Mathew Brown – The Rugby Channel Column
6 NATIONS & AWC!
If you don’t have a subscription to The Rugby Channel yet, you are truly missing out on some amazing action. Last weekend the Eagles earned their first ARC title, three of the top four teams in the Guinness Pro12 squared off, and the best women’s sevens players on the planet put on a helluva show in Las Vegas.
All you had to do was spend a single dollar per week and you could’ve watched every minute of it. Fortunately though, an even better slate of rugby is right around the corner and our less than a buck a week offer still stands, so subscribe now and don’t miss out on any more thrillers from this glorious game.
If you want to watch highlights from every match last weekend, check out TRC Report #41.
If you’re interested in VOD of any or all of the matches from the final round of the ARC, Round 17 of the Guinness Pro12, and the Las Vegas Sevens, get your subscription then click on the links to the games below and enjoy them from start to finish.
The Blues showed some real class and composure in pushing Munster for as long as they did on Saturday night in Cardiff. The visitors, however, displayed a superior amount of patience in continually battering away on defense and pounding relentlessly on offense until they created late scoring chances.
Cardiff could play spoiler in the next few weeks when they face off against Leinster, Ulster, and Ospreys in succession. Wins against any of the three will definitely play a role in determining GP12 playoff berths.
The first half of this encounter looked a lot like the previous week when Scarlets held tough versus Munster in the first forty then turned it on in the second to snatch an unlikely win. A repeat wasn’t in the cards though as Leinster came out of the locker room looking to avoid that same outcome, ratcheted up their desire and execution, and delivered a more than convincing win to remain atop the table.
The Rugby Channel’s coverage of the Guinness Pro12 will return on March 24th with Leinster v Cardiff and Glasgow v Connacht.
Two years in a row Brazil has beaten a North American opponent at the death in the Americas Rugby Championship. Last year the United States was the victim and this time it was Canada. Brazil’s unexpected win in Sao Paolo gave them a fourth place finish and plenty to celebrate.
Canada paid the price for consciously deciding to make this year’s ARC more about developing youngsters than winning test matches. Whether or not that was a good decision will be determined later this Summer when they take on the United States in a two-test Rugby World Cup qualifying series.
Los Teros weren’t messing around in Montevideo as they thrashed Chile to wrap up their 2016 ARC campaign and secure third place in the tournament. But for a late penalty against the USA in San Antonio, Uruguay could well have ended up second overall.
Chile got the wooden spoon for the second straight year and this time failed to win a single match. Los Condores are gaining valuable experience playing in this competition and despite their record are playing hard every time out.
This was the most anticipated match of the tourney and it didn’t disappoint. The United States led early, Argentina stormed back into the lead, and the Eagles scored twice in the final minutes to force the draw and earn the 2017 Americas Rugby Championship title by one competition point. In the end, the Eagles won because they scored one more try in this contest than the Argentina XV did, earning the decisive bonus point on the final play.
Winning the championship with a less than star-studded side on the road against the pre-tourney favorites provides a great platform for John Mitchell and his staff to build on heading into a critical June test season when the Eagles will first battle Ireland and then have two RWC 2019 qualifiers against Canada.
Well done Eagles!
HSBC WOMEN’S SEVENS – USA MATCHES
The USA women had a very solid outing in front of their home fans to finish fourth in Las Vegas.
On Saturday morning the Eagles defeated Ireland in the quarters and then took on New Zealand in the semi. They played well and had a chance to win it at the end but New Zealand’s defense was just too strong.
In the Bronze Final versus Canada the USA seemed to run out of gas at the end of a long tourney and subsequently got outplayed.
On the whole this was a positive performance that moved the United States up to sixth place in the standings with three tournaments still to be played – all of which The Rugby Channel will have for you LIVE and in their entirety!
After overcoming the tough challenge of the USA in the semifinal, New Zealand cruised to victory in the Final over Australia. The Black Ferns put their full complement of attacking weapons on display in Las Vegas to maintain their spot at the top of the log, six points ahead of the Aussies.
It would be hard to find a better slate of five individual matches in a single weekend anywhere, in any competition. Enjoy!
The first Anglo Welsh Cup semifinal features the 2014/15 champs Saracens against the 2011/12 winners Leicester. Currently in the Premiership, Saracens are in third and Leicester are in fifth.
Saracens have taken both Premiership meetings this year as well as the AWC clash at the beginning of February and are keen to repeat as titleholders (the comp wasn’t played in 2015/16 because of England hosting the Rugby World Cup).
The second semifinal pits 2013/14 champions Exeter against 2012/13 champions Harlequins. In the Premiership Exeter is second and Harlequins are seventh.
Exeter defeated Quins back in September at Sandy Park in the Premiership but more importantly, Quins returned the favor in their AWC meeting in November at the Stoop. Harlequins have some added incentive to win this semi as the Final is scheduled for their home ground on March 19 and they’d love to present some new silverware to their fans.
Wales has two losses so far in the Championship and will be playing for pride and world ranking points. The Welsh were somewhat stunned by their loss to Scotland and need this win over Ireland to get back on track. A third straight loss would likely see them fall out of the top eight worldwide, which would have serious repercussions for pool play in the 2019 RWC.
Ireland have recovered from their opening round loss to Scotland and are now focused on beating Wales and setting up a decider with England in Round Five. A solid if unspectacular effort against France last time out will give the Irish sufficient confidence ahead of this test.
ITALY V FRANCE – Sunday, March 12 at 8:30 am ET
This fixture could prove to be the match of the weekend. Neither side is in the hunt for a title, both have something to prove after losses in Round Three, and it’s anybody’s guess what type of rugby is going to be played by both teams in Rome.
Italy has beaten France twice before in this tourney - in 2011 and 2013 - both at Stadio Olimpico in tight contests.
It doesn’t get a whole lot bigger than this with the Calcutta Cup on the line. England - ranked #2 in the world - is leading the Six Nations Championship as the only undefeated side, they are on the verge of equaling New Zealand’s consecutive wins record at 18, and this is the 135th meeting between the two countries who have the longest running rivalry in the sport.
Scotland – ranked #5 – has a shot at their first ever Six Nations title but in order to get in position for it they’ll have beat England for the first time since 2008 and do it at Twickenham for the first time since 1983!
I cannot wait to watch not only this potential classic but all of the matches that The Rugby Channel has to offer this weekend.
The next fortnight on The Rugby Channel will see a champion crowned in the Six Nations and a titleholder confirmed in the Anglo-Welsh Cup. Subscribe Now and it’s all yours, every minute of drama, athleticism, courage, and genuine love of the game delivered directly to you for your viewing pleasure!