Sunday, January 20, 2013

Heineken Cup - Round 6 Wrap

Pool 1
Munster 29-6 Racing Métro
Munster had not only home advantage but had the benedfit of knowing that it needed a bonus point win to advance due to Leinster having won and collected full points against Exeter on Saturday. Munster had another advantage - Racing Métro´s selection. The French side featured eleven changes from the side that played last weekend against Saracens and the team also handed a handicap after backrower Antoine Battut was redcarded in the fifth minute. It was a nightmare scenarion for Leinster followers and Munster got the full five points to qualify for the Quarter Finals. Argentine tighthead prop Juan Pablo Orlandi was on the bench for Racing Métro.

Saracens 40-7 Edinburgh
Top of the table hosted bottom of the table in what could possibly be a preview of things to come with England hosting Scotland to open the Six Nations in two weeks time. The London based side impressed by scoring five tries to one in a match featuring a lot of English internationals on one side and a lot of Scots on the other. There were also players from a host of other nations including the USA. Eagles fullback Chris Wyles played the full 80 minutes for Saracens. He played at fullback and scored his teams final try. 

Pool 1 Standings
1 Saracens 23
2 Munster 20
3 Racing Métro 12
4 Edinburgh 0

Pool 2 
Benetton Treviso 17-14 Ospreys
The match was another with no meaning whatsoever besides players from both teams trying to stake a claim as to why they should get game time in the upcoming Six Nations tournament. The last minute victory could well have implications for players from both teams despite neither side fielding its first choice XV. Importantly, the win sees an Italian side get a win in the competition and with Zebre having collected a bonus point in this seasons competition the worst performing side is from Scotland. Edinburgh is the only side to finish on zero points. Benetton Treviso´s Canadian-Italian Robert Barbieri played in the backrow while Ignacio Fernández-Rouyet from Argentina was on the bench.

Leicester Tigers 9-5 Toulouse
While rugby is a winter sport the match between Leicester and Toulouse was a rare example of winter conditions dominating play. It was snowing throughout the match and it dictated play with kicks being a lottery and lineouts seeming more like contests from 1993 than 2003. It made goalkicking very tough but Leicester was able to land three kicks - three more than Toulouse. The zero tries to one victory was, in the end, due to Toby Flood landing a kick from half way.  Toulouse can only blame themselves, or specifically, Lionel Beauxis and Luke McAlister as the former French and New Zealand internationals missed a total of 17 points. Each side played the full 80 minutes with a Puma. Marcos Ayerza played looshead prop for the Leicester Tigers while Toulouse had Patricio Albacete in the secondrow.

Pool 2 Standings
1 Leicester 20
2 Toulouse 18
3 Ospreys 12
4 Treviso 5

Pool 3
Biarritz 9-16 Harlequins
The Harlequins finished off a near perfect group phase as it completed its sixth win from six victories. Not all the wins were by large enough margins to collect a bonus point but they nonetheless see the Quins secure top spot of the group and book a home Quarter Final. While the Quins deserved the win the others in the group are seemingly all lucky to even be in the Heineken Cup. Biarritz failed to qualify from the Top 14 last season and had to win the Amlin Challenge Cup to qualify. Connacht are only there based on the performances of Irish sides other than Connacht last season while Zebre are there due to being Italian. The Quins win in France was against a good Biarritz team but not one featuring all the top players. The USA´s Taku Ngwenya started on the right wing but there was no place for Marcelo Bosch who scored twwo tries against Zebre in Parma last weekend. A second Puma, Francisco Gómez Kodela missed out through injury. Biarritz´s questionable selections throughout the campaign no doubt had a negative impact. The side´s terrible performance in Ireland was, in the end, what saw the side eliminated but it was not a total failure. Biarritz qualified for the Amlin Challenge Cup Quarter Finals due to Northampton losing against Glasgow.

Connacht 25-20 Zebre
The match was played at the same time as the big one between the Harlequins and Biarritz but was nothing other than a dead rubber between two teams struggling in the Rabo Direct Pro 12. Neither side would qualify for the Heineken Cup if teams from the Celtic-Italian League qualified based on their performances in their league. The match in Galway was not one to be watched twice as a penalty try and twenty points from the Australian-Scot Dan Parks gave the Irish province victory. Zebre were close to winning despite fielding an understrength team that included scrumhalf Tito Tebaldi playing fullback. The bench had two players from the Americas with Argentina´s Matias Aguero and the USA´s Dave Ryan providing cover at prop. 

Pool 3 Standings
1 Harlequins 28
2 Biarritz 15
3 Connacht 12
4 Zebre 1

Pool 4
Castres 8-9 Ulster
Ulster´s impressive campaign sees the Northern Irish province win its fifth out of six matches. It finishes top of the pool but almost lost against Castres. The French club was leading until the hour mark before South African scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar kicked Ulster to a one point lead and that would be enough for victory. The USA´s Callum Black was on Ulster´s bench as a frontrow replacement. 

Glasgow Warriors 27-20 Northampton Saints
Scotland´s Glasgow Warriors had failed to win a match in the Heineken Cup all season and so England´s Northampton Saints were expecting to get a win or a win with a bonus point to secure a probable place in the Final Eight. Glasgow, however, completed its first win of the campaign to eliminate Northampton from the Heineken Cup. The win featured USA-Scottish winger Tommy Seymour on the right wing while UAS forward Samu Manoa played in the secondrow for the Saints. 

Pool 4 Standings
1 Ulster 23
2 Northampton 15
3 Castres 14
4 Glasgow 6

Pool 5
Exeter Chiefs 20-29 Leinster
Defending Heineken Cup Champions, Leinster have got a lucky escape after coming back from two loses against Clermont Auvergne to finish with twenty competition points. It took a strong secondhalf performance after the Exeter Chiefs were leading 17-12 at halftime. Leinster came back well to complete a bonus point victory. Argentina´s Ignacio Mieres was on the bench for Exeter.

Scarlets 0-29 Clermont Auvergne
With all the calls for change to the regional system in Welsh rugby the Scarlets home loss against France´s Clermont Auvergne is not going to making things easier. The central French side romped to a bonus point victory to seal a home Quarter Final and be one of the few undefeated teams in the Heineken Cup. Canadian international, and former Llanelli player, Jamie Cudmore started for Clermont in a secondrow combination with former Scotland international Nathan Hines. Between them they have seventy years of age.

Pool 5 Standings
1 Clermont 28
2 Leinster 20
3 Exeter 9
4 Scarlets 2

Pool 6
Cardiff Blues 26-14 Sale Sharks
Regardless of who won this match neither side would advance to the Quarter Finals of either the Heineken Cup or the Amlin Challenge Cup. The dominance of Toulon and Montpellier in this pool has seen both Cardiff and Sale merely making up the numbers. Neither side is performing well in their domestic competitions either which suggests they should be in the Amlin Challenge Cup and not the Heineken Cup next season. The rules regarding qualification should result in Cardiff´s participation, much to the dislike of England and French.

Montpellier 23-3 Toulon
A win for Montpellier would mean an historical place in the Heineken Cup Quarter Finals. It was arguably the most important game of the year for Montpellier but not because of play-off´s. The club was rocked by the death of coach Eric Bechu. It hit the players very hard and they were playing in honour of Bechu who died on Tuesday from cancer. As such the players had extra motivation in their game against Toulon and they certainly went out to play and were imprssive in leading 16-3 at half time. Santi Fernández played at inside centre against the 92 time capped Australian international Matt Giteau. Fernández outplayed the former Wallaby while François Trinh-Duc had a much better match than Jonny Wilkinson. Stuart Barnes was highly critical of Hernández´s showing against Saracens last weekend but it was not as bad as that of Wilkinson against Montpellier this weekend. Wilkinson was poor in all areas of the game, even missing a straight forward penalty from in front of the posts. At the heart of the victroy was Montpellier´s pack with Agustín Creevy playing very well at hooker and Maximilano Bustos continuing to improve at tighthead prop. Lucas Gonázalez Amorosino also featured for the winner as a replacement as did Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe. The Pumas captain was on the bench in preperation of next weekends of 14 match. Both teams will play in the Heineken Cup Quarter Finals with Montpellier to face Clermont Auvergne in an all-French encounter.

Pool 6 Standings
1 Toulon 23
2 Montpellier 22
3 Sale 6
4 Cardiff 4

* Qualified for Quarter Finals

Quarter Finals 
Harlequins v Munster
Clermont v Montpellier
Toulon v Leicester
Saracens v Ulster

Biarritz v Harlequins

Connacht v Zebre 

Castres v Ulster

Scarlets v Clermont 

Montpellier v Toulon

1 comment:

  1. Dave Ryan is awful. Gets destroyed scrummaging every time, no loss whatsoever for the USA that he doesn't play for them as he would be no improvement on what they have. In fact I think Eric Fry is better.