Monday, December 12, 2011

Heineken Cup Round 3 Wrap - The Americas on form

Rodrigo Capó Ortega
This past weekend saw round three action of Europeans premier rugby competition, the Heineken Cup. A number of teams have already been eliminated from the race to make the Quarter Finals with some big English and French sides underperforming in particular. Last years finalists, the Northampton Saints have been eliminated while Racing Métro continue to fail on the European stage. The round also featured a number of upsets such as Benneton Treviso knocking over Biarritz and Castres dumping the Saints out of the tournament with three rounds yet to be played. It also featured the first loss of the season for London side, Harelquins who were unable to match the might of the French Champions at the Twickenham Stoop. All four nations from the Americas who have played in Rugby World Cup´s had players in action and Argentina and the USA not only had players on the field but had a very successful round as the Americas players ran in tries.

Group One: Castres 41 - 22 Northampton
Castres have been perfomring below their usual standards in recent weeks but the French side turned it on in their home match vs the Northampton Saints on Saturday as they completed a bonus point win. Both sides scored four tries but Castres superior goalkicking proved decisive. The Saints´ fourth try was scored by USA Eagles secondrower, Samu Manoa who had entered the match from the bench. Rodrigo Capó Ortega started in the second row for Castres and the Uruguayan international delivered a fine performance.

Group One: Scarlets 14 - 17 Munster
USA born Ronan O'Gara played his 100th match of Heineken Cup rugby for Munster and had a key role in his sides win as he kicked four penalties to put his side top of the table.

Group One Standings
1 Munster 12
2 Scarlets 10
3 Castres 6
3 Northampton Saints 3

Group Two: Racing Métro 14-31 London Irish
Racing Métro fielded a side missing a number of key players but nevertheless was expecting to be too strong for London Irish. The Parisians were leading only for the English side to turn the match on its head and dominate the scorecard. Juan Martín Hernández started at flyhalf for Racing Métro but  had to go to the sidelines twice after a blood injury. He left the field permanently in the 37th minute and without him Racing´s attack took a sharp dive. Pumas winger Juan Imhoff played the full 80 minutes on the left wing and former Argentine international tighthead prop, Juan Orlandi started and lasted 69 minutes before being replaced. Canada´s Jebb Sinclair did not feature for London Irish.

Group Two: Cardiff Blues 25 - 8 Edinburgh
Surprizingly the two top sides in Group two are not the English or French sides and after three rounds it appears that it is the Cardiff Blues´ group to lose. The Welsh capital´s win over Scottish side Edinburgh gives them control of the group. Former Pumas secondrower, Esteban Lozada started for Edinburgh and was taken off in the 67th minute.

Group Two Standings
1 Cardiff Blues 12
2 Edinburgh 9
3 London Irish 7
4 Racing Metro 3

Group Three: Bath 13 - 18 Leinster
Leinster failed to score a try but did what they ahd to as they sit on top of the standings and look certain to stay there. All of Leinster´s points came from the boot of Jonathan Sexton. USA Eagles World Cup hooker, Chris Biller started for the English side.

Group Three: Glasgow Warriors 20 - 15 Montpellier
The French side fielded an understrenghted side after having to endure three tough Top 14 fixtures in the space of eight days due to the rescheduling of matches. Montpellier won the three French championship matches but at a cost with players not being able to feature in the teams away match vs the Glasgow Warriors.  This worked to the advantage of the Scot´s who were able to come from behind to take a lead and secure victory when former Pumas winger, Federico Martín Aramburu scored the Warriors´ only try. Montpellier had three Pumas with Santiago Fernández playing at flyhalf and Martín Bustos Moyano playing on the left wing. Bustos Moyano was the goalkicker and slotted one conversion and a penalty. The teams usual fullback, Lucas González Amorosino came off the bench to play the final quarter.

Group Three Standings
1 Leinster 11
2 Glasgow Warriors 8
3 Bath 6
4 Montpellier 4

Group Four: Ulster 31 - 10 Aironi
Ulster remain in the hunt in Group Four after completing a bonus point victory over Aironi at Belfast on Friday. The Irish province will face Aironi in Italy nest weekend and should they win again they will push for a Quarter Finals place.

Group Four: Clermont 30 - 12 Leicester Tigers
Clermont completed a crucial home victory and denied the Tigers a bonus point to give themselves a great opportunity of returning to the Heineken Cup Quarter Finals. The first half was overshadowed by an incident in which two Leicester players (Manu Tuilagi and George Chuter) were yellow carded. At the time Clermont were already leading by eleven points but with a two man advantage Clermont all but finished off the match by giving Clermont a tough task of scoring 19 points in the final fifteen minutes. Canada´s Jamie Cudmore returned to action for Clermont as he played the final nine minutes of the match. Leicester had three Argentine players, all in the starting lineup. Horacio Agulla played on the right wing while Marcos Ayerza started at loosehead prop and joined the Argentina born Italian international tighthead prop, Martín Castrogiovanni in the frontrow.

Group Four Standings
1 Clermont 10
2 Ulster 9
3 Leicester Tigers 8
4 Aironi 0

Group Five: Benetton Treviso 30 - 26 Biarritz
Biarritz have been having a rotten season as the side was one of the unlucky teams to miss a host of players to Rugby World Cup duty. The traditional powerhouses sit in last place in the Top 14 and face a fight to avoid relegation to the Pro d2. The task has surely gotten easier now following the teams aways loss to Benetton Treviso in the Heineken Cup as it means that Biarritz can rethink its priorities for the remainder of the season. Biarritz could have, however, lost by plenty more as the Italians held a 26-12 halftime lead. Benetton Treivo had four Argentine players with Ignacio Fernández Rouyet, Pedro Di Santo, Alberto Di Bernardo and Diego Vidal all getting game time as well as Canadian born Italian international backrower, Robert Barbieri. The Canadian scored one of Benetton Treviso´s tries. Biarritz had players from the Americas too with Pumas centre, Marcelo Bosch playing flyhalf and scoring a  try. USA Eagles winger, Taku Ngwenya also started for the French side.

Group Five: Saracens 31 - 26 Ospreys
The reigning English Champions, Saracens, completed a vital win over Welsh region, the Ospreys to go top of the standings of Pool Five. The win also saw players from the Americas contributing to the result with USA international fullback, Chris Wyles scoring the final try for Saracens as he played on the left wing. Argentine born former Italian international prop, Carlos Nieto played the final fifteen minutes for Saracens but there was no place for USA Eagles secondrowe Hayden Smith who continues to recover from injury. Canadian backrower, Chauncey O´Toole did not feature for the Ospreys.

Group Five Standings
1 Saracens 10
2 Ospreys 7
3 Biarritz 7
4 Benetton Treviso 6

Group Six: Connacht 10 - 14 Gloucester
Connacht remain winless in its first season of Heineken Cup rugby and the Irish province are unlikely to get a win in the competition. The struggling English side, Gloucester got its first win but are unlikely to be able to qualify for the Quarter Finals as they lie in third behind both Toulouse and the Harlequins. Argentine hooker, Matías Cortese played the final eight minutes for Gloucester.

Group Six: Harlequins 10 - 21 Toulouse
Toulouse´s away win puts the French Champions in firm control of the Pool and the team could well confirm itself in the play-off´s next weekend when it hosts the return match vs the Harlequins. The Quins had two one-time capped Pumas players starting and both played the full 80 minutes. Tomás Vallejos Cinalli played in the secondrow and Benjamín Urdapilleta played at inside centre. Nicolás Vergallo did not play for Toulouse nor did Patricio Albacete who continues to recover from an ankle injury.

Group Six Standings
1 Toulouse 12
2 Harlequins 8 
3 Gloucester 5
4 Connacht 1

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