RaboDirect Pro12: Leinster extend lead at the top of the table
What did we learn from an action-packed weekend of RaboDirect Pro12 rugby, including Leinster's victory over Munster?
Henson back in the headlines
Gavin Henson never ceases to amaze with his off-field antics and again this weekend, he is the subject of scrutiny from his club as a result of alleged misconduct on an aircraft. The 30-year-old burst onto the scene in sensational style against England at the Millennium Stadium in 2005. However, since then, he has regularly been in the media spotlight for issues not related to rugby. These indiscretions include criticising his own British and Irish Lions team-mates in his autobiography, fighting with his colleagues at Toulon and letting his private life overshadow his career. The latest misdemeanour has resulted in Henson being suspended by his club and, as a result, he may have severed some of the few ties keeping him at the highest level of professional rugby.
Leinster ensure home play-off birth
Leinster defeated Munster in Thomond Park on Saturday night in another titanic Irish derby. The victory will be made all the more sweet considering Leinster now sit proudly on the top of the table and can focus all their energy on Heineken Cup clash against the Blues next Saturday. Eventually winning on 18-9, Leinster looked more threatening throughout but Munster at least deserved a bonus point, and they were cruelly denied as a late penalty from Fergus McFadden and drop-goal from Ian Madigan sealed the victory. Prior to that, it had been a tale of the opposing out-halves as Jonathan Sexton and Ronan O’Gara traded penalties throughout. Isa Nacewa gave another display full of attacking intent as he picked up the man-of-the-match crown.
Biggar pulls the strings
At the heart of a great rugby team is a good number 10 and so this proved again at the Liberty Stadium on Saturday night. Dan Biggar kept up his impressive form and helped the Ospreys move into second place in the table. The 41-10 win over Treviso is on the back of their shock win over Leinster at the RDS stadium last weekend as the Ospreys look set to book a semi-final at their home stadium. Biggar was instrumental throughout and he epitomised all that is good in Welsh rugby right now, combining some neat off-loads with some quality support play and supreme control behind a dominant scrum. The Ospreys can control their own destiny but they face two of their biggest rivals, the Blues and the Newport Gwent Dragons, in a tough run-in. They can now concentrate seeing off the challenge of the teams below them, with Leinster are out of sight at the top of the table.
Shock of the weekend at Rodney Parade
Connacht provided the most surprising result of the weekend as they edged to a victory over a Dragons side that had been in top form recently. One try in each half from Fetu’u Vainikolo proved decisive as the Dragons could only manage a Toby Falateau effort late on as a consolation. Connacht needed to start well after last week’s disappointing loss against Munster – and they did. The west of Ireland side raced out of the blocks, showing a skill level absent from many of their recent performances. Miah Nikora was another stand-out performer as he kept his composure to keep the score ticking over, while his Pacific Islander team-mate played his part. It was a win full of courage and endeavour from Connacht.
Good week for Scottish Rugby
Scottish club rugby has been very much in the ascendency of late while their international team continues to struggle. And this weekend brought more success as Glasgow Warriors and Edinburgh enjoyed big wins over the Blues and the Scarlets respectively. For Scottish clubs to be beating Welsh teams like this on a weekly basis really raises questions about the lack of success of the national side. Scotland continue to struggle on the international stage but their club teams are able to get bonus points against some of Europe’s elite. With Edinburgh facing a difficult trip to Toulouse next weekend, it is likely that there will be no Scottish sides in the semi-finals of the Heineken Cup – but this season has seen huge strides for club rugby in the country and it can only be a matter of time before this success is converted into the national team.