It’s time for our Monday wrap of who has their name in lights and who’s making the headlines for all the wrong reasons over the past week.
THEY’RE ON FIRE
Crusaders: The opening stages especially were something special from the reigning champions as they tore the Stormers to bits to lead 26-0 after only 20 minutes. Scott Robertson is working wonders in Christchurch and the young backline duo of George Bridge and Jack Goodhue are two of the brightest prospects in the game. Yes the Crusaders’ performance dipped in the second 40 but take nothing away from that showing.
— Super Rugby (@SuperRugbyNZ) March 3, 2018
Denny Solomona: After a mid-season lull, where the tries rather dried up for the England wing, the previous two weeks could not have gone any better for the Sale Sharks man. Two tries against Bath – the second a wonderful individual effort – was followed by a hat-trick at Northampton on Saturday. It helped the Greater Manchester outfit secure a 34-25 triumph over the Saints and boost their play-off prospects, but no doubt Solomona’s eyes will be focused on the Red Rose for the next week. With Eddie Jones potentially looking to make changes after their loss to Scotland, the former rugby league man answered the call in the best possible way.
— Premiership Rugby (@premrugby) March 4, 2018
Newcastle Falcons: It has been quite a few months for Dean Richards and his charges. After their outstanding 21-20 victory over Gloucester – in the process, becoming the first Premiership side to defeat the Cherry and Whites at Kingsholm this season – the Tynesiders are firmly in the top-four equation. Most expect the Falcons to falter but they keep on churning out results, with their away form particularly impressive. While Kingston Park is a difficult place to visit, Newcastle have shown no fear on their travels so why can’t Richards’ men make a surge for the English title?
We’re tucked in nicely at fourth in the Aviva Premiership with five rounds to go pic.twitter.com/5y9os6p2Zb
— Newcastle Falcons (@FalconsRugby) March 4, 2018
Agen: There would have been a few concerned faces at the French outfit after they conceded 71 points against Lyon and 52 at home to Toulouse over successive games, but the strugglers have responded impressively. Victory at Stade Français in Round 18 was huge in the context of their battle to avoid relegation and they followed it up with another excellent result; defeating league leaders Montpellier 31-29 on Saturday. Philippe Sella has done an impressive job at the club and they are now five points clear of 13th placed Brive.
Ground staff and volunteers: Extreme weather, at least in British and Irish parlance, has seen fixtures in all sports fall victim, but credit to those at the Premiership clubs who managed to get every game on. Harlequins and Exeter, who had games initially scheduled on Friday and Saturday respectively, postponed their encounters until Sunday, but it proved to be the correct decision as supporters enjoyed a whole weekend of top level rugby in England. While the ground staff must be commended, it would have not have been achieved without the volunteers, who helped clear the snow.
One club. One team.
Thank you to all of the volunteers and staff who spent the day in the cold to give us every chance of getting the game on tomorrow. pic.twitter.com/nAS8R5zcBQ
— Gloucester Rugby (@gloucesterrugby) March 2, 2018
COLD AS ICE
Brumbies: A first defeat of the season and it was a performance they will want to quickly put to bed. Ill-discipline saw them commit well over twice as many penalties as the Reds while their goal-kicking was also off colour. That meant the try-less Reds picked up Australian derby bragging rights in an 18-10 result. The Brumbies will be reeling from this defeat and what made it worse was they left with nothing.
Sharks v Waratahs: One to forget in Durban as decent weather conditions – compared with what’s been happening in the northern hemisphere – did not result in a slick performance from either side. Errors marred the contest in a dull encounter, with a share of the spoils probably fitting as neither side deserved four points from this. Basic skills were simply not good enough for this level. Let’s hope it’s just rust.
George North and Alan Gaffney: Northampton have endured a wretched season and Alan Gaffney’s comments on George North has only added to the negativity surrounding Franklin’s Gardens. The Australian, who is there on a short-term consultancy basis, intimated that the Wales international refused to play for the club against Sale on Saturday. If true, it is remarkably unprofessional from a player who has always been held in the highest regard for his dedication to the game, but you suspect there may be another side to this story. Questions should also be asked of Gaffney and whether he really needed to wash their dirty linen in public, with the club now having to deal with another needless saga.
Where was George North today?
Alan Gaffney: ”You’d better ask George that. We picked a side who actually wanted to be out on the pitch and the best side for the game.”
— BBC Northampton (@BBCNorthampton) March 3, 2018
Ulster: Talking of clubs – or in this case, provinces – where a toxic atmosphere perhaps pervades, the Belfast-based outfit are another team that are feeling the ire of their supporters. They are, incredibly, still in with a chance of the title, but Jono Gibbes’ men are slowly drifting down the table and the announcement that the head coach will leave at the end of the season will probably not help matters. Performances have been poor throughout the season and it seems as though they need a complete overhaul if they are to re-find their form. Added to that the ongoing trial of Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding over an alleged rape means that all is not well at the Kingspan.
A penny for the thoughts of Jordi Murphy and Marty Moore. Presumably working with Jono Gibbes again was one of the major reasons why they signed for Ulster.
— Cian Tracey (@CianTracey1) March 2, 2018
Stade Français: The Parisians make it a trio of underperforming giants of the European club game. Like Northampton and Ulster, they have fallen well below the standards expected of them but, unlike the other two, Stade are in serious danger of going down after succumbing to basement-dwellers Oyonnax on Sunday. It seems as though the Stade Jean-Bouin outfit have been regular visitors to this section of the page, but it is for good reason and five successive defeats means that they are now just two points ahead of the bottom two.
— TOP 14 Rugby (@top14rugby) March 4, 2018