The Biggest Hits in World Rugby This Week, Heineken Cup Headliners
Fans were treated to a second successive batch of Heineken Cup fixtures this weekend, with a Bledisloe Cup finale, ITM Cup semi-finals and Amlin Challenge Cup action all sprinkled in for good measure.
With that array of elite rugby on show, it's only natural that some of the most entertaining tackles, carries and collisions follow not far behind.
This week, it's Europe that takes up the majority of the physical headlines, but the Southern Hemisphere certainly pitched in with some hits to remember (or forget in a hurry).
5. Gareth Davies Hit En Route to Toulon Try
Thanks to a dramatic last-ditch effort from substitute Gareth Davies, Cardiff Blues were able to claim a historical victory over serial spenders and reigning Heineken Cup champions Toulon this weekend.
However, the try didn't come easily. After weaving his way beyond the likes of Jonny Wilkinson and Maxime Mermoz, Davies almost saw his moment of glory go down in flames thanks to a tipping challenge from Freddie Michalak.
The 29-year-old would nonetheless break away and scramble for the most important score of his Blues career, but not before this heart-in-the-mouth tackle left him feeling sore.
4. Julian Savea Brutal Drive on Benn Robinson
As if the impact of a 0-3 Bledisloe Cup series defeat didn't hurt enough, Australia's Benn Robinson was dealt a hit by Julian Savea that will undoubtedly leave him with much more physical scars.
Over the course of 2013, the New Zealand winger's rise has been nothing short of remarkable. He has an incredible ability to not only ghost around defenders, but carry through them.
This talent was once again on display during Saturday's 41-33 win over the Wallabies, with Robinson playing the role of the victim on this occasion.
3. Dave Kearney Blasted out of Touch vs. Castres
In what was probably the scrappiest encounter of the weekend, Castres could probably have walked away from Leinster with a win had they not made so many wasteful mistakes in both attack and defence.
One striking example of the latter is Remi Lamerat's needless hit on the home team's Dave Kearney, which earned the French centre a stint in the sin bin, which would go on to have a great impact on the result.
The younger of the Kearney brothers was obviously incensed by the challenge, but was eventually calmed down by older sibling Rob, and got the most important revenge of all—four Heineken Cup points.
2. Rey Lee-Lo Knocked out Cold Against Wellington
One of the more unfortunate aspects of the physicality in rugby is of course that it can sometimes go a step too far—and one or more players can get hurt as a result of a particularly massive hit.
Such was the case in this weekend's ITM Cup semi-final between Wellington and Counties Manukau, when Motu Matu'u—the former's hooker—went into a challenge with his shoulders a little high.
One might argue that Rey Lee-Lo, the Counties Manukau centre, wasn't paying close attention to the "always go low" rule at the time.
In any case, coming onto the ball at pace, Matu'u hit his tackler in wrecking ball-like fashion. One can see that Lee-Lo was instantly out of it.
1. Kieran Marmion Gets Laid out by Vunisa
Though it may be unfair to some, small players are more than aware of the disadvantages that may await them in a sport largely dominated by the hulking masses of modern rugby.
Unfortunately, Kieran Marmion had to be reminded the hard way this weekend as the Connacht scrum-half was subjected to the tackling talents of Zebre No. 8 Samu Vunisa, arguably the biggest player on the pitch at the time.
New Zealander Vunisa may have been almost static at the point of contact, but there's a lot to be said for getting in under the chest of one's opponent and finding that perfect angle in a tackle.
In any case, it will take some time before Marmion works up the courage to carry the ball back into the fray as he did in his side's Heineken Cup win this weekend.
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