Who’s hot…and who’s not!

Date published: October 28 2014

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.

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!

Taranaki and Turbos: The ‘Naki are champions of New Zealand for the first time in their history after beating Tasman 36-32 in a thrilling Final in New Plymouth on Saturday. Having topped the standings at the end of the regular season, victory in the grand final caps a fairytale season for Taranaki, who finished second from bottom last year. Meanwhile, Manawatu won promotion to the Premiership in another heart-stopper, coming from behind to edge Hawke’s Bay 32-24 on Friday in the ITM Championship Final. Trailing for most of the game, the Turbos only took a match winning lead in the 78th minute.

Zebre: The Italian minnows enjoyed an historic night on Friday as they celebrated their first win in European competition with a 26-21 triumph away to Brive in the Challenge Cup. Kelly Haimona and Valerio Bernabo scored tries for the visitors, while fly-half Edoardo Padovani converted both and added four penalties.

NRC Finalists: Perth Spirit will travel to Queensland to take on Brisbane City in the grand final of Australia’s inaugural National Rugby Championship. Both teams won on the road as the Spirit stunned Melbourne Rising 45-29 in the second semi-final after Brisbane City beat the NSW Country Eagles 32-26.

Michael Cheika: Having taken over the Wallaby reins in difficult circumstances, Cheika’s first major decision proved a wise one. Leaving Kurtely Beale in Australia will reduce some of the heat from the spotlight focused on his side. “I think a bit of normality is what everyone requires,” the former…er,wait…current Waratahs boss told reporters upon arrival at Heathrow Airport. Well said.

George North: It’s not often one player picks up his team’s try bonus-point but that’s what happened at Franklin’s Gardens on Saturday, as North scored four. The Welsh wing’s first three efforts were well taken but it was the all-important fourth two minutes from time that had the crowd on their feet. After making ground he grubbered ahead and beat two Ospreys to the ball, which seemed nigh on impossible at the time.

Western Province: Marnitz Boshoff almost pushed us into extra-time at Newlands but in the end WP managed to hold on. Despite the difficult conditions with a strong wind, it was an entertaining game, and congratulations to Demetri Catrakilis, who was flawless from the kicking tee, unlike his Lions counterpart Boshoff. After both sides’ impressive performance in this season’s competition, let’s hope they can carry that form into Super Rugby next year.

Champions Cup teams on the road: Last week only Munster managed to win on their travels, whereas round two saw an incredible six away wins from ten games. It’s difficult to say who was the most impressive, but Glasgow deserve a special mention for their win away in France against Montpellier. The Toulon juggernaut also rolls on as they won in Belfast despite losing both Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe and Matt Giteau to injury in the first half. It’s also worth mentioning that Challenge Cup teams were even more impressive on the road with seven away wins from ten.

Exeter Chiefs: Rob Baxter has done an outstanding job down in Devon with the Chiefs and after their win over Connacht in the Challenge Cup, three more of his charges have been called up by England. Thomas Waldrom has impressed since his off-season move from Leicester, but more impressive has been the progression of academy products Henry Slade and Dave Ewers. With more players coming through, Exeter are here to stay.

Broken Thermostat:

Use of the concussion protocol: The extension of the concussion protocol diagnosis period from five to ten minutes is certainly a good thing to try to deal with a major issue. We’re just a little concerned that some teams might be taking that time to treat other injuries with concussion being used as an easy way of avoiding making a permanent replacement. Unlike bloodgate, there is no need for any Halloween props here to bend the rules.

Get these guys a cup of warm soup!

Rhys Gill: There was clearly no malicious intent in Gill’s clumsy tip tackle on CJ Stander but the yellow card was inevitable. It proved a fatal blow for Saracens – who had momentum at the time – as they failed to match Munster with a man down at Thomond Park. The eight second-half points scored in the Welsh prop’s absence changed the entire complexion of the game.

Marnitz Boshoff: Although the Golden Lions must be commended for the way they fought back – from a 13-0 half-time deficit against Western Province – to level the scores at 13-all and set up a thrilling finish to the Currie Cup Final, Boshoff will be kicking (excuse the pun) himself as he missed four out of seven shots at goal. That included the final penalty of the match which would have levelled the scores and taken the game in to extra time.

Leicester: We all know the Tigers have had their injury problems but against a Scarlets side that lost Jake Ball to injury pre-game and then Scott Williams and Rory Pitman came off early on, Leicester were disappointing. The English side mustered just three Owen Williams points as they could not back up their Round One win over Ulster. Toulon have subsequently taken a stranglehold of this pool after defeating Ulster. Miles Benjamin, in particular, will want to forget this one as he handed Scarlets the opening try in comical fashion.

The Zebre three: We mentioned Zebre’s historic first European win earlier, but we can’t ignore the fact that three of their players have since been suspended and are now under investigation. It’s not yet clear what Leonardo Sarto, Dario Chistolini and Andries Ferreira have done exactly, but for the former pair it’s a huge blow as they drop out of the Italy squad. This story is far from finished.