Commentary Box Sports brings you a wrap of last week’s action involving Aussies and Kiwis playing over in Europe.
Union and league
There was heartbreak and elation for our men playing in the Super League last weekend, with the 2017 Grand Finalists confirmed and the Million Pound Game played to decide promotion and relegation.
Castleford took the dramatic route to securing their spot in the decider for the first time in their history, kicking a last-minute penalty to force extra time before Luke Gale kicked a field goal to confirm a 23-22 win over St Helens.
Gale’s halves partner, Ben Roberts, was huge for ‘Cas’, running for 144 metres, while former Cronulla Shark Grant Millington topped the Tigers’ tackle count with 38.
It means the pair, along with fellow former NRL players Jake Webster, Jesse Sene-Lefao and Junior Moors, will play in the Grand Final at Old Trafford.
There they will meet Leeds, who edged past Hull FC 18-16 to qualify through, with former Manly Sea Eagle Matt Parcell putting in a big defensive shift for the Rhinos at dummy-half, and Adam Cuthbertson producing some dynamic attacking plays which included eight offloads.
One-time Brisbane Broncos and Melbourne Storm enforcer Mitch Garbutt topped the yardage count with 166 metres from 16 carries.
Both Sika Manu and Wests Tigers-bound Mahe Fonua scored tries for FC.
— Hull FC (@hullfcofficial) September 30, 2017
Meanwhile there were a bunch of relieved Catalans players at the end of the 80 minutes at the Leigh Sports Village, as the French outfit won the right to remain in the Super League for next year with a 26-10 victory over the Leigh Centurions.
Former Newcastle Knight Luke Walsh contributed 10 points off the boot, while Sam Moa, Greg Bird and Brayden Williame all ran for over 130 metres individually for the Dragons, who also had New Zealand products Louis Anderson and Justin Horo take the field in the pack.
It was a crushing end to the season for Glenn Stewart – who made a whopping 50 tackles for Leigh in the defeat – along with Cory Paterson, Josh Drinkwater, Harrison Hansen and Lachlan Burr, who now face uncertain futures with their side dumped to the second division a year after earning promotion.
It also means the Centurions’ signing of one-time Kiwi international Bryson Goodwin is void, with the utility back picking up a new deal with the Warrington Wolves this week.
Moving to union and Auckland-born winger Denny Solomona grabbed two tries as Sale Sharks destroyed Gloucester 57-10, scoring inside the first minute and again just before the hour.
Former Wallaby James O’Connor came off the bench to score on his Sharks debut, while John Afoa scored Gloucester’s only try.
One-time Australian Sevens rep Nick Malouf opened the try-scoring as his Leicester Tigers upset defending champions Exeter 20-13.
In France, Victoria’s Brock James scored a try and kicked eight points off the boot for La Rochelle, but couldn’t prevent a narrow loss to RC Toulonnais.
Simon Hickey and Ben Botica faced off in a battle of the New Zealand No.10s, with Hickey’s Bordeaux Begles side getting up, while Kiwis Jamie Mackintosh, Colin Slade and Tom Taylor all registered points for Pau in a close defeat to Stade Francais Paris .
Toby Arnold scored just after half-time to help Lyon get home 20-17 over Racing 92 and Aaron Cruden contributed two conversions for Montpellier in a drubbing of CA Brive.