Friday, November 4, 2011

Rabo Direct Pro 12 : Round Seven - Argentine, Canadian and USA players


Round Seven of the 2011-2012 Celtic-Italian League, known as the Rabo Direct Pro 12 for sponsorship reasons, was played this past weekend with a full round of six matches being played. Scotland and Ireland hosted two games each while one game took place in both of Italy and Wales. All three Rugby World Cup 2011 countries of the Americas featured with rugby players from Argentina, Canada and the United States of America all taking the field.

The top of the table Ospreys were looking to extend their early season dominance with a match they were expected to win vs the Glasgow Warriors at Firhill on Friday. The Warriors, however, had opther plans and a win for them would see the Scottish side remain in the top half of the competition table. Strong performances from a number of Scottish international players including Rugby World Cup 2011 star secondrower, Richie Gray gave Glasgow the edge with a good try as they won 28-17. Glasgow flyhalf Duncan Weir had a notable performance while the best Welsh performer was Matthew Morgan who slotted four penalties and scored a try for the Ospreys. Former Argentina international winger / centre, Federico Martín Aramburu was on the bench for Glasgow and came on in the 19th minute of the secondhalf. USA Under 17 and Under 18 flyhalf / centre, Hanno Dirksen was on the bench for the Ospreys while Canadian international backrower, Chauncey O´Toole missed out on selection. DTH van der Merwe did not feature for Glasgow and is unlikely to return before April as he faces a long recovery following shoulder surgery.

While one Scottish side has had a satisfactory start to the season, the other side has not as Edinburgh sit in tenth position after struggling to compete. The side´s 36-28 home loss to Irish province, Leinster has resulted in calls being made for the coach to be replaced. Some of Leinster´s World Cup stars were highly visible in the win while the best player for Edinburgh was a Dutchman with Tim Visser scoring two tries. Former Argentina international secondrower, Esteban Lozada played the full match for the Scots in the secondrow. After failing to secure selection for Rugby World Cup 2011, Lozada needs a strong season in order to break back into the Pumas squad.

Last seasons champions met last seasons wooden-spooners in Friday nights third match with Irish powerhouses, Munster playing host to Italian side Aironi. Like Leinster, Munster had a host of players back from Rugby World Cup duty but so did Aironi. The game proved to be closer than what had been predicted with the home side winning the match 18-6. Neither team was able to breach the tryline with all points being scored through penalty goals. USA born Irish international flyhalf, Ronan O'Gara outscored Argentina born Italian international flyhalf Luciano Orquera by four kicks. Argentine born Italian international frontrower, Matias Aguero also featured for the Italians. The win was enough for Munster to hold onto second position on the championship table.

Fellow Italian side, Benetton Treviso made history on Saturday as they hosted Welsh side the Newport-Gwent Dragons. For the first time since entering the Celtic League, last season, the italian side scored a bonus point victory and also reached the noteworthy mark of fifty points in a match. Benetton Treviso´s 50-24 victory has won plenty of praise in European rugby circles with rugby journalists suggesting that they may be the real deal. The sides seven tries not only was the most of any team in the round but was enough for the Italians to move to within one place of being in the top four and thus in contention for a place in the finals. Of the seven tries one was scored by Canadian born Italian international backrower, Robert Barbieri who entered the match from the bench. Two Argentine players were also on the bench with hooker Diego Vidal entering the match  in the 47th minute. Pedro Di Santo, however, did not get any game time.

Irish province, Connacht will play in the Heineken Cup for the first time in the teams history, this season but the side has failed to inhance its reputation as being the weakest Irish team. The side had a chance on Saturday as Connacht hosted Welsh region, the Cardiff Blues. The Blues were too good for the Irish team as they notched up a 26-20 victory with former All Blacks centre Casey Laulala and Scottish international flyhalf, Dan Parks both impressing. The win means the Cardiff Blues are in the Top Four while the Irish side have slipped to eighth on the table. Above Connacht sit another Welsh region, the Scarlets who enjoyed a 24-17 win over Irish side, Ulster. The result means Ulster are the worst performing Irish team in the compeition thus far.
Pro 12 Standings

1 Ospreys  24
2 Munster 22
3 Leinster 22
4 Cardiff Blues 20
5 Benetton Treviso 19
6 Glasgow Warriors 18
7 Scarlets 15
8 Connacht 15
9 Ulster 13
10 Edinburgh 10
11 Newport-Gwent Dragons 10
12 Aironi 6

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