Tuesday, April 14, 2015
With slightly less controversy than Round 8, but no less excitement, Round 9 of Super Rugby was awash with great tries, more surprise results and as always some brutal hits to cap it all off. The guys at Rugby HQ, led by Sean Maloney, have put together another recap.
In this week's Shortball compilation, keep an eye out for Cheslin Kolbe's outstanding solo effort, some impressive strength from Will Genia, another look at Willem Alberts' huge shoulder on Mark Richards, and an Aaron Smith penalty attempt he'd rather not remember.
It was a weekend where the underdogs got the bone, as the Blues and the Highlanders defeated the Brumbies and the Crusaders respectively, and the Stormers overturned the Waratahs for their first win on tour.
The Waratahs defeat means that along with the Brumbies, the Reds and Western Force, all four Australian sides who were playing lost, as the Rebels had a bye this week.
The spacing of each nations' top four conference sides within the overall table is interesting to note. Only 4 points separate the South African sides (the Bulls to the Sharks), whilst 11 points come between the New Zealand teams (the Hurricanes to the Crusaders), and a vast 17 points divide the Australian complement (the Brumbies to Western Force).
The completion of Round 9 means the Super Rugby season finds itself at the halfway point with the Hurricanes still out on top unbeaten - but there's a long way to go.
For more Shortball highlights head to our Plays of the Week section.
Grenoble welcomed the current European Champions, Toulon, to the Stade des Alpes for a Top 14 clash this past weekend. This big tackle that Australian flanker Peter Kimlin put on Leigh Halfpenny was far from welcoming however.
Since arriving at the French giants the Welsh fullback has suffered continually with injury troubles, but was starting to look like he was on a solid road to recovery.
A concussion against Italy in the final game of the Six Nations however meant it was back to the sidelines for the metronomic kicker. Having spent his time recovering, an air of excitement encapsulated the return of the Welsh wizard.
Grenoble back rower Kimlin, was not in a sympathetic mood however.
The visitors' openside, Mamuka Gorgodze, lumbered inside his man before lofting an unconventional and somewhat dooming pass to the waiting Halfpenny, which meant he had to stop his run to catch the ball.
After Halfpenny gathered in possession whilst flatfooted, an approaching Kimlin saw his opportunity to put a mammoth shoulder into the stationary target - and he did not miss.
The powerful hit actually caused a minor dislocation in Halfpenny's shoulder, and although bravely continuing to play for 10 minutes, the pain eventually forced him from the field.
The visitors proved too strong for Grenoble on the night, with the final score 23-35 to Toulon.
Initial reports say that Halfpenny is unlikely to play next week in their European Champions Cup semi-final against Leinster, and although Toulon are more than capable of filling the fullback role, the creative play and reliable kicking of the Welsh talisman are sure to be missed.
EXTRA: This came shortly after tank Mathieau Bastereaud had easily dismissed the attempted tackle of Grenoble number 8, Rory Grice. That contest can be seen on page 2.
For more enormous tackles head to our Big Hits section and view the Related Posts below
credit: Monsieur Wiko
Monday, April 13, 2015
The Pro12 supplied another dose of high quality rugby as the regular season begins to come to a close. In arguably one of the most unpredictable weekends of the season, 9th placed Dragons shocked former champions Leinster at Rodney Parade while the Scarlets survived a scare with a last minute penalty to beat Zebre in Parma.
Sunday, April 12, 2015
Making his debut for the Lions in Round 9 of Super Rugby this weekend, winger Mark Richards' evening ended early when he was left unconscious after taking a heavy knock from Sharks flanker, Willem Alberts.
Richards, a recognised success in sevens, was making his first appearance for the Lions since his return to 15-a-side rugby. Unfortunately the night didn't end as he, or many of the excited home fans, would have liked.
Lions' scrum-half Faf de Klerk chipped the ball over, but it bounced up awkwardly, as rugby balls so often do, and with credit to Richards for his commitment he kept his eyes locked on regaining possession.
Due to this however, he was unaware of Sharks' openside Alberts bearing down from the opposite direction with a similar desire to poach the ball from the air.
Alberts won the race, and after gathering in possession he continued to motor toward the approaching Richards, who was entirely unprepared to make a tackle as he had been hoping to have the ball himself.
The resulting collision sent the Lions' winger, who weighs 6 stone less than Alberts, down to the turf with a sickening thud.
The officials and medical staff were extremely quick to react and play was stopped as all safety precuations were observed to ensure Richards safety was paramount.
After a lengthy delay the brave winger was stretchered from the pitch, but thankfully was seen up and about on the sidelines during the second half.
Richards will take solace in the fact that the Lions extended their Super Rugby winning streak to four, after the final whistle left the Sharks trailing 21-23 on the night.
Alberts is well known for his aggression and powerful play, and in fact put in a monstrous hit on Jaco Taute in the same Super Rugby encounter back in 2010.
Check out the Related Posts or head to our Big Hits & Dirty Play section for more of the same
Friday, April 10, 2015
Leicester Tigers and former New Zealand second row Brad Thorn has announced his retirement from all forms of competitive rugby at the age of 40, after what can only be described as an outstanding career that has spanned an incredible 21 years.
Having been born in New Zealand, Thorn's family moved to Australia while he was in his mid-teens. In 1994 he made his rugby league debut for the Brisbane Broncos where he stayed for 6 years, playing 130 games and scoring 22 tries.
Whilst at the Broncos, Thorn won the Rookie of the Year award, his first Premiership title and also earned a call up to the Australia side to tour Great Britain. His reputation continued to grow as he was selected for the Queensland State of Origin side three times, and went on to win a further two Premiership Rings.
During this time Thorn quickly became known as a fearless rugby player, never one to back away from a challenge, and entering every contest with a desire to come out ahead.
Union side The Crusaders were first to put pen to paper when Thorn made it clear he desired a return to his homeland, New Zealand, and signed the monster lock.
Having initially declined an opportunity to represent New Zealand at 15-aside due to his uncertainty over his commitment to the code, Thorn changed his mind and went on to play as an All Black through the 2003 Rugby World Cup, including a thrilling encounter with Wales, going on to win the Tri-Nations with the Kiwis in the same year.
History was about to repeat itself however, and the All Black lock switched back to the National Rugby League in 2005, heading back to Australia and playing for the Broncos. Before his return to union in 2008, a further three State of Origin appearances and yet another Premiership Ring were added to Thorn's collection.
Far from finished with his haul of achievements, next on the checklist was winning the Super Rugby title with The Crusaders, swiftly accomplished in 2008.
In the 2008 Tri-Nations, Thorn was banned for one week after a dangerous tackle on South African forward, John Smit. The Springbok got his revenge a year later, when he blind-sided the Kiwi lock with a powerful and entirely legal hit.
A return to the national setup welcomed more Tri-Nations trophies in 2008 and 2010. His phenomenal work-rate and obvious desire to win did not go unnoticed and Thorn was a prominent feature for the All Blacks during their successful World Cup campaign of 2011.
In 2012 he joined Irish side Leinster on a three month contract, and featuring in the starting line-up for their Heineken Cup victory meant that Thorn became the first player ever to win a World Cup, a Super Rugby title and the Heineken Cup.
Having returned once again to the southern hemisphere to join the Highlanders, Thorn played his 100th Super Rugby game against the Sharks in 2013.
An unfortunate bicep injury made it seem that his stated goal of playing until he was 40 looked to be slipping away.
An extension to his career plans however saw him sign to Aviva Premiership club Leicester Tigers in late 2014, and once he finishes his season at the English based club, Thorn has announced he will retire, and lower the curtain on a truly extraordinary and impressive rugby career.
The video below shows some of Brad Thorn's highlights. Check out page 2 for another amazing video featuring Brad that was made before a Bledisloe Cup encounter last year.
Or head to the Related Posts below this for more Brad Thorn moments
Highlanders co-captain Nasi Manu signed recently for Scottish side Edinburgh, and will join them at the conclusion of the Super Rugby season in July. To go with the signing, we've pulled out this massive hit he made when just a schoolboy years back in New Zealand.
The imposing number 8 debuted for the Crusaders in 2008 at the age of 19 and played off the bench in their grand final victory that year. Manu switched over to the Highlanders in 2010 and has since become one of the franchises most consistent performers, while also amassing 71 caps for Canterbury in the ITM cup.
Injury wrote him off most of 2010 and 2013, and the Highlanders on-field performances suffered without him, 2013 in particular ending with an embarrassing 3 wins from 16 starts.
The emergence of Kieran Reed has cruelly blocked Manu from higher honours, with many considering him another victim of New Zealand's incredible breeding ground for talent.
Scottish fans will want to cool their jets though; unlike Sean Maitland, Manu does not qualify for the national side and in the past has signalled a preference to play for Tonga.
Manu's departure will leave a massive hole at the highlanders - he regularly leads the team for ball carries and tackles and captains from the front with intimidating physicality.
These are traits that have always been apparent, as this clip of Manu playing for Christchurch Boys High School in 2006 makes abundantly clear. Counter attacking from their own half Marlbrough spin the ball wide to their poor unsuspecting winger, who moments later gets absolutely crunched by a flying 17-year-old Manu.
Thursday, April 09, 2015
Former Ireland international and current Harlequins head coach Conor O'Shea recently sat down with World Rugby to discuss the Six Nations stars who will impress when the Rugby World Cup rolls into England in 162 days.
Finn Russell will apparently become "a heck of a player" for Scotland, while he was also impressed with Stuart Hogg at 15 and Jonny Gray who "is young but still a key player".
For Italy, O'Shea can't look past the "untouchable" Sergio Parisse, but he also stressed the need for a goal-kicking 10.
Morgan Parra and Francois Trinh-Duc were the French picks despite hardly featuring over the spring, while Wales' biggest issue is if tighthead prop Samson Lee can be match fit before the start of the tournament.
England was more difficult but O'Shea says the player that they need back is Manu Tuilagi, while he could have chosen a whole host of players for Ireland but "Jonny Sexton is Joe Schmidt on the pitch".
Which country can go the furthest? Apparently it's hard to look beyond England at home and Ireland form-wise, especially if the Irish can keep their key players like Sean O'Brien and Cian Healy fit. Those two to play each other in the semi-final before playing a southern hemisphere country in the final.
Is there anybody you think he missed? Who will be your country's shining light?