Leinster 10-20 Saracens: Sarries lift Heineken Champions Cup after comeback win at St James’ Park

11 May

Saracens have been crowned European champions for a third time in their history after a 20-10 victory over Leinster.

Despite trailing the previous holders 10-3, Mark McCall’s men showed tremendous resolve to produce a spirited comeback at St James’ Park.

Billy Vunipola crashes home to help Saracens to victory

The Irish side held a 10-point lead until the 39th minute but Sarries drew level when Sean Maitland’s late try cancelled out Tadhg Furlong’s opener.

Both defences stood firm after the interval but Owen Farrell was able to kick Saracens in front just before the hour mark.

Victory was confirmed when Billy Vunipola crashed over from the back of a scrum.

Farrell kicked the conversion as the Londoners scored 20 unanswered points and put in a dominant second-half performance.

Sean Maitland touches down to start the Sarries comeback

Saracens will play a Premiership semi-final later this month as they continue to pursue the double, while Leinster remain on course to defend their Pro14 title.

The Premiership side were left to toast a third title, and in doing so marking themselves out as the most successful English club side in history.

Bloodgate: It was as bad as drug taking, says Brian O’Driscoll, while George Robson reveals Harlequins scandal not a one off

11 Apr

It was the scandal that rocked rugby, a sport which saw its values questioned.

And it all centred around blood capsules bought at a joke shop in Clapham Junction, south west London.

During the 2009 Heineken Cup quarter-final on 12 April, as Harlequins stared at defeat to Leinster, replacement Tom Williams used a fake blood capsule to engineer a blood substitution.

Williams pretended to be hurt and bit on a blood capsule so he could be replaced by Nick Evans

Biting on the capsule would allow director of rugby Dean Richards to bring fly-half Nick Evans – one of the game’s best kickers – back on to try and win the tie.

Evans had gone off injured in the 47th minute and replaced by Chris Malone, who was subsequently also injured.

As the clock ticked down, Evans hobbled back on. However, he missed a last-minute drop-goal attempt – Quins lost 6-5.

Then the walls came tumbling down.

Television cameras captured Williams winking to the dugout as he trudged off. Something wasn’t right and soon everyone was talking about ‘Bloodgate’ – you know it’s bad when that suffix is attached.

Bloodgate repercussions

When the cheating eventually came to light, the punishments were severe

  • Quins were fined £237,000
  • Dean Richards, being the central figure, was banned from rugby for three years
  • Tom Williams was initially banned for 12 months, which was reduced to four
  • Physio Steph Brennan got a two-year ban.
  • Wendy Chapman, who had cut Williams’s lip at his own request after the game to cover up the ruse, was reprimanded by the General Medical Council

It is the worst form of cheating, according to Brian O’Driscoll who played for Leinster that day.

“This, for me, is like drug taking. I put that in the same category,” he told talkSPORT as part of an interview for a documentary due to air this evening ahead of Bloodgate’s tenth anniversary.

“For me there’s different grades.

“Is Neil Back’s ‘Hand of Back’ [in the 2002 Heineken Cup final] cheating? Yes, it’s a form of it, but do you know what? It’s gamesmanship and for me it’s acceptable, but it’s borderline.

“I think [Bloodgate] was a disgrace. Irrespective of the individual, the act of trying to take a blood capsule, create a situation that wasn’t real to get a player on is a real form of cheating.”

Yet George Robson, who was on the losing Quins team 10 years ago, revealed it wasn’t a one off, telling talkSPORT he came off with a fake blood injury once during an away game at Leicester Tigers.

“I acted as a blood substitute, having a piece of gauze with some blood on it on my head,” the former lock explained.

“That wasn’t my blood, I don’t know if it was blood, I presume it wasn’t.”

Williams is helped from the pitch by Steph Brennan with ‘blood’ pouring from his mouth

For Robson, though, it was an accepted part of the culture he was surrounded by – and he didn’t even give it a second thought 10 years ago.

He continued: “My understanding was, this is the protocol, and the rationale is that it’s going to help us win a rugby game.

“From my perspective, I didn’t see anything wrong with that. I didn’t think this is crazy or ridiculous and, 10 years on when I speak to people I work with or study with and share some of that insight, they look at me as if I’ve got three heads.”

From 8pm on talkSPORT

The story of how one blood capsule changed rugby forever, which includes new interviews with Sir Clive Woodward, Brian O’Driscoll and the man at the centre of it all, Tom Williams.

Bloodgate: It was as bad as drug taking, says Brian O’Driscoll, while George Robson reveals Harlequins scandal not a one off

11 Apr

It was the scandal that rocked rugby, a sport which saw its values questioned.

And it all centred around blood capsules bought at a joke shop in Clapham Junction, south west London.

During the 2009 Heineken Cup quarter-final on 12 April, as Harlequins stared at defeat to Leinster, replacement Tom Williams used a fake blood capsule to engineer a blood substitution.

Williams pretended to be hurt and bit on a blood capsule so he could be replaced by Nick Evans

Biting on the capsule would allow director of rugby Dean Richards to bring fly-half Nick Evans – one of the game’s best kickers – back on to try and win the tie.

Evans had gone off injured in the 47th minute and replaced by Chris Malone, who was subsequently also injured.

As the clock ticked down, Evans hobbled back on. However, he missed a last-minute drop-goal attempt – Quins lost 6-5.

Then the walls came tumbling down.

Television cameras captured Williams winking to the dugout as he trudged off. Something wasn’t right and soon everyone was talking about ‘Bloodgate’ – you know it’s bad when that suffix is attached.

Bloodgate repercussions

When the cheating eventually came to light, the punishments were severe

  • Quins were fined £237,000
  • Dean Richards, being the central figure, was banned from rugby for three years
  • Tom Williams was initially banned for 12 months, which was reduced to four
  • Physio Steph Brennan got a two-year ban.
  • Wendy Chapman, who had cut Williams’s lip at his own request after the game to cover up the ruse, was reprimanded by the General Medical Council

It is the worst form of cheating, according to Brian O’Driscoll who played for Leinster that day.

“This, for me, is like drug taking. I put that in the same category,” he told talkSPORT as part of an interview for a documentary due to air this evening ahead of Bloodgate’s tenth anniversary.

“For me there’s different grades.

“Is Neil Back’s ‘Hand of Back’ [in the 2002 Heineken Cup final] cheating? Yes, it’s a form of it, but do you know what? It’s gamesmanship and for me it’s acceptable, but it’s borderline.

“I think [Bloodgate] was a disgrace. Irrespective of the individual, the act of trying to take a blood capsule, create a situation that wasn’t real to get a player on is a real form of cheating.”

Yet George Robson, who was on the losing Quins team 10 years ago, revealed it wasn’t a one off, telling talkSPORT he came off with a fake blood injury once during an away game at Leicester Tigers.

“I acted as a blood substitute, having a piece of gauze with some blood on it on my head,” the former lock explained.

“That wasn’t my blood, I don’t know if it was blood, I presume it wasn’t.”

Williams is helped from the pitch by Steph Brennan with ‘blood’ pouring from his mouth

For Robson, though, it was an accepted part of the culture he was surrounded by – and he didn’t even give it a second thought 10 years ago.

He continued: “My understanding was, this is the protocol, and the rationale is that it’s going to help us win a rugby game.

“From my perspective, I didn’t see anything wrong with that. I didn’t think this is crazy or ridiculous and, 10 years on when I speak to people I work with or study with and share some of that insight, they look at me as if I’ve got three heads.”

From 8pm on talkSPORT

The story of how one blood capsule changed rugby forever, which includes new interviews with Sir Clive Woodward, Brian O’Driscoll and the man at the centre of it all, Tom Williams.

European Rugby Champions Cup round-up: Newcastle claim brilliant victory over Montpellier, Leinster suffer agonising defeat at Toulouse

21 Oct

It’s been an eventful day in the European Champions Cup. Here is the best of Sunday’s action.

Newcastle 23-20 Montpellier

Newcastle snatched a dramatic 23-20 victory over star-studded Montpellier to go top of their pool in the Champions Cup.

With England head coach Eddie Jones in the stand, Newcastle led 16-6 at half-time and after last weekend’s heroics against Toulouse, the Falcons looked to be heading for another win against a side boasting a dozen internationals led by France number eight Louis Picamoles.

But Ruan Pienaar kicked two crucial penalties and lock Paul Willemse rumbled over for a try to give the visitors a 20-16 lead. But with the clock showing full time, the Falcons mounted one last attack following a penalty to the corner and after a staggering 39 phases, lock Callum Chick was driven over and Joel Hodgson converted for a last-gasp victory which takes Newcastle top of pool five.

Callum Chick and Gary Graham celebrate the brilliant win for Falcons

Toulouse 28-27 Leinster

Leinster’s impressive unbeaten run in the Heineken Champions Cup shuddered to a dramatic halt as the reigning champions fell to a 28-27 defeat at Pool 1 rivals Toulouse.

After last weekend’s bonus-point victory over Wasps, Leinster – who won all their games on their march to the title last season – started the match at Stade Ernest Wallon as favourites against their fellow four-time European champions.

But an end-to-end game turned on a raking length-of-the-field interception try in the dying minutes.

Replacement Louis-Benoit Madaule picked up a loose pass and released Toulouse’s flying backs division. Moments later, Maxime Medard scored his second try of the afternoon to wrest back a lead the hosts had held until midway through the second half.

Leinster was so close to claiming the win

Cardiff Blues 12-29 Glasgow

Glasgow opened their Heineken Champions Cup account with a 29-12 bonus point victory over Cardiff Blues at the Arms Park.

But the real beneficiaries were Pool Three leaders Saracens, who are four points clear of their rivals heading into December home and away fixtures against the Blues.

Glasgow, beaten at home by Saracens last weekend, did not look back after fly-half Adam Hastings and wing DTH van der Merwe scored tries in the first five minutes.

Hastings also added a conversion and penalty before half-time, and when scrum-half Ali Price rounded off a crisp move early in the second period, the only serious debate was whether or not Glasgow would claim a five-point maximum.

Early tries from Adam Hastings (pictured) and DTH van der Merwe set Glasgow on their way to victory

Glasgow got there when lock Jonny Gray added a fourth try 12 minutes from time – again converted by Hastings – and there was no doubting their supremacy over a Blues side that fell way short of repeating last Sunday’s performance when they beat Lyon in France.

Wing Aled Summerhill claimed two consolation tries for the Blues, with Gareth Anscombe adding a conversion, but they were also chasing a game that, in truth, was beyond reach following Glasgow’s early onslaught.