All of the major domestic rugby titles have been decided over the month of June, with the Crusaders seventh title in Super Rugby supporting their status as the Premier rugby franchise across the globe.
The Currie Cup grand final was also played on Saturday, with the Free State Cheetahs claiming the reward in South Africa’s major competition.
— The Currie Cup (@TheCurrieCup) June 25, 2023
In women’s rugby, Gloucester Hartpury claimed the Allianz Premier 15s Championship on the same day, meaning that for all professional grades, the Silverware has been awarded.
They brought it ‘Holm.
— Gloucester Rugby 🍒 (@gloucesterrugby) June 24, 2023
So finalizing the domestic championships calendar, nations may have already turned their attention toward the men’s Rugby World Cup in September, yet for the majority of supporters, it’s a good time for an overview of ‘who won what’ for the official 2022/23 rugby calendar.
Note: Major League Rugby is yet to complete its season, with playoff matches being played to determine 2023 MLR champions.
Domestic titles decided; Crusaders seventh title in a row
There is no denying it, as the engraver listed the Crusaders seventh title onto the Silver trophy, it was apparent how dominant the Scott Robertson-coached side has been. The Chiefs had led Super Rugby Pacific all season, but in the tighter contest of a grand final, bone-deep ability to rise to the occasion was evident.
7 in a row and the 14th title for the Crusaders 🏆
— Stan Sport Rugby (@StanSportRugby) June 24, 2023
Across all the competitions, there are many consistent performers: Saracens, Munster, and Toulouse. In fact, the French Top14 club Stade Toulousain claimed their 22nd title over their famed history a week before.
— TOP 14 Rugby (@top14rugby) June 17, 2023
And in a bizarre coincidence, all of the four above Championship teams have a ‘red and black’ combination in their jerseys.
While nobody can associate colours with winning, every domestic rugby competition brings out the best in the sport. The cream rises, although in one instance, the Cup final produced a major upset result; the Kubota Spears defeated the Panasonic Wild Knights. A side that during the League One season, amassed an incredible 48-game winning record across several seasons.
Consistency is one thing, getting a result is another. Many sides had a formidable calendar. Leinster again led all comers before falling to La Rochelle in the Heineken Champions Cup finale on the host’s home soil. Stepping up on the big occasion, they can call themselves [again] the best in Europe.
🥳 Le doublé. À Dublin. Avec 17 points de retard.
— Stade Rochelais (@staderochelais) May 20, 2023
But for now, the breakdancing display from Scott ‘Razor Ray’ Robertson shows how players and staff enjoy the elation of victory, every bit as much as the fans.
All domestic rugby titles decided broken down:
2022/23 United Rugby Championship – Winner: Munster
Munster (see main photo) claimed the title on foreign territory, where they defeated the DHL Stormers in Cape Town. It showed that on the day, any side can triumph, considering the majority have foreseen Leinster running unchecked to the title. No, Munster first stopped a tiring Leinster, before showing that Irish Rugby are more than just one region.
2022/23 Gallagher Premiership – Winner: Saracens
The London club seemed to have executed a ‘close to perfect’ domestic season – even while head coach Mark McCall might have wanted more success in Europe – their fans can now feel they have been resuscitated from the lows of needing to play in the Championship. While the likes of Exeter Chiefs, Harlequins, and Leicester Tigers could not overcome the force that is Saracens.
— Saracens Rugby Club (@Saracens) June 26, 2023
Note: All teams and stakeholders were shunted early in the season, by the expulsion of both Worcester Warriors and Wasps. which left an unbalanced, 11-team draw that resulted in unwanted Bye rounds and a reshuffle of fixtures. Full credit to administrators for protecting the sustainability of clubs, however, that has now seen London Irish also financially at risk, and removed from the 2023/24 season.
2023 Allianz Premier 15s – Winner: Gloucester
Just completed, this victory is a big boost for the South-West club. Cherry and Red fans descended onto Kingsholm; renamed ‘Queensholm’ for the occasion. It was a bright afternoon with quality rugby union displayed from both ‘Glaws and the Exeter Chiefs women.
2022/23 Indigo Premiership (Wales) – Winner: Llandovery
Senior contributor Robert Rees has followed this season’s Indigo Premiership, and the win for Llandovery RFC over Cardiff showed that the grassroots are strong in the valleys. With less star power, the Carmarthenshire region celebrated their club’s win with all the patriotism that Welsh rugby is revered for.
2022/23 Heineken Champions Cup – Winner: La Rochelle
Celebrating consecutive wins, it was managed in the hardest circumstances; in Dublin against Leinster. Such a formidable accomplishment may see their 2022/23 victory held in higher esteem by supporters. And they had to overcome Gloucester, Saracens, and then the Exeter Chiefs. That really is a massive feat; all the while still appearing in the French division’s Cup final as well.
2022/23 EPCR Challenge Cup – Winner: Toulon
Seen as secondary, there is no disrespecting Toulon for claiming the Challenge Cup trophy. They would defeat the Cheetahs, fellow French club Lyon, and former URC winners Benetton, before holding off a spirited Glasgow Warriors side wishing to promote Scottish Rugby’s recent revival.
New champions new Twitter header
— EPCR Challenge Cup (@ChallengeCup_) May 20, 2023
2022/23 French Top14 – Winner: Toulouse
Stade Touloussain proved that ‘star power’ can be a key contributing factor’. Enter Romain Ntamack; final play of the game, he sieved through the La Rochelle defence to cross the line and secure a three-point win. It put an exclamation mark under his and Antoine Dupont’s domestic seasons, ahead of a crucial World Cup cycle.
Notable mention: French Pro D2 winner – Oyonnax.
2023 Japan Rugby League One (Div 1) – Winner: Kubota Spears
Whether it was an upset or not, having another team stand atop the mountain for Japanese Rugby is a benefited to the nation. Known (unfortunately) for their imported players, the strong domestic talent underscores every corporate team.
Super Rugby women’s competitions: Aupiki (NZ) – Winner: Matatū | Super W (AUS) – Fijiana Drua
With two leagues played on either side of the Tasman, it was a first-ever win for the combined South Island franchise, Matatū, and in the Australian conference, the Fijiana Drua side championed the entry of the Pacifica team. Again, building on the sustained growth in the segment, yet playing to the highest standard, each team are worthy champions.
2023 Super Rugby Pacific – Winner: Crusaders
If anything can be taken from the Crusaders seventh title victory, it is how head coach Scott Robertson has used his whole squad over this season. At times, without enough players to even hold a full scrum session, bringing in new names and soothing their nerves through the winning culture was the key to success. New men like Dallas McLeod and Christian Leo-Willie stood beside established leaders like Sam Whitelock and Richie Mo’unga, all with an aim to halt the form side opposing them. And crucially, the Chiefs felt the pressure; in three yellow cards meaning for 30 minutes, the Crusaders held the authority needed to secure a 14th Super title for the franchise faithful.
2023 Currie Cup – Winner: Free State Cheetahs
On a sunny Saturday afternoon, Toyota Stadium in Bloemfontein became the center of attention for South African rugby supporters. The Free State Cheetahs would hold off the Pumas in the Premier Division of the Currie Cup. Two rivals who have been a part of a competition dating back to 1892. And while the boot parties were a popular starting point, Springboks rugby is still well supported by sides like Free State in the modern game.
The @CastleLagerSA beer garden here at the Free State Stadium ahead of the Currie Cup final between the Cheetahs & the Pumas is a sea of orange. On the big screen, the first division final between Boland & Valke isn't getting any attention.@Sport24news pic.twitter.com/M44s84WVek
— Khanyiso Tshwaku (@kaymorizm) June 24, 2023
Across the globe, many other competitions and trophies were competed for. In Africa, Asia, North, and South America, and regions of Europe. In nations like Spain, Germany, and especially in central Europe. Italy, Georgia, and Romania compete fiercely for the honours – just as much as any French, Irish, or Kiwi side can.
The game is in a good place, with only regulations and law interpretations [at times] impacting on the game’s enjoyment. When the Rugby World Cup opens on September 8, all the play in domestic rugby competitions will have been the best preparation for all involved.
“Main photo credit from BKT United Rugby Championship facebook”