Sunday, January 13, 2013

Heineken Cup - Round 5 Wrap

Pool 1
Racing Métro 28-37 Saracens
The match was an indication of the force of French rugby. It was moved to Nantes, a city with no team in either the Top 14 or Pro d2. It hosted matches at Rugby World Cup 2007 and they were well attended. France played there pre-2007 which helped in preparing the population. England should pay careful attention as all of England´s matches continue to be in London and few matches are moved by clubs A highly impressive first twenty minutes saw Racing Métro in firm control of this match only to then fall apart and gift Saracens victory. Juan Imhoff scoring two tries on the right wing with one of them was set up by Juan Martín Hernández who broke the line to feed Imhoff. Both of Imhoff´s tries required tremendous speed and he showed just why he looms as the Shane Williams of Argentina. Hernández played flyhalf and also had a hand in his teams first try as he got a half break and set up a ruck within five metres of the tryline but his secondhalf performance was poor. Pumas backrower was also in the French side with Alvaro Galindo having a mixed performance for a forward pack that was a led down in general. Racing scored three tries to one with the USA´s Chris Wyles scoring the first points of the secondhalf with a good try that saw him get past French international Benjamin Fall. The star though was Owen Farrell who kicked 32 points - most from silly Racing Métro penalties given away by the pack. 

Edinburgh 17-26 Munster
With Racing Métro´s atrocious secondhalf performance Sunday´s game in Scotland puts Saracens in firm control of the group. Munster were still in contention though and needed to defeat Edinburgh this weekend and then return home to defeat Racing Métro. Luckily for Munster the result in Nantes eliminated Racing Métro and saw Saracens fail to score a bonus point - quite remarkable considering that 37 points were scored. Munster needed a win to stay alive and a bonus point win to give itself the greatest chance of being one of the best runners-up. Munster got the win but missed out on a bonus point. It means Munster now needs to win at home against Racing Métro next weekend and hope other results go its way. USA born flyhalf, Ronan O´Gara kicked 16 points in the win over Edinburgh. 

Pool 1 Standings
1 Saracens 18
2 Munster 15
3 Racing Métro 12 
4 Edinburgh 0

Pool 2
Ospreys 15-15 Leicester Tigers
Both Pool 2 matches were played on Sunday and they were played at the same time which meant no side knew exactly how they needed to perform. Three of the four teams entered the round in contention for a place in the Quarter Finals but due to how the Pool results had gone up until round five it was likely that only the winner would be advancing. A loss weouild mean elimination for both the Ospreys and Leicester while a draw would see only the Welsh region eliminated. The draw  sets up a mouth-watering match in Leicester next weekend as the Tigers host Toulouse. Leicester should be playing with its Argentine prop, Marcos Ayerza. He started at tighthead and played 59 minutes against the Ospreys. The Welsh region will face Benetton Treviso next weekend in a dead rubber. Both sides have been eliminated and there will be no Italian, Scottish or Welsh sides in the Quarter Finals.  

Toulouse 35-14 Benetton Treviso
After a slow start the French Champions ran away with the match in the secondhalf to claim a crucial bonus point victory. The scores were locked at 14-14 at the interval with Toulouse having scored two tries to one. The teams second try was scored by Argentina´s Patricio Albacete. He played in the secondrow and put in a usual 80 minute performance. A likely Six Nations preview took place at number 8 with Louis Picamoles facing the Canadian-Italian Robert Barbieri. The form of Barbieri this season has been strong and he is likely to wear the Italian number 6 shirt in February with Stade Français´s Argentine-Italian, Sergio Parisse playing 8. 

Pool 2 Standings
1 Toulouse 18
2 Leicester 16
3 Ospreys 11
4 Treviso 1

Pool 3
Harlequins 47-8 Connacht
The London based Harlequins made light work of the Irish province in thrashing Connacht to claim a bonus point victory that secures it a home Quarter Final. A numbwer of English international players were impressive while Connacht´s greatest sin was its lack of discipline. Three players were yellow carded. The Quins travel to France for a tough encounter against the up-and-down Biarritz. 

Zebre 6-32 Biarritz
A bonus point victory in Italy makes up somewhat for Biarritz´s poor showing against Connacht in Ireland earlier in the competition. It sees the Top 14 side return home with a bonus point victory and stay in the hunt for a Quarter Finals birth. The win featured a strong showing from Marcelo Bosch as the Pumas outside centre scored two of Biarritz´s four tries. He played the match at fullback and should Biarritz not win its round six match next Friday agaisnt the Harlequins then his time in the Heineken Cup may be at an end. The club was unwilling to resign either Eusebio Guiñazú or Manuel Carizza due to their involvement in The Rugby Championship. Both were able to secure contracts elsewhere and Bosch is likely to do so too. Biarritz are not going to resign Bosch despite his very strong form for Argentina at test level in 2012. The club, nonetheless, holds on to Francisco Gomez Kodela. He missed this match due to injury as did USA winger Taku Ngwenya. Zebre played with an American and three Argentinians. Dave Ryan started at tighthead prop and Matias Aguero was loosehead. Luciano Orquera was flyhalf, kicking two first half penalties. Outside him was Gonzalo Garcia who was nearly red carded for mandhandling the referee. Both players are in Italy´s squad for the Six Nations. 

Pool 3 Standings
1 Harlequins 24
2 Biarritz 14
3 Connacht 8
4 Zebre 0

Pool 4
Northampton Saints 18-12 Castres
A very poor game of rugby in which mistakes were seemingly endless saw the English club notch up a win over the French side by scoring six goals to four. It all but guarantees Ulster to be the only side from this pool to make the Quarter Finals as now Castres need to defeat the Northern Irish side to advance. With an eye on the upcoming Six Nations the game had some good and bad points . Worrying signs for France was the performance of fullback Brice Dulin. Similarly Max Evans was quite, although did not lose control of the ball regularly unlike Dulin. Courtney Lawes was very impressive for the Saints as was his secondrow colleague, Samu Manoa. The USA international was amongst the best players in this match and will be a key player for his country in 2013 with Rugby World Cup Qualification to take place. 

Ulster 23-6 Glasgow Warriors
Despite being a Top of the table clash in terms of the Rabo Direct Pro 12 this was a first v last match in the Heineken Cup. The struggling Glasgow Warriors remain winless on the European stage. The win sees Ulster confirm itself in the Quarter Finals of the Heineken Cup. It cannot be overtaken nest weekend. It´s victory featured a player from the USA as Callum Black was a frontrow replacement. The game also featured a Canadian as DTH van der Merwe featured for Glasgow, playing on the left wing.

Pool 4 Standings
1 Ulster 19
2 Northampton 14
3 Castres 13
4 Glasgow 2

Pool 5 

Clermont Auvergne 46-3 Exeter Chiefs
A home Quarter Final in central France is on the cards but not yet official. Clermont Auvergne´s six tries to zero victory underlined the club as the team to beat this season. A win next week over the Scarlets will confirm a home Quarter Final. On current form Clermont will win the macth, even though it will be played in Wales. Jamie Cudmore started for Clermont in the secondrow and the Canadian enforcer played 80 minutes. Exeter had its two Pumas on ther field. Gonzalo Camacho started on the right wing while Ignacio Mieres was a secondhalf replacement. Mieres has not been getting as much game time in 2012-2013 as last season. He was selected for Argentina and started two tests at flyhalf in June. Currently he looks unlikely to make the starting team even with players rested ahead of The Rugby Championship. 

Leinster 33-14 Scarlets
Leinster is seemingly back from the dead, or almost. The reiginig Heineken Cup Champions completed a smashing of Welsh region, the Scarlets to complete a bonus point victory. Leinster now need to do the same against the Exeter Chiefs next weekend in Exeter and hope that other second placed teams such as Biarritz, Munster, Montpellier and Leicester are defeated. The Irish province had the victory sealed in the first half and completed a bonus point victory in the 3rd minute after the interval. Argentina´s Tomás Vallejos Cinalli played the final quarter for the Scarlets.

Pool 5 Standings
1 Clermont 23
2 Leinster 15
3 Exeter 9
4 Scarlets 2

Pool 6 
Sale Sharks 6-27 Montpellier
Another terrible performance from the Sale Sharks at home sees the only team from Northern England playing in the top flight continue to look like being second division bound. Montpellier won by scoring four tries to zero to leave England with a bonus point victory. Such a scenario would have been unthinkable only a year ago. Sale has test players past or present from the likes of Australia, England, Ireland and Scotland but is nonetheless a team lacking organization and confidence. Montpellier, like mant French Top 14 sides,  has a squad with significant depth. It is able to rotate players in most positions. This weekend saw it give game time to four of its six Pumas players. Santi Fernández started at inside centre while Agustín Creevy was hooker and was joined in the frontrow by Maximilano Bustos who played tighthead prop. The out of form Lucas González Amorosino also featured, from the bench at fullback. The win puts Montpellier ina  very good position. With only one round remaining it looks to be a good bet to make the Quarter Finals as one of the best two second placed sides. It could very well win the pool though as it hosts Toulon next weekend. 

Toulon 45-25 Cardiff Blues
Toulon´s lattest bonus point win sees the club guarantee itself a home Quarter Final. It still has one match remaining - away against Montpellier next weekend but with 23 competition points Toulon like the Harlequins is certain to be one of the top four clubs. Toulon could well use the opportunity like it ahs done previously and move the fixture to a larger venue. It has previously played a number of matches at France´s second largest stadium - the Stade Velodrome in Marseille. Toulon´s seven tries to four victory was without Pumas captain Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe. Toulon´s ability to rest key players and still win big underlines its credentials as a title contender.

Pool 6 Standings
1 Toulon 23
2 Montpellier 18
3 Sale Sharks 4
4 Cardiff 2 

Racing Métro v Saracens

Edinburgh v Munster 

Leicester v Ospreys

Toulouse v Benetton Treviso

Harlequins v Connacht

Zebre v Biarritz

Northampton Saints v Castres Olympique

Ulster v Glasgow Warriors

Clermont Auvergne v Exeter Chiefs

Leinster v Scarlets

Sale Sharks v Montpellier

Toulon v Cardiff Blues

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