Mathew Brown – The Rugby Channel Column
GUINNESS PRO12 RETURNS!
The Guinness Pro12 is back in action this weekend and The Rugby Channel presents the best match of Round 7 between Leinster and Connacht for your viewing pleasure.
Plus, the Greene King IPA Championship also resumes as two historic clubs - London Scottish and London Irish - square off on Sunday.
And while you’re waiting for the pros to continue their seasons, check out TRC Report #24 to watch some very talented collegians who competed in the West Coast Sevens last weekend in San Francisco.
WEST COAST SEVENS
This event brought together sixteen outstanding collegiate teams from all over the western United States.
The Rugby Channel provided coverage of the most important matches on knockout Sunday, beginning with the Cup Semifinals.
There were a bunch of really thrilling matches on Treasure Island, including several that were in doubt until the very end, including the Cup Final!
Click on any of the links below to watch whichever matches you want!
LEINSTER V CONNACHT – Saturday Oct. 29 at 12:15 pm ET
This is a great way to get the competition going again after a fortnight’s break for European fixtures, a rematch of the 2016 Guinness Pro12 Final.
Leinster find themselves in second place on the table, even with Ulster on 22 points but trailing them by just 2 in points differential.
Leinster’s first Pool 3 match was against Castres Olympique on October 15th in Dublin and they were fully in control throughout the contest, earning five points in a 33-15 win.
Next up they faced a much tougher Montpellier side (currently 3rd in the Top 14) on the road and were only able to manage a losing bonus point in a 22-16 loss.
The good news for Leinster is that this week they are back at home and there are no injury worries surrounding either Johnny Sexton or Sean O’Brien, both of whom left the Montpellier match at halftime.
These next two weeks are vital ones for Leinster as they look to take command of the tournament. Success on Saturday at the RDS Arena followed by what promises to be a big win over Zebre in Round 8 should see them end up atop the ladder.
Having tasted defeat in France, I doubt that there will be any complacency in the side as they come up against a resurgent Connacht team that has beaten them twice in a row now and had a very successful European sojourn.
Connacht is indeed on a roll.
After beginning their historic title defense with three losses and a lucky abandonment of a match they were most likely going to lose, Connacht have righted the ship by winning two straight Pro12 matches and both of their European clashes.
The first one they did in spectacular fashion at the Sportsgound, beating four-time European champions Toulouse 23-21 after trailing by 10 points at the half.
That kind of win against that level of opposition will certainly bolster their self-belief throughout the rest of this Pro12 campaign and in their further Champions Cup adventures.
Their next opponent, Zebre, was a familiar one and Connacht took advantage of an opposition red card in hammering out a 52 – 7 victory.
Connacht are the only undefeated team in Pool 2 and like Leinster, are leading the way after two rounds.
A player to watch for Connacht going forward is wing Stacey Ili. Making his starting debut against Zebre he scored three tries and looked dangerous with ball in hand as he torched the host defense, albeit down to 14 men for the last 50 minutes.
Connacht need this win to get back up the ladder to where they believe they belong. Sitting in eighth place, 12 points below the leaders is not a comfortable position but a win in Dublin would change that significantly. It definitely won’t come easy though, as they haven’t beaten their compatriots in the Irish capital since 2002.
This one has all the makings of a classic battle and I can’t wait to see it unfold!
LONDON SCOTTISH V LONDON IRISH – Sunday Oct. 30 at 11:00 am ET
The Greene King IPA Championship also took a couple of weeks off from their schedule as the teams competed in the British & Irish Cup.
London Irish won both their matches, playing against the ‘A’ sides of Ospreys and Connacht, the Premiership Selects and the Eagles.
Heading into Round 7 London Irish are the best team in the Championship, topping the table with 29 points from six wins having failed just once to get a tryscoring bonus. They desperately want to win every match, dominate the competition, and get back into the Aviva Premiership.
London Scottish are standing in their way of doing that.
They were also successful in the B&I Cup, beating the Cardiff Blues Premiership Selects and Ulster A.
London Scottish are in good form at the moment, having won not only those contests but also their last two GKIPA Championship matches versus Jersey Reds and Cornish Pirates.
This is the Rugby Channel’s first look at both these teams and it should be an entertaining tussle.
The dual semifinals are now set in the Heartland Championship as four teams will play for the Meads Cup and four will contest the Lochore Cup.
This was a tense final weekend of pool play as almost every match had real qualification ramifications.
Goalkicking proved to be the difference in the King Country v Buller match, one Cantabrian province blanked another, the table leaders struggled, Wairarapa Bush and Poverty Bay got the wins they needed, and West Coast finished strong.
This episode begins with a profile of Argentinean scrumhalf Tomas Cubelli, a second generation Puma who currently plays for the Brumbies in Super Rugby.
Next is a look at Uruguay, including former Los Teros prop Pablo Lemoine, the recent hosting in Montevideo of the Americas Pacific Challenge, and a recap of Uruguay’s performance in the tourney.
My favorite bit in this program is the story of Nick Hancock who joined Plymouth Argaum RFC at the age of 43 just to do a bit of socializing.
Instead he ended up playing prop, becoming club chairman, and now his life revolves around the sport.
Rugby is filled with these types of stories, a total re-affirmation of the idea that there’s nothing like a rugby community.
Definitely give it a look and I’m sure you’ll recognize somebody from your club in Nick.
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We’re in Round 7 of 22 in the Guinness Pro12 and the competition is ratcheting up in intensity.
The 2017 Six Nations is right around the corner with all of its tradition, pageantry, and rivalry.
The start of the Anglo-Welsh Cup is less than a fortnight away.
But I’m guessing that what you have to be getting excited about is the upcoming Men’s and Women’s Eagles Fall Tours.
The men kick off against the Maori All Blacks on November 4th in Chicago and the only way you can watch it LIVE is to subscribe.
The Eagles will also play Romania and Tonga and again, to see it LIVE, you have to get The Rugby Channel.
When the women take on France in a two-test series, The Rugby Channel will be your only option to view the matches as they happen.
And I haven’t even mentioned the weekly shows or the Archive yet!
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