Sunday, March 23, 2014

Rabo Direct Pro 12: Americas Exports Round 17 Wrap

Photo South Wales Evening Post
The long-standing policy of a number of teams involved in the Rabo Direct Pro 12 of fielding weakend teams in the competition in an effort to utilize fresh players for international duty and for the Heineken Cup has harmed the product of the Celtic-Italian league. It may, however, be changing as a new European competition to replace the Heineken Cup looks set to be confirmed. Rather than having teams qualify on nationality it will have to top seven sides from the Pro 12 qualify for the tournament. Squads will need to be improved on which should see more foreigners contracted. Round 17 featured a number of players from the Americas. 

Ospreys 34-9 Cardiff Blues
The Cardiff Blues has failed to be competitive this season. The club has regularly been without first choice players who play less due to their role in the Welsh test side. With the club not having the same calibre of imported players as others and injuries also having played their part the Welsh capital´s regional side sees itself ranked 10th, ahead of only Italian teams. The win for the Ospreys sees the side continue to be the best non-Irish side. Canadian Jeff Hassler started for the Ospreys while former USA age grade representative Hanno Dirksen was a replacement.

Leinster 27-0 Zebre
Neither side was at full strength as top of the table Leinster hosted the bottom placed Zebre. With both teams having had a large contingent of players involved in the Six Nations last weekend they were happy to field fringe players for their match in Dublin. USA eligible Dave Ryan started for Zebre at tighthead prop. He could play for the USA at Rugby World Cup 2015.

Edinburgh 3-9 Ulster
Also played on Friday evening was a  less than memorable fixture in which the Northern Irish province grounded out a six point win in a tryless match in Scotland. The away victory maintains the dominance of Irish provinces in the competition with the top three positions all being held by Irish sides. Involved for Edinburgh was former Puma Tomás Leonardí who was on the bench for the Scottish city side.

Glasgow 14-6 Scarlets
Scottish side the Glasgow Warriors is arguably the only team outside of the top four that has a chance of making the play-offs. The club occupies fifth position but has two matches in hand and so could very well go ahead of the Ospreys. Starting for the Glasgow Warriors in the win over the Scarlets on Saturday was Tommy Seymour who plays international rugby for Scotland despite being born and raised in the USA. 

Munster 14-3 Treviso
Southern Irish province Munster also collected four competition points on Saturday. The low-scording victory over Italy´s Benetton Treviso sees the club remain on course for a home Semi Final. Starting the match for the Italian side was Canadian Robert Barbieri. Also involved was Ignacio Fernández Rouyet from Argentina who, like Barbieri, is capped by Italy. It was a match surrounded by controversy with Munster being awarded a questionable try off a clear forward pass. To make matters worse the Italians also suffered from yellow cards.

Dragons 8-24 Connacht
The round concluded on Sunday with the Newport Gwent Dragons having a prime opportunity to gain four competition points by hosting Ireland´s underfunded province Connacht. Instead, however, Connacht completed an away bonus point victory to move into the top half of the table. Former Puma Francisco Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro will not play again for the Dragons. Following his suspension for a dangerous tackle he decided to leave his contract early and is back in Argentina.

1 Leinster 64
2 Munster 62
3 Ulster 59
4 Ospreys 51
5 Glasgow 47
6 Scarlets 36
7 Connacht 32
8 Edinburgh 29
9 Dragons 28
10 Cardiff 24
11 Treviso 20
12 Zebre 18

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