Monday, May 25, 2015
Waratahs tight forwards Will Skelton and Tolu Latu have been suspended for two and four weeks respectively following a lifting tackle against the Crusaders on Saturday. In a repeat of last year's Super Rugby final, the Waratahs won the match 32-22.
Skelton was involved in a few incidents that had to be checked by the TMO, with the shoulder shot on Richie McCaw one that Crusaders fans wouldn't have been too happy with.
This challenge, combined with hooker Tolu Latu, has resulted in a two week ban for the giant, with Latu, who was yellow carded, picking up four weeks on the sidelines.
"Two offending players, Skelton and Silatolu Latu, were involved in the incident," said SANZAR's Robert Stelzner SC, who precided over the disciplinary hearing.
"Latu played a more active role in the lifting and twisting of their opponent, Sam Whitelock, contributing more significantly to the end result than Skelton. Skelton nevertheless also lifted and twisted Whitelock in the tackle, which is why he too was found to have breached the applicable Law.
"Given the lesser extent of his involvement however, the sanction in the case of Skelton did not in my view warrant an increase from the entry level sanction to serve as a deterrent.
"He was unaware of the actions of his fellow player, Silatolu Latu, and although he dropped his opponent after he had lifted and turned him, it appeared that Latu was the player who had continued with the tip tackle causing their opponent to land in the manner in which he ultimately did."
Law 10.4 (j) Lifting a player from the ground and dropping or driving that player into the ground whilst that player’s feet are still off the ground such that the player’s head and/or upper body come into contact with the ground is dangerous play.
The Waratahs plan to appeal the bans, while coach Michael Cheika was pleased with Skelton's menacing influence around the park. He defended his tackling technique.
"I'm not sure what he's done wrong with his tackling technique, he's just been tackling guys. The thing with Whitelock was a little bit unfortunate because he was just trying to get him down on the ground. Two guys like that can't really know what the other is doing.
"Will is taller than everyone, so he doesn't really tackle in the traditional style, of getting down. He wraps arms around and he goes to the upper body to wrestle guys to the ground a bit more because he's a big guy."
Francois Steyn was recently banned for a tip tackle that also involved another player, so while the incidents aren't identical, it's interesting that on this occasion both tacklers received bans.
Sunday, May 24, 2015
Glasgow Warriors will play Munster in the final of the Guinness Pro12 at Kingspan Stadium in Belfast next weekend after both sides triumphed in two tantalising home semi-finals.
The Warriors struck late to beat Ulster at Scotstoun to reach their second consecutive final while Munster overcame a last minute scare to overcome the Ospreys in Limerick to secure their first final since 2011 where they beat Leinster 19-9.
Glasgow 16-14 Ulster
Despite having the crucial home advantage, Glasgow looked out of sorts for the large majority of the encounter. Ulster took the lead after 30 seconds through a Ruan Pienaar penalty but two kicks from Finn Russell and Stuart Hogg gave the home side a 6-3 lead.
The visitors had plenty chances in the opening 40 minutes and if not for desperate Glasgow defence and the occasional handling error, Ulster should have scored earlier than they did. Chris Henry's well worked 18th minute try gave Ulster a deserved lead and increased momentum.
Glasgow's indiscipline and inaccuracy seemed to have got the better of them and Gregor Townsend's men looked at times, a defeated side. A further two Russell penalties sandwiched a second Pienaar kick to leave the scores standing at 11-9.
Pienaar looked to kick the final nail into the Glasgow coffin with a superb long range penalty to give Ulster a 14-9 lead with little more than 10 minutes left on the clock. But Glasgow fought back brilliantly and, after several piercing attacks, a perfectly weighted Russell pass floated into the hands of Canadian international wing DTH van der Merwe who scored the equalising try.
Russell then consummately slotted the touchline conversion under immense pressure to ultimately secure the win.
Munster 21-18 Ospreys
Having scored three tries and raced into a 21-8 lead, Munster seemed to be coasting to another League final. But Ospreys came roaring back and nearly caused one of the biggest upsets in the league's history.
An ebb and flow first half saw neither side gain much momentum but as half-time approached it was Munster who struck first with a superbly worked try for Simon Zebo. An inside ball from half-back Ian Keatley put Number 8 CJ Stander into open space before neat hands from flanker Paddy Butler sent Zebo in for an easy finish.
From then on it seemed as though Munster would continue to flex their muscles. A further try from Denis Hurley just after half-time saw the home side extend their lead to 16-3. But a loose pass off the back of a scrum from Stander was beautifully picked up by on-coming Ospreys scrum-half Rhys Webb reduced the gap to eight points.
Munster responded almost immediately and scored their third try courtesy of Paddy Butler's 49th minute score. The flanker ran a superb line and used his considerable bulk to power over the line to make it 21-8.
But such was the nature of the encounter, the Ospreys did not relent and scored a spectacular solo try from winger Jeff Hassler relit the match once more.
With the match on a knife edge, the Ospreys thought they had scored in the 80th minute through Josh Matevesi. But after sensibly checking with his TMO, referee Nigel Owens confirmed that Webb had indeed knocked on at the beginning of the attack, thus giving Munster a dramatic win.
Poor James O'Connor. Things just didn't go well for him against the Sharks on Friday night, including a bit of a halftime spat with a team mate, then late in the game with this absolute howler of a kick that landed square in the bread basket of Stefan Ungerer.
The first half was frustrating for O'Connor and the Reds, who went 10-0 down within 15 minutes following a try from Sharks number nine, Ungerer.
By halftime it was 16-7 and on the hooter O'Connor, Adam Thomson and Will Genia failed to take advantage of a bit of space down the blindside. O'Connor was visibly frustrated, and that boiled over into the change room, as cameras caught he and All Black Thomson having a full go at one another. Genia was peacemaker, and later played down the incident.
With ten minutes left in the game the former Wallaby star received a loopy pass from Karmichael Hunt then screwed the clearing kick straight into the arms of Ungerer, who incredibly had actually just pulled a muscle as he attempted to place pressure on the kick.
He gave up the chase, but must have been as shocked as everyone else as the ball landed straight in his arms, allowing him to stride a few paces, injured leg and all, and dive over for his second try of the night.
"It was a brilliant catch and James O’Connor was devastated," said Tim Horan of the incident.
The mistimed kick summed up the night, and at times the season, as the Reds chances seemed to fade away as the Durban based Sharks held on for a much needed 21-14 win.
"It's a team sport. You never like seeing individuals take a blow like that," said Reds skipper James Slipper. "It's obviously not what we wanted but we're going to have to rally around him."
See more Bloopers and bizarre bits of play in the See It To Believe It section
Friday, May 22, 2015
As the official ticketing partner of Aviva Premiership Rugby, StubHub UK are offering supporters the chance to witness the thrills and spills of rugby's most prestigious club final, which is set to take place at Twickenham Stadium on May 30th.
This weekend sees the semi finals taking place, with defending champs Northampton Saints hosting Saracens at Franklin's Gardens, and Bath hosting Leicester Tigers at the Rec.
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A little bit of showmanship can be harmless, but on occassion it puts you in a position to really end up with egg on your face. This is what happened with Treviso's Henry Seniloli last weekend, and his finger pointing try celebration came a little early against the Scarlets.
The Fiji capped number nine was on the way to finishing an excellent team try, but just seconds after doing a Delon Armitage/George North point at Scott Williams, he was held up, lost the ball and injured himself in the process. Ouch. And the injury probably hurt too.
It was a great effort from Williams to stop the try, but Seniloli's shameless showboating was to blame, and it was a gaff that arguably cost his side the game.
They were leading 13-3 at the time, but went down 17-13 in the end. You can view highlights from the match, and all the others, in our PRO12 highlights wrap from Round 22.
It's not the first time we've seen players showboating then mess up, and it definitely won't be the last. See our related posts for a list of some of the worst (or best to watch?) over the years.
credit: Observatoire Béarnais
We have already seen two cracking tries from speedster Carlin Isles during the USA's shock semi final demolition of England in last weekend's HSBC Sevens World Series finale at Twickenham. But as the latest World Rugby highlights reel shows, there were plenty more scorchers to marvel at during an enthralling conclusion to the season.
Arguably the pick of the bunch was a scintellating effort from England's Marcus Watson, who showed a spectacular turn of speed and fantastic footwork in the hosts' quarter final against New Zealand - a match that guaranteed Olympic qualification for the Great Britain combined team next year in Rio de Janeiro.
Fiji pleased the record Twickenham crowd with a typically flamboyant try finished by Isake Katonibau after a sumptuous series of offloading and support play that has characterised the way the Flying Fijians have played for decades.
Tournament winners USA - managed by former England and Kenya 7s coach Mike Friday - showed significant strength to overpower Australia 45-22 in the final. Danny Barrett scored two tries including a bulldozing effort that started inside his own half.
Thursday, May 21, 2015
Canadian former Sevens star, Taylor Paris, scored a sensational counter-attacking try for Agen from all of 105m out in the French second division, PRO D2, semi final at the weekend. It was what is sometimes called a 14-point turnaround, and proved vital in the end.
Paris scored twice in what was an amazing game of rugby that ended 32-32 after extra time and 100 minutes of rugby. Agen progressed due to scoring more tries on the day.
A few minutes after halftime Perpignan were hot on attack and came within inches of scoring, but the ball was turned over so Agen swung it wide behind their own tryline. Paris did the rest, beating one defender on the outside to sprint over 100m to score a thrilling try.
Agen went through to the final as they scored 4 tries against Perpignan's 3. Agen will face Stade Montois in the PRO D2 final this coming Sunday.
You can view a quick highlights report from the match on page two