Sunday 19 November 2017

Steenson steals show with superb Exeter display

IRISH out-halves were the centre of attention this weekend and perhaps the most impressive performance came from the least likely source.

Former underage international Gareth Steenson scored 17 points for Exeter Chiefs as they beat English champions Harlequins for the second time this season, winning 27-16 at The Stoop.

The Chiefs were second best for much of the clash as Ugo Monye scored an early try for Quins, but Steenson's boot kept the visitors in touch.

The Ulsterman inspired his side to a late comeback as they came from behind to steal it. Steenson played his part as Damian Welch and Luke Arscott crossed for tries.

Conor O'Shea's side are second in the Premiership as a result of the defeat, trailing Mark McCall's Saracens by four points after the leaders beat London Welsh 35-14 yesterday.

Leinster linked with swoop for Gopperth

LEINSTER are being heavily linked with a move for Newcastle Falcons' New Zealand fly-half Jimmy Gopperth.

The European champions are in the market for an experienced, European-based fly-half after losing Jonny Sexton to Racing Metro for next season.

While Ian Madigan will be given a chance to stake his claim for the No 10 jersey, Joe Schmidt wants an option who can compete with the 23-year-old, who was called into the Ireland squad yesterday.

The coach is also acutely aware that Madigan's rise will see him used by the national team more often, meaning that he needs cover when Madigan is absent.

Gopperth fits the bill. The 29-year-old is a former Junior All Black who joined Newcastle in 2009 after playing Super Rugby for the Hurricanes and the Blues.

Although they were relegated to the Championship last season, Newcastle look set to bounce straight back and win promotion.

Embattled French stars get no respite

FRANCE'S front-line players came through a bruising weekend of Top 14 fixtures unscathed as Toulon reinforced their supremacy at the top of the table by beating Toulouse 35-16.

Bernard Laporte's side lead the way from second-placed Clermont, who hammered Stade Francais 37-10 at the Stade de France with Morgan Parra to the fore.

Although Philippe Saint-Andre has complained that his squad are overworked, the players were not given any respite in a weekend where every other international team was given time off.

France are next up for Ireland at Lansdowne Road on Saturday in a high-pressure meeting of two under-performing sides.

Irish Independent

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