Tuesday, December 09, 2014
The Dubai Sevens produced another thrilling weekend of rugby 7's, with some sensational tries scored over the course of the two days. Here is a look at seven of the best, which features a strong South African presence, with the likes of speedster Seabelo Senatla crossing for some great tries.
The South Africans won the tournament, beating Australia 33-7 in the Cup final.
The women's world series was also fascinating to watch, with some high quality play. You can view the best seven tries from that after the jump, on page two of this post.
Monday, December 08, 2014
Brad Thorn rolled back the years as he scored a try for Leicester Tigers in their 25-21 victory over defending European champions Toulon at Welford Road. The win keeps their qualification hopes alive and ends the French sides nine-match winning streak.
Owen Williams kicked Leicester to victory as the only try of the game was scored by Thorn, still scoring tries at the now vintage age of 39-years-old. Williams picked up a personal points haul of 20, with his conversion and six penalties.
Bryan Habana and Drew Mitchell both scored well taken tries for Toulon, but it was Williams' Man of the Match performance with the boot that got the 2001 and 2002 champions the win.
Leicester Tigers' Richard Cockerill said that while winning at home is great, taking on the European champions in their own backyard in next weekend's Round 4 clash will be a massive challenge.
"It's a great win. It is the best we have probably played for 18 months," he said.
"It will be twice as hard to go there and win next week. Toulon will be really cheesed off, and it really doesn't get any more difficult than that."
Watch the rugby World Cup to see more of these stars in action next year.
These highlights are in French but you can view short, English highlights on the official site here
credit: total rugby
Sunday, December 07, 2014
Sam Burgess played just 28 minutes in his second outing for Bath, a 30-5 Champions Cup pool stage win over Montpellier. He came off the bench and got stuck in as only he can, throwing his considerable weight around, but almost landing in hot water.
Bath led 23-0 at the break so by the time he came on, the victory was all but secured as Montpellier struggled after having two players sent to the sin bin in the first half. Bath scored three tries in total, one to prop Henry Thomas, a penalty try and then a second half score for Leroy Houston.
Burgess' was eased into the game in a comfortable situation again, although that can't be said for the weather, which was miserable. He did well to impose himself, but was lucky that the referee chose not to taker a more stringent view of the tackle on Charles Geli that got the crowd fired up.
"That's the way he is. We're not going to change hi," said Bath coach Mike Ford of the tackle.
"He's going to be our enforcer a little bit with the way he defends. We're pleased with where he is.
When asked if he was thinking about giving Burgess his first start next weekend, Ford said: "Yes, I am. But we will watch the game, review it and decide early next week.
"It's disappointing that both games he has come on it has been raining, so we've not had much chance to use him, but he has done well so far," the Bath coach, and father of George, added.
Bath lost their opening two European Rugby Champions Cup matches, so this win takes them to five points in total, three behind Toulouse and four away from Glasgow Warriors.
Those two meet this afternoon, so the chances of Bath making the knockout stages are slim. Whatever happens, all eyes will be on Slammin Sam Burgess as his rugby union journey continues.
Saturday, December 06, 2014
South Africa climbed to second spot on the overall HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series table after a powerful display in the knockout stages of the Dubai Sevens, where they beat both New Zealand (28-0) and Australia (33-7) on the way to the title.
Following a fourth place showing at the Gold Coast in October, they are now just two points behind Fiji, who lead the standings on 39 points ahead of the next round in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.
They conceded just seven points on Day Two, while scoring 101 with victories over Argentina (40-0), series champions New Zealand, and finalists Australia.
The Australian side beat Fiji in extra-time of a thrilling semi final, and despite having an early intercept chance in the final, they couldn't keep up with South African's intensity on defence and at the breakdown, and their lethal finishing out wide.
Flyer Seabelo Senatla scored another two tries, following on from his hat-trick against Argentina, while Kwagga Smith showed great heart throughout, and picked up a hat-trick against New Zealand.
"We tried to play with variation and the guys really bought into the plan. The players deserve the credit for an outstanding display," said coach Neil Powell.
"We are not the biggest team on the circuit, but we are very physical and don’t stand back for any team in the tackle. Our form at the breakdown area was very good and we really took our scoring opportunities well," he added.
Pool Draw for next leg
The 16 teams now fly to South Africa for Round 3 in Port Elizabeth. The Pool draw was made earlier, so Dubai champions South Africa will face Wales, USA and Kenya in Pool A, while Argentina, Portugal and the non-core side Zimbabwe await Dubai runners-up Australia in Pool B.
Series leaders Fiji play Scotland, France and Canada in Pool C, with Pool D incredibly tough as Japan join Samoa, England and New Zealand.
Log after two rounds:
1. Fiji 39 points | 2. South Africa 37 | 3. Australia 28 | 4. New Zealand 28 | 5. Samoa 27
Below are highlights from Day Two, featuring the knockout stages. View Day One highlights
Thursday, December 04, 2014
European club rugby returns this weekend with fixtures that are crucial to the qualification hopes of clubs in both the Champions Cup and the Challenge Cup. Here is a look at the first ever European Cup match, and a weekend preview.
This short piece celebrates 20-years of European professional club rugby, as it looks back at the very first Heineken Cup match that took place this week way back in 1995, in Romania.
This coming weekend however, the leading clubs in three of the five Champions Cup pools will battle it out, with RC Toulon and ASM Clermont Auvergne – currently first and second in the Top 14 – as well as PRO12 table-toppers, Munster, all involved in key match-ups.
Leicester Tigers, who will break the one million fans barrier for European matches at Welford Road, host reigning champions, Toulon, in Pool 3 on Sunday with the French heavyweights aiming for a 10th successive victory in Europe's top flight. The clubs have met once before in Europe with Toulon emerging 21-15 winners in the 2013 quarter-final at Stade Mayol.
The Pool 1 clash of Munster and Clermont on Saturday will stir memories of previous big European games between the clubs, notably the 2013 semi-final in Montpellier when Clermont came through 16-10. A win for Munster at their Thomond Park citadel would bring up a 100th win in European competition (including one in the Challenge Cup) for the club.
Toulouse are also on the cusp of a piece of history as a victory over Pool 4 leaders, Glasgow Warriors, at Stade Ernest Wallon on Sunday would mean a 100th win in Europe's top tier. In-form Glasgow will have other ideas and will be looking for a reprise of 2009 when they pulled off a rare success on French soil with a 33-26 win against the four-time tournament champions.
Two more unbeaten clubs go head-to-head in Round 3 with the Twickenham Stoop a sell-out for the visit of Leinster Rugby who are second to Harlequins in Pool 2 only on points difference.
TV Coverage this weekend:
All 20 Champions Cup games will be broadcast live either on BT Sport or Sky Sports with extensive coverage in France. The action will also be televised in the USA on ESPN, in Asia on Setanta, in Australia on beIN Sports, in South Africa on Supersport and in the Pacific Islands on Digicel.
Credit: European Rugby Champions Cup/Total Rugby
Wednesday, December 03, 2014
Wales skipper Sam Warburton was excellent against South Africa at the weekend, not only leading his troops to victory but also by imposing himself at the breakdown. In this quality Rugby Tonight Pitch Demo, he explains how to secure breakdown possession.
One of the most frustrating ways to lose the ball for fans and players alike is when someone makes a break and is either isolated, or the support simply isn't there quickly enough. This often results in a turnover as the defensive side gets a man over the ball to either snatch it, or claim a penalty.
Here Warburton gives three different examples of scenarios you can be faced with, and explains how to counter them. As he says, while breakdown turnovers get a lot of attention, securing your own ball is often much more valuable as a side aims to build continuity and momentum.
"You might have 10 to 15 jackal attempts if you're pretty busy in defence," Warburton explains. "When attacking, you might hit 30 to 40 rucks in an international game. So attacking focus at the breakdown is probably slightly more important."
Warburton says that you have either a ball threat or a jackal threat, and you deal with them differently. He breaks things down excellently, so this is definitely one to watch for coaches, youngsters and even seasoned pros who could do with some tips from one of the best.
credit: BT Sport
Poor Stuart Olding. His head must look similar to a rugby ball, because for the second time this season his attractive cranium has been roughed up by a boot. This time it was Munster lock Donncha O'Callaghan who did it, and has been suspended.
The incident occurred early in the second half of the Munster and Ulster Thomand Park clash last week Friday. When Olding needed medical attention it wasn't clear to see what happened at first, but replays showed that O'Callaghan's boot made contact with his head.
The 94 times capped Ireland lock appeared before a disciplinary committee in Glasgow, having been cited for allegedly kicking Olding in the Guinness Pro12 match.
They reviewed footage of the incident and listened to representations from, and on behalf of, O'Callaghan. They found that he had committed an act of foul play and upheld the citing complaint.
Their view was that the player's actions had been reckless, but that the primary contact with the opponent had been on his shoulder and chest area. In terms of seriousness, his actions were at the lower end of World Rugby's sanctions for foul play, which carries a 4 week entry-point suspension.
In light of mitagating factors and due to O'Callaghan's clean record over a long playing career, together with his conduct at the hearing, the committee determined that he should be suspended from playing for a period of two weeks, up to and including Sunday, 14 December 2014.
"The committee accepted the action was not intentional," said Munster's team manager.
The ban rules the 35-year-old out of back to back fixtures against Clermont in the European Champions Cup, starting this Saturday at home, before the reuturn fixture in France on Dec 14th.
Olding, who was kicked in the head by Romain Taofifenua just over a month ago (resulting in a three week ban), left the field for treatment but came back on and finished the match.
View the incident below, and official highlights from the match on page two