Who’s hot and who’s not: Springboks youngster stars, Munster’s URC surge and a classless social media post

Jared Wright
Munster's two-try hero Antoine Frisch and Leicester Tigers' Jasper Wiese, who was red carded against Exeter Chiefs.

Munster's two-try hero Antoine Frisch and Leicester Tigers' Jasper Wiese, who was red carded against Exeter Chiefs.

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!

Sensational Sale: Few would have backed Sale Sharks to end their winless run at StoneX Stadium before kick-off in the Premiership on Saturday, but Alex Sanderson’s side beat the odds and sensationally booked their place in the semi-finals. It was a measured performance from the Manchester-based side, who held the defending champions out in a 20-10 result, their first away win at Sarries in almost 20 years. The win ended Bristol Bears’, Harlequins’ and Exeter Chiefs’ play-off hopes in emphatic fashion, and they now head to the Rec to face Bath.

Sharpshooter Cooney: Game on the line against their Inter-pro rivals with Ulster’s United Rugby Championship play-off hopes in the balance and John Cooney stepped up to deliver the crushing blow to Leinster and seal a famous 23-21 victory. It was a stunning win for the Belfast-based side, who have had their fair share of setbacks this season but continue to defy the odds, issuing Leinster’s home play-off run a blow.

Lethal Lions: The permutations for the Lions were pretty simple heading into the weekend’s action: win to stay in the race. But the task was a daunting one with the high-flying Glasgow Warriors visiting Ellis Park, and it only got worse when Ruan Venter was issued his marching orders after a first-half red card. However, they rose to the challenge, scoring some scintillating tries, grabbing six in total, and claiming a 44-21 bonus-point win.

Hat-trick Mood(ie): Just before the Lions’ epic win, the Bulls moved into second place in the United Rugby Championship standings, claiming a nine-try 56-35 victory over Benetton. Jake White’s charges were lethal in their approach with Springboks winger Canan Moodie grabbing a hat-trick with David Kriel and Kurt-Lee Arendse also impressing.

Table-toppers: Northampton may have been hammered 43-12 by Bath this weekend, but the Saints finished the regular season on top of the pile, winning 12 of their 18 Premiership fixtures. They will now host Saracens in the semi-finals after a stunning regular season. Over in the URC and it’s defending champions Munster who top the standings following eight successive league wins, leading to a shake-up in the top-four with Leinster and Glasgow Warriors dropping down to third and fourth respectively. It’s squeaky bum time in the URC heading into the final round. Finally, Toulouse selected a second-string squad for their Top 14 clash against Montpellier with their Investec Champions Cup final coming up. Still, Ugo Mola’s men rose to the challenge, claiming a 29-22 victory and cementing their place at the top of the table.

Japanese finalists: It was semi-final time in Japan this weekend as Panasonic Wild Knights and Canon Eagles clashed with the Toshiba Brave Lupus and Suntory Sungoliath respectively in the last four. Robbie Deans’ Knights maintained their perfect record in the competition, edging the Eagles 20-17, with Springboks centre Damian de Allende scoring a crucial try in the win. Meanwhile, Richie Mo’unga pulled the strings for Brave Lupus as they clinched the second final spot, defeating Suntory 28-20.

Premiership semi-finalists: After a memorable Premiership season, there are just four teams left: Northampton Saints, Bath, Sale Sharks and Saracens. There was still plenty to play for in the final round but really the best four teams over the course of the season have booked their place in the last stop before Twickenham.

We have launched a new WhatsApp channel where we will send the latest news and feature updates right to your fingertips, CLICK HERE to join.

BROKEN THERMOSTAT

Exeter social splits opinion: Henry Slade’s recommitment to the Chiefs ahead of next season was certainly popular for the Sandy Park faithful, but the manner in which it was confirmed was more hit-and-miss. The teaser video was incredibly ambiguous and while his re-signing was confirmed shortly afterwards, Exeter’s social media team was both praised and slammed for their tactic. The video was viewed over 500K times on X with responses ranging from “vacuous guff” to “incredible stuff”.

COLD AS ICE!

Scrum law amendment: The backlash hasn’t died off just yet as World Rugby’s decision to remove the scrum option from a free-kick continues to be criticised. Ex-international referee Nigel Owens is the latest to hit out at the governing body’s decision, adding that “we simply have to ensure that the scrum remains an integral part of the game. If it’s not, then we are going to lose these players – and damage the game itself.”

Stuart Hogg rumours: Newcastle boss Steve Diamond quickly poured ice-cold water over the reports that Stuart Hogg was in talks with the side to get back on the professional rugby field and doing so with the Falcons. Hogg retired from the sport ahead of the 2023 Rugby World Cup but his return would be controversial, given his ongoing court case over alleged domestic abuse and stalking allegations.

Ellis Genge setback: “Hopefully for England, it’s not as bad as it looks” is how Pat Lam reacted to the loosehead prop’s injury. He is now in a race to recover in time for the tour to New Zealand for two Test matches against the All Blacks and judging by the way he was helped off the pitch on Saturday, the signs are not good. We wish him a speedy recovery.

‘Fitting’ Wiese send-off: Jasper Wiese’s time at Leicester Tigers came to an abrupt end on Saturday when he was given his marching orders for dumping Exeter Chiefs’ back-rower Ross Vintcent on his head. While it was a disappointing end for Wiese, what was worse was RugbyPass’ post suggesting that it was “A fitting end for the Springbok.”

Winless Falcons: A forgettable season for Newcastle in the Premiership as they failed to win a single match, falling to 18 successive defeats in the league. They also manage just one win in the Challenge Cup and we are hopeful that Diamond can turn things around in 2024/25.

Lowly Crusaders: The defending Super Rugby Pacific champions’ season just continues to spiral downwards as they fell to their first defeat to the Brumbies in 15 years, and the manner in which it occurred was even more mind-blowing. A penalty try for slapping the ball out of play not only put the final nail in the Crusaders’ latest defeat but also effectively ended their hopes of making the knockout stages as the first post-Scott Robertson era kicked off with a whimper.

Montpellier Pro D2 bound? Top 14 champions from 2022, Montpellier, could well be plying their trade in France’s second division next season as they fell to their 16th defeat this season. Their latest was a 29-22 loss to a second-string Toulouse outfit and, as a result, they will now face the promotion-relegation play-off.

READ MORE: Premiership Team of the Week: Nick Easter rewards ‘world-class’ ex-All Black and admits ‘close call’ between George Ford and Finn Russell