Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Amlin Challenge Cup Quarter Finals Wrap

Stade Français 22-17 Exeter
Exeter, who look likely to be playing in the Heineken Cup next season, really gave a sleepy Stade Français a large fright at the Stade Charlety. They dominated most of the match, but failed to ever take a big lead on the scoreboard, and late on failed to take their chances with kicks, got some bad luck with some Stade ruck infringements going unseen and the lack of a camera at the right angle for a probable try whcih saw it disallowed meant Stade could score late on with a try from Paul Williams set up by some Julien Dupuy brilliance to take the match.

Ignacio Mieres making a break against Stade Français
This game also saw an interesting match up between two Pumas contenders for the number 10 shirt Felipe Contepomi and Ignacio Mieres. But both had mixed matches. Contepomi was less prominent in the match but stupidly sin binned after reacting to a borderline foul tackle and what looked like taunting by the Exeter hooker Chris Whitehead, but ultimately it was his chip kick to set up Djibril Camara's well finished try  that was crucial to the result.

Mieres on the otherhand, was better than Contepomi throughout the match, but failed to make a difference where it counts on the scoreboard. It was his sensational 40 metre break which set up Exeter disallowed try which was probably a try in the first half, and in the second half he quite simply bottled two opportunities to secure the match with a medium difficulty conversion and very easy drop goal miss, although it could be argued Stade were offside for the charge down. He will be gutted to have missed the chance to knock out the team which massively underused him and preferred to pick Lionel Beauxis on his one man mission to whack the leather of all rugby balls.

It will be interesting to see who is chosen for the Pumas 10 shirt as there are good arguments for all of Hernández, Contepomi and Mieres to start there for the Pumas later this year.

As a sidenote Stade Français continue to get some very poor crowds at the Stade Charlety, whilst they seem to always sell out the Stade de France for matches and played in front of a packed crowd in Mans two weeks ago their attendances at just average home matches has been dismal, only 4,693 turned up to this match.

Toulon 37-8 Harlequins
Whilst the first match had a scoreline which didn't reflect the match, the second certainly did as Toulon thumped the English leaders Harlequins which extends their unbeaten run at the Stade Mayol to 13 matches. Toulon were dominant in all areas of the pitch and just scored from any penalty conceded by Quins and added tries towards the end to sweeten the scoreline for them. Notably Steffon Armitage was outstanding in this match and must be working towards an England recall as a specialist number 7, a place he has never really been given a fair run before.

Harlequins had two Argentines playing, starting was Tomás Vallejos and Benjamín Urdapilleta off the bench, neither were particularly prominent in this match.

Wasps 23-26 Biarritz
This was a match that was Biarritz's to lose and they almost did, they had a dominating pack and created two excellent try opportunities in the first half only for Iain Balshaw to wreck them, nevertheless they were led 23-9 in the second half with a try from Blashaw and South African prop Eugene van Staden. But Wasps scored tow tries in three minutes to level the scores. After another ruined easy try opportunity by Florian Faure this time, the Basque side eventually went through thanks to the trusty calmness of Dimitri Yachvili's boot.

Two Argentines were in the Biarritz team, Eusébio Guiñazu started at hooker and had a mixed day with one or two poor lineout throws, whilst Francisco Gómez Kodela came off the bench in the second half.

Brive 15-11 Scarlets
This was Brive's second string side, but it managed to defeat the Scarlets first choice side at home thanks mainly to a couple of factors. Brive dominated the Scarlets scrum and it is thanks to that Brive got most of the territory and their points from.

Whilst the Scarlets malfunctioned badly at the scrum, they also malfunctioned at the lineout with Matthew Rees who has been having a very poor season losing the first four or five lineouts. The Scarlets much talked about backs didn't get into the match. If the Scarlets want to compete at Heineken Cup level they will simply have to buy a better front five as their numbers one to five simply aren't good enough for Heineken Cup level rugby. And Brive proved that a worse team on paper, can beat a better team when the set pieces are so dominant.

Out of interest, France may want to keep an eye on the 19 year old loosehead prop Jefferson Poirot who on his first start for Brive destroyed the Scarlets tighthead, who was destroyed even more when Davit Khinchagishvili came on.

One Argentine, scrum half Agustín Figuerola played in this match coming off the bench late on for Brive.

Semi Final draw:
Toulon v Stade Français
Biarritz v Brive

The semi finals are an all French affair, and look very easy to predict, with the home teams having a massive advantage in each match, it would be a huge surprise not to see a Toulon against Biarritz final at the Stoop.

Final to be played at the Twickenham Stoop

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