Saturday, 30 April 2011

Reaction to Harlequins Shock Victory Over Munster

In what must be one of the all time great European performances, Harlequins well and truly stormed fortress Thomand Park to secure an outstanding  20-12 victory in the Amlin Challenge Cup Semi Final to condemn Munster to only their second ever home European defeat. Previously, Leicester Tigers had been the only side in the history of European competition to leave Limerick with a win.                                                    
Displaying incredible self belief which belied their poor away form in the Aviva Premiership this season, Harlequins could and should have secured the game by half time. Enjoying 78% of the first half possession they led 14-7 at half time with tries from Robson and Care. Despite playing without Nick Evans for the majority of the second half and then losing Nick Easter for the last ten minutes as a result of second yellow card, Harlequins displayed great resilience in defence to remain in charge of the game and to keep Munster to just one second half try. In a compelling final period and with a defeat on the cards the normally assured decision making by Munster was not evident with even the experienced players making poor choices as the final whistle beckoned.
Harlequins Director of Rugby, Connor O'Shea - Listen

Harlequins Winger, Ugo Monye - Listen 

Munster Director of Rugby, Tony McGahan - Listen 

Interviews from Talking Rugby

Friday, 29 April 2011

Heineken Cup Predictions: Leinster and Northampton Saints to Prevail

Logic would suggest that we should have every reason to be confident of watching a gripping Irish-English clash in the Millenium Stadium come Heineken Cup final day. Home advantage, the recent form of Leinster and Northampton Saints, the vagaries of French away form and the inconsistency of Toulouse and Perpignon this season, all support the notion that it will be a Leinster v Northampton match up in Cardiff. At the same time, the beauty of this competition and particularly at this stage, is that nothing should be taken for granted and it is probably best to look at this weekend’s matches as truly one off situations.

That said, I still go strongly with Leinster and Northampton and even go as far to suggest that we might be looking at 11-15 point margins of victory in both games.

Leinster v Toulouse

I feel that Toulouse are in a stronger position than Perpignon coming into this weekend and they clearly have the potential to really challenge Leinster particularly if the game becomes loose and the back three trio of Heymans, Clerc and Medard will surely thrive in such a situation.. Toulouse have had an inconsistent few weeks losing to Bayonne, Racing Metro and Toulon although their convincing 33-0 win over Bourgoin last week secured the top spot in the Top 14 for the time being and qualification for the play off stages. Coach Guy Noves is forced to make a number of changes to the side that defeated Biarritz in the quarter finals. At scrum-half Jean-Marc Doussain, starts ahead of injury worry Nicolas Bezy while once again Clement Poitrenaud is preferred to Yannick Jauzion in the staring line up. Yannick Nyanga who came off the bench to score the winning try in the quarter-final, starts at flanker in place of Sylvain Nicolas, who is out with an injury.

Yoann Maestri takes over from Romain Millo-Chluski in the second row, while prop Daan Human drops to the bench to make way for the returning Jean-Baptiste Poux. Thierry Dusatoir is on the bench as he is considered not to be at full fitness.

Leinster who have won 13 of their 15 games in 2011, keep the same team that produced such a wonderful all-round display against Leicester. Although Shane Jennings is available, Kevin McLaughlin continues on the blind side with the ferocious qualities of Sean O'Brien, the highest ranking forward in this year's competition based on the Amlin Opta Index at No.7. McLaughlin had a fine game in the quarter finals and I would expect him to have a similarly disruptive role in the lineout. If Leinster can get anywhere near the physicality and intensity of the clash against Leicester, then Toulouse’s pack are in for a difficult afternoon. While in last year’s semi final Toulouse were able to dominate in the tight, forwards coach, Jono Gibbs will be looking to gain an edge in this area from an ever improving front row of Healy, Strauss and Ross.

The thoughts of Gordon D'Arcy and Shane Jennings - Listen

Northampton Saints v Perpignon


There has been a good deal of comment in recent weeks about the predictability of Northampton’s game plan and the coaching staff at the club would probably not disagree with such sentiments and not really care as long as the game plan with the efficiency and intensity that has been seen at times this year. Few teams have been able to match the high tempo game and the counter attacking flair which has brought the Saints to this stage. A formidable pack is developing both in the tight and loose with the scrum contest on Sunday being a potential highlight of what promises to be a hugely physical contest. The Tonga’huia – Mass contest along with Mujati taking on Freshwater is a mouth watering prospect for any connoisseur of front row play. The line out contest is also likely to be intriguing, with both sides going well in this area in their respective quarter finals. Northampton will no doubt miss Tom Wood, but Callum Clark is an able deputy and a very effective lineout operator. Another interesting area and one that will have a major bearing on the game will be in midfield with  a huge physical contest likely as Downey and Clark face the sizeable Hume and Marty.

Despite the physical capabilities of the Perpignon pack, I am basing my prediction on the fact that Northampton will be able to get on the front foot and in to their high tempo game early on. The atmosphere was very special in the Stadium:MK for the quarter final and with Perpignon returning some of their ticket allocation, there is every likelihood that an even more very vocal and intimidating welcome will be waiting for the Catalan side.

Nick Heath (Talking Rugby) talks to Ben Foden -  Listen 


Thursday, 28 April 2011

Reaction to Leeds Met Carnegie's dominance of the BUCS Womens's Championship Final

A highly impressive and commanding performance by Leeds Met Carnegie yesterday saw them complete the much treasured double of the BUCS Championship and the Northern Premier title. Exeter University who previously had dispatched pre-tournament favourites UWIC in the semi finals were no match for Leeds side who thoroughly deserved their 34-5 victory.

Leeds Met dominated from the start with their excellent pack forwards being supported splendidly by scrum half, Rachael Fraser. Claire Garner executed the game plan perfectly, mixing the game up but also kicking intelligently and effectively throughout from fly half and as anticipated England international, Emily Scarratt was a major force in midfield with her strong running being a feature of the match. The back three of Rose Jay, Emily Ferry and Jana Evans proved to be a major handful for a brave Exeter defence with each one of them scoring first half tries.

At no point did Exeter capitulate and in the last ten minutes, a sustained period of pressure resulted in a well deserved try for loose head prop, Donna Downes after a charging run.

Leeds Met Carnegie
Interview with Dave Duxbury,  Coach - Listen
Interview with Rachael Fraser,  Captain - Listen
Interview with Emily Scarratt  - Listen


Exeter
Interview with Mark Tomlinson, Director of Rugby - Listen
Interview with Katherine McGonigle and Harriet Hewitt - Listen

Last Gasp Victory for Durham University in BUCS Men’s Championship Final

By any standards it has been a very special year for Durham University and the icing was definitely put on the cake yesterday with a splendid last gasp 25-23 victory in the BUCS Championship Final against UWIC. Seemingly out of contention with five minutes to go, Durham staged another of their great escape acts to score ten unanswered points to condemn UWIC to their third successive final defeat and in doing so, secured for themselves an unbeaten season and the double of the Championship and the Northern Premier League title.

UWIC will reflect on their inability to build on a strong first half performance which saw them lead 23-12 at half time or to capitalize on at least two scoring opportunities in the opening stages of the game. Their backs looked dangerous and with a good supply of possession they looked to move the ball wide,  frequently breaking the defensive line with full back, Dan Bibby very much to the fore.

Despite the lively start from UWIC and an early penalty from Rhys Roberts, it was Durham who secured the first try of the game. Rather belying tha 80kg weight disadvantage, the Durham pack produced two fine line out drives with the second of the drives seeing them cross the line with relative ease from five metres allowing Guy Sears to touch down.

It was Bibby who then sparked a response with a wonderful solo run from just within his own half to give UWIC their opening try on 18 minutes. Evading six tacklers, Bibby finished his run with a dummy pass to leave a hapless final Durham defender in his wake to the delight of his team and vocal supporters.  The response from Durham was immediate and after a fine passage of interplay, UWIC were penalized for killing the ball at a ruck on their 22. With the UWIC defence in disarray, a quick tap penalty and slick pass saw David Haigh, the Durham left winger run in from 20 metres unopposed.

With no sign of the end to end phase of the game abating, UWIC took advantage of a lack of concentration at the restart and after some fine support play, the UWIC tight head, Nick Halse barged over from 10 metres. With UWIC in the ascendancy, another try seemed very likely  and a flowing move down the right wing, provided a try on 31 minutes for Josh Jacas after some very deft handling.

After the break it was Durham that started strongly and only a deliberate knock run prevented Haigh from adding to his first try from another quickly taken penalty. The resulting penalty was completed by Ward and Durham were within 8 points of UWIC. Although Durham continued to press with some impressive strong running from Tom Shiel in the centre, remarkably there was no further score as the game entered the last ten minutes. A whole raft of replacements was necessary as cramp took hold with UWIC Captain and No.8, Richard de Carpentier having to leave the field.

UWIC still had their chances to secure the game and after a sustained period of pressure and some tenacious defending from Durham, Roberts missed an attempted drop goal from just outside the 22. With this respite Durham looked to keep the ball alive and after a passage of play starting in their own half, it was their tireless captain and open side, Rob Malaney who charged for the line from 15 metres to score with 5 minutes of normal time remaining, A successful conversion from replacement Alex Graham brought Durham within a point of the Cardiff based University.

UWIC immediately had a chance of a reply with a knock on deep in the 22. Despite a penalty against Durham for a collapsed scrum and a choice of another scrum by UWIC, Durham managed to defend their line as the stadium clock reached 80 minutes. With confusion on the extent of the injury time to be played, Tom O’Toole, the Durham fullback lifted the siege with a brave and ultimately game defining break from behind his own line which brought him to the half way line only to see his long pass dropped by his team mate with one defender to beat.

UWIC’s inability to retain the ball in the latter stages of the game was once again their undoing and after securing possession just in their own half, Durham mounted one last attack. Despite some fine defence, Durham were able to retain possession through some exquisite if at time desperate off loading and powerful running. After 20 phases, the North Easterners were finally awarded a penalty for off side deep in the UWIC 22 and Graham once again calmly steeped up to give Durham a one point lead in the eighth minute of injury time. Any expectation that the final whistle might sound, was soon corrected as the referee, Chris Sharp added on an additional four minutes of tension filled time.

In his first year as Director of Rugby, Alex Keay has instilled a powerful combination of great resilience and fitness in his squad and after quarter and semi final comebacks, there was a strong inevitability about Durham’s wonderful comeback and stunning victory.

Alex Keay – Durham University, Director of Rugby

“They don’t surprise me – they have done that all year, four times in total and twice in the cup. We just have a bad habit of digging ourselves a hole but the good thing is we can climb out of it, but one day we might not. 

The players have been magnificent and they have not lost a game all season and to do that and win your last game at Twickenham – man they are just legends.

“We have some good individuals but we are better as a team and our pack is developing in to a nice unit. Perhaps nice to show that you don’t need big heavy lads.

“We also thought that they would tire and they did.”

Alun Williams UWIC Coach

“On reflection a good first half performance but probably did not get enough from our dominance. I felt we bombed two possibly three tries which would have put the game to bed. Started reasonably well in the second half but did not really look after the ball well enough and gave up some cheap territory.

“Bit of confusion in the end as we played the stadium clock in the first half till the second and then somewhere we find thirteen minutes of injury time in the second half which may or not been but either we are playing the stadium clock or we are not playing the stadium clock. Our guys were feeling that the job was done!

“All credit to Durham they stuck in there terrifically well and looked after the ball really well when they needed to at the end.”


Interview with Alex Keay - Listen

Interview with Durham Captain, Rob Malaney - Listen

Interview with UWIC Captain, Richard de Carpentier - Listen

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

White to take Brumbies hot seat

Former South Africa national coach Jake White will take charge of the Brumbies at the end of the season, media reports suggest.

White, who led the Springboks to World Cup glory in 2007, had been linked to positions with the England national side and in France, but could be named as Andy Friend’s successor within the week.

Friend was sacked after just two weeks of the current season, and earlier this week Brumbies chief Andrew Fagan insisted the recruitment process was coming to an end, but refused to confirm that White would take charge of the club, saying only that he was being considered for the role.

I don't have enough time to waste on running a process for the sake of it," he said. "I can confirm he has applied and will be interviewed."

The Brumbies has struggled badly so far this season and currently prop up the Australian conference with just two wins from their eight games so far. Tony Rea took charge after Friend’s departure amid rumours of a falling out between the players and the former boss.

They come up against South African side the Cheetahs in their next game on Saturday, with White potentially being named coach in his home country as the club prepare for the game in Bloemfontein this weekend.

The Brumbies will be boosted by the return of four key for the game against the Cheetahs. Australian captain Rockie Elsom looks to have recovered from a hamstring injury that has plagued him since November, while Stephen Moore, Huia Edmonds and Gilbert Sidestep Boots wearer Mitchell Chapman also return to the squad.

White took charge of South Africa for three years culminating in their 2007 success in France. The 48-year-old had been lined up for the role of performance director with the RFU along with former director of rugby Rob Andrew, who was eventually given the role of director of rugby operations. Former head coach Sir Clive Woodward is linked to the performance director role.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Aviva Premiership - Reaction to Round 21

It was a matter of right team but shame about the results in terms of my predictions from the weekend. I had gone for all the games being tight and within a 6 to10 point range. In the end it was only Northampton Saints who came up trumps conveniently letting London Irish back in to the game in the last 15 minutes. I had just not envisaged such poor performances from both Wasps and Leeds. In the case of the former serious selectorial question marks hang over the coaching staff as Bath totally and utterly enjoyed their Twickenham experience without ever really being challenged.

Sale Sharks 24 - Exeter Chiefs 30 - Disappointment for Charlie Hodgson in his last home game

Sale Sharks Director of Sport, Steve Diamond:
"It was not a great performance, a lot of errors and mistakes and the most noticeable thing on the day is we played against a good team.

"What we need to do is get back to basics in the summer and we need to create a team ethic here."

Newcastle Falcons 13 - Leicester Tigers 24 - Home advantage secured by Leicester

Newcastle head coach Alan Tait:
"We have to keep going and target a win against Bath next week.

"It's all or nothing now in our final two games against Bath home and away.

"It's disappointing missing out on the losing bonus point but we have to get on with it."

Leicester director of rugby Richard Cockerill:
"We'd like to go up against London Irish and in the play-off semi-final with a fully-fit squad and the guys who came in for us today did a really good job.

"Giving Ben and Toby  a rest will freshen them up for London Irish and the play-offs."

London Irish 20 - Northampton Saints 26 - A near disaster for the Saints 

London Irish Head Coach, Toby Booth expresses his disappointment on the result - Listen

Seilala Mapusua reflects on his time at London Irish - Listen

Northampton Saints Director of Rugby, Jim Mallinder talks about his lapse in not replacing Ben Foden - Listen

London Wasps 10 - Bath 43 - Bath keep their play-off hopes alive

Director of Rugby, Ian McGeechan:
"The forwards were good and we made some really good decisions tactically which gave us room to play. I don't think we expected that sort of return, but we were as accurate as we've been for a while."

Leon Holden, the Wasps Acting Director of Rugby 
"The game was over by half-time. If you can't hold onto the ball and keep possession, you are going to lose to a team like Bath. They are probably the best side in England for stinging you from turnovers. We turned the ball over four times and they hit us with 26 points."

Leeds Carnegie 3 - Harlequins 38 - Leeds just about doomed

Head Coach, Neil Back:
"For the first time this season it is out of our hands. Newcastle have two games.
"The fortunate thing is their opposition is Bath, who have something to fight for. They need to take 10 points to give themselves an opportunity to get into the top four."

Harlequins Director of Rugby, Connor O'Shea
"We've given ourselves a chance of the top six. It's not in our control but it's a chance. If we continue to play like this then we can continue playing for the ultimate challenge.

Saracens 35 - Gloucester 12 - The Saracens surge continues

Listen to the thoughts of Man of the Match, Andy Goode

Gloucester Coach, Bryan Redpath reflects on a challenging 8 days - Listen



Interviews by Nick Heath - www.talkingrugby.co.uk

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Aviva Premiership - Wasps go with the youngsters for the St George's Day clash

It promises to be a fascinating match at Twickenham as London Wasps and Bath go head to head in search of a European Cup place. You just sense that after a difficult week for the club, Wasps will be looking to put "Bantergate" behind them and enjoy this special occasion.

Wasps have already triumphed over Bath twice this season and a third victory will certainly keep their hopes of top six place open. A bonus point victory could bring them level with the west country team. A win for Bath today will further cement their sixth place with the prospect of a home game against Harlequins to round off the season and to secure a European place. Bath won the equivalent to this fixture at Twickenham last season and will be hoping to win on the road for the first time in three games.

After a very convincing 51-18 victory over Leeds which ended a three game losing streak, interim Director of Rugby Leon Holden continues to mix experience with youth, as two schoolboys feature in the starting line up. After an impressive Premiership debut last week, Elliot Daly, the Whitgift and England U20 centre is selected at full back, while the Harrow schoolboy, Billy Vunipola makes his Premiership debut at No.8. For Daly it is a quick return to Twickenham after a outstanding performance for his school in their defeat of Oakham School in the Daily Mail RBS Cup Final  earlier in the month.  England U20’s star Joe Launchbury joins Simon Shaw in the second row who has looked as strong and influential as ever in recent weeks.

Tom Varndell returns from injury earlier than expected on the wing and Ben Jacobs comes back into the centres. It will also be the last home game for Dave Walder and Mark Van Gisbergen who is joined on the bench by Josh Lewsey.

The Bath selection pot is also mixed with the former Montpellier and France Sevens Squad member winger Jacques Boussuge making his Premiership debut after signing at the start of the season. In an interesting selection, Matt Banahan makes his first start at inside centre while in the forwards, David Flatman is back in the front row and Lewis Moody and Simon Taylor feature once again in Bath's back row. Michael Classens will captain the side in the absence of Luke Watson.

I stick with my prediction that Wasps will prevail in what is likely to be a high scoring game and secure a victory with a  6-10 point margin  in front of a large and sun drenched crowd.

Listen to a podcast of Richard Haughton's and Dan Ward Smith's views on the game.

Richard Haughton and Dan Ward-Smith were chatting over a pint of Greene King IPA, the Official Beer of London Wasps and supporters of the St George’s Day Game at Twickenham on 23 April. For tickets to the game call 0844 225 2990 or visit www.stgeorgesdaygame.co.uk.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Aviva Premiership Predictions - Crunch Time!

Newcastle Falcons v Leicester Tigers  - Leicester Tigers by 6-10 points

Apart from the hammering Newcastle received at the hands of London Irish back in late September they have been highly competitive at Kingston Park. A share of of the spoils against Northampton Saints was snatched away from them last week with a Chris Ashton try and there is no reason to suggest that this will be anything other than another almighty contest. Samoan lock-forward Filipo Levi starts ahead of Tim Swinson, while Rob Vickerman is handed the No.13 jersey.  Luke Fielden returns to the wing following a shoulder injury, with Chris Pilgrim retaining the scrum-half berth despite the return of Leicester bound Micky Young.

It sounds like it has been a full on week at Leicester following the massively exciting but for Leicester, flawed contest last week. Richard Cockerill did not mince his words.

"There were that many mistakes and loose passes, I don't know whether some of the players thought it was a testimonial match," he said.

Anthony Allen, the Tigers Players' Player of the Year, returns to partner Manu Tuilagi at centre. Matt Smith also returns to the starting line-up along with Jeremy Staunton and James Grindal named at half-back replacing Toby Flood and Ben Youngs who are carrying injuries. Marcos Ayerza and George Chuter return to the front row, Ed Slater comes into the second row and captain Craig Newby returns at openside. We can expect a much tighter and controlled performance from the Tigers with the back row to to the fore and I see them just getting the upper hand.

Remaining Fixtures

London Irish v Northampton Saints - Northampton Saints by 6-10 
London Wasps v Bath Rugby - London Wasps by 6-10

Saracens v Gloucester Rugby - Saracens by 6-10
Leeds Carnegie v Harlequins - Harlequins by 6-10

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Blues welcome back All Blacks for Rebels clash

The Blues will welcome back two key players for their game against the Melbourne Rebels on Friday night as they look to overhaul sports betting favourites the Crusaders as conference leaders.

Ali Williams will make his long-awaited return this weekend for the Blues, replacing Kurtis Haiu who is ruled out with concussion, having been ruled out for a month with a hamstring problem. The injury is the latest in a long line of problems for the New Zealand lock. Williams hadn’t played a game of Super Rugby in over two years following two Achilles injuries, and only played four games for the Blues before his latest setback.

Speaking about Williams’ condition before the match, coach Pat Lam said: "Mentally, he's in a great space and he's had all the tests to give the medical staff confidence that he's ready and available for us,"

Prop Tony Woodcock will also make his return for the Blues against the Rebels having recovered from a calf strain in time. The All Black, who recently pledged his future to club and country by singing a new contract extension, will come in at loose-head. Luke McAlister will sit out the match with coach Pat Lam eager to give the in-form midfielder a break given his recent workload, with Benson Stanley taking his place.

"It's very good when you have a six-day turnaround to bring on fresh legs like Benson," Lam said. "Luke will get a chance to play at either 10 or 12 when he comes on."

The Blues are favourites to take the game on Friday with the Rebels according to sports bets with the newly formed Australian franchise having lost five of their eight games so far this season.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

The Curious Incident of the Gav in the Night-Time



Gav's view of the World is an interesting and complex one as the extracts below reflect.
  
And then there was no one else in front of the window and I said to the man behind the window, ‘I want to go to France,’ and I hadn’t been frightened when I was with the policeman but I turned round and I saw that he had gone now and I was scared again, so I tried to pretend I was playing a game on my computer and it was called Strictly Come Dancing, and you had to dance lots of different dances to get to the next level, and I could turn it off at any time if I wanted.

And the man said, ‘Single or return?’
And I said, ‘What does single or return mean?’
And he said, ‘Do you want to go one way, or do you want to go and come back?’
And I said, ‘I want to stay there when I get there.’
And he said, ‘For how long?’
And I said, ‘Until I go to World Cup.’
And he said, ‘Single, then,’

When I went to training on Monday, Philippe asked me why I had a bruise on the side of my face. I said that Matt was angry and he grabbed me so I had hit him and then we had a fight. Philippe asked whether Matt had hit me and I said I didn't know because I got very cross and it made my memory go strange. And then he asked if Matt had hit me because he was angry. And I said he didn't hit me, he grabbed me, but he was angry. And Philippe asked if he grabbed me hard, and I said that he had grabbed me hard. And Philippe asked if I was frightened about going home, and I said did I have to. And he did not answer my question!

With a little help from a certain novel by Mark Haddon

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Meelamu to stay in New Zealand

New Zealand forward Keven Meelamu has signalled his intent to stay in the country after re-signing a deal with the Blues franchise and the New Zealand Rugby Union until 2013.

The 32-year old was rumoured to be weighing up moves abroad, but has put an end to the speculation by extending his current deal with the Super Rugby club.

Meelamu insisted his decision came down to loyalty towards the NZRU, and believes he needs to repay the faith in him shown by the country’s governing body over the years.

“Loyalty is something I believe in and I have always hoped I could repay the support I have been given by showing my continued loyalty to New Zealand." He said after signing the deal.

The Waikato-born hooker has played 82 test matches for the All-Blacks and is the latest in a long line of international players to pledge their commitment to stay in New Zealand ahead of the World Cup, held in New Zealand, later this year.

15 other players, including Tony Woodcock and Israel Dagg have signed new deals, but Meelamu is the most high profile player to date to pledge his support.

All Blacks coach Graham Henry welcomed the news, and described Meelamu as a “role model” for young people in the country.

"Kevie is a very important part of the All Blacks team, is part of our leadership group and is a very special man. He is a role model not just in rugby but also the wider communities he is involved in, he gives so much of himself and we are delighted that he will be staying in New Zealand."

Having made his All Blacks debut in 2002 Meelamu is now 4th on the all-time record caps list for his country, and has gone on to establish himself as one of the most important members of the international team with the All Blacks Rugby World Cup  campaign approaching.

Fylde secure the title and condemn Manchester to their 60th defeat in a row

Fylde secured the National League Two North title this weekend with an emphatic 118-0 win over a doomed Manchester side. Mark Nelson and his team buoyed by the presence of Jason Robinson and Brian Ashton have had a splendid season winning of their 24 of their 28 games so far. They have become stronger and stronger as the season has progressed and despite a hiccup away against Loughborough Students last week, they have secured the title with two games to go.

One of the most pleasing aspects for Brian Ashton who has re-signed for next season as Technical Director has been the manner in which Fylde have gone about their task with the emphasis on an open and mobile game plan.

“They have been challenged in training and in games, but they have stuck to their guns and played rugby the way we want, even when the weather has possibly not been conducive to it. The first game of 2011 at Kendal was a magnificent display in some pretty awful conditions and I think that was the turning point. I think the players realised they had the capabilities to play rugby differently to most other clubs in the league.” An enthusiastic Ashton commented.

Top scorer has been England Sevens squad member Nick Royle with 20 tries in 16 appearances while in the forwards, Paul Arnold in his first season with the club has weighed in with 15 tries. Justin Robinson who came off the bench on Saturday and has yet to confirm whether he will be playing next year, has played in 11 of the games and scored 3 tries in the process.

A packed  Woodlands ground saw Fylde demolish Manchester with 18 tries including 4 each from Oliver Brennard and Mike Waywell. There was also an impressive kicking display from Steve Collins who kicked 14 out of 18 conversions. Despite having a fair amount of possession, the league's bottom club found themselves 49-0 after 23 minutes with Fylde adding a further 12 points by half time. Despite a sluggish start to the second half, Fylde gradually increased the tempo to finish with a second half tally of 57 points.

There could have not been a greater juxtaposition at the end of the game between the joy experienced by all those associated with the Lytham St Annes club and the on-going despair of Manchester who look to be facing their second consecutive winless season. The club's last victory was against Newbury Blues in March 2009 and this season they have conceded 1690 points in addition to the 2,626 points conceded in National League last year. Manchester have four games remaining to try to break their duck including facing fourth placed Westoe in their final home game on Saturday.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

"Chillax Bro" - A Guide to Referee Slang

The RFU have been quick to act following JP Doyle's performance yesterday in refereeing the Sale Sharks and London Irish at the Reebok Stadium. A very vocal Paul Hodgson left Doyle with no choice but to respond with " Chillax bro". A spokesman from the RFU was keen to point out late last night that there has not been any specific directive to referees to incorporate "street" language in their game management from Ed Morrison, the Head of Elite Referee Development.

The spokesman indicated that the Urban Dictionary website was a very useful resource for interpreting the slang that might be increasingly used by referees in an attempt to be seen as being more in touch with the players. JP Doyle has yet to comment on the situation but it is understood that he wished to convey a message to the players that they should chill and relax simultaneously while adopting a more relaxed and groovy outlook! With only two rounds of the Aviva Premiership remaining it is difficult to see whether this is really the best time to introduce this new attitude from the referees.

Although it has not yet been confirmed there is a suggestion that this is not the first time that street slang has been used by a ref. In a guest appearance at an Under 17 match last season a Premiership referee spent most of the game using such language in explaining his decisions and controlling the players. Onthetryline have managed to obtain exclusive extracts from the match which are published below:

"Yoah dudes wez gotz a highfive meter scrumzz - chillax my bros - yoah all come off the couch and intose the crouch, nowski toooch, big pauz et engage."

"Chillax bro - donztz go dissing me I waz gizing yoah the pen for notz relezin the ballin"

"Thatz itz dudes back to your crib - d'ya want beers"


Friday, 15 April 2011

Aviva Premiership Predictions - Away wins for Northampton and Saracens

Probably not the ultimate defining weekend for the Aviva Premiership, but nevertheless an absolutely fascinating one as we reach Round 20 with eight of the clubs having just three fixtures left with Bath, Gloucester, Northampton and Sale having a game in hand.

The action starts at Newcastle on Friday  and matters come to a close with Sunday's crucial fixture for Leeds Carnegie at Wasps. I am going for four home wins with aways wins for Northampton and Saracens.

Northampton's mettle is going to be severely tested over the next week with three away games on the bounce with trips to Gloucester on Tuesday and then an equally challenging fixture against London Irish on Saturday. Jim Mallinder is under no illusion of the task facing the Saints this evening:
.
"The Falcons are physical in midfield, have a committed pack of forwards and one of the Premiership's top points scorers in Jimmy Gopperth. It will certainly not be easy for us at Kingston Park, far from it, and we are prepared for a tough challenge."

The Saints just make one change from Sunday's game with Ulster with  Callum Clark coming in as flanker instead of Tom Wood as part of the normal back row rotation. Ulster pushed the Saints all the way last Sunday and at times looked sharper and incisive in the backs, but ultimately a tremendous effort by the pack and some outstanding counter attacking saw the Saints home.

Newcastle fresh from a European sanction and the shock of a home defeat against Leeds make three changes. Tom Catterick is named at full-back in place of the injured Jeremy Manning with Gcobani Bobo being handed a starting place on the wing while James Fitzpatrick is selected at centre. Alan Tait is very clear about the task ahead:

We will give Northampton a real good go," said Tait.

"If we get the win I believe we could kick on and win a couple more games before the end of the season. This week the players have brushed themselves down after the weekend and I am really confident that we will give Northampton a good go," he added.

I do not see much joy for a Falcons side who made some very poor decisions last week and I am sure that it will not take long for Northampton to be in their stride and playing their efficient brand of high tempo rugby.

Newcastle Falcons v Northampton Saints - Northampton by 16-20
Bath v Harlequins - Bath by up to 5
Exeter v Saracens - Saracens by 6-11
Leicester v Gloucester - Leicester by 6-11
Sale v London Irish - Sale by 11-15
Wasps v Leeds Carnegie - Wasps by 6-11

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Wasps players become St.George in an interactive video game and slay the Twickenham Dragon

A group of players from London Wasps have followed in the footsteps of England’s great patron saint by slaying a huge fire-breathing dragon, found lurking behind the North Stand at Twickenham Stadium.

Ahead of the much anticipated St George’s Day Game between London Wasps and Bath Rugby at Twickenham on Saturday 23 April, Wasps players including Simon Shaw, Joe Worsley, Riki Flutey, Serge Betsen, Dave Walder, Rob Webber and Ben Broster were challenged to ‘slay’ dragons against the clock by kicking and throwing rugby balls at an enormous 50ft high video game, projected onto Twickenham’s North Stand.

The innovative St George’s Day Game- state of the art themed video game was the brainchild of 188BET, an official partner of London Wasps. The initiative aims to support the London Wasps campaign enticing fans to the St George’s Day Game in order to raise money for the four special charities set to benefit from the occasion.

Challenged to slay ten dragons as quickly as possible, fly-half Dave Walder came out on top with a fantastic range of accurate kicking and passing skills. As a reward, Walder was invited to play one further level, which featured a colossal fire-breathing dragon, which broke through the wall of the stadium’s North Stand.

Walder said: “The boys were giving me loads of banter as I was called forward for the final level. I had no idea what to expect but the size of the dragon floored me, it was simply staggering. The projection looked really lifelike and the 3D technology was brilliant. The lads really enjoyed themselves and the project was great fun to be involved with.”

Jeff Baker, Head of Marketing Services at 188BET, said: “188BET is all about innovation and we adopt this approach when considering how we activate all of our sponsorships. We wanted to create something fun and engaging for the players that tested their skill and dovetailed nicely with the St. George's Day game. 188BET is proud to be a partner of London Wasps and we believe that this interactive 3D mapping video-game is a great example of our innovative and novel approach to sponsorship.”

Anyone who buys a ticket for the St. George’s Day game, quoting the code 188BET will be entered into a prize draw to win one of 5 team signed London Wasps jerseys and a chance to win full hospitality to the St George's Day game, courtesy of 188BET and Wasps.




Sunday, 10 April 2011

Two for One offer on tickets for St George's Day Fixture - London Wasps v Bath

Vouchercodes.co.uk are running a 2-for-1 discount on tickets for the St George's day clash between London Wasps and Bath at Twickenham. While recent results have all but removed the chances of Wasps making the play offs, Bath still have a slim chance with just one Aviva Premiership game left after this clash. Last year 60,000 people turned out to the inaugural St George’s Day fixture between the two teams and were treated to a good competitive contest.

The offer operates on all match tickets and simply quote "VOUCHERCODES" when placing a booking through the Wasps ticket hotline on 0844 225 2990 or on the Wasps website or Ticketmaster website.

More details can be found on the Vouchercodes.co.uk website.

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Heineken Cup Quarter Finals Predictions - Gladiators Ready!

If there was ever a weekend which typified why the Heineken Cup is such a wonderful competition, this is it. Four absolutely intriguing contests in which form from the pool stages will ultimately have limited, if any bearing in these head to head one off clashes. This is gladiatorial rugby at its best and don't you just love it!

We can be impressed by the sublime skill on show at times in Super Rugby, we can relish the prospect of a competitive Six Nations and we can look forward and hope that a Northern Hemisphere side might just secure the World Cup, but frankly nothing matches the excitement, the loyalty, the passion and incredible intensity of the Heineken Cup.

A semi-final line up of Northampton v Perpignon and Leicester v Toulouse is my very tentative hunch but potentially fool hardy prediction!

Perpignon v Toulon - Perpignon by up to 5 points

It promises to be a unique occasion, as rugby is played in the Olympic Stadium for the first time. A symbol of Catalan identity and honour which I am sure will drive Perpignon to new levels and probably a close win. Toulon will enter this cauldron knowing that on their day they are match for any side in Europe and at times their rugby can be sublime, as many a Munster supporter will testify. Both sides have been plagued  by inconsistency with Toulon gaining a good away victory over Perpignon 29-20, in their Top 14 clash in early November, with tries from Fernandez Lobbe and Sackey and without Jonny Wilkinson at ten.

While I go for a Perpignon win I still hold on to the romantic notion that I will be watching Jonny in Cardiff come the final! In the words of the great man:

"Rugby is like a drug and you need your fix. You have to get it and a Heineken Cup quarter-final is pretty much the same as a international. It's another chance to get out there and live the dream."

Leinster v Leicester - Leicester by up to 5 points

An incredibly mouth watering and compelling match up. There are so many potentially great individual and unit contests to look forward to. Leicester will trust that there will not be a repeat for Ben Youngs and Toby Flood of their nightmare for England in the Aviva Stadium, and their battle with Eoin Redden and Jonny Sexton is going to be crucial. It will also be intriguing to see how the young guns of Anthony Allen and Manu Tuilagi match up to Brian O'Driscoll and Gordon D'Arcy. We might just see the young Tuliagi test O'Driscoll's mettle with a few early route one crash balls. This is also a big test for the Leicester pair in terms of their international aspirations and possible selection for the World Cup.

I fancy that the battle of the back rows could be one of the great contests of the season.  Shane Jennings has failed a fitness test so Kevin McLaughlin continues alongside Sean O'Brien, who will make his 50th Leinster appearance and Jamie Heaslip.  Thomas Waldrom was probably expected to start at No.8, but Richard Cockerill has stuck with the same back row as last week against Harlequins, with Craig Newby captaining the side from the open side alongside Tom Crofts and Jordan Crane. Waldrom coming on with half an hour to go looks a strong possibility. Dan Cole gets the nod over Martin Castrogiovanni and Boris Stankovivh comes in for the suspended, Marcos Ayurza.

I am going for Leicester on the basis that they get a good degree of control in the front five and then go on to really test Leinster across the park. I just think it could be one of those Leicester moments of digging very deep and coming up trumps - "cometh the hour cometh the tigers" and all that!

Northampton Saints v Ulster - Northampton by 11-15 points

For Northampton Saints the last three weeks have been about regrouping and restoration. On the basis of last week's performance the process has been successful and they will be looking to take a further step on the road to recovery on Sunday.  They were very much back to their best at times last week in their 8 try performance - powerful and belligerent upfront, playing with a great tempo and full of incisive attacking ideas. The returning internationals have all looked sharp while Courtney Lawes now looks fully recovered and back to form after his injury. For me though the key for the Saints has been the return of Lee Dickson from injury. Without him the Saints really struggled to assert themselves and they were nowhere near the potent attacking force we saw earlier in the season. He gives real energy and tempo to the side and ensures that the Saints get on the front foot. His clash with the hugely influential and impressive Ruan Pienaar.

Ulster will take heart from the fact that Sale Sharks did stretch the Saints at times particularly when they went through the phases and produced quick ball. I would imagine that Northampton will have been doing a good deal of defensive work this week in light of a less than impressive performance in this area.

The Irish side come in to the match off the back of nine wins in their last ten games and now lie in second place in the Magners League. Key to this run has been the form of the half backs with Ian Humphreys being ranked by Amlin Opta Stats as as the 9th best player in the 2010/11 Heineken Cup so far. Captained by Rory Best, there is just once change in the starting line-up from the side which defeated Llanelli Scarlets at Ravenhill last week, with Chris Henry starting in the openside berth ahead of Willie Faloon who is named on the bench.  While the loss of Stephen Ferris is a big blow to the province, they have shown in recent weeks what a resilient and very difficult side to play against - their last three victories have been by the margin of two or three points.

In the end I think that Ulster will just not have the fire power and may struggle to live with the pace and tempo of the Northampton game, particularly if they get control early in the game.

Biarritz v Toulouse - Toulouse by 6-10 points

At this stage last year, the Ospreys could and should have won in the Estadio Anoeta in San Sebastian with only the brilliance of Tukudzwa Ngwenya saving the day for Biarritz. A year on and similar questions will be asked of a seemingly inconsistent Biarritz side. Much will depend on what mindset the Basque side turn up with tomorrow. In last year's Heineken Cup final they lost the physical battle with Toulouse and this area will be a key priority for them; whether this means they play more of a tight game we will have to see.

Biarritz have had their plans disrupted by the loss of Damien Traille.  The vastly experienced centre, pulled up in training and has been forced to withdraw from the match with a bruised heel. His placed will be filled by Charles Gimenez. Earlier an ankle injury to Australian full back Dane Haylett-Pettyto has meant that Iain Balshaw will play at full back.

For Toulouse Bouilhou will captain the side from the back row where he is joined by Picamoles and Nicolas with Nyanga on the bench. There is still some doubt over the fitness of Dann Human and he will be replaced by Jean-Baptiste Poux if required. A back three of Cedric Heymans, Vincent Clerc and Maxime Medard looks hugely exciting while Clement Poitrenaud will partner Florian Fritz in the centre. The three times Heineken Cup winner, Yannick Jauzion is on the bench and the final place in the match day squad will be a late decision between Gregory Lamboley and Rupeni Caucaunibuca.

I am going for a repeat of the result in last year's final with a victory for Toulouse. I feel they just have a better all round game which will see them through. Let us also hope that we see more tries than the two sides served up in Paris a year ago.

Friday, 8 April 2011

A Conversation with Jason Leonard

I had the pleasure of catching up with the legendary Jason Leonard at a Wolf Blass VIP Dinner last night. The dinner for winners of a competition on the Wolf Blass Platinum website gave everyone present at Quo Vadis restaurant in Soho a chance to chat informally to the most capped international forward about all things rugby and wine. Jason was a wonderful host giving time to everyone and sharing his thoughts on many aspects of modern day rugby, not least the scrum!  Since his retirement from playing, Jason has not been so intimately involved in the game as some of his former colleagues, preferring not to be part of the professional game on a day to day basis through coaching or managing. Jason sites on the RFU council and it is very easy to see why his wise counsel is highly regarded at such a level.

Our conversation started with his thoughts on England's Grand Slam game in Dublin. "A year to early" was Jason's view on the young and exciting squad, with the thought that everyone had got rather carried away in terms of their expectations for the team. We agreed that a tougher and more resilient England team will have emerged from the defeat. It was also good to get his thoughts on the first scrum, which in hindsight had set the tone for the match. "A good old double shunt" was Jason's view, which had caught out England and in no time the Irish were three points up.

There was no doubt that Jason was excited by the next generation of props emerging for England. Alex Corbisiero had "done a great job and more" for England in the Six Nations and as result Andrew Sheridan had not really been missed. We both agreed that Corbisiero, Hartley and Cole would be strong contenders for the British Lions in 2013 - what Messrs Jenkins, Rees and Jones and a few thousand Welsh supporters would think of that, is a different matter.

Our next stop was the Stoop last Saturday and the debate over the refereeing over Wayne Barnes. As a loyal Harlequins man, Jason was incredibly impartial in his views. He clearly has high regard for Barnes and considers him one of the best referees at the scrum. "He was left with no option" was his take on the decision of Barnes to sin bin Harlequins tight head, Mark Lambert and then to award a penalty. Jason had been  a little surprised by the strength of the reaction of the Harlequins supporters on the matter. We agreed that this was compounded by the Marler - Ayerza incident, although again, Barnes had little room for manoeuvre once Marler had decided to retaliate with some well placed punches.

No conversation with a front row forward nowadays goes very far without the great "crouch, touch, pause, engage" debate coming to the fore and Jason has some interesting views on the matter. Consistency of timing between referees continues to be an issue as well as the need for better communication between the referees and the front rows. Jason was also keen to point out "the responsibility of the players" in the matter. He feels that it is a great shame that there is less informal discussion after the games between players of both sides and the referee - a feature of days gone by but one that could be so beneficial. We agreed that when the referees and front rows do get it right then it is still possible to have a hugely competitive scrum contest.

Jason clearly had a great deal of time for Paddy O'Brien as a referee when he was playing and he now hopes that he will have the strength of character and vision as the International Rugby Board's referee manager to resolve the current issues at the scrum. It does seem strange that someone of Jason's pedigree and experience has not been approached to advise or at least give his view on the matter. Jason feels that a "Scrum Forum" should be established which would include experienced past players without any ties to a particular club to work with the referees, coaches and players in order to resolve the interpretations of the laws, to seek some consistency and also develop the laws accordingly. It might be pie in the sky but you just feel that the eminently sensible and reflective approach of Jason Leonard could be just what is required at the time.

The dinner was hosted by Wolf Blass and during April, Platinum Club members can win a VIP trip to Polo in the Park, as well as enjoying 20% off some of the finest wines from the Wolf Blass cellar.

Wolf Blass is the official wine sponsor of the Rugby Football Union.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Daily Mail RBS Under 18 Cup Final: Whitgift at the Double

In post "Crusaders" Britain (the Canterbury variety) there has been a great deal written in recent weeks about the need to add subtlety and guile along with power to the midfield play of the home nations. No longer can a team just rely on two centres playing "bang it up "rugby. While there is a time and place for such tactics it is very unlikely that a total adherence to such an approach is going to get a team anywhere near the final stages of the forthcoming World Cup.

For all those commentators and supporters wondering where England is going to find greater subtlety of approach in the future, there was a glimpse of what might be possible at Twickenham yesterday in the Daily Mail RBS Under 18 Cup Final between Whitgift and Oakham. Billed as the "Battle of the Centres" with England Under 20 centres, Elliot Daly and Charlie Walker on show; the talented youngsters produced some sublime moments of skill in what was a splendid advert for top quality schoolboy rugby. Eventually the superiority of Whitgift came through, but the 45-24 score belies the fact that Oakham pushed the Croyden based side all the way.

The two centres were soon in the action in the opening minutes of the game with the much anticipated first collision drawing a loud response from the crowd. Daly's influence was considerable throughout the game, although a yellow card in the latter part of the first half for killing the ball at a ruck did result in Oakham levelling the scores during his absence. His afternoon included a 50 metre penalty from just on the half way line, a great break down the wing and one handed offload to set up full back Chris Crane for a try in the corner and in the 31st minute of the second half, a wonderful break which saw him beat three defenders before producing another sublime one handed off load to set up replacement winger, George Smith for a 40 metre dash to the corner and a stunning try.

Walker and his fellow centre Veenendaal were certainly not overawed by the occasion or the presence of Daly, with both players having a huge influence on the game. Walker's ability to step at pace has been a feature throughout the season and he produced another stunning try again yesterday. Collecting the ball on the forty metre line, Walker stepped and fended his opposite number, before racing for the line and in the process dummied and sprinted clear of the Whitgift fullback for a top class try. The attacking potency of Veenendaal was also very clear from the opening exchanges and in the middle of the first half he produced a darting run to score out wide. This was followed by a second try late in the second half when he collected a very well executed grubber kick.

It has been a whirlwind three months for Daly with the Daily Mail Cup campaign running alongside a Grand Slam with England Under 20. The icing on the cake for Daly might yet still be a premiership debut for Wasps at the end of what has been an amazing season for him. Walker may just have to wait a little longer for a place in the Harlequins first team, but there is no doubting that the prospect of both of them joining up to play for England in the future is an exciting one. Subtlety and guile were certainly on show yesterday!

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Daily Mail RBS Under 18 Cup - Elliot Daly takes success in his stride

While there is every indication that Elliot Daly is likely to have a highly successful career ahead of him, I am sure that irrespective of any future achievements, he will look back on the start of this year with considerable satisfaction. The 18 year old Upper Sixth form student from Whitgift School has managed with great success to combine a Grand Slam in the Under 20 Six Nations, with playing a central role in his school team as they navigated their way through the latter stages of the Daily Mail RBS Under 18 Cup.

This time last year, Whitgift proved to be worthy winners of the title after beating Newcastle Grammar School 34-10 with London Irish youngster, Marland Yarde scoring a hat trick of tries. Now Whitgift are on the brink of the double thanks to the significant contribution of Daly in the final stages of the competition.

After featuring in the England Under 18 set up last year, Daly has made a  smooth transition to the Under 20 ranks. Since his debut in the opening game of this year's Six Nations against Wales, the Whitgift youngster has been a regular in the centre, with his influence on the team being significant, not least in terms of his try scoring potential. Four tries against Italy, with three in the first half hour was followed up with a hat trick against Scotland including a spectacular low catch on the full and a dive over the line from George Ford’s accurate kick.

Whitgift's route to the final has not been straightforward and they have been pushed all the way firstly by Plymouth College in the quarter final and then by last year's Under 15 champions, Wilmslow High School. The Cheshire school  responded to a 20-7 deficit at one stage, to produce a late rally and ten unanswered points to stretch Whitgift to the limit.

Tomorrow Whitgift will face Oakham School at Twickenham in what is being touted as the "battle of the centres" with Daly's fellow England squad member and centre, Charlie Walker being the key player for an Oakham side that will be making their first appearance in the final since 2003. Walker was hugely influential in the semi final win over a determined and resilient Old Swinford Hospital side and his trade make stepping and elusive running will be needed again, if Whitgift are going to be prevented from completing a double.

Full Programme for Daily Mail Finals Day

U15 Vase - Harrogate Grammar School v Saffron Walden - 11.00 a.m.
U15 Cup - Truro School V RGS High Wycombe - 12.30 p.m.
U18 Vase - Solihull School v St George's College - 2.00 p.m.
U18 Cup - Oakham School v Whitgift School - 3.30 p.m.

Monday, 4 April 2011

When American Football turns to Rugby - Spot the difference!

There have been various occasions when rugby has flirted with the techniques and training methods of American Football and this week it is the turn of Saracens who are taking a late season break by joining the Miami Dolphins in their training facility at the Nova Southeastern University in Davie, Florida.

Saracens little sojurns throughout the season are starting to become a regular feature, although this break would seem to have a different emphasis than the previous trip to the Munich Beer Festival in September.

“American Football and rugby have a lot in common. Not only do we see this trip as a chance to revise, refresh and re-bond with each other but also give us an extra edge when we return to enable us to go one step better this season and finish our campaign as champions,” Edward Griffiths, Saracens chief executive, said.

“At this stage of the season, the difference between winning and losing games can literally be a matter of inches and if a trip to Miami is what we need to gain those extra inches, then that is what we have to do.”

While Saracens may be taking something from American Football it is also good to see that on occasion the opposite applies. Doing the rounds on Twitter last week was a link to a video clip from 2007, showing the final play of a game between Trinity University, San Antonio against Millsaps from Jackson, Mississippi in a Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference game.

Down 24-16 with just over two minutes to go, Trinity's Riley Curry scored to cut the lead to 24-22. After a missed two point conversion attempt and Millsaps failing to run the clock down with their possession, the Tigers were left with two seconds and 60 yards to go for a score. 15 lateral passes and 62 seconds later, Trinity crossed the goal line to win the game. In this abridged form of the game, seven of the eleven players for Trinity touched the ball.

The 2005 Alamo Bowl in San Antonio is another example of a game when a side in desperation on the final play of the game turns to some good old rugby skills. The Michigan Wolverines complete eight lateral pitches in an attempt to score against the Nebraska Cornhuskers. In an amazing passage of play the Wolverines somehow manage to evade the defence of the Cornhuskers as they break out of their own half only to be denied a touchdown by a covering tackle.





Video Clips from the Open and Festival Finals at the Rosslyn Park National Schools Sevens

Open Final - Filton College v Hartpury College
In a very closely contested west country derby, Filton College edged out Hartpury College 14-5 to take their first ever title after being the losing finalists last year.


Festival Final - Wellington College v Eton
Wellington College's 14-10 victory in the final gave them their fifth title in the last ten years with tries coming from Oli Williams and Elliott Markham.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Video of Joe Marler and Marcos Ayerza fight and sending off.

It all got a bit heated at the Stoop yesterday with the result that Joe Marler and Marcos Ayerza were sent off by refreee, Wayne Barnes after a fracas at the edge of a ruck.

There was great disquiet among the Harlequins faithful as Barnes severely punished the home team in the scrums and then seemingly watched Ayerza head butt Marler without taking any immediate reaction. Marler took matters in to his own hands and the rest is history. As you can see from below, Joe "The Mohican" Marler was not pleased with the outcome.

One might expect a longer ban for Ayerza for the initial act while Marler might now regret unloading a good right and a handy upper cut!

After his side's 13-17 defeat, Conor O'Shea made his thoughts clear:

"There are a number of talking points. Does Joe feel hard-done by? I know I would be. Should he have reacted that way, probably not. Was the provocation high? Absolutely."


Even more poetry from Gavin Henson

News from the sunny Mediterranean is that after his successful debut for Toulon yesterday, Gavin Henson has finally penned the remaining verses of his poem which was first started in January of this year. The poem provides an insight to the great angst felt by Henson as well as the hope and optimism that he experienced as he moved to Toulon. The final verses reflect the frustration of his injury and then the unadulterated joy of a try on his debut against Stade Francais. It has been a long journey for Henson and like many troubled souls, poetry has provided a release from the pain of not being accepted or understood.

I Just Want to be In and on the Inside
by Gavin Henson

I thought I was in but now I am out.
I just wanted to be inside,
But they put me outside.
Will I ever be in and inside.

I was on this side but I am now going to the otherside.
The otherside is better because I can be inside.
Inside is where I want to be.
You never know I might even be inside of inside and in.

My pain has been on the outside,
but I have hurt so much on the inside.
I love this otherside; the sun and warmth,
it helps my outside.

Yes they have told me I am on the inside.
No longer on the outside, but in and inside.
The crowd are still not sure whether I should be in,
but I know that this is where I belong.

Inside me is a man I admire.
He has always been in and inside.
I run, I pass, we score and I score.
Oh yes I am truly in and inside!


National Schools Sevens - Filton College dominates the Open Tournament

In a hugely competitive and totally compelling Open Tournament, Filton College emerged as winners after two gruelling days of competition. In a very closely contested west country derby, the Bristol based AASE college edged out Hartpury College 14-5 to take their first ever title after being the losing finalists last year.

After absolutely cruising through the latter stages of the competition, including a 45-5 win over Bro Morgannwg and an astonishing 40-0 demolition of Sedbergh, Filton produced a 24-7 semi final victory over a Brighton College side who had earlier impressed in their quarter final victory against Neath.

In the other half of the draw, Coleg Sir Gar emerged from the tournament's version of a group of death which included in addition to the Carmarthenshire College, last year's winners Millfield, St Joseph's, winners of the 2010 Colts competition and Under 18 Daily Mail semi finalists, along with Llandovery College and Arnold School. A convincing 43-7 victory over a highly determined Pangbourne set up a semi final clash with Hartpury who had been tested by Judd School from Kent in the quarter final. In a commanding semi final perfomance Hartpury saw off the challenge of Sir Gar, 24-19, to reach their second final in four years.

On the evidence of this year, the 6th form colleges seem to have a tightening grip on the Open tournament and it is going to take a very good school side to not only reach the latter stages but to win the title for the foresseable future.

In the Festival Tournament, Wellington College, last year's runners up, proved to be just too strong in the final for an Eton side who exceeded all expecatations in beating Bedford in the semi final. Bedford had earlier beaten the much fancied Epsom College. Wellington College's 14-10 victory in the final gave them their fifth title in the last ten years with tries coming from Oli Williams and Elliott Markham.

Filton College and Wellington College will now play at Twickenham during the first day of the London leg of the IRB Sevens on Saturday 21st May. The two sides have already met this season in the final of the Daily Mail National Sevens where Filton came out on top 29-12.

A dominant Tonbridge squad thoroughly deserved the Colts title with a string of impressive performances. After a close victory over a strong St Joseph's outfit (21-17), Tonbridge secured victories over Wimbledon, King's Taunton and Colston' before dispatching Dulwich in the final, 19-5. In their semi final, and in a Kent derby match, Dulwich overcame Dartford Grammar School 27-10. Dartford had earlier been responsible for knocking out last year's winners, Millfield in convincing fashion in the group stage.

Thirty two schools competed in this year's Girls Tournament with three AASE colleges, fighting their way through to the semi finals.In two very one sided games Moulton College truimphed over Truro College 48-0 while Hartpury totally dominated Pangbourne scoring 60 unanswered points. Hartpury went on to take the title with a 24-12 win.