Devon Toner (picture http://bit.ly/1bQxRn2)
I know when Leinster won their first Heineken Cup, it was on the back of a Ireland Grand Slam, and Rocky Elsom said at the time that when the players came back from the 6 Nations they just had that belief now. I After 4 mighty performances this weekend, it looks like that match against the All blacks is still pumping in the blood of Ireland.
The results were Ireland 4/4, England 4/6, France 3/7, Wales 1/3 and none for Scotland and Italy.
Leinster for starters put their hand up on Saturday, and said ‘please may I have some more?’ Heineken Cups that is. I’m trying not to too smug here, but that match totally looked like an international side versus a club side, which it was. Northampton got caught absolutely cold. They have a few key injuries, but they still ran into the match expecting their form in the premiership would give them an edge. But it was Ireland not #Leinster that ran on the pitch, and gave the 80 minute performance that they gave for 40 minutes against the All Blacks. Their pack is forceful – players like Cronin and Toner are stepping up to be world class now. The difference between this team and that of last season is conviction. They just knew they were going to do it. The backline was sensational, they scored 5 tries and left two behind, BOD,Kearney, D’Arcy, Fitzgerald were all brilliant, and Madigan too, really growing into that 10 jersey. A tough night for Northampton fans who deserved better than their team could do
Ulster also stood up and put in a sterling 7 try performance against Treviso. They’re on track to get out of the pools for the third year in a row.
Munster put in a purposeful performance, putting Perpignan away with a bonus point win. There is some fine tuning to be done here and there, mostly in the backline, but their pack is as tough as they come, and from an Irish perspective they have three very good props now. James Cronin is the one to watch for me. And Earls put his hand up for Ireland too, as a wing that makes things happen.
Last but certainly last least, I did Connacht a disservice by not giving them a chance against Toulouse. They only went and won it! That’s a result that’s going to live long in the memory, there’s going to be plays made about it, and it’s another scalp to add to their long list of famous triumphs. I didn’t see it, but by the sounds of things there players like Marmion and Henshaw that are knocking on the door of bigger things.
I also watched Clermont get a bonus point out of the Scarlets. I thought the Scarlets played pretty well, but Clermont are just so physically imposing playing them is like getting run over by a tank.
Quins were hugely impressive against Racing Metro, although that’s the only way Racing Metro and ‘hugely impressive’ would fit in the same sentence. They were rubbish, shapeless, ineffectual and limp. Pairing Phillips and Sexton made them look half decent, and I’d expect that to work for them in the future. Just don’t go drinking with Mike, Jonny! Quins did that without the host of internationals that other teams can do, which made it even more impressive.
Friday , December 6
Castres 15 - 9 Ospreys
Cardiff Blues 29 - 20 Glasgow
Saturday , December 7
Clermont Auvergne 32 - 11 Scarlets
Zebre 10 - 39 Saracens
Exeter 9 - 14 Toulon
Ulster 48 - 0 Benetton Treviso
Northampton 7 - 40 Leinster
Racing Metro 92 8 - 32 Harlequins