2017 FINISHES STRONG, 2018 STARTS STRONGER!

03 Jan 2018

Mathew Brown – The Rugby Channel Column

2017 FINISHES STRONG, 2018 STARTS STRONGER!

The Rugby Channel wrapped up 2017 with a fantastic trio of exciting matches, then kicked off 2018 with a thriller to open what promises to be another stellar year of awesome rugby coverage!

The beginning of January is the ideal moment to become a subscriber to The Rugby Channel for either $7.99 per month or $59.99 for the entire twelve months of 2018. Subscribe Now and get access to more rugby than you can realistically watch LIVE and On Demand in a single year, but I guarantee, you will have fun trying!

Castle Park, Scotstoun Stadium, Cardiff Arms Park, and the RDS Arena played host to four distinct matches last week and here’s why I recommend each one of them as a worthwhile viewing experience.

DONCASTER KNIGHTS 30 – 32 YORKSHIRE CARNEGIE

Doncaster dominated the first twenty minutes of this match and found themselves up 10 – 7 in somewhat unusual fashion. Sustained pressure earned the Knights their first penalty kick, which was followed by Yorkshire putting together a cohesive sequence that resulted in an ugly but effective kick-pass try.

Doncaster were then awarded a penalty try from a TMO call for an intentional knock-on that was technically correct but must have had Yorkshire fullback Chris Elder feeling extremely hard done by as he spent the next ten minutes in the bin.

With less than a minute to go in the first half and his team leading by two points, USA Eagle Nick Civetta got his aim wrong in coming through the ruck with a head-to-head hit on the Yorkshire scrumhalf. His subsequent red card, like the earlier yellow, was correct according to the letter of the law but unfortunate for the Doncaster lock.

I highly recommend watching the halftime comments by commentators Rob Vickerman and Pat Sanderson regarding the sending off of Civetta. The issues they both raise are important ones for the future direction of the sport.

The Knights got off to the best possible start in the second forty with an immediate try but Yorkshire tied it up at 25 all. Doncaster went back ahead straight away and then battled mightily to hold the visitors in check in an attempt to close out an improbable win, but in the end Yorkshire drove a maul over the line late to come out on top.

This match has a little bit of everything, definitely give it a look with The Rugby Channel’s Video On Demand option!

GLASGOW 17 – 0 EDINBURGH

This highly anticipated fixture came on the heels of a thriller last week between these same two sides at Murrayfield that was won by Edinburgh. Unfortunately, the biggest drama this time out was what happened at the stadium rather than on the pitch.

With just a couple of minutes remaining in an overwhelmingly defensive first half, a fire alarm in the main stand forced the entire stadium to be evacuated with Glasgow leading 3 - 0. After a significant break, everything was deemed to be safe and the match continued with the second half kickoff.

The tenor of the contest didn’t change with the cessation of the automated warning noises though, as Glasgow’s forwards continued to control their Edinburgh opposites and kept them from mounting serious attempts at scoring. Meanwhile, Glasgow’s Finn Russell added three second half penalties to his one in the first to effectively put the match out of Edinburgh’s reach.

The Warriors added an unconverted try at the death through winger Lee Jones but the match had been won much earlier with hard-nosed tackling, competent set piece execution, and effective, continuous possession spearheaded by their pack.

If you are looking for wide open action, you won’t find it here. But if you want to see some quality, smashing, forward rugby, then this is your match.     

This split of the first two 1872 Cup matches sets up a heckuva battle in Round 21 when Edinburgh and Glasgow will meet again at Murrayfield!

CARDIFF 11 – 14 SCARLETS

The Rugby Channel’s last broadcast of 2017 featured two Welsh rivals doing battle at the spiritual home of rugby in the principality and their clash lived up to its advance billing as the perfect way to end the year.

The match opened with a tribute to a remarkable player, Cardiff prop Taufa’ao Filise, who at 40 years old was making his 250th appearance for the club, longevity virtually unheard of in the modern era.

For such a low-scoring showdown (three tries, two penalties, two conversions), there was plenty of action throughout as both teams utilized various methods of attack. Cardiff relied on their maul to make inroads, Scarlets made their scrum and backrowers shoulder a heavy load on both sides of the ball.

The home side led 11 – 7 at the break on the strength of two penalty kicks from Marc Anscombe and a try by replacement backrower Ellis Jenkins. Scarlets dotted down once after a heads-up break off the back of the scrum by number 9 Gareth Davies, who dished at the last second to winger Tom Prydie.

Scarlets went ahead 14 – 7 with another converted try just after the interval and somehow made that lead stand up the rest of the way. Cardiff threatened throughout and had multiple opportunities to take the lead but Wayne Pivac’s men held firm and came away with the win to stay atop Conference B.   

This is good old-fashioned Welsh derby rugby between old foes who play hard against and respect each other. Definitely give it a look and you will be glad you did!

LEINSTER 21 – 18 CONNACHT

If you want to see the current strength of Irish rugby, check out this massive encounter in Dublin. On a windy day at the RDS Leinster had to work for more than eighty minutes to squeak out a tight win over hardworking Connacht.

Every time Leinster scored a try and looked like they were ready to pull ahead for good on New Year’s Day, Connacht fought back with a vengeance and kept the outcome in doubt right until the final whistle blew, deep into extra time as they threatened the Leinster line.

There were no cheap tries dotted down in this one, as all four five pointers came from well-built pieces of attack. Even though there were four tries scored, this was a match dominated by organized and powerful defense and in the end, it was disciplined defensive structure and outstanding commitment that allowed the men in blue to take the four competition points.

Leinster didn’t play their full complement of stars against Connacht but any twenty-three with Johnny Sexton running the show has to be considered a top-level team.

If you desire to get your 2018 rugby watching off on the right foot, you can’t go wrong by making this your first Video On Demand option of the new year!

OSPREYS V CARDIFF – Saturday, January 6 at 10:15 AM ET

Another Welsh derby on tap for next Saturday morning and it figures to be another good one.

Ospreys managed a road win over Dragons last week and even though they still find themselves at the bottom of the Conference A ladder, it’s not too late for this super-talented team to make a hard charge for the playoffs in the second half of the campaign.

Cardiff lost a heartbreaker at home but their ability to stay with table-topping Scarlets will give them an added boost of confidence heading into Liberty Stadium. I’ll be up early to watch it LIVE!

LEINSTER V ULSTER – Saturday, January 6 at 12:35 PM ET

After unexpectedly falling heavily to Connacht, Ulster got back on track last weekend with an upset of their own versus Munster. They needed four unanswered second half tries at Kingspan to pull it off but a win like that should provide more than enough self-belief to make a run at Leinster at the RDS.

Leinster now knows that no Irish team can be taken lightly and they will have to significantly upgrade their starting fifteen to meet the threat Ulster poses.

Make this the second LIVE viewing in your Saturday TRC Tripleheader!

MUNSTER V CONNACHT – Saturday, January 6 at 2:45 PM ET

I don’t know when Munster last lost to the three other Irish provincial sides in consecutive weeks but I doubt that it was recently, if ever! In other words, they need a victory against Connacht to stop the slide and renew their chase of Glasgow for the top spot in Conference A.

Connacht came oh-so-close in Dublin but now they face a wounded and dangerous Munster at Thomond Park. Connacht are only five points back of the Cheetahs for third in A but a win on Saturday is essential because unfortunately, moral victories don’t garner any standings points.

Cap off your upcoming Saturday with a barnburner finale, tune in to The Rugby Channel and see Ireland’s finest do battle!  

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