Tuesday, October 21, 2014
European rugby was back in full swing at the weekend as the opening round of the European Rugby Champions Cup (formerly Heineken Cup) got under way. Munster's 27-26 win at the death was the finish of the round on another fascinating day of the competition.
Flyhalf Ian Keatley channeled Ronan O'Gara as Munster came from behind to pull off a thrilling victory in Manchester with time up on the clock. The last ditch drop goal shattered hopes of an upset win for Sale, who had played so well to lead 23-7 at the break.
Munster bounced back well though and tries by Andrew Conway and Conor Murray got them close enough for Keatley to kick them to a dramatic victory, one O'Gara himself was proud of.
"I watched Munster go through the phases and when Zebo made that little break, I thought, 'this is on now, do it'," said the former Munster ten, who watched from his hotel room in Paris.
"When you’re not at the venue you don’t get a full appreciation of the conditions. I knew there was a strong wind and it appeared to be blowing straight down the pitch. People think that a shot from straight in front of the posts is easier but it’s not the case, from a technical perspective.
"I watched Keats' body language. He knew instantly that he had nailed it. He set it out a tiny bit to the right and basically black-dotted it. Instinct takes over in those situations. You can hit an awful lot of balls in practice but you can't replicate the pressure of a moment like that.
O'Gara praised the flyhalf's decision making under such pressure, after choosing to wait for a better chance rather than take the first on offer.
"There's an element of stupidity in taking on a kick where the chance of success is tiny and everything rides on the outcome. He showed experience, composure and trust in his team-mates that they could work another opportunity.
"It was a wonderful moment for him personally and the team. I’m delighted for him and it’s something he’ll take forward to other matches," he added.
Match highlights are below and we'll feature more best bits from the tournament this week
Saturday, October 18, 2014
The All Blacks came from behind to break Wallaby hearts in Brisbane and claim a dramatic 29-28 victory at Suncorp Stadium. To add to the misery, it was revealed post match that Wallaby head coach Ewen McKenzie has resigned with immediate effect.
In what was another classic match between the two sides, the Wallabies came within minutes of a famous victory over the world champions, and what would have been back to back losses for Bledisloe Cup holders.
Their late comback, sealed with a Malakai Fekitoa try and Colin Slade conversion, put an end to what should have been a momentous occasion for 100th Test cap earner, Adam Ashley-Cooper.
The centurion crossed for one of the Wallabies three tries, while the All Blacks scored four of their own, and came back from being 25-15 down. Aaron Smith brought them closer and then with the clock ticking down, and the score 28-22 in favour of the home side, the match looked out of reach.
Eventually impressive centre Fekitoa crossed, giving Slade, who is now the fourth choice flyhalf in New Zealand, and opportunity to slot the conversion and win the match, with time up.
After the match it was announced that coach McKenzie, who has been under immense pressure of late with the Kurtley Beale issues and speculation about his relationship with the team's former business manager, has resigned.
"I did not ask Ewen to resign, but understand his decision. He informed me this morning of his intention to resign, regardless of tonight’s result," said Australian Rugby Union CEO Bill Pulver.
"We sincerely wish Ewen well for the future professionally and personally."
The Wallabies leave this coming Friday for a testing end of year tour that sees them face the Barbarians, then Wales, France, Ireland and England. So they have a busy week of planning ahead.
"We hope to have the new Head Coach in place before the team leaves for the Spring Tour on Friday," added Pulver, who hinted that media pressure is what caused McKenzie to resign.
"Criteria for the role includes identifying a coach who can lead us to victory in next year’s Rugby World Cup; represents Rugby’s core values; has the support of the playing group; and is available."
Availability might turn out to be the most important factor over the next few days.
Thursday, October 16, 2014
Round nine of the National Rugby Championships (NRC) in Australia took place earlier with the first game providing us with what was quite possibly the worst ever decision on a rugby field, and the first ever 'Own Try' in rugby.
The Sydney Stars versus North Harbour Rays clash gave Mitch Lewis a chance to bag some meat and get on the scoresheet, but he never would have guessed it would be against his own team.
In football (or soccer) own goals aren't unsual, as defenders occasionally slot the ball into the back of their own net. In rugby however, no such thing exists, because when a player grounds the ball over his own tryline, it's a 5m scrum if carried over, or a 22m drop-out if not.
All that changed a few hours ago however, as a bizarre call resulted in the TMO and referee awarding what is quite possibly the first ever own try in rugby! Seriously.
The look on prop Lewis' face was priceless. At first he was probably concerned that he'd given away a 5m scrum, but when they went upstairs and awarded the try, he was absolutely gobsmacked.
Referee Ian Smith struggled to see who planted the ball, and with both teams having yellow at the top of their jerseys, the Television Match Official made an absolute hash of the decision. Sydney went on to win the match 49-40 against Lewis' North Harbour Rays.
credit: North Harbour Rays
Hard hitting number eight Chris Hala'ufia made this bone-jarring hit in the Aviva Premiership as he lined up and crunched Newcastle prop Scott Wilson. Unfortunately he then casually slapped him in the face, as if to further assert his dominance.
Hala'ufia only joined London Welsh two weeks ago, on a short term loan deal, providing injury cover for the Premiership new boys. The 35-year-old joined Scarlets during the off season but has yet to make an appearance, so the opportunity with London Welsh should provide some game time.
"Due to our mounting injury list we’ve brought in Chris to help fill the gap on a short-term basis," said London Welsh head coach Justin Burnell of the Tongan loose forward.
He put all of that at risk against Newcastle though, with the tackle perhaps viewed as borderline by some, but then the little slap afterwards all too unncecesary. It caused a bit of a scuffle but referee Wayne Barnes chose to only penalise him.
Barnes said that Hala'Ufia made initial contact below the shoulders, but slipped up high. It seems as though he didn't see the slap, because you'd think that if he had, he would have mentioned it.
Hala'ufia has a bit of a record for huge hits, sometimes illegal (see the Related Posts below this video for more), but in this case he probably got it spot on. The post tackle slap - albeit a soft one - on an injured player was totally uncalled for though.
Wednesday, October 15, 2014
Over the years Sevens has dished up some hilarious bloopers, as a few tryscorers have been way too casual over the tryline. This was the case at the Gold Coast Sevens last weekend, so here is a look at it, as well as a few other memorable blunders.
If you weren't able to follow the tournament on the weekend, we posted Gold Coast Sevens Highlights, which cover Day One and Two, including all the finals and a few extra clips in for good measure. One of those was this screamer from Fijian flyer Semi Kunatani, who was all too casual.
It was a combination of his complacency and the quick thinking from Scotland's Lee Jones, who spotted that the speedster was taking his time about things, as well as showing the ball some love. Jones swooped in with a powerful, well timed hit, so the ball popped loose and the try was wasted.
We've seen similar bloopers on the Sevens circuit before. One thinks back to England's Fijian born Isoa Damudamu and his shocker at Twickenham many years back, also kissing the ball (goodbye).
More recently a Japanese player celebrated a try at the Hong Kong Sevens with a huge dive, but left the ball behind, resulting in a few blushes. There were also two howlers at the Limerick World Club 7's in August, coincidentally also featuring a Fijian player.
Back in 2008 Wales' Tal Selley at least made the effort to get the ball down, but was caught from behind by USA speed merchant Zee Ngwenya, who knocked the ball out of his hand.
So we've seen it before and we'll see it again. Schoolboy errors, but fun to watch and this was a fantastic tackle by Jones. Fiji won the match 40-7 though, so probably weren't too bothered.
View all of the discussed bloopers, and more, in the Related Posts below this video
Tuesday, October 14, 2014
Richard Hibbard was throwing his weight around on the weekend against Saracens, as seen here when he and Sione Kalamafoni combined to knock back England centre Brad Barritt. Saracens won the match 28-21 but this was one of the bigger collisions of the contest.
Kalamafoni went low before Hibbard flew into Barritt, who actually did well to place the ball considering the impact from the Welsh hooker, who has become known as one of the bigger tacklers out there. View more of his big tackles in the Related Posts below.
If you weren't able to catch any of the Sevens from the Gold Coast this past weekend, above is a round up of what happened on the final day, including the dramatic final between Fiji and Samoa. On the next page of this post you can view day one highlights, with some funny clips thrown in.
The IRB have pledged to bring fans more video clips from the HSBC World Sevens Series over the course of the season, so we'll share and archive the best of them on here when possible.