Hadleigh Parkes is loving Wales and the hard-bitten Welsh fans will be loving his contributions for the Red Dragons.
This morning the Kiwi-born second five from the Scarlets region turned in a man of the match display as Wales cast aside Italy 38-14 in Cardiff. He scored a try on his back, almost added another that was ruled out by the TMO, made 11 tackles, ran for 56m and executed some probing, raking tactical kicks.
The only bum note was struck when his wing Steff Evans ran into him while trying to step the Azzurri defence.
Parkes’ old Blues (NZ) teammate Gareth Anscombe also acquitted himself well in the No 10 jersey in a rare start there for his adopted country. He kicked nine points, made 14 tackles in 60 minutes, did a nice chip and regather and made a compelling case to Warren Gatland to start there again against France this weekend.
Lock Dean Budd and replacement outside back Jayden Hayward both played for Italy, but neither could make the desired impact in a side struggling to adapt to Conor O’Shea’s ambition for the side.
In Paris, there was little joy for Fiji-born, Kelston BHS-educated England No 8 Nathan Hughes, who left the pitch with a knee injury after just 23 minutes of England’s 22-16 defeat to France. Centre Ben Te’o had his hands full with opposite Mathieu Bastareaud. He did make one long break but could not link up with his outsides.
Bundee Aki grows in stature for Ireland, playing the full 80 minutes of the impressive 28-8 win over Scotland. He nearly scored himself, though was overall overshadowed by his centre Garry Ringrose.
Sean Maitland had few opportunities on the Scotland left wing, making seven tackles and carrying just twice. Prop Simon Berghan had a tough 64 minutes marking Cian Healy in the scrums.
A full round of the French Top 14 saw Toulon rise up the table after dispatching Agen 54-5. Malakai Fekitoa scored a try in the No 12 jersey, while Ma’a Nonu and Alby Mathewson came off the bench.
Pau also heaped more misery on the faltering La Rochelle, who were flying high just weeks ago. Pau’s 18-15 home win featured a try and two goals from Colin Slade. His teammates included Daniel Ramsay, Jamie Mackintosh, Benson Stanley and Conrad Smith.
La Rochelle’s pack included Uini Atonio, Victor Vito and Hikairo Forbes.
Montpellier’s Aaron Cruden would have enjoyed the crushing 41-3 victory over Racing-Metro, who had Joe Rokocoko, Anthony Tuitavake, Dan Carter, Ole Avei, Census Johnston and Ben Tameifuna in the ranks.
A try to Toby Arnold and four goals to Mike Harris guided Lyon to a crucial 27-20 away win at Toulouse. Rudi Wulf was at centre for Lyon. Joe Tekori and Carl Axtens appeared for Toulouse.
Maama Vaipulu of Castres was on the receiving end of a 23-17 reverse to Stade Francais.
Luke McAlister, off the bench, kicked a conversion, which turned out to be vital, in Clermont’s 11-9 victory at Brive. Loni Uhila, aka ‘The Tongan Bear,’ wore the No 1 jersey for the victors.
Oyonnax won a fine 26-20 result at Bordeaux-Begles, with Ben Botica’s six goals all-important. Quentin MacDonald scored a try, while Hika Elliot and Roimata Hansell-Pune were also involved. Ed Fidow scored a try and Simon Hickey kicked three goals for the home team.
In a catch-up Guinness PRO14 game, Scarlets and Leinster drew 10-all. James Lowe and Michael Bent started for the Irish province.
In the Anglo-Welsh Cup semi-finals, Todd Blackadder’s Bath will be playing for silverware this weekend, edging Northampton 13-12.
James Wilson (12) and Paul Grant (20) turned out for the west country club, while the Saints fielded Piers Francis, Nafi Tuitavake, Ahsee Tuala, Michael Paterson and Teimana Harrison. The latter’s 100th game for the club ended with a red card.
Exeter Chiefs are into their fourth straight Anglo-Welsh Cup final, edging Newcastle 20-17. Nili Latu, Tane Takalua and Sinoti Sinoti all played for the Falcons.
Bath will face Exeter at Kingsholm on Sunday.
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