RaboDirect Pro12: Lessons from an eventful weekend of rugby
What lessons did we learn from an action-packed instalment of RaboDirect Pro12 rugby, including a rare Leinster defeat?
Ospreys end Leinster’s run
Even a Leinster side on a 20-game winning streak and welcoming back captain Brian O’Driscoll can be beaten – the Ospreys proved it on Friday night as they snatched a dramatic victory at the RDS. The Ospreys edged to a 23-22 win but Leinster had led 19-6 just after half-time and looked in cruise control. A late sin-binning of Ospreys flanker Justin Turpic seemed to ensure the visitors would suffer a loss in Dublin and seal Leinster’s 21st consecutive victory. But the Ospreys kept their composure and with their scrum so dominant in the final 30 minutes, they scored two tries to come away with a crucial victory. The win means the Welsh side stay in the play-off places, while Leinster remain at the summit of the RaboDirect Pro12.
Tonderai Chavhanga sparkles
At the start of the season the Dragons signed the relatively unknown Tonderai Chavhanga and on Friday night the South African winger produced another scintillating display. Following on from the wonder try he scored against the Blues last week, Chavhanga hleped himself to two further tries. His incredible speed has been a huge part of the Dragons’ good form of late and with his imminent contract extension, the Newport-Gwent faithful can look forward to his amazing runs for some time to come yet. His tries came as the Dragons saw off Edinburgh at Murrayfield in a 29-15 win – they climbed to eighth and have their sights firmly set on Cardiff, who are going in the opposite direction.
Connacht remain the nearly boys of Irish rugby
If there was ever a side that deserved a bit of luck it is Connacht. On Saturday night they lived up to their names as the nearly boys of Irish rugby. They have regularly frustrated their fans, throwing away victories in the closing moments of games – and this time around it was Munster who beat Connacht 20-16. Oliver Cromwell’s phrase “to hell or to Connacht” will ring true in rugby terms until Eric Elwood’s side start securing victories in these tight encounters. This season was seen as new dawn for Connacht as they entered the Heineken Cup for the first time. The facilities have improved, along with the support – but the aggravation for the supporters remains. The province are reportedly on the verge of signing several big-name players who could be on their way to the Sportsground with Dan Parks and Nathan White already committed to the west Ireland side. Whether Connacht can live up to their promise remains to be seen.
Italian sides continue to struggle
Last season two Italian teams were inducted into the RaboDirect Pro12 as part of its new format. It was seen as an initiative to help the image of Italian rugby to grow further on the world stage. But this was a weekend to forget for the Azzurri. After the national side’s heroics against Scotland in the final Six Nations game, Aironi and Treviso were beaten by Glasgow and Ulster respectively. Treviso were extremely unlucky against Ulster, where a late Adam D’Arcy try wrestled the points in favour of the Ulsterman, while Aironi were thrashed by the Warriors. Aironi’s only act of defiance was to deny their opponents a bonus point – but questions about the state of Italian rugby remain. Vast amounts of funding are needed if these sides want to stay competitive at this level.
With Wales the Kings of European rugby at the moment it is inevitable that the Welsh club sides will begin to stake their claims for supremacy. The Llanelli Scarlets have a rich history and they are now emerging as a blossoming side with the potential to win trophies in the coming years. Victory over Cardiff on Saturday cemented their names at the pinnacle of Welsh rugby and also gives them a great chance of getting into this year’s play-offs. The Scarlets contain the backbone of the Grand-Slam winning side, players such as George North, Jonathan Davies and Rhys Priestland light up the backline while Matthew Rees provides the experience at hooker. England’s Ben Morgan and Scotland’s Sean Lamont are two more who ensure a visit to Parc Y Scarlets will be an uncomfortable 80 minutes.