Sunday, October 13, 2013

Heineken Cup Americas Exports - Round One Wrap

Juan Martín Hernández in doubt for November after a first half injury against Clermont
The 2013-2014 Heineken Cup may well be the final ever edition of the tournament. Fighting between league members of England and France on the one hand and Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales on the other has led to the current situation in which England and France have said they will not play in it next season and will create a new European competition. They are yet to have approaval from the governing bodies of rugby in their countries but this has not deterred the separation with threats suggesting that a failure for Wales and others to join would spell doom for the Pro 12 members financially.

Pool 1
Ospreys 9-19 Leinster
All all-Rabo Direct Pro 12 clash on Saturday in Swansea saw the visiting Irish province score the only try of the match to return home with four competition points. The home side was unable to score any points which should make it extremely complicated for the Welsh region to advance in the competition. There were two young Canadian players in the Ospreys team with Jeff Hassler being a replacement winger while Tyler Ardron was unused from the bench.

Castres 19-13 Northampton
A home win for the underperforming French champions puts the South-Western French side in a good position in what is arguably the toughest pool of the competition. With Connacht and Zebre being in the same pool all four members of Pool 1 can certainly claim to have been dealt an unjustified draw. It certainly serves to provide the English and French standpoint of having twenty rather than twenty-four sides of more merit. Castres´s win features Uruguayan forward Rodrigo Capó Ortega as a starting second-rower while USA forward Samu Manoa was a replacement for the Northampton Saints.

1 Castres 4
2 Leinster 4
3 Northampton 1
4 Ospreys 0

Pool 2
Exeter Chiefs 44-29 Cardiff Blues
A local derby of sorts saw a West Country club side play host to the team from the Welsh capital. The mnatch saw played at Sandy Park an official venue for Rugby World Cup 2015. No teams from the Americas will play matches there however. Cardiff, despite not being in England, will host eight matches with Canada to play Ireland there on the opening weekend and Argentina set to play a Quarter Final there should it advance from the pool. In the match played earlier today (Sunday) the Chiefs ran out to a dominant 36-3 halftime lead and already had the bonus point in the bag. The Cardiff Blues, to their credit, responded to return home with a bonus point for scoring four tries in the second half.

Toulon 51-28 Glasgow
Last seasons Heineken Cup Champions and leaders of the current Top 14 hosted Rabo Direct Pro 12 leaders, the Glasgow Warriors on Sunday and left a clear message. Toulon are the competition favorites after doing what Exeter did even better. Toulon held a 24-0 halftime lead but the Scottish side did score four second half tries to collect a bonus point. Two of the Warriors four tries were scored by Canadian international DTH van der Merwe who was a replacement. USA born Scottish international Tommy Seymour started for the Warriors while Pumas captain Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe did so for Toulon.

1 Toulon 5
2 Exeter 5
3 Glasgow 1
4 Cardiff 1

Pool 3
Toulouse 38-5 Zebre 
The French giants, Toulouse, have been struggling so far this season with mixed results having been the theme thus far in the Top 14. Starting the Heineken Cup season at home to the lowest rated side was ideal and Toulouse cruised home to complete a bonus point victory. Argentina´s Patricio Albacete was on the bench and played the second half. The Argentine born and raised Italian international outside centre Gonzalo Garcia started for Zebre in the mid-field while Luciano Orquera and Matias Aguero were both on the bench. All three are in Italy´s squad to face Australia, Fiji and Argentina next month. 

Connacht 17-23 Saracens
Connacht v Saracens was also played on Friday evening. With the member of the Pro 12 being far from happy with the Top 14 and Aviva Premiership members setting up a new competition the sides need to deliver this season. Connacht fought well but lost late in the match against the London based side. USA veteran fullback Chris Wyles started at inside centre for Saracens and scored the first try. Wyles´ try was arguably one of his best in his career and it came in the centres, where the USA needs to improve greatly. 

1 Toulouse 5
2 Saracens 4
3 Connacht 1
4 Zebre 0

Pool 4
Harlequins 26-33 Scarlets
The fall from grace of the 2012 English champions, the Harlequins continues as the London based club has had a poor start to the season and there have been consequences for international players. English captain Chris Robshaw is amongst those in the firing line and could very well miss out on playing for his country next month.

Racing Métro 13-9 Clermont Auvergne
Concern for Los Pumas ahead of the November tour of England, Italy and Wales as star fullback Juan Martín Hernández left the field injured in just the 16th minute. The veteran playmaker was playing outside of position at inside centre which is curiously the same position he played upon injurying his knee playing against Bourgoin in 2011 which ruled him out of the World Cup. Also starting for Racing Métro was Juan Imhoff who played on the left wing.

1 Scarlets 4
2 Racing Métro 4
3 Harlequins 1
4 Clermont 1

Pool 5
Ulster 22-16 Leicester
Having started well the visiting Leicester Tigers were caught and overtaken by Ulster in a match on Friday evening in Northern Ireland. The failure to complete an away victory may have an impact on whether or not the Tigers can qualify for the Quarter Finals. Former English test back-rower Jordan Crane could be dropped for Argentina´s new arrival Pablo Matera after he slowed down Ulster ball while on the ground. Underfire French referee Romain Poite yellow carded him. With Montpellier also in the pool it is likely that only one team from Pool 5 will be able to reach the final eight. Leicester did nevertheless collect a bonus point. None of the team´s three Pumas played but this is certain to chance for next week. The uncapped USA prop Callum Black was a replacement for the winning side.

Treviso 10-27 Montpellier
After no tries were scored in the first half in Italy the visiting Montpellier side did what it was requried to return home to France with the four competition points and to claim top spot in the pool. On the bench for the winners was Maximilano Bustos who is a strong possibility for the November internationals. With world number one tighthead prop Juan Figallo being injured Bustos could very well be in the 23 to face England in November. Canadian-Italian Robert Barbieri started in the back-row for Benetton Treviso while  the team´s Argentine front-rowers Pedro di Santo and Ignacio Fernández Rouyet were both on the bench.

1 Montpellier 4
2 Ulster 4
3 Leicester 1
4 Treviso 0

Pool 6
Edinburgh 29-23 Munster 
The Pro 12 authorities will certainly have trouble justifying Saturday´s result in the Scottish capital. Irish province Munster was defeated by the bottom of the table Pro 12 side, Edinburgh despite Munster having defeated Leinster last weekend in the Pro 12. The Pro 12 needed Munster to win big but instead is left with an attempt of defending automatic qualification based on nationality and not performance after Edinburgh completed a home win. On the bench for Edinburgh was the uncapped Argentine center Joaquín Domínguez who may be selected for Los Pumas in 2014.

Gloucester 27-22 Perpignan
A come from behind win on Saturday gave Aviva Premiership teams something to smile about after the not so good performances from Leicester, Saracens, Northampton and the Harlequins. Gloucester got the win with a late try after Perpignan had appeared set to complete a crucial away victory. Instead Perpignan returns home with just one competition point. Perpignan lost the lead under controversial circumstances following the loss of a player to a red card. The incident is certain to result in further suspension for New Zealander Lifeimi Mafi.

1 Gloucester 4
2 Edinburgh 4
3 Munster 1
4 Perpignan 1

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