Who’s hot and who’s not: Jamison Gibson-Park and Marcus Smith star, Super Rugby thuggery and the aftermath

Jared Wright
Splti between Leinster's Jamison Gibson-Park and Jone Koroiduadua of Fijian Drua.

Splti between Leinster's Jamison Gibson-Park and Jone Koroiduadua of Fijian Drua.

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!

Jamison Gibson-Park:ย The Ireland scrum-half was outstanding for Leinster in a performance that included a hat-trick of tries in the first period as his team dominated Leicester Tigers. Gibson-Park has long been integral for club and country, with his mantlepiece loaded with man-of-the-match awards as he’s become one of the best nines in the game. If Leinster are to break their trophy drought this season he will certainly be at the centre of it.

Marcus Smith steers Quins to victory: The England star was in fine form on Friday evening, steering Harlequins to their maiden Champions Cup knockout win. He scored a try, assisted two and slotted all four of his shots at goal in a memorable 28-24 victory. When Smith clicks with his infectious style of play and enthusiasm, Harlequins are a threat to any team but can they defeat Bordeaux-Begles?

Stormers’ investment lures hero home: Private equity and rugby have muddled recent history but the Stormers fans were celebrating on Friday when the news that Steven Kitshoff would be coming back to Cape Town next season was officially confirmed. The URC I winning captain returns to the side he grew up supporting after just one season in Ulster, with the Red Disa consortium investment credited with making the deal possible.

Tommaso Menoncello claims top gong: After a memorable Six Nations campaign, Italy’s superstar back was crowned the Six Nations Player of the Championship, becoming just the second Italian to claim the illustrious award. The 21-year-old thoroughly deserved it, too, after a superb tournament. Congrats Tommy!

Saracens’ recruitment: Filling Owen Farrell’s void at Sarries was never going to be easy, but the Premiership title holders have hedged their bets on two bright talents, announcing the signing of Crusaders star Fergus Burke and Newcastle’s impressive rookie Louie Johnson. Both players look to be fine fits, and while a transition period will be required, the Saracens recruitment team looked to have done a fantastic job.

Michael Hooper takes to the sevens stage:ย The most capped Wallabies captain finally made his Sevens debut for Australia after deciding to make the switch last year. It did not take long for him to find his feet and show off his breakdown prowess in the opening game before featuring throughout. It was not quite the electric transition that Antoine Dupont had but certainly an encouraging one with Australia finishing fourth in Hong Kong.

Sam Whitelock bows out on his terms: A true great of the game announced that he will be hanging up his boots at the end of the season as the most capped All Black of all-time bows out at the age of 35. Few players get the chance to decide when their international and playing career will come to an end but Whitelock has and makes the call, despite the interests of All Blacks coach Scott Robertson in getting him back into the Test setup. Enjoy retirement, Sam; that was a hell of an innings.

Siya Kolisi injured as Toulouse cruise past Racing 92 to book final Champions Cup quarter-final spot

COLD AS ICE!

Fijian Drua thuggery:ย A solid start to the Fijian Drua’s clash against the Melbourne Rebels quickly turned sour when a yellow card from Leone Roitusolia opened the door for the Australians to pull the scoreboard back. This turned even more sour after a moment of madness from Frank Lomani, who shockingly elbowed an opponent in the back of the head. The scrum-half still tried to argue his red card despite it being reckless and very dangerous. Almost unbelievably things got worse just minutes before full-time as replacement front-row Jone Koroiduadua lost his cool and head-butted a Rebels player after a scrum. He too was sent off for his actions in a very bad look for the club.

Alleged racist abuse:ย What followed Lomani’s red card was a disgraceful incident where a member of the crowd allegedly threw a racial slur at the Fijian. The scrum-half reacted and the situation got heated in the stands with the ‘supporter’ being ejected from the stadium. Irrespective of Lomani’s actions on the field, there is absolutely no space for racism in rugby or in society, and a zero tolerance mindset must be applied at all times.

Dreadful Saracens:ย The London side may have been without veteran Farrell but it was a disastrous round of 16 clash against Bordeaux, who spectacularly managed six tries against the Premiership side. Saracens only managed two as they went down 45-12 in a poor performance. It is certainly back to the drawing board for the side who will need to improve dramatically if they are to defend their Premiership title.

Disappointing Lyon:ย The French side were drawn against the Bulls in the Champions Cup round of 16 but decided to leave their focus on the Top 14 as they changed all but three of their starting XV for the clash in Pretoria. This ultimately resulted in a resounding 59-19 defeat to the Bulls. Of course, the introduction of South African sides adds to the travel schedule of European teams, but to completely disregard a play-off match in the biggest club tournament in the world is disappointing.

Stormers injuries:ย It was a Champions Cup classic in Cape Town as the Stormers very nearly knocked holders La Rochelle out of the tournament but it came at a massive cost. The hosts lost Springbok Deon Fourie in the first period to what looks to be a season-ending injury before Hacjivah Dayimani and Salmaan Moerat both left the field due to severe concussions that had the stretcher involved. Adding to that was work horse Ben-Jason Dixon, who was forced off the field in the first half. It is now a double whammy for the Capetonians, who not only get kicked out of the tournament but will now scramble to fill the void as they push for the United Rugby Championship play-offs.

Wilfrid Hounkpatin:ย The one-cap Les Bleus prop has been handed a 12-month suspended prison sentence for domestic abuse after attacking his partner who was hiding in a locked bedroom at the time. He claimed he was under emotional stress at the time due to the demands of rugby but, whether or not that was the case, it does not matter as there is no place for domestic abuse in society and the Castres prop has rightly been punished for his horrific actions.

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