Sunday, October 19, 2014

European Rugby Champions Cup: Americas Players Review Round 1

Following drastic changes the new European competition got off the ground this past weekend. The new competition, however, was much familiar to that of the former Heineken Cup. The new competition features four fewer sides and therefore five rather than six pools of four teams. Another change is the venue for the final with London having replaced Milan which had been named before the Heineken Cup was made defunct. The new competition featured leading sides from the Aviva Premiership, Top 14 and Guinness Pro 12. Involved were players from the Americas with Argentina, Canada and the USA all being represented. Many players are to be involved in international matches next month and will also be a part of Rugby World Cup 2015 in England and Wales. 

Pool 1
Saracens 30-23 Clermont Auvergne
With Pool 1 having three very strong sides the match between Saracens and Clermont Auvergne in Northern London on Saturday was vital for both sides. Collecting competition points away from home could well be the difference in qualifying for the play-offs and being eliminated and Clermont's abilitty to return to France with one point is therefore significant. The match involved Canada, Argentina and the USA with Jamie Cudmore starting for Clermont and Chris Wyles doing so for Saracens. Wyles was replaced by Marcelo Bosch early in the second half.

Sale Sharks 26-27 Munster
English side the Sale Sharks went into halftime leading by a staggering scoreline of 23-7 yet failed to win at home against Irish province Munster on Saturday. The shocking home defeat came after Sale had been superb in the first half and ought to have held a larger advantage. Former Puma Eusebio Guiñazú was on the Munster bench as the team's replacement hooker. He has not played for Argentina since last November. 

Standings 
Saracens 5
Munster 4
Sale Sharks 1
Clermont 1

Pool 2
Harlequins 25-9 Castres
The opening match of the tournament took place on Friday evening in London with the Harlequins defeating the badly-performing Castres Olympique. The 2013 French champions have failed to produce quality rugby thus far in the Top14 and are, consequently, likely to focus resources on winning French rather than European matches. Missing for Castres was Uruguayan Rodrigo Capó Ortega who saw his country qualify for the World Cup last weekend. Puma Ramiro Herrera was also not involved.

Leinster 25-20 Wasps 
Irish province Leinster hosted the Wasps in the final match of the round. Played on late Sunday afternoon the poor start to the season in the Guinness Pro 12 by Leinster continued as the Irish province was behind by nine points at the interval. The Irish side, though, scored all the points in the second half to collect the four competition points. The Wasps returned home with one point.

Standings
Leinster 4
Harlequins 4
Wasps 1
Castres 0

Pool 3
Leicester Tigers 25-18 Ulster
The injury plagued Leicester Tigers have started the Aviva Premiership very slowly but any side visiting Welford Road is nonetheless in need of a strong performance to win. Ulster pushed Leicester hard on Saturday and returned to Northern Ireland with a bonus point. On the bench for the visiting team was Callum Black, a player from the USA who remains uncapped. Puma Marcos Ayeza played opposite him, starting at loosehead prop. Gonzalo Camacho's debut should come in December while Pablo Matera remains in Buenos Aires. With Camacho injured American Blaine Scully arrived at Leicester and has remained. He played on the wing v Ulster. Canadian Robert Barbieri who plays for Italy was on the bench.

Toulon 28-18 Scarlets
The winning club from the final two editions of the Heineken Cup, Toulon, got off to a winning start on Sunday with a three tries to two victory over Welsh region the Scarlets. The win puts the French giants in a solid position in what is arguably the toughest group in the competition. Involved was Puma Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe. The Argentine back-rower played the full match. 

Standings
Toulon 4
Leicester 4
Ulster 1
Scarlets 0

Pool 4
Glasgow Warriors 37-10 Bath
Despite both the Glasgow Warriors and Bath having been strong performers in the early rounds of the Guinness Pro 12 and Aviva Premiership few were saying anything other than a Bath win would take place in the opening Pool 4 match. Glasgow, however, showed why the Scottish side is so well placed in the Celtic-Italian League and with the pool also including Montpellier and Toulouse Bath's chances  at getting out of the pool are already appearing slim. Tennessee winger Tommy Seymour, who is capped by Scotland, scored a try for Glasgow before being replaced at half time by Canadian international DTH van der Merwe. Puma Horacio Agulla played 37 minutes from the bench for Bath. 

Toulouse 30-23 Montpellier
The Top 14 struggling Toulouse edged out Montpellier in a great game on Sunday. The three tries to two victory sees Toulouse moving into second behind Glasgow while Montpellier is third after collecting a bonus point. Involved for Toulouse was Patricio Albacete. The former Puma came off the bench as a replacement in the 57th minute. Montpellier's Argentine front-rowers did not feature.  

Standings
Glasgow 5
Toulouse 4
Montpellier 1
Bath 0

Pool 5
Racing Métro 20-11 Northampton Saints
The English champions, Northampton, visited France looking to collect competition points on Saturday but, instead, returned home empty handed. Racing Métro's nine point victory meant the home side collected four points to go into a solid position after the opening round matches. Starting on the right wing for Racing Métro was Juan Imhoff who is back from the Rugby Championship. His teammate Tomás Lavanini was not involved. Starting for Northampton was Samu Manoa at number 8 while his Eagles colleague Cam Dolan was not involved.  

Ospreys 42-7 Benetton Treviso
The Guinness Pro 12 leaders completed a big win over Benetton Treviso on Sunday. The Italian Pro 12 side is yet to win a game all season and is not likely to do so in the European Rugby Championship Cup due to the quality of opposition sides in Pool 5. Scoring the opening try of the match was Canadian Jeff Hassler who is arguably the best winger in Wales today. Former Puma Tomás Vallejos CInalli started in the second-row for Benetton Treviso. 

Standings
Ospreys 5
Racing Métro 4
Northampton 0
Treviso 0

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