Europe´s premier club rugby competition, the Heineken Cup, is underway. The first round of the 2012-2013 Season was played from Friday-Sunday. Matches were played in all of England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales. The competition is a benchmark for players from not only the Six Nations but also abroad. It features international players from most nations from Rugby World Cup 2011 and also others who did not qualify. The Americas has long been a region represented by quality players in the Heineken Cup and the first round of the 2012-2013 competition continued this tradition. There were players from Argentina, Canada, Uruguay and the United States of America in action. The CONSUR and NACRA member nations share a close bond. The A teams of the top two from each organization are currently playing in the Americas Rugby Championship in Canada. The strength of the relationship is such that a Rugby World Cup in Argentina would arguably have positive consequences for rugby throughout the region.
Edinburgh 0-45 Saracens
Last seasons Semi Finalists, Edinburgh were humiliated by the 2011 English Premiership Champions, Saracens. The result should already mean that the Scottish side has no chance of making the Semi Finals this season due to the pool also containing Munster and Racing Métro. USA Eagles fullback, Chris Wyles was on the bench for Saracens.
Racing Métro 22-17 Munster
A good win for the French side should lift the spirits within the camp. The team welcomed back Juan Martín Hernández from international duty. The Pumas flyhalf was not expected to play. He had been told he, alongside Alvaro Galindo, Juan Imhoff and Juan Pablo Orlandi would be rested this weekend after all four featured in The Rugby Championship. Hernández, however played. he started at inside centre and played the full 80 minutes. Despite being Argentina´s goalkicker Racing Métro used former English international Olly Barkley and Italian international Mirco Bergamasco to kick the goals.
1 Saracens 5
2 Racing Métro 4
3 Munster 1
4 Edinburgh 0
Ospreys 38-17 Benetton Treviso
It could well be the pool of death. In Heineken Cup terms this means that only the pool´s winner is likely to advance to the Quarter Finals. As such the Osprey´s big win ver Rabo Direct Pro 12 rivals, Benetton Treviso gives the Welsh region no room to celebrate. The star for the Ospreys was former USA age grade international, Hanno Dirksen. The South African born and future Welsh international scored two tries. Treviso had three players from the Americas in the match, all on the bench. Canadian Robert Barbieri came on in the 74th minute. Pedro di Santo came on in the 34th minute and fellow Argentine-Italian Ignacio Fernández Rouyet was a 46th minute replacement.
Toulouse 23-9 Leicester Tigers
Little rest time was awarded to Patricio Albacete. After having played in all six matches of The Rugby Championship and never being substituted the veteran was on the bench for Toulouse seven days after playing against Australia in Rosario. Leicester also had a Pumas with Marcos Ayerza on the bench. Ayerza missed the final rounds of The Rugby Championship due to injury. He is now expected to return to start at loosehead prop for the Tigers and also for Los Pumas next month. The Argentine-Italian Martín Castrogiovanni was also on the bench for Leicester. All three came on in the secondhalf as replacements. The Tigers will be angry with scrumhalf Ben Youngs who took a quick tap rather than going for a penalty goal. The scores were 14-9 and the penalty was in front of the posts and less than 30 metres out. It was a basic kick early in the second half. Instead the English international made the decision to tap and go. Leicester knocked on and Toulouse dominated the remainder of the match.
1 Ospreys 5
2 Toulouse 4
3 Leicester 0
4 Treviso 0
Zebre 10-19 Connacht
Neither team can really claim to be meriting a place in the Heineken Cup considering there is no palce for the likes of Stade Français or Gloucester. No doubt this has had a large impact on the English and French challenging the qualifying structure of the competition. There were Argentine players in action for Zebre. Luciano Orquera started at flyhalf and Gonzalo Garcia was the inside centre. The pair were Italy´s starting 10-12 combination at Rugby World Cup 2011. Since then changes have been made. Prop Matias Aguero was on the bench for Zebre.
Harlequins 40-13 Biarritz
Both the Harlequins and Biarritz should be able to qualify for the Quarter Finals are both should be able to win both matches against Connacht and Zebre. If they can also win at home against each other then they are certain to both make the Quarter Finals. The Quins look on track after a strong performance against Biarritz which saw Biarritz denied a bonus point while the Londoners collected the complete five points. USA Eagles winger Taku Ngwenya started on the right wing for Biarritz and Francisco Goméz Kodela played tighthead prop. Marcelo Bosch was rested by Biarritz. He should return next weekend.
Ulster 41-17 Castres
Last seasons beaten finalists, Ulster have started the current season well. The Irish province is leading the Rabo Direct Pro 12 and doing so with a game in hand. Castres has had mixed results so far in the Top 14 and will need to do better as it is currently off the pace. Ulster´s bonus pint win featured a strong side with USA prop Callum Black on the bench. Uruguayan forward Rodrigo Capó Ortega started in the secondrow for Castres.
Northampton Saints 24-15 Glasgow Warriors
England´s best chance of a Quarter Final could well be the Northampton Saints. It has a simpler pool than most other English sides and also a strong squad. Its bonus point win over the Glasgow Warriors hiave given the club an ideal start. USA winger Tommy Seymour started on the right wing for Glasgow and USA international secondrower Samu Manoa was a starting secondrower for the home side. Canadian DTH van der Merwe is sidelined with a hamstring injury and will only play in the latter rounds of the Heineken Cup.
1 Ulster 5
2 Northampton 5
3 Glasgow 0
4 Castres 0
Clermont Auvergne 49-16 Scarlets
A win in Clermont is a rare thing and it is all but impossible to win there with a weakened squad. The Scarlets had to play over half the match with a one man disadvantage as Morgan Stoddard was red carded in the 37th minute. Canadian secondrower Jamie Cudmore started for the French side. Pumas secondrower Tomás Vallejos Cinalli is yet to debut for Scarlets after returning this past week from international duty.
Leinster 9-6 Exeter Chiefs
The reigning champions, Leinster were given a shock in Dublin as the team failed to score a try against the competitions newcomers, the Exeter Chiefs. Exeter qualified for the competition after finishing fifth in the 2011-2012 Aviva Premiership. Two of the teams most important players were Ignacio Mieres and Gonzalo Camacho. The Pumas pair had strong seasons with Mieres earning a call up for the June internationals and Camacho starting all six matches of The Rugby Championship. Mieres was on the bench and came on in the 65th minute. He had a chance to snatch a draw on full time with a 50 metre penalty but it went to the right of the posts. Camacho is back at Exeter now and expected to start next weekend.
1 Clermont 5
2 Leinster 4
3 Exeter 1
4 Scarlets 0
Toulon 37-16 MontpellierBoth teams should have ambitions of making the Quarter Finals. They both have impressive enough squads to make the cut. But with only first place guaranteed both need to get as many points as they can. Toulon made a massive statement in this regard with a bonus point victory. Montpellier, in contrast, left without winning any points. Uncapped Argentine Maximilano Bustos started the match at tighthead prop while Lucas González Amorosino had been initially named at fullback but was on the bench. Agustín Creevy was the replacement hooker and came on in the 49th minute. Nahuel Lobo came on in the 69th minute.
Sale Sharks 34-33 Cardiff Blues
The Sale Sharks entered the match yet to win a match all season. After six round of the Aviva Premiership the club is facing relegation and it is a great worry for England as it is the only remaining team from Northern England playing at the top level. However Sale won a nail-bitter at home against the Cardiff Blues on Sunday. The come from behind win should greatly simplify the chances of the French teams in this pool as Sale is the arguably the weakest of the four teams.
1 Toulon 5
2 Sale 4
3 Cardiff 1
4 Montpellier 0
* Currently Qualifying for Quarter Finals
Ospreys v Benetton Treviso
Ospreys v Benetton Treviso
Zebre v Connacht
Leinster v Exeter
Harlequins v Biarritz
Toulouse v Leicester Tigers