Sunday, October 23, 2016

Munster do Anthony Foley justice, and wins for Ulster and Connacht!

 Image result for Thomond Anthony foley

Munster paid a fitting tribute to Anthony Foley, putting Glasgow to the sword in emphatic fashion on Saturday. Emotions were high - none more so for me than when his sons came on at the end to be with the team. Munster mostly manged to channel that emotion into controlled aggression, and not even Earls red card slowed them down. It wasn't just emotion though, a few other things made a big difference. First up, a nearly full Thomond Park making an impressively loud racket. Secondly they finally have a fly half to pull the strings and present his own challenge. It's been a long time coming but Bleyandaal is finally delivering on his promise. A word for Sweetnam and his kick off work too.

At the Kingspan Stadium Ulster got home by the skin of their teeth, fly halves exchanging drop goals in the final 5 minute, but Ulster having the final say. Ulster are still not completely clicking yet, but they need to get a few players back. But it was nearly a knock out match so they did well, Exeter gave it their all, and it was played in driving rain in the first half so handling was difficult. Moment of the match was the the crowd singing The Fields of Athenry - spine tingling stuff.

Leinster had a pretty average day at the office against Motpellier, not coming to terms with the size of their pack - have any of these players been tested for horse genes? They struggled all afternoon with the lineout, and were lucky not to concede a yellow there. I think some of problems lay with Sexton and O'Brien, neither of whom looked up to speed. Carberry put a lot of sharpness back in to the attack, in particular in the last ten minutes when the monstrous Montpellier forwards really tired. Gibson Park also added a new dimension to the attack, and should really be starting, finally putting Isa away to get a try and grab a bonus point. Considering we played badly, gave them a try, and had to tackle (or not) a man monster winger, all in all we did alright to end the weekend on top of our group.

Connacht ran away with the win, getting a bonus point, and there was a fine debut for Stacey Ili. The match was also notable for a red card for Zebre hooker Oliviero Fabian. Connacht also top their group.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

A muted enough Rugby Champions Cup weekend in store


A week after, the death of Anthony Foley still casts a pall over the rugby world - which in fairness has really pulled behind his family and Munster. It's a good decision to go on with the match against Glasgow though, it's what he would have wanted. I thought it was a good touch by Ulster to reciprocate the memorial for Nevin Spence at Thomond with their own for Anthony Foley at the Kingspan Stadium.

Munster will have to try and channel and use all that emotion for the match against Glasgow - it's not going to be easy for either team. Munster should win, but either way, as Gregor Townsend, said, it'll likely to be be a match worthy of Anthony Foley's memory.

Ulster need to start winning this weekend, or really their chances of progressing are going to go up in smoke. This is one of their 'easy' matches, the other will be their home match against Bordeaux. Exeter had a miserable day against Clermont last weekend, they just got absolutely blown away. However, this week they are likely to feel the force of an Ulster backlash against their frustrations of the last few weeks.

This weekend is probably the most challenging match of their group for Leinster, as Montpellier only lost out in the last few minutes against Northampton, and by all accounts are VERY peed off about the whole thing. Add to that that we are down Furlong, Rutherford and Sexton, and it could be a pretty tricky outing. Injuries have however played a pretty big part in Montpelliers season, the arrival of Tomas O'Leary is the latest sign of that. I have a feeling we'll win.

Finally, we have Connacht going to Zebre to pick up their 5 points.

And finally finally there is the last Bledisloe match as Australia head off to New Zealand to get their arses kicked again, lulling the All Blacks into a false sense of security until they are rudely brought down to earth against Ireland.

Champions Cup
Sale Sharks vs Toulon
Munster vs Glasgow Warriors
Castres vs Northampton Saints
Clermont Auvergne vs Bordeaux-B├Ęgles
Saracens vs Scarlets
Ulster vs Exeter Chiefs
Montpellier vs Leinster
Toulouse vs Wasps
Zebre vs Connacht
Leicester Tigers vs Racing 92