The strutting peacock that is the Leinster flyhalf rescued the Blues from a shock defeat over Irish rivals Ulster with a dart over the try line. It has been a frustrating season for the Blackrock man who has found his opportunities limited due to Matt O’Connor’s preference for Jimmy Gopperth. However, Madigan’s magic may just be enough to earn him a starting spot in the final against Glasgow and even a ticket to Argentina this summer. Maith an fear, Ian.
Mark McCall’s men were thrown down the gauntlet by Harlequins in the Premiership semi-final and the Fez Heads responded brilliantly. Trailing 17-11 at half time, courtesy of tries by Ugo Monye and Mike Brown, Saracens came out in the second period to blitz ‘Quins. Tries from Brad Barritt and Chris Aston contributed to the Barnet based side winning the second forty 20-0. Saracens are two games away from completing a historic domestic/ European double. An astonishing achievement for any side but especially for Saracens who have only ever won two trophies in their entire history.
The Franklins Gardens’ faithful must have been wondering if they were ever going to beat their East Midlands rivals Leicester Tigers, when Saints’ prop, Salesi Ma’afu was sent off with the home side trailing 17-9. But the Saints kept the faith and a try from giant Welsh wing, George North, brought the scores to within a point. A penalty from Tigers’ Owen Williams stretched the lead to four points but with 78 minutes on the clock Captain, Tom Wood, crashed over to hand Saints their first win over Leicester in eleven attempts and more importantly, a place in the Premiership final.
The Natal side bared their teeth in Christchurch as they as defeated the in-form Crusaders in New Zealand for the first time. The win was all the more remarkably as the Sharks played most of the match with 14 men when Jean Deysel was red carded for stamping after 15 minutes. Is 2014 the season the Sharks get their hands on the Super Rugby title after four final defeats?
The England winger is scoring tries for fun at the moment but the former Rugby League man cannot keep his name out of the headlines for the wrong reasons. Usually it is for his crude “Ash splash” that he attracts negative comments but yesterday it was for heckling Harelquins’ flyhalf, Nick Evans. As Evans was about to strike the ball to convert Mike Brown’s try, Ashton charged shouting “Miss it! Miss it!” Notwithstanding that it is an offence in rugby to heckle the goal kicker but in terms of sportsmanship and fairness it is very poor from Ashton. Another excuse for a legion of haters to dislike the Saracens’ man. Mór an t-Amadán thú, Chris!
Different match but same result for the Northern Province. The Ulstermen were probably the better team at the RDS but they ran out of steam as the game went on and when Leinster called on the cavalry it was only a matter of time before the Red Hands succumbed. It is now the fourth season in-a-row that Ulster have been defeated by Leinster in the Pro 12 and European Cup. Mark Anscombe will be hoping that 2015 will provide Ulster with a change in fortunes.
For the first time in 10 years, England’s most consistent team have not made the playoff final. Coach, Richard Cockerill, will be frustrated with his charges, considering they blew an eight-point lead against 14 men. The defeat will be felt even more acutely as it was at the hands of their East Midlands’ rivals. The Tigers will be disappointed but there is no doubt that the Welford Road side will be challenging again next year.
The Northampton prop’s rush of blood to the head nearly cost his team’s place in the playoff final. Ma’afu was given his marching orders after clobbering Leicester hooker, Tom Youngs. The Saints managed to pull off a victory but it will be bittersweet for Ma’afu as he will most likely be suspended for his on field indiscretion on Friday night.
Matt Cassidy, Pundit Arena.