Louis Lynagh, son of a former Wallabies great and once in line to be an England winger, may have helped reboot his international rugby dream with a spectacular performance for Harlequins in the European Champions Cup.
The English club’s Australian boss Billy Millard reckoned he would be toasting a quite stunning solo try by Lynagh – one of two from the 23-year-old in their 47-19 win over Ulster – over a glass of red wine on Saturday night.
Lynagh, son of the World Cup-winning maestro Michael Lynagh, skinned four defenders in a blistering run launched from his own 22 at The Stoop in Twickenham after a quick tap and pass from Marcus Smith once he’d taken a mark.
But that first try came as a big surprise for Lynagh, who didn’t even think he’d be playing.
Initially overlooked for selection because of his recent indifferent form, he was rushed back on to the Quins’ bench just before kick-off after an injury forced Millard to reshuffle the squad.
Lynagh was then surprised to be asked to enter the fray after just over quarter-of-an-hour when Oscar Beard failed a 17th-minute head injury assessment.
He took the chance spectacularly, scoring two of Quins’ seven tries as they powered towards a place in the last-16 of Europe’s top rugby club tournament.
The first, though, was the most spectacular as Lynagh sped into the gap, smashed through one midfield tackle from Billy Burns, then kicked ahead and outstripped his Ulster pursuers, before getting a kind bounce that enabled him to outmuscle Jacob Stockdale and dive over for one of the the tries of the European season.
“When Marcus caught the high ball and called a mark, I was looking and we saw a little gap, it just opened up and then the rest well, I kind of don’t really know what happened.,” laughed Lynagh.
“Sometimes you try stuff on the rugby field and they pay off – and that was one of those moments.
“The ball bounced my way and I’m glad that I could finish it. I was very tired at the end – but it was really cool to do that and, hopefully, I can have many more moments like that.”
Six minutes later, he went over again with real opportunism, pouncing on some fumbling from the visitors’ defence to pick up and shoot in for another score against the run of play.
The performance was a great boost for Lynagh, who had been on the fringes of England selection under Eddie Jones only to fall down the pecking order after injury woes last season.
He remains available for Wallabies selection, as well as Italy – the birthplace of his mother.
Quins’ director of rugby Millard was delighted for him.
“Louis has been around us a long time so he knows exactly what the deal is. He’s worked really hard and deserves it. He gave us a real foothold into the game,” said the Aussie.
“Louis is outstanding and he showed that – I will sit back and watch his try over a glass of red. It was just that determination to stay in it. He’s a big part of it here.”
Aussie giant’s journey to the Canes
Ben Grant, an Aussie lock who has joined the Hurricanes after a stint in Major League Rugby, has spoken of his fascinating journey to the NZ Super Rugby franchise.
The 2.05m Grant, 25, was a member of the San Diego Legio which finished second in MLR last season.
He spent two years in California, reviving a SR career he thought may have passed him by.
He spoent four years with Western Force and was a member of Austrlaia’s under 20s squad in 2017 alongside Tate McDermott, Rob Valetini, Harry Hooper and Mack Hansen.
“I guess I’ve taken the scenic route to Wellington,” Grant told RugbyPass.
“The chance to be here came about in America. Jamie Mackintosh (Hurricanes assistant coach) was coaching the Austin Gilgronis and we struck up a bit of a relationship.
“My dad Travis played in New Zealand. I’d always wanted to do the same thing. Issac Ross, the former All Black, has become a mentor. He used his contacts to help me get a gig in the NPC at North Harbour and that suddenly opened doors.
“In 2017 I was only a teenager when I came across from Queensland to join the Force Academy on a development contract. The next season we were removed from Super Rugby, but I decided to stay around which was a hell of an experience.”
Grant played for Cottesloe and Perth Spirit in the National Rugby Championship and then in the Global Rapid Rugby competition – the brainchild of Andrew Forrest.
“Andrew was very passionate and involved with the Force,”said Grant. “He was often at training. We went to a huge gathering on his cattle farm, and he came to all the games. At one game he donated $100,000 for every try we scored. At halftime, he announced that on the loudspeaker after we’d only scored one try in the first half.”
Grant said he models his game on Wallabies great Nathan Sharpe.
The Hurricanes open their season against the Force but Grant says he’s aware of the competition for places at the club.
“Caleb Delany, Justin Sangster, James Tucker, and Isaia Walker-Leawere are all established Super players,” Grant said.
“It’s been amazing to rub shoulders with All Blacks and train with New Zealand players. They have a really attacking mindset to the game which is quite different from what I’ve experienced. I want to put my best foot forward and keep growing.”
Marika on fire in Japan mauling
In a week in which a new Wallabies coach was unveiled, one of Joe Schmidt’s predecessors continued his dominance of Japan Rugby League One, as the Robbie Deans-coached Saitama Panasonic Wild Knights romped to a 70-12 win over Mie Honda Heat.
The Wild Knights, who will play the Chiefs in their next outing on February 4 as part of the new Cross Border Rugby series between New Zealand and Japan, showed they will be a handful for the Super Rugby side by plundering 10 tries.
The ruthless showing gives the six-time Japanese champions a firm grip on top spot in the standings.
Of particular interest to Schmidt will have been the performance of star Wallabies winger Marika Koroibete, who accounted for two of the Wild Knights’ tries.
Being used as a finisher this season, the 31-year-old entered the game on the hour mark.
He had a try within moments of taking the field and added another 10 minutes later.
Former Melbourne Rebels second-rower Esei Ha’angana also scored twice.
Springbok second rower Lood de Jager, on the comeback trail after missing the Rugby World Cup due to illness, got the party started with his second try in as many weeks.
While Saitama made light work of Heat, the Eddie Jones-advised Tokyo Suntory Sungoliath – who will play the Blues as part of the international series – needed a late try to pip Mitsubishi Sagamihara Dynaboars 36-34.
Sagamihara, who featured former Wallabies back Curtis Rona, will be wondering how they lost after scoring four tries in the opening 15 minutes of the game.
A try by Melbourne-born Trevor Hosea got the comeback started, with the second-rower’s score beginning a remarkable sequence of 31 unanswered points – including a try by All Blacks’ Rugby World Cup skipper Sam Cane – as Sungoliath turned a 29-0 deficit into a 31-29 lead with 15 minutes remaining.
Both sides scored tries in the last 10 minutes, with centre Shogo Nakano’s 83rd-minute score proving the match-winner to move Suntory into second place on the ladder.