Saturday, December 28, 2013

Rabo Direct Pro 12 Americas Exports - Round 11 Wrap

Canadian international DTH van der Merwe started for the 6th time this season
Round eleven of the RaboDirect Pro 12 was all about derby matches as all six league matches were between sides from the same union. The round was played from Thursday through Saturday with there being larger than usual attendances due to the derby nature of the matches as well as it being christmas week. A number of players from the Americas were in action as the last region to be allocated a Rugby World Cup continues to have quality players in the Celtic-Italian League.

Scarlets 6-10 Ospreys
A crowd of 14,796 attended the Western Welsh derby on Thursday and the Llanelli and Swansea based sides delivered a close fixture. It was not always quality rugby though as regulation kicks were missed and there were long periods of stop-start rugby. Former USA age grade representative Hanno Dirksen had a disallowed try in the match. The player who turned down playing for the USA at Rugby World Cup 2015 to instead possibly represent his adopted Wales in the future started on the right wing. Canadian international Jeff Hassler was the starting left winger while Tyler Ardron was a replacement back-rower.

Dragons 22-16 Cardiff
The Welsh rugby crisis threatens to hurt no team more so than the Newport-Gwent Dragons. With the Newport based side having been the worst of the four regions during the regional model era which began in 2003. Should the threatened outcome be to have three rather than four regions then Newport is likely to be the loser. The Dragons home win on Thursday was therefore vital and it means that the home side retains a comparatively superior position in the standings. On the bench for the Dragons was former Puma tighthead prop Francisco Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro. The Cardiff Blues have not won an away match all season.

Edinburgh 16-20 Glasgow
A season best crowd of 10,125 gathered at the home of Scottish rugby, Murrayfield on Thursday for the all Scottish derby Rabo Direct Pro 12 league match. While the crowd was of note compared to other fixtures it only goes to underline the extent of the problem in Scottish rugby as league matches continue to fail to attract the interest of the population. Pumas Gabriel Ascárate and Tomás Leonardí as well as uncapped Argentine centre Joaquín Domínguez all missed the match. Canadian DTH van der Merwe played, starting on the wing for the Glasgow Warriors. The win keeps the Warriors well places and the side has a game in hand following the postponement of the match against Benetton Treviso last weekend.

Munster 22-16 Connacht
The all-Irish battle of Friday saw Munster win again by a small margin. Although the southern Irish province has been winning matches in both the RaboDirect Pro 12 and the Heineken Cup the manner in which many of the wins have been completed have lacked the same authoritity that Munster is famous for. Munster, nonetheless, is very well placed in the standings.

Treviso 20-15 Zebre
The all-Italian clash was highly competitive with the much fancied Benetton Treviso forced to fight hard to compete as the visiting Zebre held the lead for long periods. The triumph puts Treviso ahead of the Cardiff Blues who have been accused of arrogant contempt by the Pontypridd CEO. With civil war set to enter no-mans land on December 31 the comments only further the strive tearing up the regional model. Canadian Robert Barbieri started in the back-row for Treviso who had Argentine front-rowers Ignacio Fernández Rouyet and Franco Sbaraglini on the bench. All are capped by Italy are are Luciano Orquera, Gonzalo Garcia and Matias Aguero who featured for Zebre.

Leinster 19-6 Ulster
Having started the season as the form side Ulster is now outside of the top four. The Belfast based side remains in check with Glasgow but with the Warriors having a game in hand the reality is that Ulster is now outside of the play-offs zone for the time being. Callum Black from the USA started at loosehead prop for Ulster. The match was played at the RDS - one of three Dublin venues put forward by the IRFU for a potential return for a third time to have Rugby World Cup matches in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. Its inclusion is based on Ireland lacking sufficient cities with adequate stadiums. As such two or three stadiums from Belfast, Limerick and Dublin have all been put forward.

1 Munster 43
2 Leinster 36
3 Ospreys 35
4 Glasgow 33*
5 Ulster 33
6 Dragons 24
7 Edinburgh 22
8 Scarlets 22
9 Treviso 18 *
10 Cardiff 18
11 Connacht 12
12 Zebre 10

* Game in Hand 

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