Shaun Goosen takes a look back at what was a jam-packed weekend of rugby action from around the world.
Image Copyright – Steve Haag Sports
Wins for Lions, Bulls, Cheetahs and Sharks
In what was initially dubbed the “Franchise Cup”, there were wins for the Lions, Bulls, Cheetahs and Sharks as SA Rugby kicked-off its preparation series ahead of the upcoming Rainbow Cup. For all intents and purposes, the competition is aimed at providing the top four franchises with a chance at building some steam ahead of the April kick-off of the Rainbow Cup. Many are effectively viewing this as a set of friendlies.
The Lions snuck past the Pumas 32-28 at Ellis Park on Friday, while the Cheetahs shocked the Stormers 34-33 at Cape Town Stadium on Saturday thanks to a Rosko Specman hat-trick. Sunday saw the Bulls demolish the EP Elephants 87-10 at Loftus Versfeld before the Sharks beat the Griquas 35-10 at Kings Park.
Wales claim Triple Crown while Ireland down Italy
Wales claimed the Triple Crown in emphatic fashion after trampling England 40-24 at the Principality Stadium on Saturday. The triumph will be a welcome relief for Wayne Pivac after a rocky start as head coach, and another win over Italy this weekend will see them head into the final round against France challenging for a Grand Slam. England, meanwhile, are well and truly in the doldrums and Eddie Jones must work out a way to turn his side’s fortunes around fast if he hopes to remain at the helm.
Ireland scored six tries to fly past Italy 48-10 at the Stadio Olimpico later in the day. They’re now third on the standings ahead of their visit to Murrayfield this weekend. The France/Scotland game was postponed after positive covid cases.
Saders, Blues shine in Super Rugby Aotearoa round one
There were wins for the Crusaders and Blues as Super Rugby Aotearoa got back underway. After holding firm for much of the contest, an inability to capitalise on territory and possession finally saw the Highlanders fall 13-26 to the Crusaders at the Forsyth Barr on Friday. The defending champions look set to be the team to beat once more this season. Their second try, finished off by scrumhalf Bryn Hall, was a thing of beauty.
In the other game of the opening weekend, the Blues withstood a solid first-half from the Hurricanes to bag three five-pointers in the second and claim a 31-16 win at Sky Stadium. The Canes were undone by ill-discipline after receiving two yellow cards, upon which the visitors capitalised.
Written by Shaun Goosen.