Shaun Goosen takes a look back at this past weekend's rugby action which saw the Rainbow Cup SA kick-off, two French sides claim Champions Cup final berths and the Brumbies dispatch the Force.
Sharks, Bulls come good in Rainbow Cup
The Sharks survived a shaky start after going 17-points down inside the opening 15-minutes to eventually seal a narrow 33-30 win over the Stormers at DHL Stadium on Saturday. An ecstatic Reniel Hugo bagged a hat-trick from the second row for the visitors as Sean Everitt’s charges made the most of two Stormers red cards to get over the line in the end. Both sides looked rusty at times but there will be plenty to build upon over the course of the next few weeks.
Later in the day, the Bulls beat the Lions 22-9 at Loftus Versfeld. The Pretoria boys scored inside the first two minutes after flyhalf Chris Smit shook off several soft Lions tackles to open their account, and while Fred Zeilinga’s boot kept his side in it for large periods, the Bulls were too good in the end. The Sharks host the Lions this weekend while the Bulls travel to the Cape to tackle the Stormers.
Toulouse and La Rochelle set up all-French final affair
Toulouse’s 21-9 win over Bordeaux-Begles at the Stade Ernest-Wallon in Saturday’s first Champions Cup semi-final earned them a place in a first final since 2010. Le Stade, currently sitting pretty at the summit of the Top 14 standings, were helped by tries from Matthis Lebel and Antoine Dupont as they proved too powerful for a good Bordeaux outfit. They will get a shot at achieving a record fifth Heineken Champions Cup crown in the finale on 22 May.
On Sunday, La Rochelle’s 32-23 victory over perennial champions Leinster at the Stade Marcel Deflandre saw them qualify for their very first final. Ronan O’Gara’s men, currently second in the Top 14, were buoyed by a massive Will Skelton performance to overcome a Johnny Sexton-less Leinster and book their spot in the title decider.
Brumbies down Force in Super Rugby AU qualifier
The Brumbies beat the Western Force 21-9 at the GIO Stadium in Canberra to qualify for the final against the Reds this weekend. The defending champions, who were usurped by Brad Thorn’s Queenslanders to first place on the standings, were helped in large part thanks to Toni Pulu’s first-half sending off. They will be looking for revenge against the team that beat them twice in the regular season, in their quest to claim back-to-back titles.