Sunday, January 18, 2015

Euro Rugby Champions Cup: Americas Players Review Round 5

Photo Rugby Champagne Web
Five rounds into the 2014-2015 European Rugby Challenge Cup there are clear teams appearing to be the most likely to be involved in the Semi Finals and Final. With one round to go it has been confirmed that neither Italy nor Wales will have a team in the Quarter Finals while Ireland could have one or zero. France and England are thus dominating the competition this season with Leinster being the only team from the Guinness Pro 12 ranked in the top two of it's pool. Of the five pools four are led by French teams but an English team is second in every pool making the final round enthralling for supporters. Involved this weekend were players from Argentina, Canada and the USA. All three will be involved in Rugby World Cup 2015 and they represent the only region yet to be allocated hosting rights to a Rugby World Cup. This ought to change with Argentina hosting in 2023.    

Saracens 33-10 Munster
Southern Irish province Munster was eliminated from play-offs contention on Saturday as it suffered a bad loss against Saracens in London. The first of three Saracens tries was scored by USA fullback Chris Wyles who played the match on the left wing. Having gone over for the first Wyles then became the creator as he set-up a try for former English international Chris Ashton. Also involved in the match were Pumas Marcelo Bosch who played outside centre for Saracens and Eusebio Guiñazú who was a reserve prop for Munster.

Sale Sharks 13-22 Clermont Auvergne
Also played on Saturday was the pool's second fixture of the round as a full strength Sale Sharks looked to win at home despite having no mathematical chances of reaching the play-offs. The Premiership side played very well and was leading by a point after 64 minutes before Clermont reclaimed the lead and scored with five minutes remaining. Canadian Jamie Cudmore started in the second-row.

Pool 1
Clermont 18
Saracens 17
Munster 10
Sale Sharks 2 

Leinster 50-8 Castres
A bonus point home win for Leinster in Dublin on Saturday was a huge positive for Irish rugby. It occurred on the same day that both Munster and Ulster were eliminated from play-offs contention. With a game in hand Leinster sits on 18 points, a number likely sufficient to us it through to the final eight. Puma Ramiro Herrera started at tighthead prop for Leinster.

Harlequins 3-23 Wasps
The struggles facing the Harlequins this season continued in the British capital on Saturday as former London side the Wasps defeated the Quins by twenty points at the Stoop. With Leinster winning at home the result is a disaster for the Harlequins who see their play-offs changes hit hard. The Pool 2 results on Saturday mean that next weekend's Wasps v Leinster match in Coventry is a knock-out match with the winner advancing to the Quarter Finals.

Pool 2 
Leinster 18
Wasps 16
Harlequins 13
Castres 01

Toulon 60-22 Ulster
Playing at home on Saturday afternoon Toulon played superb rugby to take-apart northern Irish province Ulster. The win sees Toulon five points ahead of Leicester and means next weekend's match away to the Scarlets will carry with it a lot less pressure. The first try of the match was scored by Puma Nicolás Sánchez who was involved in other tries and was man of the match. Also starting and scoring was Martín Castrogiovanni who has played over 100 times for Italy despite being from Argentina. Uncapped Callum Black from the USA was on Ulster's bench.

Leicester Tigers 40-23 Scarlets
The Leicester Tigers did all they could to push for a place in the Final Eight by completing an impressive home victory over Welsh region the Scarlets on Friday. The bonus point win places Leicester on thirteen competition points, the same number that Toulon had prior to facing Ulster. Puma Marcos Ayerza was on the bench for Leicester as was Canadian Robert Barbieri who plays test rugby for Italy.

Pool 3
Toulon 18
Leicester 13 
Scarlets 8
Ulster 7

Toulouse 18-35 Bath
The former giants of French and European rugby were given a wake-up call by the in-form Bath in Toulouse on Sunday. All players starting for Toulouse are international stars from the past or present but the club was badly beaten. Puma Horacio Agulla started for Bath on the wing while former Puma Patricio Albacete was a replacement second-rower. The result of the match was not enough to remove Toulouse from first position and with a match against Montpellier in the final round Toulouse would appear set for a place in the Quarter Finals though a match at home now appears unlikely.

Glasgow Warriors 21-10 Montpellier
Having defeated Bath to open their campaign the Glasgow Warriors were well placed to reach the final eight. The Scottish club could still do so but the task now requires a repeat performance in the closing round and in England. Glasgow go into the match one point behind Bath and two behind Toulouse. Glasgow's win showcased the importance of the Americas as Canadian international DTH van der Merwe scored three tries. Also involved was Scottish international Tommy Seymour who is from Tennessee.

Pool 4 
Toulouse 16
Bath 15
Glasgow 14 
Montpellier 2

Ospreys 9-20 Northampton Saints
Like Pool 4 both of Pool 5's fixtures took place on Sunday afternoon. The first of the two featured a contest between the clubs leading the Guinness Pro 12 and Aviva Premiership. The Ospreys went in already having been eliminated while Northampton needed a win to realistically remain in the hunt for a place in the final eight. Northampton won to set up a final round match against Racing Métro with the winner set to host a Quarter Final. The two players playing at the back of the scrum in Swansea were North Americans as Tyler Ardron and Samu Manoa both started. Also involved was former USA junior Hanno Dirksen who turned-down selection for the USA in Rugby World Cup 2011 and instead wishes to play for Wales.

Racing Métro 53-7 Benetton Treviso
A nine tries to one home performance by Racing Métro sees the French side destined for a first ever appearance in the Quarter Finals of Europe's leading competition. The team from Hauts-de-Seine scored some memorable tries with a number of players crossing. Puma Juan Imhoff scored two while Tomás Lavanini was also involved as a replacement. Former Puma Tomás Vallejos Cinalli was on the bench for the Italian side.

Pool 5
Racing Métro 19   
Northampton 19   
Ospreys 8
Treviso 0

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