Mathew Brown – The Rugby Channel Column
ANGLO-WELSH CUP FINAL!
2018 has already been a banner year for subscribers to The Rugby Channel and we’re just now getting to the really good stuff! Whether you’re into the Guinness PRO14 with its traditional Celtic clashes, the French Top 14 with its Gallic flair, or domestic collegiate rugby at the highest level, TRC has exactly what you want to watch!
Last weekend Cardiff outmuscled Ulster, Munster stifled Scarlets, Army thwarted Navy’s late comeback, Toulon thrashed Clermont, and Lyon fell to Racing 92 at home. All you have to do to watch this incredible action all year long is Subscribe Now to The Rugby Channel for just $59.99 and then simply decide which matches you want to see LIVE and which ones you’re going to watch with our Video On Demand option.
Here’s a quick look back at Round 18 from the GP14, Round 22 from the Top 14, and one of the best rivalries in American collegiate rugby.
There was a definite air of inevitability about Cardiff winning this one but that didn’t stop Ulster from struggling mightily to stay in the match for most of the night.
Cardiff scored a try right from the get-go and looked to be running away with it when USA Eagle Blaine Scully added another five pointer in the thirteenth minute but Ulster kicked a couple of penalties to keep within reach of the Blues at halftime with the score 17-6.
Ulster could have kept it even closer but twice they rejected penalty attempts and went after tries, both times unsuccessfully. Some might question the decision making but Ulster are in desperate straits and require desperate measures to get into the playoffs.
The visitors clawed back to a 17-12 deficit before Cardiff dotted down again and added a couple more penalties to make the outcome a foregone conclusion but that didn’t end the action. Ulster crossed the line in the 79th minute for a late consolation before Cardiff responded at the death with an important bonus point try.
Cardiff’s win pushed them up to 47 points in fourth place in Conference A, only five behind the Cheetahs, who they play next round in Bloemfontein.
Ulster’s loss saw them stay on 46 points, also in fourth but trailing Edinburgh by thirteen. Ulster can close that gap when they meet on Friday, April 6th at 2:35 PM ET at Murrayfield, LIVE on The Rugby Channel.
Munster and Scarlets – in second place in A and B – both looked to gain ground on their respective conference leaders but only the home side achieved their goal at Thomond Park in Limerick.
Scarlets got on the scoreboard first with a sixth minute try but after converting it they couldn’t ever add to their tally, despite generally controlling the first half in both possession and territory. The visitors did continually look dangerous with ball in hand and whenever they got their up tempo style going but were never quite able to break through Munster’s strong defense after the early going.
Munster took the lead with a well-worked try soon after the halftime break then sealed the victory with just a couple of minutes to play. The men in red played their typical stingy and physical defense while controlling the set pieces and never allowing Scarlets to again break through in a significant way.
Munster’s win lifted them to 58 points, still twelve behind the Conference A leaders Glasgow and now just six ahead of the Cheetahs. In Rounds 19 and 20 they will travel to South Africa to take on the Southern Kings and the Cheetahs.
The Scarlets lost both the match and the chance to get back into first place in Conference B, as Leinster lost to the Ospreys. Still on 61 points in second place, Scarlets head home to Llanelli to face off against Glasgow on Saturday, April 7th at 11:15 AM ET LIVE on The Rugby Channel.
Last year The Rugby Channel broadcast the Army vs Navy battle LIVE from West Point, New York and it was a serious thriller that went right down to the wire. This year’s meeting was in Annapolis, Maryland and the result was exactly the same, a thoroughly entertaining encounter that was decided right at the final whistle as Navy attempted to score the winning try!
This was a back-and-forth match all the way that saw five lead changes and two tries from each side. Navy seemed the more dominant forward pack but Army appeared to have the advantage when they were able to get the ball out to their backline.
Kicking eventually proved the difference with Army’s Jon Kim booting two penalties and a conversion while Navy managed just one penalty and one conversion.
The game had a tense conclusion as Navy basically took the ball the length of the field in the final minutes and had a chance to score in the corner to end a four-match losing streak to Army. Unfortunately for the Midshipmen the last pass wasn’t delivered and instead the ballcarrier was stopped just short of the tryline at the death!
It is somewhat unbelievable that a team as talented as Toulon can run so hot and cold in consecutive weeks. In Round 21 they fell to bottom of the table Oyonnax in a decidedly deficient away performance. In Round 22 they did the exact opposite, smashing Clermont and denying them any points at all at Stade Mayol.
The tries came one after another in the first forty minutes as Toulon racked up a 35-0 advantage. The pace slowed a bit in the second half as they only added two more converted tries in what became a more sluggish affair as the benches were emptied.
Toulon obviously have stars all throughout their lineup but the duo that really stuck out on Sunday was the center pairing of Mathieu Bastareaud and Malekai Fekitoa. Bastareaud didn’t score any tries but he was deeply involved in most of them with his powerful running and ability to draw multiple defenders. Fekitoa notched a pair of tries and was a threat whenever he got the ball in any kind of space.
Clermont, in ninth place with 45 points, is mostly out of relegation danger but also now out of playoff contention as well.
Toulon, in fourth with 63 points, can still challenge for a guaranteed semifinal spot and will do just that when they travel to Paris on Sunday, April 8th at 10:50 AM ET to square off against second place Racing 92.
This was a tense affair with a wild finish.
The first half was all kicks with Lyon taking a 12-6 lead into the break as both teams played suffocating defense and capitalized on aggressive errors and other disciplinary lapses to keep the scoreboard ticking over.
The second stanza saw Lyon add another penalty but Racing 92 booted two more as well, then got the first try of the contest and led 17-15 with less than 15 minutes to play. That’s when Racing got a huge break as a clearly not straight lineout throw was overlooked and resulted in another try and a 24-15 lead.
Lyon complained strenuously but to no avail then went about the business of catching up. They pounded the Racing line repeatedly and forced a couple of yellow cards before finally scoring with only a couple of minutes left on the clock.
Down to thirteen men, Racing upped their defensive commitment and forced a knock-on with no time left and Lyon attacking.
Watch this one, you’ll definitely enjoy it!
This weekend the PRO14 and Top 14 take a one-week break, leaving the stage wide open for the re-scheduled Anglo Welsh Cup Final.
BATH v EXETER – Friday, March 30 at 10:30 AM ET
The Anglo-Welsh Cup Final is finally here!
After a two-week delay caused by a snowstorm, Bath and Exeter will contest the 2017/18 title match at Kingsholm.
Whenever there’s silverware on the line for professional clubs, that promises real desire to win and this fixture is now perfectly placed to provide a top-class championship tilt.
The Premiership is on hiatus, neither side figures in Europe, and both have a legacy in this tournament. Exeter last won it all in 2014 and have fallen just short in the two most recent finals. Bath won ten times in the 80’s and 90’s and haven’t hoisted much of anything since.
I expect fully stocked squads and a full house in Gloucester so get ready for a barnburner.
We’re heading into the homestretch of two of the world’s best competitions, we’re about to bring you a full slate of collegiate rugby from D1A, and the Anglo-Welsh Cup winner will be decided on Friday.
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