THE COMING WEEKS will provide us with ample opportunity to run the rule over Irish players, given the fact that the Pro12 offers up four interprovincial derbies over the festive period.
As always, it’s equally important to keep an eye on the Irishmen abroad, particularly with the Top 14 featuring an equally busy schedule. There was a full programme of action in the French top flight this weekend, as well as in the second-tier Pro D2.
Here’s how our lads got on.
James Hart was in the starting team for Grenoble once again at scrum-half, but was powerless to prevent a 21-6 defeat away to Stade Français. The 22-year-old kicked two penalties while playing the full 80 minutes, but the Parisians proved too strong at the Stade Jean-Bouin.
Grenoble remain in seventh despite the loss, just one point behind Montpellier in the play-off positions.
Racing Métro had Jonny Sexton to thank for a 9-9 draw away to Brive, as the out-half kicked the equalising penalty in the dying seconds of the game. The Ireland international was selected on the bench for this clash, but was called into action as early as the 18th minute when the weeping Jonathan Wisniewski was helped off injured.
Sexton kicked all nine points for the Parisians, who once again failed to create anything in attack. Racing are ninth in the Top 14, but only bottom side Biarritz have scored less points and less tries than them.
Damian Browne, a teammate of Sexton’s at Leinster last season, started in the second row as Oyonnax secured a crucial 9-6 win at home to Bayonne. That means the small town minnows climb out of the relegation zone, jumping above the Basque side to 12th.
The 33-year-old lock played 68 minutes of the encounter in what was his eighth league start of the season. Oyonnax’s home form has been their saving grace after promotion last summer, with seven wins in eight games at the Stade Charles Mathon.
Jeremy Davidon‘s Aurillac side ended a three-game losing streak in the second-tier of French rugby, beating Béziers 30-24 at home. That recent run of poor results has seen Aurillac drop out of the play-off positions and they now sit eighth in the league.
Former Munster lock Brian Hayes made his seventh start of the season in the second row, and the 23-year-old is enjoying a growing reputation at the club. Ex-Ulster hooker Nigel Brady appeared off the bench in the 44th minute, playing the remainder of the game.
Mark Flanagan was in the second row for Mont de Marsan as they lost 18-15 away to Dax, meaning the southwestern outfit drop to 11th in the Pro D2. The Westmeath native was making his eighth start of the season since joining from Leinster.
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