Biggar and Dupont among bright lights in festive rugby action 

Biggar 2000
No sooner had the turkey been consumed in homes across the continent than a wave of festive rugby action treated fans.

No sooner had the turkey been consumed in homes across the continent than a wave of festive rugby action treated fans.

In the Guinness PRO14, English Premiership and France’s Top 14 a number of international stars made their presences felt as the Christmas rugby contests delighted all who watched them.

There were two cracking encounters in the PRO14 on Boxing Day, as both Welsh derbies were hard-fought and determined by fine margins.

At Rodney Parade, Wales international Josh Turnbull got the decisive only try of the game as Cardiff Blues staged a dramatic comeback to beat Dragons 13-12.

Dragons led for much of the contest, with four penalties converted from the boot of Josh Lewis and a 9-3 lead earned at the half-time break.

But the visitors were much improved in the second half and seized the initiative with just 12 minutes to go as Turnbull drove over.

That secured the Blues’ 11th straight win over their Welsh rivals to move them up to third in Conference B.

And there was another brilliant contest in Llanelli as a late Angus O’Brien try saw Scarlets claim bragging rights in the west Wales derby with Ospreys 16-14.

Things had been going so much better to Toby Booth’s men in the first half as the hosts, fielding Guinness Six Nations winners George North and Justin Tipuric, dominated and took an 8-3 lead with Reuben Morgan-Williams dotting down.

But, after Dan Jones had pulled the two sides closer together on the scoreboard with his three penalties, O’Brien sealed the win with a superb burst over the whitewash.

And in the Irish derby, veteran fly-half Ian Madigan booted 22 points to help Ulster to a 32-19 victory over Connacht in a contest that saw Ireland back-rower Jordi Murphy pick up the Player of the Match award for an all-action display at flanker.

There were a host of festive fixtures in the English Premiership and Wales fly-half Dan Biggar inspired Northampton Saints to their first home league victory of 2020 in their last chance to do so.

Biggar, back from injury, scored a try as well as slotting two conversions and a penalty to help Saints earn a bonus-point win over Worcester Warriors 29-10.

Alex Mitchell and Mikey Haywood also scored for the home side alongside a penalty try as Saints moved up to sixth in the Premiership standings.

But at the top of the table remain defending champions Exeter Chiefs after they held off a gritty Gloucester performance to continue their unbeaten record with a 28-20 win.

The calls for the England inclusion of the in-form duo of Sam and Joe Simmonds are getting louder by the day after another influential set of performances from the pair.

No.8 Sam crossed twice to take his Premiership try tally to an incredible eight from four games this season. while Joe was flawless from the tee as ever as Exeter battled away for the victory, Scotland’s Jonny Gray and England’s Ollie Devoto also collecting tries.

Last season’s beaten finalists Wasps got their season back on track as they earned their second win in the league 26-23 over Sale Sharks.

Charlie Atkinson and Tom Cruse dotted down for the visitors to hand interim head coach Paul Deacon defeat in his first Premiership contest in charge of Sale.

Former England international Marland Yarde earned his 50th Premiership score and he crossed the whitewash twice but could not prevent his side from falling to their second defeat of the league campaign.

In the Top 14, 2020 Guinness Six Nations Player of the Championship Antoine Dupont demonstrated once again why he is probably the most dangerous scrum-half in the world with a brilliant try in Toulouse’s impressive 45-23 bonus-point win over Bordeaux.

With both sides replete with France internationals, Dupont’s score was the highlight – as the No.9 collected the ball with every player on the park in front of him before breaking through two attempted tackles and side-stepping the full-back to score under the posts.

Fellow Les Bleus stars Yoann Huget, Selevasio Tolofua and Maxime Médard, as well as the uncapped Matthis Lebel, also crossed for the hosts while Thomas Ramos kicked 20 points.

Elsewhere, France back-row Kevin Gourdon scored the only try as La Rochelle maintained their status at the top of the table with a 22-9 victory over a Montpellier side containing Vincent Rattez and Anthony Bouthier.

Racing 92 are hot on their heels though as a host of France stars shone in their 45-10 win over Agen.

Wing Teddy Thomas dotted down while fly-half Maxime Machenaud kicked nine points as Laurent Travers’ side crossed the whitewash six times in all.

Flying winger Gabin Villiere scored a hat-trick as Toulon defeated Clermont Auvergne 27-9, while Noa Nakaitaci’s score was in vain for Lyon as Brive earned a crucial win 12-8 in a hard-fought contest at Stade Amedee-Domenech thanks to four penalties from Enzo Herve.