There was much to play for in the Currie Cup over the weekend with several teams eligible to make the playoffs, or to fight to stave off relegation. It began on Friday as the Sharks made their claim to first place with a 42-3 drubbing of the Griquas. Jacobus Reinach got the try scoring started in the 8th minute to give the Sharks the early lead. However, Francois Brummer responded with a try of his own in the 18th minute. But that was as close as the Griquas would get as the Sharks ran in four unanswered tries and three penalties to take the match. The win, coupled with the Lions 50-29 loss to the Bull Bulls on Saturday meant that the the Sharks took the top spot in the regular season. The Lions had the opportunity, but returned Springboks helped propel the Blue Bulls to the win. Their win also meant that they were safely into the playoffs. The Cheetahs last place finish and playoff date with the Eastern Kings was assured as they lost to Western Province 36-15. The score wouldn't even have been that close expect the Cheetahs scored two tries in the last five minutes of the match. The results over the weekend mean that the Sharks will play the Blue Bulls, and the Lions will play Western Province in the playoffs next Saturday. Click here to see the final table.
Playoff places were also on the line in New Zealand as the ITM Cup wrapped up it's regular season. The action began on Thursday as Auckland picked up a crucial 24-19 win over Otago. The win means that Auckland finished third in the Premiership and secured a playoff spot. The next day, Southland beat Manawatu 17-11 to help get them into the semi-finals in the Championship. Counties Manukau finished a top the Championship with a 44-31 win over Northland. Waikato didn't make the playoffs, but ensured the Hawke's Bay would have to fight for its place in the Premiership with a 28-3 win. North Harbour had gone winless in all nine of their matches until they beat Tasman 42-10 on Saturday. Tasman still qualified for the playoffs. Wellington grabbed second in the Premiership with a 33-17 win over Taranki, who also qualified. Lastly, Canterbury smashed Bay of Plenty 63-22 to take top spot in the Premiership.
Next week's semi-finals will see Canterbury vs. Taranaki and Wellington vs. Auckland in the Premiership, while Counties Manuaku vs. Southland and Otago vs. Tasman in the Championship. Here is the full table from the regular season.
Suntory Sungoliath once again stayed perfect in the Top League with a 25-22 win over Toyota Verblitz. Staying second in the table are the Kobelco Steelers who crushed Kyuden Voltex 70-24. Kyuden have yet to win a match this seaon. Toshiba Fuchu Brave Lupus sit third after a 29-20 win over Fukuoka Sanix Blues. Sonny Bill is still only has one try for the Panasonic Sanyo Wildknights despite their 35-18 win over the Yamaha Jubilo. The Ricoh Black Rams continue to move off the bottom of the league after their 36-19 victory over the NEC Green Rockets. Other winners over the weekend include the Kintetsu Liners, who beat the NTT-Docomo Red Hurricanes 59-7. Lastly, the NTT Shining Arcs dispatched the Canon Eagles 31-17. Click here for the full table.
British & Irish Cup
While the bigger tournaments around Europe were in full-swing, so was the British & Irish Cup. Bristol got off to a good start in Pool 1 with a 23-14 win over Cardiff (not the Blues). Elsewhere, the Ulster Ravens scored a big 49-19 win over the Bridgend Ravens. In Pool 2, Bedford beat Bedwas 48-23 while Stirling County beat Neath 40-25. In Pool 3, Swansea beat Dundee HSFP 43-17 and the Cornish Pirates topped Carmarthen Quins 44-32. In Pool 4, Newport shocked the Connacht Eagles 18-14 and Newcastle dispatched Cross keys 52-5. In Pool 5, Jersey picked up their first result of the season with a 20-20 draw against Pontypridd. Leinster A stopped Leeds Carnegie 47-18. In Pool 6, Moseley defeated Llanelli 36-26 and Gala upset London Scottish 27-23. In Pool 7, Munster A beat Plymouth Albion 26-22 and Aberavon lost to Rotherham 25-21. Lastly, Melrose topped Doncaster 30-29 in Pool 8 while Llandovery beat Nottingham 28-21.
Down in the Pro D2 Oyonnax held on to the top spot with a 46-26 defeat of Dax. Auch topped Beziers 40-21. Lyon stayed second in the table with a 25-12 victory over Aix-en-Provence. Brive beat Massy 30-3 while Albi beat Tarbes 28-22. Elsewhere, Pau beat Colomiers 30-3, Aurillac beat Narbonne 32-15, and La Rochelle defeated Carcassonne 24-22.
Lastly, the Eastern Province Kings beat the Pumas 26-25 to win the Currie Cup First Division playoffs.