Kiwis in Europe: Conrad Smith leaves a legend
The long career of Conrad Smith is over.
The 36-year-old centre bowed out of top rugby for Pau in the French Top 14 with a 38-26 victory over Toulon. It was, alas, not enough to propel Pau, who placed eighth, into the playoffs.
Smith first appeared for Wellington in 2003 and racked up 265 first-class games, not to mention 94 tests for the All Blacks, and two Rugby World Cup victories, before playing three seasons in France’s south-west.
Smith wore the Pau No 13 on the weekend, occasionally opposing Toulon’s Malakai Fekitoa, who was at second five and copped a yellow card. Toulon qualified fourth and will have to go through the barrages in a fortnight.
Tom Taylor kicked six goals for Pau, while Daniel Ramsay and Jamie Mackintosh also featured.
Dominiko Waqaniburotu’s Brive beat Bordeaux-Begles 22-20, but will be relegated, having propped up the table. Brive will be replaced by PRO D2 champions Perpignan for 2018-19. Luke Braid, Ben Volavola and Ed Fidow all played for the latter.
David Smith scored a try as Castres qualified sixth, scraping into the playoffs, with a hefty 54-3 win over Oyonnax, who will now play Grenoble, PRO D2 runners-up, for next season’s Top 14 berth. Maama Vaipulu, Alex Tulou and Paea Fa’anunu all turned out for Castres, while Oyonnax fielded Vili Ma’afu, Hika Elliot, Quentin MacDonald and Ben Botica, who scored the only points via a penalty goal.
La Rochelle just missed out on the playoffs, despite a swift start to the season, but they did have the satisfaction of defeating Stade Francais 31-7. Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Uini Atonio, Victor Vito and Hikairo Forbes all turned out for the victors.
Fifth placed Lyon beat top qualifiers Montpellier 32-24, aided by tries to Toby Arnold and Taiasina Tuifua. Rudi Wulf, Toa Halafihi and Mike Harris were also on the team sheet.
Montpellier fielded Nemani Nadolo, who scored a try, Aaron Cruden, who kicked a conversion, and Jarrad Hoeata.
Racing-Metro confirmed second place with a 42-13 beating of Agen. Ole Avei and So’otala Fa’aso’o tries highlighted the effort by those with Kiwi connections, while Anthony Tuitavake, Census Johnston and Ben Tameifuna all played a part.
Racing-Metro tuned up for this weekend’s big European Champions Cup final against Leinster in Bilbao.
Defending Top 14 champs Clermont finished a disappointing ninth but would be happy with the 36-26 defeat of third-placed Toulouse. Fritz Lee and Loni Uhila fronted for Clermont, while Joe Tekori scored a try for Toulouse. Carl Axtens and Jarrod Poi entered the fray from the bench.
In the Guinness PRO14 playoffs, Hadleigh Parkes’ Scarlets booked their semifinal berth with a 43-8 win over the Cheetahs. Wayne Pivac’s charges will now face Dave Rennie’s Glasgow for a place in the decider. A try to hooker Rhys Marshall was key to Munster’s 20-16 victory over Edinburgh, whose props were Simon Berghan and Jordan Lay.
There were some hard luck stories in the final round of the Aviva Premiership. But Todd Blackadder’s Bath will still be on cloud nine after a 63-19 rout of London Irish gave them qualification to next season’s Champions Cup. Cooper Vuna and James Wilson scored tries, while the Samoan duo of Kahn Fotuali’i and Anthony Perenise both started. Blair Cowan and Ben Franks turned out for the Exiles.
Thomas Waldrom’s Exeter easily beat Harlequins 41-17, with Alofa Alofa and Mat Luamanu both starting for Quins.
Jimmy Gopperth scored a try and kicked two goals off the Wasps bench as they defeated Newcastle 39-22, but the Falcons, with Tane Takalua and Nili Latu featuring, have made the semifinals.
Northampton, who welcome Chris Boyd as head coach in August, defeated Worcester 32-24. Ben Teo scored a try for the Warriors, while Nafi Tuitavake dotted down for the Saints. Mike Harris, Teimana Harrison and Ahsee Tuala all tasted victory to close what has been a difficult season for Midlands club.
Leicester’s 35-13 win over Sale was to no avail, as the Tigers cemented a rare finish outside the top four. Telusa Veainu, Mike FitzGerald, Brendon O’Connor, Logovi’i Mulipola and Valentino Mapapalangi all played for Leicester. The Sharks – with Bryn Evans, Halani Aulika and Johnny Leota in the ranks – were kicking themselves after seeing Champions Cup qualification slip from their grasp.
Sean Maitland scored a try as Saracens smashed Gloucester 62-12. Jason Woodward, Motu Matu’u and Jeremy Thrush, who was binned, turned out for the west country club, who now reset their sights on this weekend’s European Challenge Cup final, where they face Cardiff Blues.
There should be several New Zealanders on show in both Cup finals in Spain.
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