New Zealand coaches and players are in the thick of the action as the European season reaches silverware time.
Dave Rennie, in his second season with Glasgow, has guided the Warriors into the Guinness PRO 14 final in fine style, smacking Sean Reidy’s Ulster 50-20 in one semifinal over the weekend. Callum Gibbins, who worked with Rennie many moons ago at Manawatu, was on the openside flank for the victors.
One of Rennie’s former Chiefs players – wing James Lowe – scored a try as Leinster beat Alby Mathewson’s Munster 24-9 in the other semifinal. The decider will be played this weekend at Celtic Park in Glasgow.
Scarlets did not farewell coach Wayne Pivac in style, falling 21-10 to Ma’afu Fia’s Ospreys in the playoff for a Champions Cup berth in 2019-20. Pivac’s regional team fielded a Kiwi trio of Johnny McNicholl, Hadleigh Parkes and Blade Thomson.
The regular season of England’s Gallagher Premiership has wound up with Chris Boyd’s Northampton Saints scraping into fourth position despite a 40-21 defeat to Exeter, to whom they travel for this weekend’s semifinal.
Piers Francis scored a try for Saints, and alongside him were Ahsee Tuala, Ben Franks and Teimana Harrison.
Todd Blackadder’s Bath, with Kahn Fotuali’i as replacement halfback, sealed sixth and a Champions Cup berth with a last gasp 32-31 win at Leicester, despite a double to the Tigers’ Brendon O’Connor. Mike FitzGerald and Valentino Mapapalangi were also in the Tigers’ loose forwards.
Bristol’s clutch of New Zealanders or New Zealand origin players ended the season with a 19-12 win at Newcastle, but ninth place is below the Bears’ pre-season ambitions. Tusi Pisi, Jack Lam, Steven Luatua, Chris Vui, John Afoa, James Lay, Siale Piutau, Alapati Leiua and Charlie Piutau all featured, while Logovi’i Mulipola and Evan Olmstead played for the relegated Falcons.
Alofa Alofa’s Harlequins were shut out of the semis due to a 27-25 reverse to Wasps, for whom Lima Sopoaga kicked five goals. Brad Shields and Nathan Hughes were in the loose.
A try to Michael Fatialofa helped Worcester to a tight 31-29 upset win over second-placed Saracens. Ben Te’o was in the Warriors’ midfield.
The French Top 14, as ever, still has one more round to play before the playoffs.
Toulouse is well clear at the top after a 43-36 win over Begles-Bordeaux which featured a try to former Auckland lock Joe Tekori. Jerome Kaino and Pita Ahki also turned out for the winners. George Tilsley scored a try for the home side, while Seta Tamanivalu scored a yellow card.
Aaron Cruden scored a try for Montpellier in the 42-25 defeat to Stade Francais.
Toulon gave its long-suffering Stade de Mayol faithful something to cheer about with a 32-11 shutout of high-flying Clermont. Malakai Fekitoa, Liam Messam and Brian Alainu’uese all enjoyed the victory, while Tim Nanai-Williams kicked two goals for the Yellows. Fritz Lee, Isaia Toeava and George Moala also fronted.
A Charlie Ngatai try helped Lyon to a 29-19 win over La Rochelle, which played Tawera Kerr-Barlow and Faifili Levave.
Three Colin Slade goals helped Pau, which also included Benson Stanley, to a 22-0 blanking of Grenoble. Taleta Tupuola, Leva Fifita and Halani Aulika appeared for the latter.
Ben Tameifuna, Dominic Bird, Ole Avei and Ben Volavola enjoyed a 52-14 Racing-Metro win over relegation-bound Perpignan, which fielded Tima Faingaanuku and Shahn Eru.
The Academy with Leicester Tigers – Part 6:
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