Who’s hot… and who’s not!

Date published: May 12 2015

It is time for our 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! 

Northampton: While a win over London Welsh isn't much to gloat about, even 46-0, Saints get into the list after securing top spot in the Aviva Premiership with a week of the season still to go. The defending champions will take on Leicester in a fiery east Midlands derby next week but on form they look to be favourites to retain their crown.
Crusaders: It shouldn't come as a surprise that the Crusaders gave Richie McCaw and Dan Carter the perfect send-off in Christchurch. The two great All Blacks played what was almost certainly their final game at AMI Stadium for the side, with Carter particularly impressive in the dismantling of the Reds. That was nothing compared to Nemani Nadolo however, who caused absolute carnage as the Crusaders got their play-off challenge back on track. A special mention also goes to lock Sam Whitelock who scored a superb try after a 60 metre run.

Scott Higginbotham: The Wallaby number eight wrote his name into the record books when he crossed over for one of his side's five tries in their win over the Blues. That was Higginbotham's 30th five-pointer which is a new Super Rugby record for tries by a forward. He beats the record set by another former Wallaby back rower, Brumbies stalwart Owen Finegan.
Lions: One of the stories of the Super Rugby season has been the performances of the Lions, and they produced one of their best displays to see off the Highlanders in Johannesburg. Trailing 20-3 at the break, they looked overmatched, but three tries in 16 minutes from Courtnall Skosan, Jaco Kriel and Harold Vorster got them right back in it, with replacement half-backs Elton Jantjies and Faf de Klerk at the centre of the turnaround for the hosts.
Leicester: It's been a tough old season for Leicester, who have struggled so much in attack this season that only London Welsh have scored fewer tries. They've managed to keep themselves in contention for the play-offs however, and they produced arguably their best display of the season to win at new neighbours Wasps, 26-21, despite Seremaia Bai's first-half red card. They aren't yet assured of a top four spot, but it's in their hands before next week's derby against Saints.

Yoann Huget's Toulouse: The form team in France produced one of their best home displays of the season as they crushed Brive 67-19, running in nine tries. There were plenty of great individual displays, from livewire Sébastien Bézy to powerhouse Gillian Galan, without forgetting the 27 points from Toby Flood. Still, Huget steals the headlines with his hat-trick, including one long-range effort and extravagant sidestep that was reminiscent of predecessor Cédric Heymans in his pomp. This Toulouse team is on a roll.

Fiji Sevens: Congratulations to Ben Ryan's side, who won the Glasgow Sevens, moving to the top of the World Series standings in the process. They knocked off New Zealand in the final, with both teams now assured of a spot at next year's Olympics, as are Bowl winners South Africa. Fiji can wrap up the overall title next week at the Twickenham Sevens, and have a five-point cushion over the Blitzbokke, with New Zealand three points further back.
Connacht: Pat Lam's side are refusing to give up on their Champions Cup dreams, and they are just a win away from a seventh-placed finish and a place in the play-off. That's because they managed to put 40 points on Zebre in Parma, and while the Italians are not the strongest opposition, it still takes something pretty special to put seven tries on them on their own patch. Next up are the Ospreys in a game which has huge implications for both Europe and the Pro12 play-offs.
Stade André Moga: It was the final-ever game at the Bordeaux's historic ground before they make their move to the Stade Chaban Delmas. They bowed out with a win over Oyonnax, in their throwback checked blue and white kit before a huge party for the club's current and former players. Among those joining in the celebrations was former scrum-half and current Toulon boss Bernard Laporte, who hot-stepped over from the south coast after his side's win over Castres.

Stade Français: Stade's season looked to be falling apart when they lost at home to Toulouse a fortnight ago, losing Jules Plisson for the season. In that game Jonathan Danty's red card proved crucial, so when Sergio Parisse was sent off in the first half of the Parisian derby (see below), it looked like more of the same. Stade were having none of it though, and ran out 28-19 winners thanks to an acrobatic effort from Jérémy Sinzelle and a 23-point haul from the much-maligned Morné Steyn. As a result they are all but assured of a Top 14 play-off spot for the first time since 2009.

Exeter: The Chiefs looked to have let their play-off hopes slip away when they lost to Wasps two weeks ago, but they responded in style with a 24-20 win away at Saracens. Thomas Waldrom was again at the forefront, scoring two tries to increase his lead at the top of the Premiership scoring charts. It was only Saracens' second defeat at Allianz Park this season and leaves Mark McCall's men in fifth place with a round of games to go, although a trip to London Welsh means they should still squeeze into the play-offs. 

Broken Thermostat 

Stormers: They might be top of the South African conference after their one-point win over the Brumbies but all does not seem right at the Stormers. Their attacking game seems to be completely lacking, as they constantly struggle to produce line breaks, and on this form, it's tough to see them beating one of the in-form Kiwi sides in the knock-out stages.

Brrr….. someone get these guys a warmmmm cuppa soup!
Lyon: Mathematically Lyon could still avoid relegation, if they win both their remaining games with maximum points and both Bayonne and Brive pick up nothing from their remaining matches, but realistically Saturday's draw at home to La Rochelle was the final nail in the coffin. Last year's ProD2 champions were ambitious coming up, spending big money to try to establish themselves in the Top 14, but despite the best efforts of the ageless George Smith, they are going straight back down again. Julien Bonnaire is on the way next season and they plan to be back, but this was a big set-back for the club.

London Irish: You get the feeling that Irish are already on holiday, and they certainly didn't seem that bothered on Saturday as they were hammered by 22 points by 14-man Gloucester. Matt Kvesic's first-half red card proved only a minor inconvenience as the Cherry & Whites cruised to victory. The Exiles should be grateful they didn't play 15 men for 80 minutes or it might have been even more embarrassing.

Waratahs: Defeat to the Western Force means the defending champions suffered the ignominy losing to team at bottom of table. And to add insult to injury that was only the Force's second win of the season with their only other victory registered against… the Waratahs in Round One.  Those two losses for Michael Cheika's side might be the difference between a play-off spot or watching the post-season from their couches. It's simply not good enough from the Sydneysiders
Officials in Melbourne and Paris: A couple of howlers this week in both hemispheres. We'll start in Australia where Toby Smith's try, impressive as it was, should have been chalked off. It should be common knowledge since Mike Phillips' try against Ireland in 2011 that a quick lineout can't be taken once a ballboy has touched the ball. Officials in Melbourne watched countless replays of Pat Leafa's quick throw-in but somehow failed to notice the ballboy giving him the ball. Events in Paris were just as farcical, although it didn't cost Stade Français in the end. Skipper Sergio Parisse was red-carded for a mid-air collision with Brice Dulin that saw the France full-back land on his head. In fairness to Jérôme Garcès, it was tough to see the big screen from the other end of the pitch, but his TMO should have pointed out to him that the only reason Parisse collided with Dulin in the way he did was because he was pulled back in the air by Racing flanker Bernard le Roux, who probably should have received a yellow of his own.
Reds: As good as the Crusaders were in Christchurch, it has to be said they were helped by a pathetic defensive effort from the Reds, who apparently decided to play touch rugby in the second half. The Queenslanders missed a barely believable 35 tackles, conceding 43 second-half points in an embarrassing display. No wonder the pressure is on Richard Graham.
Castres & Grenoble: Castres have gambled on next week's home game against Brive as the one they have to win, but with so little margin for error, their decision to rest their big guns in Toulon was a bold call. Their fine recent run came to an end, but the way the game changed once the first team regulars were introduced calls into question the wisdom of the decision to effectively write this game off. Grenoble didn't rest anyone against Clermont, but they look utterly devoid of confidence and never really threatened a win. From likely play-off contenders, Grenoble have fallen apart at the worst possible time, and with in-form Toulouse in town next week, they desperately need a win or it could be ProD2 for them next season.
Edinburgh: With a Champions Cup spot on the line, and up against a team with nothing to play for, Edinburgh were well-beaten at the Dragons, managing only a late consolation try. This against the same team they hammered in a Challenge Cup semi-final less than a month ago, and it leaves Edinburgh needing results elsewhere if they are to get a Champions Cup play-off spot.