Who’s hot and who’s not: Superstars shine in Champions Cup, Peter O’Mahony signs on and chaos in Super Rugby Pacific… again

Dylan Coetzee
Split with Leinster players and Reds back-row Fraser McReight.

Split with Leinster players and Reds back-row Fraser McReight.

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.


Leinster overcome La Rochelle hoodoo: After losing two consecutive Champions Cup finals to the French side, Leinster emphatically dispatched La Rochelle 40-13 as Ross Byrne pulled the strings magnificently on Saturday with Jamison Gibson-Park and James Lowe also highly influential. The margin and nature of the win makes the Irish province firm favourites to go on and claim their fifth star in London.

Remarkable Harlequins: The Premiership side booked a first Champions Cup semi-final appearance ever in the only way Quins would; with high-octane drama! It was a dramatic game, 42-41 in the end, with a late Tyrone Green score proving decisive. Bordeaux have been in red-hot form of late but Quins managed to keep up with the French side, trading blow for blow in a magnificent game of rugby. The drama lasted right until the end when Maxime Lucu could’ve won the game for his side but missed the conversion to hand Quins a last-four spot.

Slick Northampton show their class: Much has been said of the Bulls’ team selection in the lead-up to the quarter-finals but Saints still had to take their chances to put away the Pretoria side and they did just that. The Premiership pace-setters absolutely turned up the heat and destroyed the Bulls, scoring nine tries to storm into the semis with loads of momentum – which will be vital as they prepare to face Leinster.

Peter O’Mahony signs on: The Irish skipper was not sure whether he would continue playing after this season and was seen to be hugely emotional in the Six Nations finale, with many believing it was his last Test match. However, he has finally signed on with Munster and the Irish Rugby Football Union for another year in a huge coup for Andy Farrell’s men. Graham Rowntree will also be delighted with the news.

Fan convicted for abusing referee: In a landmark moment, an Australian-based New Zealand fan was charged for the online abuse of Television Match Official Brian MacNeice following the England v Samoa World Cup clash. It serves as a positive step to curb the disgusting online abuse of match officials that has been on the rise in recent times. The perpetrator has been handed a $1000 12-month suspended fine.

TJ Perenara scores significant double: It has been a fairytale return from long-term injury for the veteran scrum-half, who clearly has not lost his prolific nature. Perenara bagged a clutch brace of tries to edge the Hurricanes past the Chiefs and stay at the summit of the Super Rugby Pacific table. It was a big performance from a big character who now sits alongside the great Julian Savea as the competition’s leading all-time try scorer. The fact that the All Black is up there as a scrum-half speaks volumes about his quality and one would only expect him to run away with the record on his own. A legend of the league and a legend of the game, who might not be done adding to his Test tally either.


Second-string Bulls: The decision by the Pretoria-based side’s director of rugby Jake White to leave 11 Springboks at home for their away Champions Cup quarter-final clash against Northampton has been hotly debated over the past few days. Many critics have accused the Bulls of devaluing the tournament and that they are prioritising the United Rugby Championship over the Champions Cup. While White denies this and defended his decision to field the matchday 23 which he did, the proof of the pudding is in the eating and the Bulls side which took on Saints weren’t as competitive as the one which had all those Springboks in and cruised to victory over Lyon in their round-of-16 clash the previous week. They were comprehensively outplayed by Saints and eventually suffered a 59-22 loss and conceded nine tries in the process.

More Super Rugby red cards: A week after Fijian Drua lost their head with two ridiculous red cards, the same happened again. This time the Reds were at fault with both Tate McDermott and Fraser McReight sent off for dangerous and completely unnecessary actions. Again this is a terrible look for the competition that has not made a concerted effort to punish players and force the improvement of tackle technique.

NZ Police opt against charging referee abusers: Although that rugby supporter in Australia was prosecuted for sending online abuse to a match official during the last year’s Rugby World Cup in France, New Zealand police last week confirmed that they will not be taking any further action against the perpetrator. This, despite World Rugby’s push for prosecution after the governing body monitored more than 900 social media accounts during last year’s tournament, including those belonging to all match officials and World Rugby’s official channels.

Bordeaux-Begles unrecognisable: Although Harlequins deserve plenty of credit for managing to beat the Top 14 outfit and, in doing so, clinching their spot in the Champions Cup semi-finals for the first time, questions will be asked of Bordeaux’s performance. Despite being without star performers like Matthieu Jalibert and Damian Penaud, UBB were expected to emerge victorious as they still had plenty of classy players in their ranks and they were playing on their home patch as well. However, it wasn’t to be as Bordeaux struggled to build momentum and came off second best in most facets, with the performance of their forwards particularly concerning as Quins’ pack dominated up front and ultimately paved the way to victory for their side. It was like chalk and cheese from the team’s previous performance against Saracens.

Ulster thumped at Clermont: The Belfast-based outfit have been struggling in the United Rugby Championship (URC) in recent weeks but entered their Challenge Cup quarter-final fixture against Clermont Auvergne in a confident mood after clinching a shock 40-17 away victory over Montpellier in their round-of-16 clash the previous week. However, there would not be repeat heroics from the Ulstermen in France as they were comprehensively put away by Clermont, who cruised to an emphatic 53-14 victory at the Stade Michel-Michelin. The home side were full value for their win as they outscored their opponents by seven tries to two and Ulster will now turn their focus to their URC campaign where they are involved in a tussle with several other sides to secure a spot in the play-offs. Big improvements are needed.

Short ban length for Fijian Drua headbutt: In another bad look for Super Rugby Pacific, Jone Koroiduadua of Fijian Drua, who was red-carded for head butting an opponent two weekends ago, only received a two-week ban. The act was deemed a low-end entry point with the Foul Play Review Committee deciding the contact had low force. This is just another example of Super Rugby not sufficiently punishing a player whose actions were clearly malicious.

READ MORE:  TJ Perenara equals Super Rugby try-scoring record in Hurricanes’ victory over Chiefs