Who’s hot and who’s not: Glory for Munster and Saracens while concern grows for London Irish

Jared Wright
Who's hot and who's not

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.


Munster crowned new URC champions: They did it the hard way. Away wins in Glasgow, Dublin, and finally Cape Town mean Graham Rowntree has won the URC in his first season in charge of Munster. The Irish side left it late again, with player-of-the-match John Hodnett scoring in the 75th minute of the final, with Jack Crowley’s conversion sealing the 19-14 victory. It caps off a remarkable season for the side who started their campaign with defeats to Cardiff, Dragons and Connacht in their first five matches. What an incredible comeback story.

Saracens seal sixth Premiership title: Owen Farrell and his charges were on top of their game on Saturday as they romped past Sale Sharks to win the Premiership for the sixth time. Farrell was named player-of-the-match after the 35-25 triumph, scoring 13 points off the kicking tee and outplaying England rival George Ford. It was a close match until the 52nd minute, but Saracens showed their ruthless edge, scoring two tries through Elliot Daly and Ivan van Zyl in the final quarter to lift the title yet again. Congratulations to Mark McCall’s outfit.

Tom Curry deals with protesters: The Sale Sharks flanker may have ended Saturday’s Premiership final on the wrong end of the result, but his actions during the match garnered praise from fans. When ‘Just Stop Oil’ protesters charged onto the pitch during the game, Curry assisted the stewards in escorting one of them off the Twickenham pitch with fans at HQ and on social media praising the England flanker.

Red-hot Mark Telea: The All Black just can’t stop scoring as a place on the plane to the Rugby World Cup in France looms. The Blues flyer made a good dent in Shaun Stevenson and Leicester Fainga’anuku’s lead at the top of Super Rugby Pacific’s try-scoring charts, dotting down four times in the Aucklanders’ 36-25 triumph over the Hurricanes at Eden Park on Saturday. He’s such a difficult man to stop for defences.

Table-topping Chiefs: On Saturday, the Chiefs cemented a home run through the Super Rugby play-offs when they sealed a 31-21 victory over the Brumbies in Canberra. The success guarantees they will finish the regular season on top of the standings after winning 12 of their 13 matches to date. Their usual stars steered them to the victory, with Luke Jacobson and Stevenson scoring in the win while Damian McKenzie kicked accurately from the tee. It’s been a stellar season so far, and they are going to be tough to beat in the play-offs. Can anyone stop them?

Perfect send-off for Aaron Smith: Japan-bound All Blacks scrum-half Smith played his final home match for the Highlanders over the weekend, and the Super Rugby side sent their star man off in style. They claimed a 35-30 win over the Reds to keep their play-off hopes alive. Fittingly, Smith’s successor, Folau Fakatava, scored the match-winning try for the ‘Landers, with Smith celebrating on the sidelines. After the win, the squad also paid tribute to the veteran by performing a haka. What a servant Smith has been to the club and this was a great send-off.

Old man John Afoa debuts for Crusaders: Former All Blacks front-row Afoa answered the Crusaders SOS this weekend to become the oldest player in Super Rugby history. At the age of 39 years, 223 days, he became Crusader #279 and earned his first cap in the competition in 12 years! It’s also almost 20 years since Afoa made his debut for the Blues, who he represented 104 times before heading to Ulster in 2011. He had stints at Gloucester and Bristol Bears after Ulster and worked as a player-coach with French club Vannes this season. It is a stellar achievement from the legendary tighthead prop, who played 49 minutes against the Waratahs. Now we wait to see if there’s more to come.


Concern for London Irish: Rumours in the English press suggest the signs don’t look promising for London Irish being involved in next year’s Premiership, with players having been told to prepare for the worst as suspension from the top flight looms. Current club owner Mick Crossan reportedly didn’t attend a meeting involving key stakeholders as well as representatives from the Rugby Football Union, Premiership Rugby and the Rugby Players Association on Friday, which is not a good sign and with uncertainty over the American consortium which was set to take over the club and a Tuesday deadline set by the RFU looming large, are London Irish set to follow Wasps and Worcester’s fate?

Mohamed Haouas arrested again: On Saturday, it was confirmed that France and Montpellier prop Haouas had been arrested again. The troubled prop’s disciplinary issues extend beyond the rugby pitch as he faces charges of domestic violence. He risks a maximum sentence of three years in prison if found guilty. The Les Bleus international front-row allegedly kicked his wife in the ankle to make her fall and struck her in the face after an argument broke out between the pair. This isn’t the first time he has had run-ins with the law, as he had two trials for alleged crimes committed a decade ago. He also received an 18-month suspended sentence for his part in a series of robberies in April 2014. 

World XV kit flop: While the Baa-baas and World XV produced a stunning display of exhibition rugby, there was one common complaint, the state of the World XV’s kit. Channel 5 commentator David Flatman described it as ‘vile’ and wondered if they would try to sell some of the jerseys and who would purchase it. The green jersey with black patterns on it was widely criticised on social media too as fans had their say.

Johnny Sexton’s scolding: Fresh reports on Sunday emerged around the events involving Sexton and Jaco Peyper after the Champions Cup final. According to the Rapport, Sexton berated Peyper and his officiating team, saying, “You are all a f***king disgrace”. It’s yet to be determined whether EPCR or World Rugby will issue a suspension, but if there’s any truth in the reports, hopefully a disciplinary panel will act. Players, coaches and fans must respect officials, and this behaviour is unacceptable and sets a terrible precedent if it goes unpunished. 

Israel Folau at Twickenham: The Tonga and former Australia international was a controversial selection in the World XV’s starting line-up for their Killik Cup match against the Barbarians over the weekend. The 34-year-old, who was sacked by Rugby Australia in 2019 after posting social media posts that were anti-gay, was in the thick of the action in an entertaining encounter and scored one of the World XV’s tries in their 48-42 defeat. However, it was surely not a good idea to select him for the game as he remains unrepentant about his views and on Sunday he was repeatedly booed by sections of the Twickenham crowd which included around 100 banner-waving LGBTQ+ protesters.

Moana Pasifika: Although they came close to registering their maiden victory of the Super Rugby Pacific season, it wasn’t to be as Moana fell just short of achieving that goal as they suffered a narrow 47-46 defeat against Fijian Drua in a thrilling Pacific islands derby in Lautoka on Saturday. That result means Aaron Mauger’s charges have now lost all 13 of their matches played in this year’s competition. They are firmly rooted to the bottom of the table with just four points amassed and are a whopping 17 points adrift of their closest rivals, the Rebels.

READ MORE: URC final: Five takeaways from Stormers v Munster as road trip ends in glory