It’s time for Planet Rugby’s weekly round-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!
Lions: The men from Johannesburg made history when they registered their first ever victory over the Chiefs in Hamilton. The Lions took the Chiefs on at their own expansive game and buried their bogey in style with halfbacks Faf de Klerk and Elton Jantjies leading the way with superb decision-making.
Nemani Nadolo and Jean-Baptiste Pejoine: Two moments of individual brilliance over the weekend we had to share. Spare a thought for Matt Duffie after Nadolo pushed him into next week, while Pejoine’s moment of brilliance turned what looked set to be a certain loss for Brive into a draw when he blocked Sébastien Bézy’s conversion.
Bjorn Basson and Adam Ashley-Cooper: The two international wingers showed their class by scoring for their respective clubs at the weekend. Ashley-Cooper struck thrice in Bordeaux-Bègles’ one-sided victory over Oyonnax, while Basson’s treble was achieved in the Bulls’ triumph against the Rebels.
Northampton and Leicester: Both these sides have gone through slumps this season but have returned to their best form in recent weeks. And this weekend they showed that they are still amongst the Premiership’s top contenders with deserved victories over the top two sides in the league. Northampton got the better of Saracens at Allianz Park on Saturday before Leicester beat Exeter at Welford Road on Sunday.
Malakai Fekitoa: The Highlanders midfielder was in superb form in his side’s narrow win over the Hurricanes in Dunedin. Fekitoa kept the ‘Canes defenders busy with several of his trademark line-breaks and crossed for an early five-pointer. He thought he had a second try late on but was cruelly denied by the TMO.
Ireland’s provinces: The national side might be without a win in the Six Nations but this was a rosy weekend for all four Irish PRO12 outfits. Ulster nilled Zebre, winning 32-0, Connacht stayed top after winning away at Edinburgh, while Leinster held off he Ospreys and Munster thrashed the Dragons. No coincidence then that all four sides occupy the top five spots in the table.
Get these guys a cup of warm soup!
Reds: Awful. How else can you describe the Reds’ performance against the Force. There’s little direction, creativity or competitive edge. Head coach Richard Graham was rightly sacked on Monday, although how he kept his job in the first place is beyond belief. A young side looks rudderless. It’s hard to know where their first win will come from.
Oyonnax: The Top 14 strugglers are finding the going tough after another heavy loss, this time to Bordeaux-Bègles. Bottom of the table, things look bleak just a season on from qualifying for the Champions Cup.
Cheetahs: It might be early in the Super Rugby competition but the Bloemfontein-based franchise are still winless after kicking off their campaign with home defeats to the Jaguares and the Stormers. Those results could come back to haunt them later on with winning at home is so crucial in this tournament.
London Irish: Sometimes luck just deserts you. Going for a losing bonus point after Alex Lewington’s late try, new signing Greig Tonks watched his conversion come back off the post to send the Exiles home from the Rec with nothing after losing to Bath. Eight points adrift, this isn’t exactly the ideal time to be hosting a game in New York, as Irish will this week against Saracens.
Zebre: Suggestions earlier in the season that Zebre might be turning a corner feel a very long time ago. Injuries and Six Nations call-ups haven’t helped a run of six straight losses, the worst coming against Ulster.