Tuesday, February 19, 2019

80-word reviews from weekend Feb 15-17

In the cosy confines of Bridgend RFC both sides suffered from white line fever for 48m until a strong run and offload from MotM Stu McCloskey set up a chance which he ended up finishing himself. From there it was all about the stingy Ulster defence as they completely shut down the home side before a John Cooney penalty at the death denied them the losing BP. Young Michael Lowry looked useful at 10 until an HIA ended his evening.

On a wet windy Friday night in Cork the South Africans actually had a decent amount of early possession and territory but only the home side could make the most of their chances. They spaced their first four tries evenly and didn't earn the BP until Holland crossed on 60m. A pair of late Kings yellows opened the floodgates and Rory Scannell got number 7 at the death. Biggest concern for Munster (and Ireland) was Chris Farrell's early injury withdrawal.

An enthralling contest that defied the conditions and vindicated both the addition of SA teams and the conference format. The Cheetahs led for long periods with tries from Maxwane, Fouche and Venter but Connacht also managed three thanks to Farrell, McCartney and skipper Butler towards the end; the superior wisdom with the wild Western winds of Carty's boot proved the difference and denied the visitors a losing BP they probably deserved. A big boost for Connacht's playoff and Euro qualification hopes.

Benetton deserve credit for backing themselves as home team and playoff contenders, spurning 3-point penalty chances during their first half superiority but they only had a Halafihi try to show for it while Hardy and McNichol impressively converted rare Scarlet breaks down the other end. Things got better after the break and with McKinley pulling the strings they forged ahead with tries from Sperandino and Ruzza before a Marc Jones yellow and last-gasp lineout steal sealed the win.

Ironic for a high-scoring contest to be played in 'La Defense Arena' but the four-all final try tally very much flattered Racing. Mesmerizing contributions from Kolbe and outstanding finishes from Bonneval, Guitone and Tauzin meant this was over before the break. The Parisians came back to earn a BP at the death but if they are to prevail in the March Euro rerun they'll probably need emergency signing Dan Carter, especially with Finn Russell crying off injured early.

The Highlanders dominated early possession and territory but couldn't score until 15m through Parkinson. Once their hosts got going, thanks to leadership from Leinart-Brown and Retallick they got four tries of their own and a comfortable BP win looked certain. However the Otago-based franchise stayed in touch and despite a clumsy tackle from Tomkinson that saw red on 67m, a super cameo from Aaron Smith was capped by his late sniping try that nudged them ahead for good.


Definitely a match that justifies use of the word 'Super' for this type of rugby, and not just because the lead kept changing hands.  Non-stop intensity and self-belief by both sides from start to finish, and while the reigning champion Crusaders probably just about deserved the win, the home side will feel they could have had an extra man when a late knockon probably should have been deemed deliberate, plus the young Plummer missed a last minute penalty.


Taken by JLP from RDS press box on Nov 16, 2019