Monday, January 17, 2011

Argentina Players in Round 5 of the Heineken Cup

Round five of the 2010-2011 Heineken Cup was another packed with Argentine players and it was a round that saw four of the Quarter Finals places confirmed with some big matches and surprizing results. With only one more round to go two French sides, one Irish side and one English have guaranteed their places in the play-offs. Six teams remain in contention for the remaining playoff´s places but it would appear that the final eight participants are already virtually confirmed.

The first team to qualify was the Northampton Saints who notched up a huge 37-0 win over Scottish side Edinburgh in a home match on Friday evening. The win guarantees the side first place in Group 1 regardless of whatever happens in their final match next weekend. The extent of the win was surprizing with the Scottish side unable to compete at all as the hosts scored five tries - one to former South African international prop Brian Mujati and, incredibly, four tries to winger Paul Diggin. Argentine international secondrower Esteban Lozada started for Edinburgh. In the groups other match the Cardiff Blues scored a 14-9 victory over French side Castres in Cardiff. The result eliminated both teams from Quarter Finals contention. The games only try was scored by Welsh international winger Lee Halfpenny.

Group 2 was a far more interesting affair with a lot more points being scored and all four teams entering the round with real chances of being Quarter Finalists. An all-French clash took place on Friday evening in central France as Top 14 champions Clermont played host to current second placed side, Racing Metro. Neither side could afford a loss and the home side went in as favorites but it was Racing Metro who were victorious in the first Heineken Cup match between the two sides. The Parisians started off the better side and after fifteen minutes they were leading 10-0 thanks to a try to backrower Bernard Le Roux which was converted by Racing and Pumas flyhalf Juan Martín Hernández. El Mago had also slotted a penalty goal in the sixth minute. Clermont responded well, however with Argentine born Italian international centre Gonzalo Canale scoring in the 25th minute and Brock James converting. No more points were scored before the interval which saw Racing Metro leading 10-7 at the break. Two second half tries to French international prop Thomas Domingo and Scottish international backrower Jason White put Clermont ahead 21-10. Racing responded with a try to Julien Jane which Hernández converted to close the gap to four points. Clermont, however came back to score a fourth try and thus claim a bonus point as Aurelien Rougerie crossed in the 23rd minute which gave Clermont a 28-17 victory. Hernández was joined by Argentine international backrower Alvaro Galindo and Argentina born Italian international secondrower Santiago Dellapé in the Racing side.

Résumé Clermont-Racing HCup

Beaten finalists from last years Celtic League, Leinster hosted beaten finalists from last seasons English Premiership, Saracens in the second Group 2 match and the Irish side came out winners with a highly impressive 43-20 win in Dublin. The win guarantees Leinster a place in the Quarter Finals after ensuring a first place finish in the group. USA Eagles secondrower Hayden Smith was on the bench and came on immediately after the interval to play the entire second half for the visitors. His international teammate, Chris Wyles missed the game as he continues to recover from injury.

Toulon showed in the best possible way how far a team can come in such a small amount of time. The French club hosted former two time Heineken Cup champions, Munster on Sunday in a key Group 3 match with the winner securing themselves a Quarter Final and the loser likely to be eliminated from the competition. Remarkably, Toulon not only won the match but dominated their Irish opponents in winning 32-16. They did so with great performances from two key Argentina players in backrower Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe and inside centre Felipe Contepomi. Lobbe was highly visible around the park as he was impressive as a ballcarrier and in defence. Contepomi had a great inside centres match producing great cut-out passes to his wingers and showing why he should play 12 and not 10 for Los Pumas. On the previous day London Irish had hosted Welsh side, the Ospreys with a win going to end the Welsh teams playoffs chances. The 24-12 victory did just this as the best Welsh team are now gone from the tournament which means no Welsh side will be in the Quarter Finals despite the final being held in Cardiff. Argentine international scrumhalf Alfredo Lalanne was on the bench for London Irish.

Biarritz went into Group 4 looking like having a Quarter Final place guaranteed as they faced Irish side Ulster in Belfast on Saturday. Cold weather and rain, however, were dominant in a tryless match which Biarritz were winning 6-0 at half time. All second half points were scored by Ulster as they pulled off a 9-6 win which puts both teams equal on 17 points in the group and, will likely see both in the Quarter Finals. USA Eagles international winger Taku Ngwenya had a mere two touches of the ball in the second half but played the full 80 minutes. French international Damien Traille had a poor match for the visitors which should see him permanelty removed from the flyhalf position. Pumas international centre Marcelo Bosch started at 13 for Biarritz but left the field injured after only five minutes.

The result of the other Group 4 match was never in doubt as English side Bath scored a huge 55-16 win over Italian side Aironi. Pumas secondrower from Rugby World Cup 1999, 2003 and 2007 - Ignacio Fernández Lobbe played for the winners as did current USA Eagles international secondrower John van der Giessen. The visitors had four Argentine players in Pablo Canavosio, Leonardo GamboaGabriel Pizarro and Matías Agüero.

The Western Welsh city of Llanelli played host to a key Group 5 match as the Scarlets needed to defeat English powerhouses the Leicester Tigers in a match on Saturday. The Tigers were too good, however as they notched up an impressive 32-18 victory which sees the Scarlets eliminated from the tournament still with one group game to play and sees the Tigers look like certainties for a place in the final eight. Argentine international loosehead prop Marcos Ayerza packed down with Argentine born Italian international tighthead prop Martín Castrogiovanni for the Tigers and Pumas winger Horacio Agulla came on as a secondhalf replacement.

The groups other match took place in Treviso as Benetton Treviso hosted French side Perpignan also on Saturday. The French side showed their desire to make the playoffs as their 44-9 victory sees them tied on 17 points for first place with Leicester. Former Pumas international secondrower Rimas Alvarez came on as a replacement for the winners while three Argentine players played for the Italian side in Italian international centre Gonzalo García and both starting props - Ignacio Fernández Rouyet and Pedro Di Santo.

Current Heineken Cup champions and the most successful team in the history of the competition - Toulouse guaranteed themselves another Quarter Final as they defeated Welsh side the Newport-Gwent Dragons in Toulouse on Saturday in Group 6. The 17-3 win featured two Pumas in the starting lineup in scrumhalf Nicolas Vergallo and secondrower Patricio Albacete.

English club London Wasps were expecting a victory as they faced Scottish side the Glasgow Warriors in Glasgow on Sunday but they failed as the Scot´s enjoyed a 20-10 victory which does not eliminate the London Wasps but certainly makes their chances of a Quarter Final very small. Argentine fullback Bernardo Stortoni played in the 15 shirt for Glasgow and countryman Federico Martín Aramburu played 13. Canadian international prop Kevin Tkachuk made an appearance from the bench for Glasgow.

Round Six Fixtures

Racing Metro vs Leinster, Paris
Saracens vs Clermont Auvergne, Watford

Aironi vs Ulster, Viadana
Biarritz vs Bath Rugby, Biarritz
Munster vs London Irish, Limerick
Ospreys vs Toulon, Swansea
Castres vs Northampton Saints, Castres
Edinburgh vs Cardiff Blues, Edinburgh

Leicester Tigers vs Benetton Treviso, Leicester
Perpignan vs Scarlets, Perpignan
Newport-Gwent Dragons vs Glasgow Warriors, Newport
London Wasps vs Toulouse, Wycombe

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