour of their passport. That said, we agree with SANZAR's position on “accountability” when referees perform poorly. Players get dropped when they're not up to scratch, coaches get fired – the same should apply to referees.
Get these guys a cup of warm soup!
Celebrating with defeated opposition: Forget double-takes, this one warranted nine or ten as Force lock Wilhelm Steenkamp celebrated the win over the Chiefs by grabbing Chiefs centre Tom Marshall while continuing to enjoy the moment. How Marshall managed to keep his cool clearly showed the difference in class between the two players. We are sure Steenkamp regrets his actions at full-time – let us hope an apology came.
Biarritz: Five-time French champions and two-time European Cup runners-up, founded in 1913 and now relegated from the Top 14, ending an 18-year stay in the elite division after losing to Perpignan on Saturday. It was coming for a long time this season but now it's finally been rubber stamped, the relegation hits home. What a fall down the rugby ladder for BO. The question now is, how will they respond in Pro D2.
Alby Mathewson: The Western Force number nine's stamp on Chiefs flanker Sam Cane early on in his side's win over the defending champions took some gloss off the Perth-based franchise's magnificent result. Mathewson was lucky to only have been penalised for his indiscretion but has subsequently received a one-week suspension.
Brive:When visiting a club that is undefeated at home, you're not doing your chances of victory any good by conceding two yellow cards and two red cards! Brive played the last 20 minutes against Castres with 13 min in their 38-6 loss on Saturday. Castres prop Yannick Forestier also deserves a shake of the head for shoeing Damien Neveu while he was on the ground – not hot.
Maurie Fa'asavalu: A swinging arm from the Harlequins flanker left Saracens left wing David Strettle unconscious at Wembley on Saturday. Strettle was subsequently stretchered off with just five minutes played in the Aviva Premiership match, yet there was no card for Fa'asavalu.