Planet Rugby

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

05th May 2014 07:51

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Hot or not 5 May 2014

On the rise: Crusaders - Dropping down: Worcester

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!

Montpellier: At the start of the season not many would have backed Montpellier to finish second in the Top 14 standings but Fabien Galthiť's team will await the winners of the play-off between Clermont and Castres bubbling with confidence. With eight wins in their last ten matches, including a five-try drubbing of Racing Metro on Saturday, les Heraultais are in scorching form.

Crusaders: Beware, the seven-time champs are starting to find some form. After a slow start to the season, back-to-back wins over both of last year's finalists have seen Todd Blackadder's team move into the top six. With King Richie back and Colin Slade looking sharp, the men in red are now a solid bet to be in the mix at the business end of the season.

Munster and Cardiff Blues: A thumping 55-12 bonus-point win over Edinburgh kept Munster in the hunt for second place in the PRO12. Any team that scores 50 points on the road deserves a clap. Meanwhile, Cardiff Blues' latest win, against Connacht, is their fourth straight league victory.

Saracens: A six-try romp over Worcester - including a hat-trick from Jackson Wray and two tries from Chris Ashton - saw Sarries notch up their nineteenth win of the Premiership season to move twelve points clear at the top of the table. Dreams of the double are becoming likelier by the week.

Ma'a Nonu: The All Black midfielder has made habit of not producing his best at Super Rugby level but he had a blinder for the Blues on Friday, creating two tries and playing a key role in setting up a third. With Nonu in top form, the Blues backline could do some serious damage in the second half of the Super Rugby season.

Schalk Burger: The Springbok tearaway made his first Super Rugby appearance at his beloved Newlands since 2012 and turned back the clock with a performance which had the home crowd in raptures. He only played for just over 50 minutes but seemed to be all over the park, flying into tackles, winning turnovers and also showed a deft touch with an offload out of the back of his hand which put Frans Malherbe in the clear for one of his two tries.

Hosea Gear: His time in Toulouse will soon come to an end but the former All Black flyer left the fans at Stade Ernest Wallon with a parting gift as he bagged a hat-trick to help les Rouge et Noir secure a home Top 14 play-off by thumping Grenoble.

All Blacks Sevens and Canada: It seems New Zealand will soon be 2013/14 IRB World Sevens Series champions after putting a nineteen-point buffer between themselves and South Africa on Sunday. Their Cup victory over an impressive Canada side - their first ever appearance in the final two - gives them a nice cushion to work with for the last leg of the season at Twickenham this weekend. Canada meanwhile move up to sixth in the standings, which is some achievement seeing as they only became a core team on the Series two years ago.


Broken Thermostat:

New Super Rugby format: Judging by the complaints streaming into our comments section, very few Super Rugby fans will welcome the new two-group, four-conference format when it is implemented in 2016. And we're not surprised. No one can deny that, from a pure sporting perspective, the integrity of the competition has been compromised. But, the harsh reality is, no one has been able to come up with a better solution that incorporates the all non-negotiable requirements for the future of the tournament. i.e. the addition of the Kings (as demanded by the South African government), the inclusion of side from Argentina (as promised by SANZAR) and the reduction of travel (as requested by the players). Three steps have been taken forward...but how many have been taken back?


Get these guys a cup of warm soup!

Perpignan: It seems harsh to include USAP in the 'Not Hot' section after a spirited display that saw the Catalans come within minutes of ending Clermont's four-year unbeaten run on home soil. But they buckled under pressure when it counted most - coughing up three yellow cards in the last quarter - and have been relegated for the first time since 1911. The seven-time champions produced the second worst record in the second half of the season - the hapless Biarritz of course topping that - and finally left themselves needing to get something from their last two matches against...Toulon and Clermont.

Edinburgh: The end of a disappointing season for one half of Scotland's pro-teams is nigh, and it's easy to see where they've gone wrong. Alan Solomons' men should have made the top six in the PRO12 and qualified for the Champions Cup with little trouble. But a combination of porous defence where high, poorly-timed and flapping tackles reign and profligacy in attack have proved their downfall. Woeful losses in Treviso and Zebre in recent weeks marked the low point of an underwhelming season.

Worcester: The writing has been on the wall for months. One win in 21 games is the Warriors' current record in the Premiership, with the 44-20 defeat at Saracens sealing their fate. Star player Chris Pennell is staying at the club next season as they hope to return to the top flight at the first time of asking. Now though they must ready themselves for a big finish in front of the Sixways fans when Gloucester come to town on Saturday.

Reds: The pressure is beginning to mount on both coach and players at the Reds as there's no hiding from four straight defeats. The latest loss came against the Blues as they went down 44-14 at Eden Park, with hopes of topping the Australian conference now surely gone. All is not lost in the chase for the play-offs though but to keep that alive they simply must respond this Sunday when they host an in-form Crusaders outfit. A tough ask.

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