DESPITE the scandals that have rocked rugby this summer, the game’s popularity shows no sign of waning on the evidence of the past two weekends.
Almost 45,000 spectators turned up to watch Saracens’ 19-16 Guinness Premiership win over Northampton on Saturday at Wembley. The crowd, coupled with the gate at last weekend’s Twickenham double header, meant over 111,000 fans have watched Saracens in two games, while more people attended the Wembley experiment than watched the Tri-Nations decider between New Zealand and South Africa.
The match itself was instantly forgettable apart from a frantic finale that saw Saints prop Soane Tonga’uiha controversially denied a late match-winning try by the TMO.
Elsewhere, Delon Armitage gave England an injury scare after being helped off in London Irish’s emphatic 40-10 victory over Gloucester. Armitage left the pitch in the 61st minute clutching his left wrist. With Toby Flood, Riki Flutey and Mike Tindall already in the treatment room, England manager Martin Johnson can ill afford any further injuries to his back line.
The full-back’s departure took the shine off an otherwise excellent afternoon for Irish, who recorded their first win of the new league campaign.
Meanwhile, Toulouse’s former All Black scrum-half Byron Kelleher looks to be a serious trouble with the French police.
An eye-witness to the events of the early hours of Friday morning has revealed his version to a French website, detailing how a drunk Kelleher was injured in a roadside brawl after denying responsibility for a minor car accident.
There has been speculation that his injuries could keep him out of French and European competition for as long as two months.
But Kelleher’s injuries could be the least of his worries as he is expected to face charges including drunk driving and assault.
His Toulouse side are second in the French Top 14 thanks to a narrow 19-13 home win over bottom club Albi.
Jacques Delmas and Didier Faugeron enjoyed a winning start to life as coaches of Stade Francais as the Top 14 giants overcame Castres 44-18 to halt a dismal run of form.
The pair were brought in to replace Ewen McKenzie and Christophe Dominci, who were asked to step down after the Parisian outfit slipped into the relegation zone.
Brock James trumped Andrew Mehrtens in the battle of the Antipodean kickers as Clermont defeated Racing-Metro 30-22 to ascend to the summit and send their opponents to the relegation zone.
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