It’s time for our Monday wrap of who has their name in lights and who is making the headlines for all the wrong reasons after the weekend.
THEY’RE ON FIRE!
Shannon Frizell: The Tasman and Highlanders back-rower made his run-on debut for New Zealand in their 46-24 Rugby Championship victory over Argentina in front of his home crowd at Trafalgar Park in Nelson and delivered a brilliant all-round display. Frizell was all over the place on defence and attack and capped an excellent showing by crossing for a well-taken try in the second period. The 24-year-old also impressed when coming on as a replacement in his Test debut against France in Dunedin in June and after another fine performance in black, he must be close to earning a call-up to the world champions’ first-choice starting line-up. He was without doubt the standout All Black last weekend.
— Tasman Mako (@TasmanMako) September 8, 2018
Exeter Chiefs: They are looking like the front-runners to finish top of the regular-season pile even at this early stage. Rob Baxter’s men are such a formidable force up front with depth aplenty throughout their squad. Even with Nic White injured they are able to call on Stuart Townsend and Jack Maunder at scrum-half while Ollie Devoto and Henry Slade were in fine form against Wasps on Saturday. To a man they shone but special mention must go to try hungry number eight Sam Simmonds and winger Santiago Cordero, who stepped in for Olly Woodburn in style.
Matt Toomua: When Toomua announced he would be returning to Australia at the end of the 2018/19 Premiership season and thus be eligible for Wallabies selection after a three-year hiatus in England, it was always going to be a no-brainer for boss Michael Cheika to reintroduce him to the international fold and what a masterstroke it has proven to be. Toomua accumulated a personal haul of 15 points, which included two penalties, two conversions and a try, to steer his side to a 23-18 win over the Springboks in Brisbane on Saturday. Such a smart footballer.
— TEN Sport (@tensporttv) September 8, 2018
Waikato: Taranaki lost their grip on the Log o’ Wood on Sunday as the Mooloo Men were outstanding in a 33-19 victory in New Plymouth. This was a superb effort from Waikato, who are campaigning in the Mitre 10 Cup’s Championship competition this season, and made all the more impressive due to the fact they beat Wellington on the Wednesday. This should kick start their season.
John Cooney: Not a bad week for the scrum-half as he landed a match-winning late penalty in successive games to give Ulster victory. The triumphs over Scarlets and Edinburgh came either side of Cooney putting pen to paper on a new contract at Kingspan Stadium as he continues to become a favourite with the supporters. Thanks to Cooney’s reliable boot, those narrow wins have left Ulster joint top of Conference B.
Two wins at the death in row from his boot.
There’ll be a statue outside Kingspan soon enough. #ULSvEDI
— The Loose Head (@TheLooseH) September 7, 2018
COLD AS ICE!
Springboks: South Africa were their own worst enemy in their 23-18 Rugby Championship defeat to Australia in Brisbane as they committed far too many unforced errors despite dominating the contest for large periods. The two-time world champions’ effort was littered with numerous handling errors, soft penalties and poor decision making. The lowlight of a poor overall performance came in the 34th minute when a lineout close to their try-line saw the throw-in going awry and Matt Toomua gleefully pounced to collect the ball before waltzing in for an easy try.
Mathieu Bastareaud: The France international could be set for a spell on the sidelines after he saw red in Toulon‘s win over Castres. This strike on second-row Christophe Samson was ugly to say the least and referee Laurent Cardona had little option but to give Bastareaud his marching orders. Now the centre must wait to see whether further punishment will see him miss a chunk of the club and possibly Test season.
Hot-headed Bastareaud sees red!
— Sky Sports Rugby (@SkySportsRugby) September 9, 2018
Agen: Three games in and already Agen have shipped 149 points which must be a worry for their supporters. Yes the majority of those points came at the home of Clermont (67-23) and most recently Racing 92 (59-7) – matches they had probably written off before kick-off – but they must be concerned with the amount of tries they are leaking. Next up they host Bordeaux-Begles as they look to respond at Stade Armandie.
Matt O’Connor: The Australian parted company with Leicester Tigers following their first round loss to Exeter, with Geordan Murphy taking interim charge at Welford Road. It was the end of a tough tenure at the club and a 40-6 defeat to the Chiefs looked to have been the last straw with the top brass. Since then Leicester bounced back with a win over Newcastle to bring some much-needed cheer after a tough week for the club.
Difficult times for everyone @LeicesterTigers and sad to see another coach leave. Good luck Matt O’Connor in your next challenge and thanks for your great service to the club. And as always #KeepTheFaith
— Marcos Ayerza (@miayerza) September 3, 2018