Planet Rugby

Who's hot...and who's not!

02nd June 2014 10:09


hot and not jonny wilkinson luke burgess toulon melbourne rebels

Out on a high: Jonny Wilkinson

It's time for Planet Rugby's 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!

Jonny Wilkinson and Toulon: A Euro-French double is some achievement, so hats off to Toulon for backing up their success in Cardiff with a hard-fought, if slightly unglamorous, victory over Castres in Paris. Revenge was obviously on the mind after last year's shock loss to Rory Kockott's men and Toulon came through, giving Jonny Wilkinson the ideal send-off. Wilkinson himself was spot on with the boot, unbelievably for the last time. What a career he has had, outstanding to the last.

Northampton: Wow. No doubt if you watched the Premiership Final you were left like us on the edge of your seat in the final moments of madness. Saints only needed a penalty to tie the scores at 20-20 at the end of extra time to win the Premiership, due to the fact they had scored more tries - but they wanted one more. The gut reaction was that Alex Waller was over and although the TMO coverage didn't completely clarify that fact, Northampton were worthy winners in a pulsating, brutal final.

Leinster: There was an early taste of life without Brian O'Driscoll for Leinster when the greatest of Irish players left the field nine minutes into his final match. It was a disappointing end to a brilliant career. The applause he received, a standing ovation from everyone in the RDS, will linger long in the memory. Leinster didn't let him down, making sure he added another medal to an impressive collection as they gradually overcame Glasgow, in the end winning by a clear 22 points to make it back-to-back Pro12 titles. How they replace BOD will be fascinating.

Waratahs: The Chiefs haven't looked like defending their two titles and the 'Tahs exposed that truth with an impressive win in New Plymouth. Is 2014 finally their year? With Israel Folau overcoming his dip and Bernard Foley looking excellent at fly-half behind a well-balanced pack, they are certainly in with a shout.

Lions, Reds: A double surprise! The Lions tour was a pretty dismal occasion all-round but on home soil against the Bulls they replicated that early season form that took us all by surprise with a win at Ellis Park. Marnitz Boshoff again stood out, but couldn't make the Bok squad.

The Reds beforehand were an even bigger shock. You'd have suspected that without Quade Cooper their season would be done and dusted, but this was a flicker of life from the stragglers as they racked up a 21-0 lead, let the Highlanders back into it at 31-31, before Jake Schatz blew the roof off Suncorp with his injury-time winner. Cracking stuff.

Henry Slade: Battered, bruised but did his future chances of international caps no harm at all with this solid performance against the Barbarians. Slade was strong in the tackle, calm in possession and picked up sixteen points on the day. Despite the defeat, the Exeter Chief can hold his head high and would be wise to stay by his phone as there may be call from New Zealand coming. Elliot Daly also earns a pat on the back for his efforts.

Springbok veterans: They may have a combined age of 167 but Schalk Burger, Victor Matfield, Bakkies Botha, Schalk Brits and Fourie du Preez remain very much in South Africa head coach Heyneke Meyer's plans for 2015. England's Dad's Army got to the Rugby World Cup final in 2007 and we wouldn't bet against this Springbok quintet being influential in green and gold next year. Brits off the bench for Bismarck du Plessis...frightening.

Broken Thermostat

Guess who... it's the TMO: We've been here before, haven't we? Technology is a wonderful thing but in the Premiership Final there were at least two points of contention:

1) Owen Farrell's non-try - first things first, the overall outcome was completely right. Alex Goode's pass was clearly forward and it would have a been a travesty had it stood. The try however was awarded, with only the injury break to Farrell resulting in multiple replays before TMO Graham Hughes advised Doyle that he should review the pass. Was it morally correct? Absolutely. But by the letter of the law, the protocol wasn't adhered to. Given Luther Burrell's pass in the build-up to George Pisi's try had looked forward but went unpunished, it felt harsh.

2) Alex Waller's winning try - the gut reaction in real time was that Waller was over, but given the importance of the score and lack of clarity of course the TMO was needed. The question 'Try, yes or no?' allows for greater doubt than 'Is there any reason why I may not award the try?', and none of the angles were groundbreakingly conclusive. Was it a try? More than likely, but that's a hell of a hunch to rely on.

Stormers: The men from the Cape secured a memorable last-gasp victory over the Sharks in Durban but their overall performance delivered nothing to write home about. Allister Coetzee's troops changed to a more entertaining style of play midway through the season but there was none of that on show against the Sharks. They hardly threatened on attack and it was little surprise that they failed to score a try, with all their points coming via kicks.

Get these guys a cup of warm soup!

Charlie Hodgson: You've got to feel immense sympathy for Hodgson, we all do, but that fact is, had his conversion of Bosch's try gone over in the 76th minute it would have in all likelihood won the Premiership Final. Instead it clattered off the upright. Pressure kicks = big outcomes. It wasn't to be.

Rebels: A real stinker of a loss to the Brumbies in Canberra. Their defence was paper thin at best and they were down 25-3 by half-time, conceding six tries in all. The news of Jason Woodward's departure to the Hurricanes isn't good either. The defeat leaves the Rebels languishing at the bottom of the Australian Conference and the overall table.

Bulls: Frans Ludeke's charges' play-off hopes suffered a major blow after their shock loss against the Lions in Johannesburg. The Pretoria-based outfit clearly underestimated their neighbours and with the Hurricanes, Western Force, Chiefs and Highlanders all losing their performance indicated that they were under the impression that they only had to rock up to beat the Lions. Their opponents read a different script and claimed their first ever win over the Bulls in 11 matches since 2006.

Sharks: Jake White's men aren't in this group necessarily because they lost to the Stormers to a late drop goal - it happens to everybody and quite frankly Jaco Taute stunned everyone. But, the quality of the Sharks performance was poor. Unimaginative and at times mind-numbingly dull, they showed their limitations. That said, they remain top of the log. For now.

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