Happy New Year and welcome to the first Newspilez of 2011. With thoughts of tinsel and turkey already distant in our minds, it’s time to meet January head on. With the ongoing drama of the Aviva Premiership, H-Cup and Magners League to keep us busy, plus the Six Nations and a small grassroots tournament which we believe is known as the Rugby World Cup lined up, we’re going to do our best to keep bringing you our quirked-eyebrow, tongue-in-cheek, sometimes slightly capslocky and hysterical brand of rugby coverage over the next year. To that end…
Aironi put Cardiff Blues through their paces on Friday night at the Cardiff City Stadium, though they’re still sitting at the bottom of the Magner’s League having failed to land a victory so far this season. Leigh Halfpenny made a triumphant return from injury with a try which helped Blues to their eventual 24-13 win.
The Ospreys continued in their quest to make Lauren and Anna pull all their hair out by the end of the season during their clash with Leinster. There were bursts of promise which had us on the edges of our seats, with first-time Ospreys captain Justin Tipuric landing himself a try, but it just wasn’t Dan Biggar’s night. Leinster took a 15-10 victory and we heaved heavy sighs.
The Scottish press is up in arms concerning Munster’s 22-20 win over Glasgow on Saturday, questioning the try awarded to David Wallace (The Herald has made some implications about video ref Dermot Moloney being from Munster…) and the sin binning of Glasgow fullback Bernardo Stortoni which led to Ronan O’Gara’s winning penalty kick. Expect the resultant debate about the need for neutral officials in the league to go on for some time…
Elsewhere in the Magner’s League, Ulster pulled their socks firmly up and saw off Treviso 32-13, Dragons slipped past Connacht 17-16 and Scarlets were doubtlessly making snow angels in delight after beating Edinburgh by 21 points to 16 at Murrayfield.
Saturday was derby day in London, as Quins took on Wasps at the packed out Stoop. Quins went in fighting and put on a great team show in the first half, setting up well deserved tries for Joe Marler and Mike Brown. Wasps put up a tough fight and even though Andy Powell was slogging it out all over the pitch, Nick Easter edged over for a third try and Quins went into the break 17-7 up. Wasps dominated possession in the second half, but only managed to put 3 more points on the board and while Quins took the win 17-10, Chris Robshaw admitted that his squad were “a little flat” in the second half.
Of course the real derby took place in the east Midlands on Saturday evening as Aviva Premiership table leaders Leicester Tigers took on second place rivals Northampton Saints. As far as exciting starts to games go, you’re going to be hard pressed to beat Ben Foden touching down just 53 seconds into this tough, injury-strewn head to head.
Both Courtney Lawes and Chris Ashton went off early in the game with a knackered knee and quad muscle respectively, but it was Geordan Murphy who came off worse, stretchered off in the last quarter.
Despite the early show and a great fight from Saints, Leicester went into the game at an advantage as they were six points clear in the league and had a five game winning streak and the roar of the Welford Road faithful in their ears. Tries from Craig Newby and Marcos Ayerza and seventeen points courtesy of Toby Flood’s boot secured Tigers a 27-16 victory.
Other premiership matches saw Bath scrape past Leeds 16-13 thanks to Barks and Bendy and London Irish reaching double figure doom with their tenth consecutive loss as Saracens beat them 12-6. Exeter’s smashing season opener against Gloucester was a distant memory with a 37-23 defeat in the re-match and Sale drew with Newcastle 19 points apiece.
Over in France, Toulouse are still the heavy hitters in the Top 14 despite a monster 31-3 defeat at the hands of Stade Francais on Saturday. Racing Metro edged out Toulon on Sunday night in a 15-12 home victory which has put them in second place on the league table, just two points behind Toulouse.
Two small matters to finish with: if you haven’t already seen the posts and the social media barrage, voting for the 2010/11 Manpilez Awards is now open! The blog had its busiest ever day on Saturday after a number of your lovely nominees were kind enough to promote us in the hopes of getting their hands on the coveted (and we hasten to add metaphorical) awards. If you haven’t already casted your vote, you have until Saturday 15 January!
And finally, if you only follow one new Twitter account this week, why not make it @sebchabal_eng. Yes, that’s right, Seabass himself, translated into English. Where else will you get gems like “Yes, mushrooms are scrumptious. That’s a fact”?
Words by Anna