Sunday, April 27, 2014

Heineken Cup: Semi Finals Wrap

Juan Fernández Lobbe pictured
looking like John Rambo
The final ever edition of the Heineken Cup has its finalists. 2013 champions Toulon are to face English side Saracens in the final on May 23 at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. It is to be a replay of the 2013 Semi Final in which the French side came out on top to secure a place in the final against Clermont Auvergne. The vastly contrasting Semi Finals featured players from Argentina, Canada and the United States of America. The Americas is the last IRB defined region to be allocated a Rugby World Cup. 

Saracens 46-6 Clermont Auvergne
The match was a very special occasion for those in attendance but there were not many as the venue set to host the opening and closing matches of Rugby World Cup 2015 failed to sell tickets for a second consecutive year. A crowd of 25,942 in a stadium seating over 80,000 watched history being made as Saracens completed a record breaking forty point Semi Final victory to qualify for a first ever Heineken Cup Final.

In a team performance Saracens ran in six tries to zero to eliminate Clermont who  had been favorites to win the fixture. USA Eagles fullback Chris Wyles was a replacement in the second half and went over for a try. Also involved from the Americas for Saracens was Marcelo Bosch. The Puma started the match at outside centre and put in an impressive showing. He was called upon for a long range penalty and delivered as he put over a 54 metre penalty to back up his effort against the Northampton Saints two weeks ago. Featuring for Clermont was Canadian Jamie Cudmore who started in the second-row.

Elimination for Clermont Auvergne could mean bad news for Perpignan. Clermont wll host Perpignan next weekend in the Top 14 with the visiting side needing competition points to avoid an un likely relegation to the Pro d2. Perpignan defeated Clermont in the 2009 Top 14 Final while Clermont won the final the following year. Saracens is not only in the Heineken Cup Final but is top of the table in the Aviva Premiership. 

Toulon 24-16 Munster
Twenty-four hours after the humiliation of 2013 finalists Clermont Auvergne Toulon made sure that there would be a French participant in the final. Toulon had the better of play for much of the contest at the Stade Velodrome on Marseilles and, in the end, the side was able to hold off a Munster fightback that featured a try awarded without going to the TMO despite the television replays revealing that it was inconclusive as to whether or not a try had been scored.

Jonny Wilkinson kicked all twenty-four points for Toulon to set up a final of mouth-watering proportions for English rugby as the veteran will now face Owen Farrell for European glory. Involved in the match were two players from Argentina. Pumas captain Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe started in the back-row and had a high work rate. He was yellow carded for carelessly making contact with Conor Murray while attempting to win a turnover. Italy´s Argentine prop Martín Castrogiovanni made an appearance from the bench. 

Unlike Saturday´s Semi Final in London the match in Marseilles was well attended. The stadium is mid-way through being upgraded ahead of the 2016 EURO soccer competition which is to be hosted by France. Upon completion it will seat 67,000. For the Heineken Cup Semi Final it had a reduced capacity of 40,000 and was close to capacity.

Heineken Cup Final
Saturday May 24 Toulon v Saracens, Millennium Stadium

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