Sunday, April 07, 2013
Chris Ashton scored one of his better tries in recent times as Saracens beat Ulster 27-16 to progress to the semi finals of the Heineken Cup for only the second time. They will return to Twickenham to face French heavyweights Toulon.
Owen Farrell kicked 17 points as Saracens outplayed last year's finalists, scoring two tries to one, through Will Fraser and Chris Ashton. Ruan Pienaar kicked 11 points for Ulster, while Iain Henderson scored a consolation try late in the game.
"We were outstanding and our forwards worked their nuts off against a very powerful team," said Farrell post match. "We expected a hugely physical battle and that's what we got.
"I wasn't the only Saracens player knocked back on the seat of his shorts but we fought for each other. Overall, we are really proud as a squad. It was a real team effort," he said.
Ashton's 63rd minute try sealed the win for the home side, as he tracked an inside line in trademark style, then backed his pace despite England team mate Brad Barritt shouting on the inside.
On a sidenote, South African number eight Ernst Joubert took a nasty knock to the face during the match, despite finishing all smiles at the final whistle. BBC correspondent Dan Roan posted this quite shocking Tindall-esque photo of Joubert's badly broken nose on Twitter.
Saracens will play their semi final on April 28th at Twickenham. Below is a look at Ashton's try.
Posted at 10:51 am | 21 comments
Saturday, April 06, 2013
It was a miserable Friday night in Auckland for the Otago Highlanders as they lost yet another match, going down 29-18 to the Blues. Ma'a Nonu had a forgettable night, starting with this shoulder shot on former Hurricanes team mate Piri Weepu.
Despite seemingly haiving all the ingredients for success, the Highlanders are having a horrible time so far in this year's Super Rugby competition. They sit bottom of the log after eight rounds, and the game against the Blues was another frustrating one for them.
Ma'a Nonu was sinbinned for a reckless tackle on All Black and former Blues and Hurricanes team mate Weepu midway through the first half. Referee Steve Walsh, who made use of the TMO on regular occasion throughout the match, originally chose to only penalise Nonu for the offence.
Ali Williams took exception to that, and could be heard saying to Walsh that "If it's a deliberate and illegal charge, then it's a card surely?"
"You can't guy nice on Ma'a because you and him have got beef," he added. Walsh seemed to listen, and after having watched the big screen replay and given it some further thought, changed his mind, and showed Nonu the yellow card after all.
The Highlanders conceded two tries during the time that Nonu was off, cancelling out their early 10-0 lead. Weepu suffered no ill-affect from the hit, other than being winded, and went on to score two important tries in the second half.
There were no hard feelings between the two All Blacks though as they were seen chatting and laughing on the field after the game, and big hitter Nonu later tweeted a photo of the two hanging out in the changeroom, saying Weepu was the better man on the night.
They have been mates for ages, as is evident in this hilarious clip of Nonu falling off his chair.
In other news from the same game, George Moala has been banned for a week for the tackle he made on Buxton Popoali'i. The Highlanders wing was knocked out cold from the hit.
Posted at 8:26 am | 34 comments
Friday, April 05, 2013
In the build-up to a huge weekend of European rugby here is a look at some of the best tries scored in the pool stages of the Heineken Cup. The Quarter-Finals start tomorrow with some fascinating match-ups, and no doubt plenty of drama and action to come.
Matches kick off on Saturday with the French derby between Clermont Auvergne and Montpellier, followed by Saracens vs Ulster. On Sunday Harlequins host Munster at the Stoop, with the Irish side being the only club in the history of the tournament to have won three away quarter-finals.
Perhaps the biggest game of the weekend takes place on Sunday afternoon as Toulon host Leicester Tigers. The Amlin Challenge Cup quarter-finals are also taking place, with all matches televised in the UK, France, and various games being shown in 154 other countries.
Random Heineken Cup 2012/2013 Statistics:
Alex Cuthbert, Napolioni Nalaga - 5
Jamie Heaslip - 81
Morgan Parra - 90
Chris Henry - 74 made, 1 missed
Justin Tipuric - 14
|Most Lineout Wins:
Geoff Parling - 37
|Most Clean Breaks:
Wesley Fofana - 10
|Most Defenders Beaten:
Eli Walker - 23
Aurelien Rougerie - 16
As well as pride, there is plenty at stake as added motivations for the teams, as each place in the Heineken Cup knockout stages earns a club's country close to €450,000 (euro) with an estimated €6.3m (euro) in meritocracy payments shared across the quarter-finals, semi-finals and finals.
To get you in the mood (as if you're not already) below is a look at some of the best tries scored in the pool stages. What are your predictions for the weekend?
Posted at 2:52 pm | 8 comments
Wednesday, April 03, 2013
Tongan prop Halani Aulika scored one of the tries of the Aviva Premiership weekend on Sunday as London Irish drew 33-33 with Sale Sharks at the Madejski Stadium. The big front rower is the club's leading try-scorer this season, but was almost lost to rugby.
London Irish scored early on as Guy Armitage crashed over following a good piece of running by Sailosi Tagicakibau, before Aulika's try set the stadium alight a few minutes later. It was his ninth in 24 appearances for the club, a stat that boss Brian Smith finds hard to ignore.
"Halani is going from strength to strength. He is genuinely getting into world-class calibre. He is as good as anything in the Premiership and there are a lot of good tight-heads in the league," Smith said of the former Otago tighthead, who joined London Irish last July.
Aulika told BBC Radio Berkshire recently that a chance meeting with Keven Mealamu in 2009 actually brought him back into rugby, after he was 'eating and drinking too much'.
"His brother (Luke Mealamu) was coaching one of the clubs in Auckland and they tried to get me to go to training to lose some weight," said the 29-year-old.
"They came to pick me up and forced me to start training. I used to be 152 kilos (he is now 122kg). I was lazy, I was overweight, I knew what it would take to be professional and always in the back of my mind wanted to be professional and make a life out of playing rugby.
"And then I started playing and losing weight and I realised I could do it. I was 27 or 28 and I wanted to be someone young players looked up to and hopefully they will learn something from me.
"It was hard with the food - I love food and that was the hardest thing. My family love eating. They are all oversized but when I started my career I started eating healthily and helped them by telling them what food they should or shouldn't be eating."
Aulika went on to become a professional rugby player in 2010, and represented his country, Tonga, at the Rugby World Cup in 2011. Now at London Irish, he says he is living the dream.
"If you have a dream, don't give up on it, just keep going until you get it. That's what happened to me. I had a dream, I gave up, but then I got back into it. Now I can run with the ball rather than walk with it. This is a good thing, I feel good and I'm so happy."
Great words from a man that has come a long way in a short period of time. Lovely try too.
Posted at 6:47 pm | 4 comments
In a few months time the British & Irish Lions will set sail for Australia to take part in what should be an action packed 2013 tour filled with drama. In the build up, here's a look back at some of the most memorable last minute wins in Australian rugby history.
Rugby HQ went through their archives and along with input from fans on Twitter, put together this list of the Top 5 most memorable Buzzer Beaters.
They're all involving Australians, but should bring back some great memories for neutrals too.
Throughout the week leading up to the airing of the show, Fox Sports revealed a few of the contenders that didn't quite make the final cut for the Top 5 list. Listed in order below:
#10 - Stephen Hoiles extra time dramatic try vs Wales (2007) View
#9 - Andrew Mehrtens shows the Bulls crowd middle fingers after drop win (1999) View
#8 - Stirling Mortlock wins it for the Wallabies (2000) View
#7 - James O'Connor late try and conversion in Hong Kong (2010) View
#6 - Kurtley Beale slots penalty at the death to beat Springboks (2010) View
Below are the Top Five, as selected by Sean Maloney and Rugby HQ
Posted at 9:08 am | 15 comments
Tuesday, April 02, 2013
Scrumhalf Dimitri Yachvilli kicked 17 points as Biarritz beat Grenoble 33-16 at the Parc des Sports d'Aguilera on Friday night. He also set up a try with a neat bit of ball control that looked more suited to a football field than a muddy rugby pitch.
Second half tries by Zee Ngwenya and Erik Lund contributed to the win in wet conditions, but it was Yachvilli's kicking prowess that kept the scoreboard ticking as he slotted every attempt on goal.
Lund's try came from a great bit of play by the multi-talented Yachvilli, as he dribbled the ball ahead then went for the inside-backheel-flick, knowing there was support looming. It worked - only just - and Lund gathered, dived over, and sealed the win.
Biarritz are currently in eigth place on the Top 14 table. You can view full match highlights here.
Posted at 11:23 am | 73 comments
Monday, April 01, 2013
Catch up on extended highlights of the final day's play at the Tokyo Sevens, where South Africa beat New Zealand 24-19 in an exciting Cup final to claim their second tournament win of the season.
South Africa trailed 12-0 at the break but scored tries through Cecil Afrika, Seabelo Senatla and Cornel Hendricks, while Branco du Preez kicked nine points with three convertions and a penalty.
"It is unbelievable. It is good momentum going into the Rugby World Cup Sevens in Moscow," said coach Paul Treu, following on from their 40-21 win over NZ in the Las Vegas Sevens final.
"It's is not every day you beat New Zealand twice in the final. Every win you have to take, and we can go back to South Africa as a happy team."
Australia, last year's Tokyo winners, finished third after beating France 31-7.
The USA won the Plate while England won the Bowl, and Canada won the Shield.
After seven legs of the nine-round series, New Zealand maintained their lead on 132 points, while South Africa moved up to second on 100 points. Fiji are in third place on 98.
Posted at 1:23 pm | 1 comments