Who’s hot and who’s not!

Date published: February 18 2019

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 over the past week.

THEY’RE ON FIRE!

Northampton Saints: It was a good week for the Franklin’s Garden’s based club with some special achievements both on and off the field. First up, they did a good bit of business to capture the signature of Crusaders and All Blacks tighthead prop Owen Franks. The two-time World Cup winner follows his brother, Ben, to the Saints and will arrive at the club after the global showpiece in Japan later this year. Northampton finished off the week in style when they scored a whopping nine tries in their 67-17 victory over Sale Sharks. The result moves the Saints above the Sharks and Leicester Tigers into seventh place on the Premiership table – just two points adrift of the play-off spots.

Quade Cooper: He’s back! The 30-year-old made his competitive debut for the Melbourne Rebels in a memorable 34-27 victory over the Brumbies in Canberra. Cooper was banished to the sidelines during the 2018 Super Rugby tournament when his former head coach at the Reds, Brad Thorn, refused to play him throughout the season. But the Wallaby fly-half has put all that behind him and stole the show with an excellent attacking display in Canberra, with his game-management and distribution particularly impressive. Cooper also renewed his partnership with Wallaby scrum-half Will Genia and the duo’s brilliance on attack filtered through to their team-mates, who ran in five tries against the Brumbies.

Handre Pollard and the Bulls‘ new signings: After losing narrowly to the Stormers in their Super Hero Sunday pre-season fixture in Cape Town a couple of weeks ago, the Bulls were highly motivated to gain revenge in their tournament opener against their arch rivals at Loftus Versfeld. The Bulls dominated from start to finish in their 40-3 rout with Pollard leading from the front with a 20-point haul courtesy of four penalties and four conversions. Former Springboks Sevens flyer Rosko Specman delivered a masterclass on attack and was rewarded with a brace of tries for his efforts while Schalk Brits and Duane Vermeulen came to the fore with fine displays up front before the former was forced off the field with an injury just before half-time.

Cardiff Blues v Glasgow Warriors: Dave Rennie, the Warriors’ head coach described this encounter as “a hell of a spectacle for the neutrals” and it certainly was and both sides deserve plenty of credit for providing top class entertainment to the Cardiff Arms Park crowd after scoring five tries apiece. Glasgow dominated early on, leading 24-14 at half-time and 38-22 during the latter part of the second half but the home side refused to surrender and launched a late fightback before eventually succumbing 38-34.

Marnus Schoeman: The Lions openside flanker was in superb form as the Johannesburg-based outfit, who have finished as Super Rugby runners-up for the last three seasons, got their 2019 campaign off to a superb start with a deserved victory against the Jaguares in Buenos Aires. The highly underrated Schoeman led the way by crossing for a hat-trick of tries with his first-two five-pointers coming during the opening half before scoring his third early in the second period.

COLD AS ICE!

Stormers and Sunwolves: It was a weekend to forget for these two teams, who struggled in their opening Super Rugby matches and suffered humiliating defeats to the Bulls and Sharks respectively. Both sides battled to get going, particularly the Stormers, who went down 40-3 to the Bulls in Pretoria and, in doing so, became the only away team to lose in the tournament’s opening round. And in Singapore, the Sunwolves, who have been showing signs of improvement with their preparations for this year’s competition, made a bright start against the Sharks but faded badly as the game progressed and eventually lost 45-10.

Montpellier and Toulon: Two of the heavyweights of the French game are finding themselves in unfamiliar territory at the bottom half of the Top 14 standings. Montpellier are currently in ninth place on the table after becoming the first team to lose to bottom-placed Perpignan and to add insult to injury, Montpol were playing on their home turf at the GGL Stadium. Meanwhile, Toulon occupy eleventh position after losing 10 of their 16 matches and their situation was not helped by their president, Mourad Boudjellal’s tirade against Julian Savea after the former All Blacks winger under-performed in the defeat to Agen on Saturday.

Sio Tomkinson red card decision: The Highlanders replacement centre was red carded after an illegal hit on Chiefs captain and second-row Brodie Retallick in the 67th minute of the Super Rugby’s opener in Hamilton on Friday. Many enthusiasts were unhappy with the decision and felt that referee Glen Jackson was harsh in his ruling. The Highlanders were trailing 24-20 when Tomkinson was sent off but, to their credit, the men from Dunedin did not panic and fought back to clinch a 30-27 victory after Aaron Smith scored the match-winning try in the game’s closing stages.

Ospreys v Ulster: This PRO14 encounter was a dour affair with the teams’ defences cancelling each other out for long periods. There was little interesting to report during the opening half and it was hardly surprising that the teams were deadlocked at 0-0 when they changed sides at half-time. A Stuart McCloskey try early in the second half broke the deadlock before John Cooney added a penalty in the game’s dying moments to secure the result for Ulster and also deny the home side a losing bonus point.