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Kiwis in Europe: Green Slam for Aki

By Campbell Burnes

Bundee Aki is a Grand Slam champion.

The adopted Irishman and Connacht midfielder left the field with a head knock in the 24-15 win over England at Twickenham, but not before playing a prominent role in the charge of the Emerald Green side under the coaching of fellow Kiwi Joe Schmidt.

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Aside from dropping one easy ball, Aki was penetrative and his break from a lineout move set up a try to No 8 CJ Stander. The former Steeler even packed down on the side of a scrum. He also made seven solid tackles before departing.

England captain Dylan Hartley got through 57 minutes, but was overshadowed by his Irish counterpart Rory Best. Ben Te’o had a quiet afternoon in the No 12 jersey until he set up Jonny May for a late try in the corner.

Aki was not the sole Kiwi to play well for his adopted nation in the final round of Six Nations action.

Lock Dean Budd had a strong 80-minute shift for Italy in the narrow 27-29 defeat to Scotland in Rome. The former Blues player made 17 tackles and ripped into his work, at one point making a superb offload. Things did not flow quite so smoothly for Jayden Hayward, who played 22 minutes of the pine, but found himself stepped by Sean Maitland for his try and was on when Italy’s grip on the clash was fast slipping.

Maitland had few chances, but finished his try in clinical fashion off a long Greig Laidlaw pass. An early kick was half charged down.

Hadleigh Parkes, who has been one of Wales best backs during the Six Nations, was strangely off-colour for some of the 14-13 win over France. He defended powerfully as ever, making 11 tackles, but could not get his flow going on attack, much like the team as a whole.

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Gareth Anscombe was an unused replacement.

There were two catch-up games in the Guinness PRO14.

No 8 Nick Williams scored a try for Cardiff Blues in their 31-25 win over Treviso, for whom Monty Ioane scored a try and Marty Banks kicked three goals.

Willis Halaholo, Rey Lee-Lo and Taufa’ao Filise also turned out for the Blues, while Nasi Manu, Hame Faiva and wing Michael Tagicakibau appeared for the Italian club.

Jordan Lay, Simon Berghan and John Hardie all enjoyed a 12-6 win for Edinburgh over Munster.

In the French Top 14, a try to No 8 Rory Grice and seven key goals by Ben Botica helped Oyonnax climb off the bottom rung with a shock 29-26 win over Toulon. Quentin MacDonald and Hika Elliot were both in the winning pack. Malakai Fekitoa, who scored a try, and Ma’a Nonu, teamed up in the Toulon midfield.

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Joe Tekori and Charlie Faumuina played for Toulouse in the 22-14 win over Montpellier, for whom Nemani Nadolo scored a try.

Alex Tulou scored a try as Castres defeated Brive 37-28. David Smith and Maama Vaipulu were also in the line-up.

Fritz Lee and Loni Uhila appeared for Clermont in the 38-14 hiding of Pau, who included Benson Stanley, Daniel Ramsay and Jamie Mackintosh.

Ed Fidow and Ben Volavola tasted a 15-10 victory for Bordeaux-Begles against Agen, who fielded George Tilsley and Tom Murday.

La Rochelle – whose Kiwi contingent included Hikairo Forbes, Uini Atonio, Victor Vito and Tawera Kerr-Barlow – beat Lyon 19-15. Mike Harris, Josh Bekhuis and Toa Halafihi played for the latter.

Racing-Metro edged Stade Francais 28-22 in the Parisian derby. Dan Carter slotted a conversion for the victors, while Anthony Tuitavake, Ben Tameifuna, Ole Avei and Census Johnston. Paul Williams, at centre, and Zak Taulafo, played for Stade.

The Anglo-Welsh Cup final between Bath and Exeter, which potentially could have fielded several Kiwis, was called off due to the bad weather that hit the UK.

 

 

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finn 10 hours ago
Massive red flag raised by weakened Champions Cup teams – Andy Goode

I wonder if the problem of some teams not taking it that seriously would be helped by making performance in the champions cup count towards qualification and/or seeding in the following year’s competition. Eg. top four seeds would be winners of the URC, premiership, and top 14, plus best performing team in the previous year’s CC who have not otherwise qualified. Doing that the seedings for this years comp. would have been: Tier one: Saracens - Munster - Toulouse - la Rochelle Tier two: Sale - Stormers - Racing 92 - Leinster Tier three: Leicester - Connacht - Bordeaux - Exeter Tier four: Northampton - Ulster - Lyon - Sharks Tier five: Harlequins - Glasgow - Stade Francais - Edinburgh Tier six: Bath - Bulls - Toulon - Ospreys The competition would probably work better with fewer teams, so I’d probably favour only the first 4 tiers being invited, and then going straight to a quarter final without a round of 16. On the one hand this would possibly incentivise teams to take the champions cup seriously, and on the other it would mean that the latter stages would be more likely to involve teams that have demonstrated a willingness to take the competition seriously. The main differences between my proposed system and the actual draw is that mine would give la Rochelle a fairly easy ride to the quarters, and would either exclude the Bulls entirely or would give then an insurmountably difficult draw. As it happened Exeter got quite an easy pool draw but that was a bit of a fluke. My system would reward Exeter for being one of the teams that demonstrably devote a lot of attention to the CC by guaranteeing them a good draw.

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