The regions’ interest in the United Rugby Championship may have ended a while back, but there was Welsh involvement in the Gallagher Premiership final at Twickenham and the Barbarians beating of England the following day was shot through with the spirit of the late Phil Bennett.
There was something for everyone over the weekend, then.
Steve Borthwick’s stock soared, Eddie Jones’ went the other way.
MARK ORDERS looks at the winners and losers.
Got it right, didn’t they?
The pre-match tribute to the beats Phil Bennett was lovely and the performance that followed was exactly what the occasion demanded. It didn’t involve slinging the ball around at every point — no side with Shaun Edwards coaching them entertains such an idea — but it did involve flowing rugby mixed with steely resolve. The invitation side were in town to entertain, but also to win.
Fifty-plus points, including eight tries, suggests they nailed it.
Damian Penaud underlined his status as one of the finest wings in world rugby, full-back Max Spring dazzled and Charlie Ollivon towered over all else in the back-row.
Despite playing with just 14 men for 43 minutes after the sending off of Will Skelton, the Baa-Baas were in control, opening up as England fell away in the final quarter.
Coaches Fabien Galthie and Edwards did a trademark top-notch job and Ollivon was inspirational.
Benny would have enjoyed the performance.
His effort in the Gallagher Premiership final was one for breakdown connoisseurs, with statistics by the analytics people Opta revealing that the Welsh player had an effective impact at six of the 11 defensive rucks he hit.
Five of those rucks were slowed down, with one turnover won, a 55 percent effectiveness rate — the best by any of the 180 players to hit 10+ defensive rucks in a match this season.
Wales forwards coach Jonathan Humphreys would have relished Reffell’s display ahead of the tour to South Africa this summer. you can read more about the Leicester Tigers player here.
A flanker stopping the opposition from winning quick ball may not always be noticed by every casual rugby observer, but it’s often key in a game and Reffell’s display on Saturday helped fuel Leicester’s winning performance against Saracens.
The Welsh player deserved the plaudits that came his way.
It doesn’t seem long ago, because it isn’t long ago, that Leicester Tigers were experiencing hard times, losing to sides they would have seen off with something to spare in previous years.
But normal service has been resumed.
They have been the best team in England this term and merited their Gallagher Premiership final success on Saturday. Their pack has a hard edge, their half-backs have been exceptional and they have a gem of a full-back in Freddie Steward.
Oh, and they have a team boss in Steve Borthwick who looks like an England coach in the making.
They got the job done against Saracens despite losing their game-controller George Ford in 23 minutes. Their defense held firm and Ford’s replacement Freddie Burns won the match with a drop goal in the dying minutes.
Not too many frills, but the match was never less than absorbing and the result was fair.
A back-heeled conversion? What on earth is rugby coming to?
When George Kruis did his stuff for the Barbarians on Sunday, nonchalantly sending the ball between the posts while facing the other way, he was feted for his action, albeit there didn’t seem too many smiles coming from England coach Eddie Jones.
Rewind 32 years earlier and it was a different reception for Mark Ring altogether after he went through a similar routine while playing for Cardiff against London Welsh.
Ring, brilliantly skilled and an entertainer to his core, had missed three kicks when a spectator shouted out to him: “You got your carpet slippers on again, Ring?”
The response was the famous back-heeled conversion.
Cardiff’s committee didn’t see the funny side, forcing Ring to write a letter of apology to London Welsh. He was also ‘banned’ from kicking at the posts for two years.
But spectators always got their money’s worth when watching Ring.
No one ever knew what was coming next.
Ask London Welsh.
It will be interesting to find out what the viewing figures in Europe were for the United Rugby Championship final between the Stormers and the Bulls.
Enthusiasts with egg-shaped eyeballs would likely have tuned in, for sure, but how many with just a passing interest in rugby in this part of the world would have stayed at home to watch two South African teams playing each other in a match more than 8,000 miles away?
That said, the Stormers warrant huge congratulations after their success. Both they and the Bulls have helped send the standard of rugby in the URC through the roof and the pair will be hard to beat in Europe.
It will be intriguing to see what the response will be from the rest of the URC.
If he wanted a perfect reference as he mulls over his next move in rugby after departing Worcester Warriors, then he has got one from his old Sixways teammate Neil Annett.
Picking his dream team in the latest edition of The Rugby Paper, Bath’s new signing names the Welshman at openside flanker, saying of him: “Easiest choice of the lot. Plain and simple, the best player I have ever played with.
“Can do it all. Brave, strong, skilful, tough. He could play anywhere outside of the front row at elite level. You want him in your corner.”
Lewis has an open mind about where he will head next.
But he has been linked to a move overseas, with the idea of a switch to either Japan or Major League Rugby in the USA floated by one outlet.
Black sabbath for Eddie?
Well, Eddie Jones would have had better Sundays.
He said after Sunday’s defeat by the Barbarians that England were trying to build a new team and play in a different way. Fair enough, but we’re only 15 months out from a World Cup. On this evidence, England’s head coach needs to get a move on if historians are not going to remember his reign as one of questionable selections, controversial utterances and opportunities passed up.
Wales, it seems, are not the only ones with much to think about as the July Tests come into view.
Saracens and Aled Davies
Aled Davies has had a fine season with Saracens.
He’s fitted in nicely and a number of his displays have been of high quality.
But his yellow card for clipping Julian Montoya with his shoulder proved costly in the Gallagher Premiership final. Leicester scored 12 of their 15 points over the next 10 minutes. Sometimes it happens like that.
Saracens being Saracens, no one will blame Davies.
The reality is they didn’t do enough to win as a team.
Nick Tompkins, who has had an excellent campaign, Ben Earl and Billy Vunipola aside, they didn’t fire with even Maro Itoje having a relatively subdued game aside from a few big clearouts, one of them on Tommy Reffell.
No-one in their camp can complain about the result.
On the winning side at Twickenham, but the first Barbarians player ever to be sat off while playing in the invitation team’s colours. The giant Australian saw red after a head-high shoulder shot on England rookie Patrick Schickerling.