REPORT | Aylesford Bulls Ladies 44-17 Worcester Valkyries

By Thomas Branston

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Worcester Valkyries fell to a 44-17 defeat in their final Women’s Premiership fixture of the season against Aylesford Bulls Ladies at Surrey Sports Park.

Aylesford stormed into a healthy first-half lead with a Hannah Breach brace followed by tries from Leanne Riley, Michi Sillari and Rachel Burford as Zoe Bennion added a score for the visitors.

Valkyries’ Lark Davies opened the second period with a try but scores from Montei Roi, Holly Myers and Breach’s third put the game beyond doubt before Courtney Gill added a consolation score at the death.

Aylesford got off to a whirlwind start to the game as Breach capitalised on a turnover to score in the corner in the first minute and Sillari added the extras.

The hosts soon added their second try as Riley went over from a quickly-taken penalty to strengthen the lead and Sillari added the conversion.

Sillari then added a quick third in the same corner as Aylesford took full control of the opening period.

Worcester began to grow into the game as the visitors went through several phases before good work from Lydia Thompson and Samantha Bree opened up a gap for Bennion to crash through to score.

However the hosts extended their lead as Burford capitalised from another quickly-taken penalty.

Breach then added a fifth for Aylesford as they dominated possession in the Worcester 22 and this was the last score of the first period with the half-time score reading 29-5 to the hosts.

Valkyries built pressure in the Bulls 22 and got their reward when Davies crashed over from close range after a driving maul and Goddard converted.

But a lack of concentration from Valkyries saw the hosts capitalise with Roi receiving the ball after several offloads to go over.

Breach soon added her hat-trick with a quality individual try, running in from the Worcester 22.

Valkyries were unable to cope with another bombardment of Aylesford attacks and conceded as Myers crossed the line from another quick penalty.

However it was Worcester who had the final say of the game as Gill scored from a driving maul.

Valkyries have one final game this season when they face Bristol Ladies Rugby in the Senior Cup Plate Final at Royal Wootton Bassett RFC on Saturday 1 April (kick-off 3.15pm).

Timeline
01m | Breach try 5-0
01m | Sillari con 7-0
06m | Riley try 12-0
07m | Sillari con 14-0
13m | Sillari try 19-0
17m | Bennion try 19-5
26m | Burford try 24-5
30m | Breach try 29-5
50m | Davies try 29-10
51m | Goddard con 29-12
66m | Roi try 34-12
70m | Breach try 39-12
78m | Myers try 44-12
79m | Gill try 44-17

Valkyries | 1 Harriet Dunn, 2 Lark Davies, 3 Laura Keates, 4 Stacey Hiscox, 5 Courtney Gill (c), 6 Helena Bunce (Donnahey 60), 7 Sian Williams (B Williams 60-62), 8 Lyndsay O’Donnell, 9 Bianca Blackburn, 10 Megan Goddard, 11 Samantha Bree (Bixley 40), 12 Ceri Large, 13 Zoe Bennion, 14 Rhi Parker, 15 Lydia Thompson

Replacements | 16 Rhi Donnahey, 17 Jasmine Bixley 18 Benedicte Williams

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Red Roses crowned Grand Slam Champions in Ireland Masterclass

By Thomas Branston

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England’s Red Roses were crowned the 2017 Women’s Six Nations Grand Slam Champions for the first time since 2012 after an impressive 34-7 win over Ireland in Donnybrook.

Amy Wilson Hardy gave England a narrow 5-0 first-half lead after Ireland had the ball held up twice just before the break.

Second-half tries from Laura Keates, Amy Cokayne, Emily Scarratt and Lydia Thompson with Scarratt ending the match with 14 points.

Ireland did scored a consolation try of their own when hooker Leah Lyons crashed over from close-range but it was not enough to prevent England’s first Six Nations win in Ireland since 2011.

In a tense first-half it took the opening until the 15th minute for Scarratt to loop a fine pass to Wilson Hardy who finished well in the corner.

Scarratt couldn’t add the conversion in difficult conditions as the score stayed at 5-0 at the half-time interval.

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England started with the same intensity and brought on Worcester Valkyries’ Laura Keates for Rochelle Clark in the front row and it took just 14 minutes for the prop to crash over from close-range.

Just minutes later England were awarded as Ireland’s Mairead Coyne was sent to the sin bin for a deliberate knock-on and Scarratt slotted the penalty through to extend the Red Roses’ score.

Cokayne raced away like a steam train after receiving a quick offload from Scarratt to extend England’s score with Ireland down to 14 players and Scarratt added the extras.

Ireland did score a try of their own as Lyons crashed over from close-range after a driven maul.

However the Red Roses scored just moments later when Scarratt received an offload from Wilson Hardy off the floor and the centre stepped the last defender to score with ease and she converted her own try.

England furthered their lead as Thompson received the ball from a Scarratt offload and the winger danced her way down the touchline to score under the posts and Scarratt added the extras.

Amber Reed sent the ball out to touch as the clock struck 80 and England celebrated winning their first Grand Slam since 2012.

Cheltenham Day Four: Sizing John wins the Timico Gold Cup on another day of upsets at Cheltenham

By Thomas Branston

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Sizing John and Robbie Power celebrate winning the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Day four at Cheltenham produced yet another day of upsets as Robbie Power rode Sizing John to success in this years Timico Gold Cup.

He gave the Irish further cause for celebration on St Patrick’s Day when he galloped relentlessly up the Cheltenham hill to beat Minella Rocco, Djakadam and Native River to Friday’s Blue Ribbon event.

The only market favourite to win on the final day was Defi De Seuil in the JCB Triumph Hurdle as the bookies beat the punters on a third day at the festival.

Day four winners;

1.30pm GMT – JCB Triumph Hurdle – Defi De Seuil at 5/2 (Fav)

2.10pm GMT – Randox Health County Handicap Hurdle – Arctic Fox at 20/1

2.50pm GMT – Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle – Penhill at 16/1

3.30pm GMT – Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup – Sizing John at 7/1

4.10pm GMT – St James’s Place Foxhunter Chase – Pacha Du Polder at 16/1

4.50pm GMT – Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle – Champagne Classic at 12/1

5.30pm GMT – The Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Handicap Chase – Rock The World at 10/1

Cheltenham Day Three: Ruby Walsh and Willie Mullins triumphant in St. Patrick’s Day annihilation

By Thomas Branston

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Jockey Ruby Walsh and Nichols Canyon win the Stayers’ Hurdle.

St. Patricks Day at the Cheltenham Festival did not disappoint as jockey Rugby Walsh and trainer Willie Mullins stroke their lucky charm to claim four wins including Nichols Canyon in the Stayers’ Hurdle.

Walsh had a day to remember as he rode the unfavored Nichols Canyon to victory beating odds-on favourite Unowhatimeanharry to win the big race of the day.

He now boasts a record 56 Cheltenham Festival wins.

Both Walsh and Mullins were without a win to their names until Yorkhill won the JLT Novices in the first race of the day.

Six of the seven winners on day three were Irish horses as the ‘Luck of the Irish’ well and truly stunned the Cheltenham crowds.

It was an improved day for the punters too as three of the priced favourites ran out as winners with Yorkhill, Un De Sceaux and Let’s Dance all claiming victories.

Day Three’s Winners:

1.30pm GMT – JLT Novices – Yorkhill at 6/4 (Fav)

2.10pm GMT – Pertemps Final – Presenting Percy at 11/1

2.50pm GMT – Ryanair Chase – Un De Sceaux at 7/4 (Fav)

3.30pm GMT – Stayers’ Hurdle – Nichols Canyon at 11/1

4.10pm GMT – Festival Plate – Road To Respect at 14/1

4.50pm GMT – Mares’ Novice’ Hurdle  – Let’s Dance at 11/8 (Fav)

5.30pm GMT – Kim Muir Chellenge Cup – Domesday Book at 40/1

Day Four: ‘Gold Cup’ Day:

Plenty on offer in tomorrows penultimate day of the Cheltenham Festival with the markets leading favourites; Defi De Seuil 9/4 in the JCB Triumph Hurdle, Mick Jazz 7/1 in the County Handicap Hurdle, Death Duty 2/1 in the Albert Bartlett Novies’ Hurdle, Djakadam 10/3 in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, On The Fringe in the Hunters’ Chase, No Comment 6/1 in the Conditional Jockey’s Handicap Hurdle and Le Prezien in the Challenge Cup Handicap Chase.

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Cheltenham Day Two: Excitement, Drama and Upsets on Ladies Day at the Festival

By Thomas Branston

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Special Tiara shocks the Cheltenham crowd by beating favourite Douvan to the Queen Mother Champion Chase.

We have already witnessed some dramatic action in the opening day with heavily tipped favourite Yanworth failing to place as Buveur D’Air won the Stan James Champion Hurdle.

Day two continued in similar fashion with firm favourite Douvan and his jockey Rugby Walsh missing out in the Queen Mother Champion Chase as Special Tiara stole the headlines in the shock of the day.

Might Bite was the only horse that was tipped favourite to win their respective race today as Cheltenham threw up a day full of surprises.

Day Two winners:

1.30pm GMT – Neptune Novices’ Hurdle – Willoughby Court at 14/1

2.10pm GMT – RSA Novices’ Chase – Might Bite at 7/2

2.50pm GMT – Coral Cup Handicap Hurdle – Supasundae at 16/1

3.30pm GMT – Queen Mother Champion Chase – Special Tiara at 11/1

4.10pm GMT – Cross Country Chase – Cause of Causes at 4/1

4.50pm GMT – Juvenile Novices Hurdle – Flying Tiger at 33/1

5.30pm GMT – Champion Bumper – Fayonagh at 7/1

Day three at Cheltenham has a lot to offer with the current favourites leading the markets; Yorkhill 5/4 in the JLT Novices’ Chase, For Good Measure 7/1 in the Pertemps Handicap Hurdle, Un De Sceaux 5/2 in the Ryanair Chase, Unowhatimeanharry 6/4 in the Stayers’ Hurdle, Diamond King 5/1 in the Stable Plate Handicap Chase, Lets Dance 6/4 in the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle and Squouateur 5/1 in the Kim Muir Handicap Chase.

 

Iconic Paris based clubs set to merge together from 2017/18 season

By Thomas Branston

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Two of French rugby’s most iconic clubs are set to combine forces next season in a striking merger.

Racing 92 and Stade Francais will come together as one Parisian ‘super-club’ in a move which will shake up the current Top 14.

The two sides have collectively won 20 domestic titles in France and the transition is designed to ‘give birth to a new club’ whilst maintaining the roots of both teams.

A statement on the Racing website said:

These two flagship clubs of Paris and the Hauts de Seine, beyond the sporting rivalry they have enjoyed, have many other similarities: a strong local and regional anchorage, a historic educational mission, ancestral ties with The Olympic movement or an inextinguishable will to progress in all areas.

“It is on the basis of these principles that the two clubs lay the foundations for a merger project by pooling their resources to better cope with the challenges of performance and education.

“This association, effective from next season, must give birth to a new club that will preserve the roots of Racing 92 as those of the Stade Français Paris while multiplying the means put at the service of youth and French rugby.”

RACING 92

Founded: 1890 (reformed in 2001)

Stadium: Stade Olympique Yves-du-Manoir

Capacity: 14,000

Coach: Laurent Labit

Captain: Dimitri Szarzewski

Titles: 6

STADE FRANCAIS

Founded: 1883

Stadium: Stade Jean-Bouin

Capacity: 20,000

Coach: Gonzalo Quesada

Captain: Sergio Parisse

Titles: 14

Gloucester Rugby are in search for a new Head Coach, Tom Branston takes a look at suitable successors

By Thomas Branston

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Gloucester Rugby are in search of a new Head Coach after Laurie Fisher stepped down from his role at the club following Harlequins’ late comeback win in the Aviva Premiership on Sunday.

Gloucester’s Chief Executive Stephen Vaughan has since admitted that the club are looking to hire an external candidate for the role.

“We are probably looking for somebody who has already had head-coach experience, to keep us moving in the right direction. We have had interest from very talented people.”

Current defence coach Jonny Bell has been named as interim head coach until the summer.

The Cherry and Whites have suffered three defeats in their last four game with their only win coming against reigning champions Saracens at Kingsholm.

Harlequins’ late comeback scoring 15 points in the last eight minutes of the game secured a dramatic victory for the visitors at Kingsholm, and this proved to be the final straw for Fisher.

The Australian controversially tweeted following the result stating, “Unbelievable capitulation. Clearly not good enough. My responsibility. Time to make room for someone else.”

Gloucester Rugby have set themselves time to select a new head coach, here Park Life Sport takes a look at the possible candidates who might fit the bill at Gloucester Rugby.

Phillipe Saint-Andre

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Saint-Andre finished his career at Kingsholm and was formerly the head coach at the club. He made 38 appearances in Cherry and White in two years before retiring to become the Director of Rugby at Gloucester. Whilst at Sale Sharks Saint-Andre oversaw his side win the European Challenge Cup in his second season and in his third they won the Guinness Premiership in 2006.

Gary Gold

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Gold is currently the Director of Rugby at Aviva Premiership side Worcester Warriors and has led them out of a relegation scrap with Bristol. He started his prolific coaching career at London Irish in 2001 as forwards coach before becoming the DoR in 2002 till 2005. In 2008 Gold was named assistant coach of the South African national side, in this time he oversaw the British and Irish Lions Tour and the 2011 Rugby World Cup. He has also had DoR roles at Newcastle Falcons and Bath Rugby.

Jonny Bell

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Bell moved to Kingsholm from Pro 12 side Ulster Rugby in 2015. He enjoyed a playing career as a centre at club level with Northampton Saints and Ulster as well as winning 36 caps for Ireland. He played in two World Cups (1995 and 1999) and trained as a PE teacher, before he was appointed Elite Player Development Officer at Ulster then becoming Assistant Coach with an emphasis on defence at Gloucester Rugby. He now steps in as temporary head coach and with five Aviva Premiership games remaining his aim will to get the Cherry and Whites European rugby.