Friday, April 18, 2014

Easter wins for Leinster, Ulster and Munster!

 
 (picture http://bit.ly/1mdggut)

Leinster have put out a strong side for the visit of Treviso tonight.  With the Heineken Cup down the tube for this year, they need to clock up five pointers whenever they can to make sure of a home semi in the Rabo.  It’s a home match on an Easter weekend, I hope they are going to put on a bit of a show, something which has been missing from their game recently. They need to kick some arse! Madigan is at least back on the bench again, he’s the man that to me could spark them back into life.

The big clash this weekend is Ulster’s trip to Glasgow. The Glaswegians win over Munster has been talked up as a revival of Scottish rugby – steady on there… I really fancy Ulster this week, even with a few big names out, they are a potent side, and still hurting from their Heineken Cup loss.

Connacht play at home to Munster. I pretty well glossed over Munster’s underperformance against Glasgow, but a loss here would sound a BIG alarm. Connacht won’t be a push over either, they are ferocious at home, and won’t be feeling intimidated by anything they saw last weekend! I’s be surprised if Munster lost though.

Meanwhile, it’s ‘Judgement Day’ in Wales on Sunday – you don’t have to play well to get into heaven, however, just into Gatlands Welsh squad.  Should be a great day of handbags, petty grievance solving, and even some rugby maybe – nothing like getting stuck into your Welsh mates! I’m looking forward to it!

RaboDirect PRO12
Friday , April 18
Leinster vs Benetton Treviso 
Glasgow vs Ulster 
Saturday , April 19
Zebre vs Edinburgh 
Connacht vs Munster 
Sunday , April 20
Cardiff Blues vs Scarlets 
Newport Gwent D'gons vs Ospreys 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Leinster need to suck it up and get back on the horse next weekend!

 Cian Healy
 (picture http://bit.ly/QktYOx)

It was a tale of woe for the Irish teams this weekend, unless you’re an Ulsterman. Connachts run of good results came to crashing a halt at Ravenhill, as Ulster put 8 tries on them, and basically gave them a hammering. Connacht are 8th, they’re not a bad team, but Ulster had a point to prove, with Trimble getting a hat trick, and Tommy Bowe sounded good in the centre.

I didn’t get to watch that complete performance by Ulster, because I was dutifully watching Leinster struggle against the Ospreys. Both Leinster and Munster didn’t have to win this weekend, where the Ospreys and Glasgow did, and it showed. A couple of players really stood up, Cian Healy was massive,  I though Dave Kearney was great, but on the whole it was pretty flat and ordinary from Leinster, no tempo, no magic. Just have to suck it up and get back on the horse next weekend!  At least they got a losing bonus point.

Munster, meanwhile, were equally all over the place against Glasgow, conceding their first loss at home to a Scottish side for 6 years. With Paulie sitting in the stands, and POM out injured, here was no one to rally the troops against an organised determined Munster side.. I’d say there’s going to be a bit of tackling practice this week. Like Leinster, best just to forget this happened and get their focus back.

RaboDirect PRO12
Saturday , April 12
Benetton Treviso 45 - 27 Newport Gwent D'gons 
Munster 5 - 22 Glasgow 
Scarlets 27 - 20 Zebre 
Friday , April 11
Ospreys 25 - 19 Leinster 
Ulster 58 - 12 Connacht 
Edinburgh 22 - 29 Cardiff Blues 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Wins for Ulster and Munster this weekend...

 
Where is he? (picture http://bit.ly/1jwzojs)

After a hectic, and apart from Munster, not a very productive Heineken Cup weekend, it’s back to the day job, the RaboDirect PRO12.

Ulster have to put defeats, cards and injuries behind them ( they currently have Best, Pienaar, Wilson. Afoa and Tuohy out) (and no Payne after 2 week suspension) and pull themselves together to beat Connacht, to keep them in the play-off race. They’ve still put out a strong team, and have Tommy Bowe in center – a place a lot of Irish fans would have liked to see him in for a long time. While Connacht have put a good few wins together recently, I think they’ll find Ravenhill a step too far.

Leinster have to pick themselves up, and get back on the horse at the Liberty Stadium, as they try to get a result out of the Ospreys. Leinster escaped pretty well injury free against Toulon, apart from Fergus McFadden, pride was the main thing that was hurt.  BOD has been swanning around England this week so he’s out, and Ian Madigan is nowhere to be seen, which is odd, apart from that it’s a strong team. The Ospreys have a pretty potent squad out, they’ll be a bit rusty after all the gaps in play, but I think realistically Leinster will look at a  losing bonus point as the main points on offer. Surprise me!

Finally, Munster get to play Glasgow at home on Saturday. They don’t have Peter O’Mahoney due to his surgery, but CJ Stander made his case convincingly for more regular starts last weekend, for Munster and maybe ultimately Ireland. Also absent are Donnacha Ryan and Casey Lualua. Glasgow had a great end to the 2013 season, and great start to this year’s season, but things have gone a bit pear shaped since then. Unless they’re tired from last weekend, or they underestimate Glasgow, they should win this easily.

RaboDirect PRO12
Friday , April 11
Ulster vs Connacht 
Ospreys vs Leinster 
Edinburgh vs Cardiff Blues 
Saturday , April 12
Benetton Treviso vs Newport Gwent D'gons 18:00
Scarlets vs Zebre 18:30
Munster vs Glasgow 18:30

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Munster shine, Ulster bust a gut, and Leinster don't shine.

 Heineken Cup logo
Ireland’s only reason to cheer this weekend was the stunning form that Munster showed as they chewed up Toulouse and spat them out. They out muscled them, and found their attacking prowess out wide again, scoring 6 tries in the process. It was a complete performance, with CJ Stander in awesome form, but really, it was a 15 man effort. They were absolutely the form team of the weekend. They travel to Marseille now.

Leicester pushed Clermont right to the end, but playing the French sides on their home turf is tortuous stuff, the crowd is like a 16th and 17th man. Clermont got out of the blocks fast, got a good lead, and then defended it, holding off a late Tigers comeback. They travel to Twickenham next.

Ulster ran Munster close performance wise, after they had to play with 14 men for 75 minutes, with the red carding by Jerome Garces (the same man who sent off Stuart Hogg) of Jared Payne. The Ulstermen got far closer to win than they should ever have, also losing Rory Best, and eventually Ruan Pienaar, who played through an injury. Hearts like Lions. Saracens were efficient, but would have struggled against 15 you’d think, and will have to play better than that to beat Clermont at Twickenham.

Finally, Leinsters hopes of a fourth title slipped down the tube  at the Stade FĂ©lix Mayol. They looked off the pace from the start, their passing was atrocious, and only excellent defense, and a bit of luck kept them in the game in the first half. In the second, they were simply blown away by Toulon’s power. It’s a pity, because when they could string a few phases together, the gaps were there. They still look short of another world class lock, and are still not sure who the best 10 is. Another year! Toulon will play Munster now in Marseille.

Heineken Cup
Sunday , April 6
Toulon 29 - 14 Leinster 
Saturday , April 5
Munster 47 - 23 Toulouse 
Clermont Auvergne 22 - 16 Leicester 
Ulster 15 - 17 Saracens 

Thursday, April 3, 2014

I'm going with Munster, Clermont, Ulster and Leinster - trust me!


 (picture http://bit.ly/1fPgLU1)


I’ve put in all the essential training and preparation for this weekend’s Heineken Cup action  – the couch springs have been tested, the remote is taped in the secret spot beneath the table,  I tested my stamina for the arduous ‘3 matches in a row’ hell in the 6 Nations – bring it on now, do your worst!

First up is Munster’s clash with Toulouse, at Thomond Park.  Munster definitely won’t have Donnacha Ryan, although it sounds like Peter O’Mahoney will make it. Toulouse don’t have mountainous  Census Johnston, but apart from that their team reads like a who’s who of French and international rugby. Toulouse are 6th in the T14, level on points with two other teams. They are not the force they were, and the French away from home are notoriously flaky. On paper, they have a better team than Munster, but I fancy Munster are going to dig deep for this one, if they build an early lead with barnstorming start, that’ll put the Rouges et Noir away

Clermont Leicester is next, it’s all giants of the game at this stage. Leicester’s coach thinks that Les Jaunards unbeaten run of 74 games at Parc de Sports Marcel Michelin puts the pressure on Clermont. My arse. That record is there because a) they arguably have the biggest, baddest, bestest squad for a club side, anywhere, anyhow b) they would pretty well lay down their lives for their fanatical fans. The Tigers are great team too, and will back themselves, but I think the Clermont should have won the thing last year, and won’t slip up to the Englishmen.

Ulster Saracens at the newly renovated Ravenhill – yes please!They reckon they could have sold the place out 8 times over, such was the demand for tickets.  This is going to be a brawl to see who can get the upper hand in the pack. And I think we’re going to see some steel that Saracens haven’t come up against yet, the Ulstermen are going to be absolutely ferocious, they are going to get biblical on the Londoners arses, and then Bowe, Jackson, Trimble and Jarred Payne are going to rip them to shreds in the backs and finish the job. Ulster with an epic win!

Finally, Leinster get to travel to the Stade Felix Mayol to take on Toulon. Toulon are extra stuffed with household names in international rugby, not many French internationals mind, but still, it’s pretty mind boggling who they have to call on. Leinster have a full team to pick from, apart from SOB.  After last weekend’s match against Munster, I’d suspect Toulon are going to try to scrum for 80 minutes, with Johnny to kick the them home. And they are going to try and physically smash  Leinster witht eh size fo their players. Leinster are up against it alright, they are going to have to play the match of their lives to get out of this, but they can. They’ll have to play a superb kicking game to keep Toulon as close to their own try line as possible, defend defend, tackle tackle, wear them out – then turn on just enough style at the end to take the game away from the Frenchmen. Matt, if you’re reading, that’s how we’ll do it, and I think we will, c’mon you have to be bullish don’t you!

And if it all goes according to my predictions, that’ll be both semis in Dublin!

Heineken Cup
Saturday , April 5
Munster vs Toulouse 13:30
Clermont Auvergne vs Leicester 16:00
Ulster vs Saracens 18:30
Sunday , April 6
Toulon vs Leinster 16:30

Sunday, March 30, 2014

No gouging or murders in the Leinster/Munster match!



 CJ Stander (picture http://bit.ly/1hoVSTF)

And here was me thinking the 6 Nations would invigorate the Irish teams! Last weekend, apart from Connacht, it was pretty ordinary stuf from the provinces. And then this weekend, only one win!

I only watched a bit of the Ulster Cardiff match, and they were 5-0 up when Ieft them, from then on it went pretty pear shaped obviously, in a fixture you felt they should have won.

The big clash was Leinster Munster, in front of a sell out 50000 crowd. It was an intense physical match, fortunately no injuries, with a real finals rugby feel to it. Munster won the first half, and Leinster the second and the match. The best break and offload was from a flank, as Jennings set up O’Driscoll beautifully for his try. Apart from that, there was a lot of bashing up, tackling, scrum resets, but while it was tense, there was no overtly foul play, no gouging or murders, so that was good. For Munster, CJ Stander was the stand out forward for me, while Earls and especially Zebo look really sharp. Lualua is always dangerous, but doesn’t link all that well with the rest of the team. For Leinster, Jennings had a great match, as did Kearney, D’Arcy and Heaslip, and BOD put in a sublime kick just on half time. Frankly, both teams (and Ulster) are really going to have to step it up for next week. Leinster’s attitude at the end was job done, rather than being elated, both teams have bigger fish to fry now!

Connacht just lost out at the Scarlets – they really seemed to have turned a corner in their season, getting two bonus points out of the match. There’s  a lot of rugby still to be played, but they are one position off qualifying for Europe on merit, awesome for such a small team.

RaboDirect PRO12
Sunday , March 30
Scarlets 32 - 30 Connacht 
Saturday , March 29
Zebre 25 - 25 Newport Gwent D'gons  
Benetton Treviso 20 - 16 Edinburgh 
Cardiff Blues 28 - 23 Ulster 
Leinster 22 - 18 Munster 
Friday , March 28
Glasgow 11 - 9 Ospreys 

Friday, March 28, 2014

It's going to be feisty at the Aviva!

 
 Stirring (picture http://bit.ly/1mxTUUl)

Last weekends poor PRO 12 matches are a distant memory now, I found the electroshock therapy and the psychotropic drugs worked a treat.  This weekend we have REAL rugby, nevermind England v Ireland, this Leinster v Munster!

Munster have Donnacha Ryan out, although they are not exactly short of big physical forwards, while Leinster have nearly a full squad to pick from. There’s a lot of crossover these days, with players like Ross, Cronin and Reddan for Leinster, and Felix Jones and Downey for Munster. Nothing as enjoyable in sport as knocking lumps out of your mates from the Ireland camp! While it’s first plays second in the league, I wouldn’t say that either side near their best this season. Leinster have an edge in the backs, and nearly parity – in fact probably definitely parity in the scrum, so have to starts as favourites. Both teams are talking each other up, Rob Penney is trying to stir it up, but for me, home advantage is going to tell, so Leinster in a tight match.

Ulster go to Cardiff, and should take care of what is an out of sorts Welsh team at the moment.
And then Connacht wrap things up for Ireland with a trip to Parc y Scarlets, where they’lll be lucky to come away with points.
Glasgow v Ospreys will be good Friday night viewing too!