Tuesday, April 29, 2014
Jonny Wilkinson kicked six penalties and a drop goal to help Toulon keep their dream of successive Heineken Cup titles alive as they beat Munster 24-16 in a tense battle in Marseilles on Sunday. Munster scored the only try of the game, through Simon Zebo.
Former England star Wilkinson helped the French side reach the Cardiff final, where they will face Saracens at the Millennium Stadium on 24 May. He kicked 21 points, while Delon Armitage added a massive penalty kick from about 55m out.
Toulon are now on track for a European and domestic double, and a chance of becoming the third side to ever successfully defend the title. Leicester and Leinster are the other two who did it before.
"It was a hell of a game and we were in danger everywhere on the field," said Wilkinson.
"A five point lead was never going to be enough and even eight was tight - Munster were relentless and kept going at us. We've heard nothing but good stuff about Saracens. They are top of the Aviva Premiership and are consistent week in, week out.
"To beat Clermont Auvergne with a scoreline like that is incredible – it’s normally the other way round with them. We have an enormous amount of respect for them."
He is now on 100 points for the season, and on course to better the 108 he totalled last season.
The final will feature a great match up between Wilkinson and Owen Farrell. Should the match be tied and go through extra time, with both teams having scored the same amount of tries, it will go to a place kicking penalty shoot-out contest, as it did in the 2009 semi final.
Posted at 11:06 am | 10 comments
Monday, April 28, 2014
The Chiefs lost 41-23 to the Brumbies on Friday night, their second loss in succession following the narrow defeat to the Crusaders a week prior. Here's a quick comical moment from early on in the game, when forward Nick Crosswell had his jersey ripped off, but played on anyway.
A week earlier it happened to Brodie Retallick, and we've seen the same thing happen to Sharks flanker Jean Deysel before, where his jersey was ripped off by Rene Ranger, but he played on.
You can view a few funny similar incidents in the Related Posts below, including some great ball in the jersey tricks from years gone by. Mamuka Gorgodze's in particular is worth seeing.
Posted at 9:08 am | 2 comments
Sunday, April 27, 2014
Saracens cruised through to the Heineken Cup Final following a physically dominant performance against Clermont at Twickenham. They reach the final for the first time, where they will hope to back up their 46-6 victory with a win over champions Toulon.
Saracens flew out the blocks and put in a mammoth physical effort in the first twenty minutes at HQ. Namibian Jacques Burger and South African Schalk Brits in particular were everywhere, with Burger chopping down runners and Brits adding his usual finesse with ball in hand.
Man of the Match Burger made 27 tackles in what was one of the finest tackling displays ever seen.
"You talk about putting your body on the line, there's no one that does it more than him. When you see people hitting like that it makes you want to do it," said teammate Owen Farrell.
"I know if I was playing against him, you'd be looking for where he is all the time because you wouldn't want him hitting you from the blindside," he added.
By halftime Saracens were 24-6 up, following a Chris Ashton try and a contentious Nigel Owens awarded Penalty Try and yellow card for Clermont flyhalf Brock James. They also scored through Farrell, who eventually got on the end of a nice bit of play down the right hand flank.
Ashton picked up an opportunistic try in the second half, taking him to a record tally for this seasons tournament, and his second of the match. With under ten minutes left, he got his hands on the ball again and sparked a well created try for Chris Wyles, as Clermont looked dead and buried.
Tim Streather added a try late in the game as Saracens completed a very impressive showing that totally blew the French side off the park. They'll face the Top 14 leaders in the final, following Toulon's victory over Munser in the second Semi Final earlier today.
Below are quick highlights of the match, featuring the tries that were scored
Posted at 7:23 pm | 51 comments
Toulon face Munster in the Heineken Cup Semi Final today with all English eyes on the player there has been a lot of talk about this week, Steffon Armitage. He's been in a rich vein of form and will be one to watch as Toulon aim for another European title.
Last weekend Armitage scored this try against Perpignan in the Top 14. Yes, he was up against a winger but it's just an example of how lethal he can be in a relatively small space. That's just one element of his game that has made the likes of Will Greenwood sit up and notice.
"Steffon could be a catalyst for change, especially if England are serious about leaving no stone unturned in their attempt to mount a credible challenge at the next World Cup," Greenwood said.
England's policy is such that they won't select players based abroad, unless it's in 'exceptional circumstances'. That gives players like Armitage a slim chance of making a comeback, and fans the belief that if his form is such that it can't be ignored, he should be selected for the national setup.
"Armitage is the best back-row forward in Europe at present – he really is," Greenwood continued.
"His performances have been spectacular and I am betting on another strong one in the Heineken Cup semi-final against Munster to push his case further. Last week, he dominated another big game when Perpignan took their home tie to Barcelona and Armitage's Toulon side steamrollered them.
"Armitage, at No 8, was at the heart of everything that was good. He is powerful, he has a low centre of gravity and he is so quick he could play in the centre. He has superb hands, a total desire to win, massive anaerobic capacity and is magnificent at the breakdown."
Former Springbok and current Toulon back rower Juan Smith has said he'd be surprised if Armitage doesn't get taken to the Rugby World Cup next year. "He is one of the most special guys I have ever played with. Steffon Armitage is one of the best openside flankers in the world at the moment, so to not take that guy to the World Cup will be a big mistake."
These are just some of the plaudits Armitage has received of late, and with another big performance against today, he may just force Stuart Lancaster to reconsider their position.
"Stuart said that the RFU rules are probably not going to change but that the door is not wholly closed," Armitage himself explained. "Of course I'd love to play for England again."
If Lancaster decides to go for it or not remains to be seen, but it's clear that despite some serious competition in the England squad loose-forward ranks, you'd be hard-pressed to find a player in better form than Steffon Armitage currently.
Posted at 12:38 pm | 21 comments
Friday, April 25, 2014
We've seen a number of different types of balls to the head over the years (like any good hooker), but this one from last weekend's Premiership is a bit of a puzzler. The touch judge watches George Ford's kick all the way, gets in position, then at the last minute just lets it him in the face.
In truth it's actually not the funniest of funnies, but it is Friday today, so there you go.
There are more Falcons listed in the Related Posts below. They're always good for a cheap laugh.
Posted at 6:58 pm | 7 comments
Thursday, April 24, 2014
He's even got his own song now. Yes, just when you thought you hadn't heard about Force winger Nick Cummins for a while (about a week?), a musician has released this gem of a track as an ode to the cult hero. It features some of the Honey Badger's best bits, including a one-armed brick layer, a bag of meat and a rat up a drainpipe.
Written and produced by Denis Carnahan, this parody of the classic tune Hallelujah has spread far and wide since being uploaded yesterday. It's not just Australians who love it either - fans from across the globe have embraced the Badgerisms we've been treated to of late.
In the words of Carnhan himself, he describes this piece as: "A song dedicated to Rugby's master of the simile, the Poet of Perth, the most Australian man in the world, Nick "The Honey Badger" Cummins. If you haven't heard of him, you should have. Google him. He's awesome."
If you're a fan, you'll love this. And if you were wondering about the Waratahs ball at the end, it's a nod to the hat-trick the Badge scored against the Sydney powerhouses recently.
You can follow Denis on Twitter at @DenisCarnahan, and watch more of Cummins' pearls of widsom and great play in the Related Posts below. He'll be going off like a bag of cats if you do.
Posted at 5:43 pm | 32 comments
Shane Geraghty had an eventful game on his return to Franklins Gardens. Geraghty, who left Northampton Saints for Brive in 2011, was smashed by centre George Pisi on more than one occasion, but soldiered on to put in a gritty performance.
London Irish looked dead and burried as they trailed 29-0 after 58 minutes, but three tries gave them hope, with skipper Geragthy scoring the second as part of a valiant fight back.
They got within 8 points but a late Saints try sealed the result, with the home side winning 36-21.
Geraghty's performance has drawn praise from London Irish boss Brian Smith, who said that the former Saints flyhalf was actually suffering really badly from George Pisi's big tackle.
"Shane got cleaned up with Pisi nailing him in the first half. He came out of the line. We had a good look at the tackle and it wasn't high or late, it was a good shot," explained Smith.
"Shano was quite ill. He was throwing up for the next five or 10 minutes on the park and we kept a good eye on him and suggested he doesn't eat quite as much lunch and doesn't have shrimp.
"It was a good shot and it really rattled his cage, but he's a tough kid, a tough competitor and he obviously masterminded the comeback. I can't speak highly enough of Shane. He was a London Irish Academy player and I was delighted to work with him at Irish and in the England setup.
"He went to Northampton for a couple of seasons and then off to France, but he's come back and he's really grown up. He's a man's man now.
"He's a terrific character and even when he came off, the Northampton fans showed their respect for him. They're a knowledgable rugby crowd and he deserved an honourable mention, even though he didn't get the man of the match prize," he added.
You can view the huge hit below, and highlights from the match on page two of this post
Posted at 8:30 am | 4 comments