AWC SEMIS, GP14 & TOP 14!

07 Mar 2018

Mathew Brown – The Rugby Channel Column

AWC SEMIS, GP14 & TOP 14!

Let’s start with massive congratulations to the Eagles for their second straight Americas Rugby Championship title!

The United States travelled to Uruguay and pounded Los Teros right from the get-go, leaving no doubt that once again they fully deserved to be crowned ARC champions. The USA Men’s National Team is a squad on the rise and The Rugby Channel was proud to deliver LIVE coverage of all five of their victories in the 2018 tournament.

If you happened to miss any of the Eagles wins over the last five weeks because you weren’t an annual subscriber to The Rugby Channel, you can Subscribe Now for only $59.99 then go back and watch this quintet of convincing triumphs on VOD.

On most weekends The Rugby Channel provides more potential LIVE rugby viewing opportunities than most people have time for in their busy schedules. Sometimes there’s just no way to catch every single match that TRC shows as it happens, which is why we offer a Video On Demand option that lets you watch the games you most want to see, whenever you can squeeze them in!

This upcoming weekend is a prime example of when hard choices have to be made because LIVE broadcasts from different competitions will overlap on TRC.

On Friday a re-scheduled Guinness PRO14 fixture featuring Scarlets and Leinster kicks off at 2:35 PM ET. Ten minutes later, an Anglo-Welsh Cup semifinal clash will take place between Bath and Northampton. Here I suggest that you resist the temptation to dive right into what promises to be a high-quality PRO14 inter-conference battle and instead wait for the start of the AWC knockout tilt, then watch the PRO14 game from Wales later on VOD.

On Saturday the second AWC semi gets underway at 8:00 AM ET with Exeter hosting Newcastle, then forty-five minutes later there’s a pulsating top of the table showdown pitting Montpellier and Racing 92. Here there’s less overlap so you should probably watch the elimination confrontation from England all the way through, then go back and fully enjoy the Top 14 scuffle at your leisure.

Thankfully on Sunday there’s no conflict so all you have to do is get up early at 7:30 AM ET and settle in for breakfast with some French flair as Castres travels to Paris to firm up their playoff position and Stade Francais tries to stay out of the relegation zone.

Now, back to the Eagles and their domination of Los Teros in a rumble for avian supremacy at Estadio Charrua!

URUGUAY 19 – 61 UNITED STATES

The strong offensive and defensive first half that Coach Gary Gold had been looking for from the Eagles finally happened in Montevideo as the visitors scored six tries and held the home side scoreless for a 40-0 lead after forty minutes.

Five pointers from Tony Lamborn, Mike Te’o, Dylan Fawsitt, Nate Augspurger, Hanco Germishuys, plus a penalty try gave the Eagles an insurmountable advantage as they went into the locker room. Instead of letting down in the second half, Gold’s men scored a further three tries with Te’o getting his second and Josh Whippy and Psalm Wooching also dotting down.

The win was especially impressive considering how tough Uruguay usually plays the United States, particularly when they are at home.

The win also moved the United States up to 15th in the World Rankings, passing Uruguay, Romania, and Samoa.

Coupled with the Eagles stunning success at the USA Sevens in Vegas on Sunday, this has to rank as one the best ever weekends for USA men’s rugby!    

OYANNAX 33 – 27 STADE FRANCAIS

After watching this bottom of the table performance it was both easy to see and impossible to reconcile why these teams are in such danger of heading down to D2 next year.

Simple and repetitive mistakes from both sides due to a lack of concentration and discipline were sprinkled throughout the contest. Not getting the basics right in multiple areas like set pieces and the breakdown gave straightforward evidence as to how they have come to be in 14th and 12th.

But here’s the thing. Both sides also had moments of amazing play and incredible displays of talent and rugby savvy which made the game very fun to watch. The home crowd was loud and supportive of Oyannax all day, creating a great atmosphere at the ground. Not just any competition can produce such an entertaining outing from two sides that are struggling for their very lives.

Well worth checking out on VOD! 

CLERMONT 21 – 17 LA ROCHELLE

This Top 14 encounter featured the defending champions and the recent table leaders, both mired in the depths of near catastrophic losing streaks. Instead of producing ugly rugby though, they combined for a fast-paced, exciting skirmish that went right down to the wire.

Clermont have probably left it until too late to seriously challenge for a playoff spot but if they can play like they did on Sunday, they may be able to string together enough victories to at least put pressure on the teams above them on the ladder.

La Rochelle needs to right the ship. They should have earned their first ever win in Clermont-Ferrand but instead they made some crucial errors at critical moments and had to settle for a losing bonus point.

When you watch this one, concentrate on how fast the game is played and how skillful all the backs and forwards are with ball in hand!

SCARLETS v LEINSTER – Friday, March 9 at 2:35 PM ET

Bad weather across the United Kingdom last weekend caused five of the GP14 Round 17 matches to be postponed. They will be played at various times over the remainder of the competition but the good news is that the best fixture, Scarlets vs Leinster, will be played this Friday.  

This Conference B matchup is huge!

Leinster is sitting in first place on 62 points and Scarlets are in second with 59. Leinster won the last meeting 20-13 a few weeks ago and have since been able to pull ahead of Scarlets, who they’ve trailed for most of the campaign.

Enjoy this one, it’s going to be a cracker!

BATH v NORTHAMPTON – Friday, March 9 at 2:45 PM ET

Both these sides really want to make it to the Anglo-Welsh Cup Final and that desire will be reflected in the strength of the teams that take the pitch at the Recreation Ground.

Bath won this competition ten times in thirteen years in the Eighties and Nineties. Northampton last hoisted the trophy in 2010.

Bath is still fighting in the Premiership, Northampton is too far back so this is their only chance for silverware this season and that might give them an edge on Friday night.  

EXETER v NEWCASTLE – Saturday, March 10 at 8:00 AM ET

Exeter and Newcastle are currently in first and fourth respectively in the Premiership. Both would love to have the chance at a double and the only way to keep that option alive is to be victorious at Sandy Park on Saturday.

Exeter won it all in 2014 but fell at the final hurdle in 2016 and 2017. Newcastle last came out on top in 2004 and lost the 2011 Final.

This is going to be a real hard-fought tussle and I can’t wait to watch it!

MONTPELLIER v RACING 92 – Saturday, March 10 at 8:45 AM ET

It would be extremely hard to find two better clubs going at it anywhere in the world on Saturday.

Montpellier has earned the top position so far in the Top 14 with 13 wins and 6 losses for a total of 61 points. Racing 92 have the same record but have garnered three fewer bonus points along the way and find themselves in second with 58.

Racing took the first meeting 26-0 back in November.

Star power at the flyhalf position alone is enough of a reason to watch this one with Aaron Cruden squaring off against Daniel Carter!  

STADE FRANCAIS v CASTRES – Sunday, March 11 at 7:30 AM ET

Less than three years removed from winning the competition, Stade Francais now have to concern themselves with avoiding automatic relegation. They certainly have the talent to avoid going down but the pertinent question is, can they all play together well enough to climb back up the ladder from the 12th rung?

Castres are in sixth place with 52 points and could easily end the weekend either in fourth or ninth because the teams above and below are so tightly grouped.

Being back in Paris may rejuvenate Stade Francais so Castres will have to exhibit all of their considerable power to stifle that possibility.

This will be a great way to kick off Sunday morning! 

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