Toulon upset Clermont, claim Heineken Cup
Toulon have claimed the 2012/13 Heineken Cup after a nail-biting 16-15 victory on Saturday.
It marks the first time Toulon have won the title, joining Toulouse and Brive as the only French clubs to have done so.
As with most finals, defense ruled the early stages and 3 points a piece was all there was to show after 40 minutes.
Napolioni Nalaga and Brock James turned the game on its head straight after the break, however, with 2 tries to Clermont, leaving most people assuming Toulon was done.
Toulon fought back, though, and claimed the lead through a try to Delon Armitage with 15 minutes left.
David Skrela had a chance for Clermont as they worked for a match-winning score, but his late drop goal attempt was charged down, handing the title to Toulon.
Big Teams stumble in Super Rugby Saturday
The standings tightened up again on Saturday with the big Aussie sides both failing and the Crusaders joining the pack.
First off the Crusaders took care of the Blues in another wet NZ fixture 23-3. The Crusaders took the lead with a chargedown try to Ryan Crotty and were never headed in tricky conditions.
Tries: Crotty, Franks
Con: Taylor 2
Pen: Taylor 3
Then the big match between the Waratahs and Brumbies lived up to expectations with the 'Tahs claiming a 28-22 victory in Sydney. The win was sealed with 2 tries in the final 15 minutes, proving that the Waratahs are the real deal and a legitimate threat to a playoff spot.
Tries: Hooper, Barnes, Betham
Con: Barnes 2
Pen: McKibbin 2, Barnes
Tries: Mowen, Kuridrani
Pen: Lealiifano, Mogg 3
Ronan O'Gara has joined French side Racing Metro as a coach
Ronan O'Gara has found himself a new home with the cashed up Racing Metro next season.
O'Gara will become a coach at the club, which has been on a heavy recruitment drive the past year. Amoungst others, players have been pulled from all over, including: Marc Andreu, Walter Desmaison, Juandré Kruger, Davit Khinchagishvili, Virgile Lacombe, Benjamin Lapeyre, Wenceslas Lauret, Dan Lydiate, Laurent Magnaval, Brian Mujati, Adrien Planté, Jamie Roberts, Jonathan Sexton and Soane Tonga'uiha.
Jacky Lorenzetti, the billionaire owner of Racing, is not holding back in the biggest splurge since Rugby Union became a professional sport.
The IRFU has announced a new one-year deal with Brian O'Driscoll
Irish legend Brian O'Driscoll has put retirement rumors to bed after signing with the IRFU for another year.
This means that O'Driscoll will be available to represent both Leinster and Ireland next season.
"I want to thank the IRFU and Leinster for allowing me the time to think about my future and discuss my options with my family," O'Driscoll told IrishRugby.ie.
"The support my family and the Irish and Leinster fans have shown me over the past few months, and indeed years, has been phenomenal and I am now very much looking forward to one more year playing with Ireland and Leinster."
Leinster smash Stade Français 34-13 to claim Challenge Cup
Leinster have added to their trophy cabinet after claiming the Challenge Cup in emphatic fashion, crushing Stade Francais in the final on Friday.
The 34-13 victory will go a small way to compensating for the loss of their Heineken Cup title, which will go to either Clermont or Toulon set to have their name engraved on it tonight.
Three fast converted tries saw the contest almost put to bed immediately, with Ian Madigan, Sean Cronin and Rob Kearney all crossing for Leinster. Stade managed to kick a penalty before the break but never looked like getting back into the contest.
Leinster will now turn their attention towards their RaboDirect Pro12 title decider against Ulster next weekend.
3 tight matches on Super Rugby Friday
The Chiefs moved to the top of the Super Rugby standings in amongst an upset and a return to form on Friday.
The Chiefs got their win in slippery conditions at Wellington. As has been the norm for the defending champs in recent weeks, the Chiefs did just enough for victory and are now at the top of the standings.
Pen: Barrett 4
Pen: Cruden 4
Yellow: Tameifuna (70 mins)
Then the Rebels put their recent tribulations behind them with a last minute victory over the Stormers in Melbourne. A controversial penalty try at the end of the match handed victory to the Rebels, whilst putting the Stormers season to the sword.
Tries: Higginbotham, Pyle, Penalty try
Cons: Woodward 3
Pens: Woodward 3
Tries: Schreuder, Habana, Bekker
Cons: Pietersen 3
Yellow card: Bezuidenhout
Under fire Beale checks into private facility
Kurtley Beale's rugby career hangs in the balance after the young superstar checked into a private facility this week.
Having had a season littered with off-field dramas, the last straw came this weekend when Beale was caught drinking against team orders. This followed an alcohol infused incident some weeks ago which saw Beale attack his teammates on the team bus.
"Kurtley will take an indefinite leave of absence from playing rugby to seek assistance in resolving personal issues," the Rebels said in a statement.
"Kurtley has voluntarily entered a private health facility in order to undertake counselling for ongoing issues.
Saints upset Saracens to reach grand final
Northampton have set a grand final date with the Tigers after upsetting Saracens 27-13 on Sunday at Allianz Park.
Saracens, who have not lost at home all season long, found themselves with a mountain to climb after creating a 17-0 deficit at halftime.
Sarries did mount a fightback in the second stanza, with a Duncan Taylor try and a pair of penalties from Owen Farrell. But Saints put the match to bed with Gerrit-Jan van Velze scoring for the visitors.
Next stop for Northampton is now Twickenham where they will be against the odds once again, facing the red hot Tigers.
Leicester end Quins season with 33-16 victory
The Leicester Tigers have made their 9th consecutive Aviva Premiership final following a 33-16 victory over Harlequins.
The Tigers struggled early and dropped to a 3-9 deficit before recovering with a try to Vereniki Goneva putting the hosts back on the front foot.
After the break, Danny Care was sinbinned for a deliberate knock on and Leicester took full control a try to Niall Morris. The Tigers then pumped 2 more tries into Quins to take the game by the scruff of the neck and send the home crowd away happy.
Leicester will face the winner of today's match between Saracens and Northampton.
Leinster beat Glasgov for all Irish final
Leinster will face Ulster in the RaboDirect Pro12 final after the Irish side edged out Glasgow 17-15 on Saturday night.
Leinster had the wind taken out of their sails very early on, with Irish superstar Brian O'Driscoll sustaining an injury and playing no further part in the match.
Nikola Matawalu made Leinster pay early, getting across the line but Jamie Heaslip's effort put Leinster back in touch. Matawalu was soon sinbinned for a high tackle and Leinster had the lead from the subsequent penalty.
Leinster built a 7 point lead with 2 more penalties but a try to Mark Bennett gave Glasgow a chance to tie it up. Stuart Hogg missed the conversion though and Leinster were able to hold on for victory.
Blues, Kings and Waratahs get the job done on Saturday
The Blues kicked things off with a 5 try first half against the hapless Rebels in Auckland. The Rebels did manage a significant fightback in the second half to give the Blues a legitimate scare, but the hosts were never headed and held on for a bonus point win.
Tries: Halai 3, F Saili 2, Ranger
Con: Noakes 2, Kerr
Tries: Inman 2, Higginbotham, Mitchell, Woodward
Con: Woodward 2
Then the Waratahs snuck home against the disappointing Stormers in Sydney 21-15. A late try to Israel Falou handed the 'Tahs the lead with only 5 minutes left and the Stormers could not respond to put their season on the ropes.
Castres into the semis
Castres have booked their place in the Top14 semifinals after accounting for Montpellier in their playoff on Saturday.
The 25-12 victory at Stade Pierre-Antoine means that Castres will face off with Clermont in the semifinal.
Castres held a narrow margin in the first half, racking up a 12-9 lead.
Mamuka Gorgodze got sent to the bin for a high tackle which gave the real ascendency to Castres with Antonie Claassen cashing in oh his absence for the only try of the match.
More penalties and broken play ended the match which gave little in the way of hope for Castres supporters for their semi with the might of Clermont.
Ulster into final, defeat Scarlets
Ulster are into the RaboDirect Pro12 final after accounting for Scarlets 28-17 at Ravenhill on Friday.
Ulster lead from the word go, racking up a 18-3 by halftime on the back of tries to Tommy Bowe and Robbie Diack. A third try put the game out of reach for Scarlets, who were out of it at 25-3.
Scarlets fought well for the final 20, but the damage had already been done with the Welshmen comprehensively done.
Ulster now have to put the 25th of March into their diaries where they will travel to the RDS in Dublin for the RaboDirect Pro12 final.
Toulouse march into playoffs after defeating Racing-Metro
Toulouse have advanced to the Top14 Semifinals after accounting for Racing Metro on Friday night.
The 33-19 victory was built on the back of Kiwi import, Luke McAlister, who picked up 23 points from the tee.
Big man Louis Picamoles shrugged off prematch injury concerns with a solid performance including a gamebreaking try.
Toulouse will now face Toulon in a blockbuster semifinal in a repeat of the 2012 final. 2013 looms as a different kettle of fish, however, with Toulon a very formidable outfit.
Tries: Fickou, Picamoles
Pen: McAlister 7
Victories for the Reds, Hurricanes and Chiefs in Fridays action
A game in each country with some important results was the story of the day in Super Rugby Friday.
First off, the Chiefs struggled to get past the lowly Force to record a 22-21 victory. The Force did have an unlikely chance to steal the win with a late deep penalty, but Ebershon's effort fell well short.
Tries: Masaga, Cruden
Western Force: 21
Tries: Dellit 2
Pen: Hayward 3
The Reds took care of the Sharks in Brisbane afterwards, winning 32-17.
The damage was done in the first half with the Reds scoring 4 tries with some dynamic attacking rugby. The 29-3 halftime lead was never headed by the Sharks, who look destined to miss the playoffs after making the grandfinal last season.
Tries: S Faingaa, Davies 2, A Faingaa
Con: Cooper 3
Pen: Cooper 2
Tries: Lindeque, Minnie
Con: Lambie 2
Tom Youngs has been named Player of the Season
Tom Youngs has been named the seasons best player in the Aviva at the annual awards ceremony in London.
The Leicester Tigers hooker, who made the unprecedented switch from the centers last year, has had an amazing year. On top of becoming the number one choice for England, Youngs has been rewarded with a Lions cap for the upcoming Australian tour.
"His story is extraordinary," said Phil Winstanley, the Rugby Director at Premiership Rugby.
"To move from the centre to hooker is practically unheard of in professional rugby. To then go on to make your England debut and a Lions tour the following season is what dreams are made of!"
"If you'd suggested such a move could be done a few years ago in Aviva Premiership Rugby people would have doubted your sanity, but Tom has proved almost anything is possible."
11 try Waratahs headline week 12 of Super Rugby action
The Brumbies and Chiefs continue to lead the competition after 12 rounds of Super Rugby action.
Friday saw two matches, with the Blues staying in the hunt with a 18-17 victory over the Stormers. The Blues went tryless but did enough to hold off the Stormers who finished strongly.
Pens: Noakes 6
Tries: De Villiers 2
Cons: Pietersen 2
Then a controversial match between the Chiefs and Rebels took place in Melbourne, with the Chiefs running out 39-33 winners despite multiple dodgy tries awarded for both sides.
Tries: Higginbotham, Pyle 2, Phipps, Beale
Cons: O'Connor 4
Tries: Anscombe 3, Aki, Cane, Retallick
Cons: Anscombe 3
Then on Saturday the Highlanders finally got their first win of the season with a 25-22 victory over the Sharks. The Highlanders turned around a bad first half to chalk up the victory, but still remain at the bottom of the Super Rugby table.
Tries: Treeby, Smith, Slade
Cons: Slade 2
Pens: Slade 2
Yellow Card: Thorn
Tries: Bosman 2, Mvovo
Cons: Lambie 2
Some surprises as Gatland names his tourists
The 2013 Lions squad has been announced with a few interesting decisions made by coach Warren Gatland.
Much will be made of the choice of Sam Warburton as Captain, as he has struggled for consistency of late with many argueing he is not deserving of a place in the first XV, let alone captaincy.
Rory Best's omission is also very contentious, with almost universal disapproval across the rugby world.
Jonny Wilkinson was left out also, with only two fly halves being selected. This may be explained by the 'non selection of players based in France', however, Gethin Jenkins made the cut which renders that argument empty. Should Gatland have either Jonny Sexton or Owen Farrell injured, someone will have to make a late flight over to Australia
Auckland Blues players fall to illness in South Africa
Illness has stuck the Auckland Blues squad ahead of their clash with the Stormers in South Africa this week.
In what is a flashback to the 2005 Rugby World Cup, in which a host of All Blacks suffered food poisoning prior to the World Cup final, a host of Blues players have been struck with a variety of illnesses.
Full-back Charles Piutau and flanker Steven Luatua were both suffering influenza while centre Rene Ranger has an infection and is in hospital on a drip whilst hooker James Parsons is still awaiting results from his neck injury.
"We knew people would be tired," he said.
"Most of the guys who are sick have played the biggest numbers. Charles has played every minute of every game and done every training run so we expected this," he said.
Clermont edge Munster to enter final
Clermont are favorites for the 2013 Heineken Cup after accounting for Munster 16-10 on Saturday.
Clermont came out stronger than the Irish outfit, taking a solid 13-3 lead at the break. But Munster fought back admirably and after Denis Hurley pounced on a Ronan O'Gara grubber for Munster, the gap was reduced to a meager three points.
But Clermont steadied and with another three pointer to Morgan Parra and that was enough to see the dominating French march on to the final in Dublin.