#360Rugby: Harlequins’ statement of intent, Andy Farrell and Ireland a perfect fit

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • Mail
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • WhatsApp
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
Andy Farrell (L) will take up the role of Irish defence coach in June.

The start of 2016 has been a busy one in the world of rugby and here, Sport360’s rugby experts analyse a magnificent Harlequins’ win, Andy Farrell’s Irish appointment and a tough day for UAE clubs.

Harlequins start 2016 with a bang

Under the Saturday night lights of south west London, Harlequins produced a masterclass in wet weather rugby to end Saracens’ win streak in front of a sell-out crowd.

The fact that it was a London derby only added to the sense of pantomime in what must surely go down in club’s finest victories at the Twickenham Stoop. As a regular visitor at the historical venue, this scribe can confirm it was certainly one of the loudest.

The game was full of flashpoints like that of James Horwill’s yellow card early in the game, but none were more influential on the result than Saracens prop Rhys Gill’s red card on 65 minutes.

Until that point the Premiership champions were six points ahead and looked ready to settle into their by now customary last quarter of the match dominance.

However Gill’s reckless challenge was correctly rewarded with an early shower and Quins needed no second invitation to ‘turn the screw’ on the visitors.

Wave after wave of multi-coloured attacks concluded in a Horwill try that not only served to atone for the Australian’s earlier indiscretion, but sealed a Harlequins victory that could set their season alight.

Farrell and Schmidt are a match made in rugby Heaven

With a coaching CV that includes assistant coaching roles at Saracens, England and the British & Irish Lions, Andy Farrell was never going to wonder rugby wilderness for long.

Joe Schmidt wasted no time in bringing the former duel-code international on board as Ireland’s defence coach, and the appointment is a very shrewd move by the New Zealander.

Under Farrell Ireland will employ a rugby league-style defence with fast line speed which, coupled with their preference for the choke tackle, should prove to be devastatingly effective.

However Farrell’s use as a coach extends far beyond that of his tactical nous. As Ireland’s senior players will know from the Lions, the Wigan legend is motivational machine and where Schmidt prefers the role of cool-headed Kiwi, Farrell will inspire his men with fiery rhetoric.  It is a match made in rugby coaching Heaven.

The only snag is that Farrell’s start date will be after the 2016 Six Nations, when he will take the reins from outgoing coach Les Kiss.

Ulster prove that class is permanent

After an unusually sluggish start to the season it is fair to say that Ulster are back to their best, and Europe is all the better for it.

Last November Saracens consummately thrashed Ulster 29-7 in Belfast, but if last weekend’s results are anything to go by it will be a different story in next week’s return fixture.

After going 23-0 down at half-time, the Northern Irishmen staged one of the most impressive comebacks in European rugby history to beat Oyonnax in Pool One and stay in the competition.

In fact, it was a second successive victory on French soil for Rory Best’s men following on from their 25-23 win in Toulouse in round four.

Saracens will undoubtedly come out all guns blazing at Allianz Park, but if Les Kiss’ men can weather the early storm (perhaps literally), then in Ruan Pienaar and Paddy Jackson have the class to steer their team to another shock win on the road.

Gulf in class as Doha defeat Al Ain

West Asia Championship new boys Al Ain Amblers were given a harsh reality check on the opening day of the tournament, going down 67-33 at home.

Having endured a difficult start to life back in the UAE Premiership with seven defeats from seven this season, the men from the Garden City started to turn a corner towards the end of 2015 with some impressive performances during the sevens campaign.

However West Asia champions Doha were not feeling sympathetic when Kiniiviliame Natuna was sent off and ruthlessly scored 36 unanswered points in the second half to end the contest.

Despite the scoreline Al Ain can take heart from the fact that it was an even contest for 55mins until the sending off, and there are not too many other teams that will put 33 points past the men from Qatar either.

Luke Ward, Sam Spencer and Aaron McLelland also touched down for the Qataris who will be among the favourites for the West Asia Championship again, as Amblers at least picked up a try-scoring bonus point.

Bahrain win demonstrates bridging of gap in talent

With Doha’s Gulf Top 6 victory last year coupled to Bahrain’s stunning 13-12 against Abu Dhabi Saracens last weekend, it looks as if the age of UAE dominance in regional competitions is over.

If truth be told it could have been an even greater winning margin for the visitors, had it not been for Vito Tuivione’s try at the death to give Sarries an ultimately unsuccessful conversion to win the match.

Opposition teams should not get ahead of themselves just yet, given that it was the capital side’s second home defeat in 16 months.

But the result does set up a mouth-watering clash between Doha and Saracens next week in Al Ghazal, with the Qataris keen to avenge their West Asia final loss and Sarries keen to get back to winning ways.

While it looks as though Muscat will struggle to compete in the league they arguably should not be playing in the first place, the tournament can only benefit from Doha and Bahrain’s emergence as consistently good performers.

Extra-time

BMT stands for Big Match Temperament and it is a phrase that is all rugby players, from the top echelons of professional leagues right down to the Saturday amateurs are familiar with. Every team needs players who will rise to the occasion if they are to build consistency and last weekend, Ulster fly-half Paddy Jackson showed he had spadefuls of BMT. The playmaker has received a lot of flack in his short career for his kicking abilities but after nailing this 55m kick, in extra time, to complete one of European rugby’s finest-ever comebacks will go some way in banishing his demons. It’s also worth noting that the kick had another 10 metres in it.

Most popular

Al Ain Amblers head coach happy with performance

Matt Jones 10/01/2016
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • Mail
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • WhatsApp
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
Up for it: Al Ain Amblers are banking on the positives from the Doha game to carry them forward.

Despite being outgunned 67-33 in an opening day 100-point thriller in the West Asia Championship, Al Ain Amblers head coach Andrew Rouvi saw plenty of positives in the defeat to Doha.

Having endured a difficult start to life back in the UAE Premiership with seven defeats from seven this season, the men from the Garden City started to turn a corner towards the end of 2015 with some impressive performances during the sevens campaign.

Improvement was seen yet again on Friday as Amblers led last year’s West Asia Cup finalists 33-31 early in the second half before a red card for Kiniiviliame Natuna saw the visitors score 36 unanswered points to storm to a somewhat flattering opening day victory.

Rouvi believes Amblers can use the result and performance as a marker for the rest of the season.

“There were encouraging signs from us, absolutely,” said the New Zealander.

“We gave them a game. We were in it for the first 55 minutes before the player got the red card, which was obviously the turning point.

“Doha are a good side and took advantage of having the extra man. We think we can get better and for 55 minutes we were pretty happy with what we saw.”

In an open and exciting encounter, both teams traded punches on the score sheet before Natuna threw an actual punch at an opp-onent and got dismissed, quickly going from two-try hero to zero.

Rouvi bemoaned the “silly mistakes” his side continue to make in regards to their discipline, but he is excited by the progress his team are making ahead of the trip to Jebel Ali Dragons next week. “The boys are back in training now and they’re excited,” he said.

“We have Dragons next week and a few players will be returning so we should be getting stronger in the coming weeks.”

Having arrived at the West Asia Championship somewhat unchallenged in their own pre-Christmas tournament, amassing seven straight wins in the Gulf Premiership, Doha head coach Aaron Palmer said the Al Ain test was exactly what was required.

“We needed a good test and got it,” said the Kiwi.

“We were made to work very hard for it but that’s what happens when you play one round before Christmas without really being challenged.

“We won but were tested for 50 minutes by the Al Ain boys throwing it around in sevens mode. They went ahead 33-31 into the second half but we restored some structure to the game and eventually got on top.”

Caine Elisara was the star man for the visitors as he incredibly scored eight of Doha’s 11 tries.

Luke Ward, Sam Spencer and Aaron McLelland also touched down for the Qataris who will be among the favourites for the West Asia Championship.

Devante Steel, Patrick Camaivuna and Vilikesa Varawa scored a try apiece for the hosts, in addition to Natuna’s double, as Amblers at least picked up a try-scoring bonus point.

Most popular

Related Sections

Racing 92 nab bonus point in Glasgow thrashing

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • Mail
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • WhatsApp
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
Victory: Juan Imhoff.

Racing 92 pummelled Glasgow in a bonus-point 34-10 victory on Saturday to put themselves firmly in the driving seat of Pool 3 of the European Champions Cup.

The Parisian club proved far too powerful up front for the Scottish side, scoring four converted pushover tries.

Victory at home to already-eliminated Scarlets next weekend will secure Racing’s progress into the knock-out stages.

“The first objective was to win the match, put on a great performance and take the five points if we could,” said Racing coach Laurent Labit.

“In this European Cup we’ve had three bonus-point victories and a draw away from home in four matches, it’s a competition that suits us.

“Now we have a last match here against Scarlets to go to make sure of qualification.”

Glasgow’s Finn Russell missed his first penalty effort at a wind-swept Stade Yves-du-Manoir, but the fly-half was on target with his second attempt to hand the visitors an unlikely lead after a quarter of an hour.

Racing’s star man Dan Carter drew the scores level 10 minutes later with his own penalty and the one-way traffic continued when former Chiefs prop and one-time All Black hopeful Ben Tameifuna, weighing in at 134kg (21 stone), crashed over from short range.

Carter, the record points scorer in international rugby with 1,598 points from 112 caps, kicked the conversion and a second penalty shortly before half-time.

Racing opened the second period in complete control, skipper and hooker Dimitri Szarzewski driven over for the Parisian club’s second try, Carter making no mistake with the extras.

More forward power saw prop Eddy Ben Arous crash over as all three front-row forwards got on the scoresheet.

Glasgow’s outstanding Fijian lock Leone Nakawara claimed a try back after a smart lineout play following a rare foray into Racing territory, Russell kicking the conversion.

But Racing refocused and had the last laugh when Argentina lock Manuel Carizza was driven over the line for a bonus-point fourth try that leaves the Parisians top of the pool on 17 points, with just two games left, at home to Scarlets on January 17 and away to Glasgow on January 23.

Racing’s cross-city rivals Stade Francais host Munster in Saturday’s other game, in a round of matches rearranged in the wake of terror attacks in the French capital in November that left 130 people dead.

Last year’s runners-up Clermont stayed on course for the quarter-finals on Friday with a 28-10 win over Bordeaux-Begles.

Most popular

Related Sections