Sunday, May 4, 2014

Rabo Direct Pro 12: Americas Exports Round 21 Wrap

Photo Glasgow Warriors
The twenty-first and penultimate round of the Rabo Direct Pro 12 was played this weekend. It was an important round as the play-offs draw closer and also to determine which teams per member nation will and will not secure places in the new European Champions Cup which is to replace the Heineken Cup starting next season. Involved were players from Argentina, Canada and the USA - three countries confirmed for Rugby World Cup 2015. They are important parts of Rugby World Cups and their IRB defined region, the Americas is the only one in the world yet to be allocated a Rugby World Cup.

Zebre 30-27 Ospreys
The make-up of the Semi Finals of the Rabo Direct Pro 12 was confirmed in the opening match of the round as Welsh region the Ospreys was unable to complete a regulation away victory against bottom of the table Zebre in Italy. The Ospreys will threfore finish in fifth position but the region is confirmed in the European Champions Cup and Zebre could now qualify too as it is tied with Benetton Treviso.

Involved in the fixture for Zebre was Argentine fly half Luciano Orquera who has been capped forty-one times too date by Italy. He kicked four goals and formed a 10-12 combination with another Argentine player capped by Italy, Gonzalo Garcia.

Benetton Treviso 16-38 Glasgow Warriors
With Zebre having now gone ahead of of their Italian rivals the pressure is firmly place on Benetton Treviso.A notable part of ciricism of the Italian's involvement in the Heineken Cup  has been the lack of competitiveness from both Aironi and Zebre. Benetton Treviso has, overall, been a better team even though it has also not been able to win matches. 

The star performer for the Glasgow Warriors in the bonus point win was North American Tommy Seymour. The USA born and raised Scottish international scored three tries. Also involved in the match from the Americas was Ignacio Fernández Rouyet who was a front-row replacement for Benetton Treviso. Matias Aguero was on the bench as was USA eligible prop Dave Ryan while Hanno Dirksen started for the Ospreys and Canadian Jeff Hassler was on the bench.

Ulster 20-22 Leinster
Not for the first time this season Ulster was on the losing end of a close encounter at home after losing a player to a first half red card. Australian born and raised Irish international Tom Court was red carded for completing a dangerous tip-tackle in the seventeenth minute which forced the Northern Irish province to play against the competition leaders with one less player for the remainder of the match.

Coming off the bench in the seventeenth minute was Callum Black who is from Washington, D.C but is yet to be capped. The possibility exists for him to play for either the USA or Ireland with the North Americans quite clearly having a greater need for him for Rugby World Cup 2015.

Scarlets 34-23 Dragons
The Llanelli based Scarlets secured qualification for the European Champions Cup with a bonus point home victory over Welsh rivals the Newport Gwent Dragons on Saturday. The result confirms the Scarlets as the second best Welsh region this season while the Dragons are again the fourth and bottom performing side. 

The Newport Gwent Dragons in involved in controversy over its name and identity. If Wales is to truly embrace the regions and they are to be sold as strongly as possible then newport needs to be removed from the name as doe Cardiff from the Cardiff Blues.

Connacht 15-22 Cardiff Blues
Ireland's western province Connacht was looking on track for another scalp. The province with the lowest budget and different status in Irish rugby has been a success story this season but remains the weakest of the four. The province plays at the underdeveloped Galway Showgrounds and lack a history of note to instill confidence in the possibility of hosting Rugby World Cup matches in the area.

Edinburgh 12-55 Munster
Scottish capital side Edinburgh will not be involved in the European Champions Cup. Had the management known that the club would need to take the Rabo Direct Pro 12 as seriously as those in France and England have done so with the Top 14 and Aviva Premiership then the club would not likely to be ranked so lowly. 

Irish province Munster will be in the competition and the side is a strong contender to win this seasons Rabo Direct Pro 12. The province competed well in the Heineken Cup Semi Final against Toulon last weekend but fell short. Involved in the fixture was former Puma, Tomás Leonardí who started in the back-row. He is in contention for a place in the squad to face Ireland and Scotland next month. 

Glasgow Warriors
Cardiff Blues
Benetton Treviso

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