Monday, December 20, 2010

I apologise for the break in transmission

Image from

I apologise for this break in transmission. This is due to factors entirely within my control. I have flown South for the winter (well three weeks of the winter anyway). You don't have to worry about me though, I'll wear lots of sun screen. In the meantime I hope you all have a Happy Christmas and that the New Year brings your team all the success they deserve.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Heineken Cup Rugby the Sequel - this time it's personal...

I just gave him a little tap... photo from

This is how it stacked up last weekend. France 6/7, Ireland 2/3, England 2/6, Wales 1/4, Italy 1/2, and Scotland 0/2.

Not pretty reading if you are a Scottish, Welsh or English supporter. The supposed flakiness of French teams on the road is questionable as three of the 6 French wins were away from home. And the one loss, that of Biarritz to Aironi, was nothing short of miraculous – Viadana is likely to rival Lourdes in the future for pilgrims.

This weekend they’re all the great back to back match ups to look forward to, an opportunity for teams to right all the wrongs from last week. I wouldn’t want to be in Aironi’s boots that for sure…

All the fixtures are at the bottom.

To get you in the mood, here are Toulouse's trys from last week:

Bath vs Ulster

This was a topsy turvey fixture last weekend, both sides seemingly intent on throwing it all away. Is there going to be more spirit of the game , old chap, or are we going to see some mongrel this week? I’m going to go with home advantage and tip Bath to win.

Ospreys vs Munster

Again bring it on! Munster had to come from behind last week to overcome the Ospreys, and it’ll be even harder this week away from home. They are without Paul O’Connell suspended for four weeks – Munster supporters would say that it’s a plot to keep Munster weak to give everyone else a chance. The Ospreys were a bit flat for me last week, good technical skills but not much flair. I’d tip them to come out on top this week.

Leinster vs Clermont Auvergne

The injuries are mounting up for Leinster now with Jamie Heaslip and Eoin O’Malley joining the host of other injuries. This is going to be another war of attrition against a physically huge and aggressive French team. Leinster may have lost last weekend but what they delivered in spades was heart. Whether heart is going to be enough this week remains to be seen on, on form and injuries Clermont must be favourites, but I think Leinster are going to pull one out the hat at what is going to be a freezing Aviva stadium.

Connacht vs Harlequins

Harlequins found Connacht surprisingly tough last week, and I think they are going to find the going even tougher this weekend. Connacht have quality players with confidence in their abilities and a good coach. They don’t have much depth, which could count towards the end of the match. I’m going with them to put some manners on their English guests

Racing Metro 92 vs Saracens

The anticipation for the match is nothing compared to the anticipation for the after match interview. Brendan Venter claims his on camera antics were a joke. Ho Ho Ho Brendan, you had us all in stitches. Looking at the result last weekend he should probably put a pause on his burgeoning acting career and concentrate on his coaching. Racing to win.

Toulon vs London Irish

Thinsgs are going horribly wrong at London Irish and unfortunately the pain is likely to continue against a buoyant Toulon. Who’s going to stop the French teams? Not London Irish anyway.

Otherwise, Leicester are going to have a fight on their hands with Perpignan, hard one to call that, Leicester with home advantage I guess.

Heineken Cup

Friday , December 17

Biarritz vs Aironi Rugby 18:00

Racing Metro 92 vs Saracens 20:00

Saturday , December 18

Toulouse vs Glasgow 13:30

Bath vs Ulster 13:30

Benetton Treviso vs Scarlets 13:30

Ospreys vs Munster 15:30

Toulon vs London Irish 15:30

Leinster vs Clermont Auvergne 17:45

Sunday , December 19

Wasps vs Newport-Gwent D'gons 13:00

Edinburgh vs Castres 14:00

Leicester vs Perpignan 15:00

Cardiff Blues vs Northampton 15:00

More Heineken Cup fixtures

Amlin Challenge Cup

Thursday , December 16

Stade Francais vs Bucuresti 19:45

Friday , December 17

Connacht vs Harlequins 19:00

Saturday , December 18

Agen vs Rovigo 13:30

Cavalieri Prato vs Bayonne 14:00

Bourgoin vs Montpellier 19:45

Sunday , December 19

Cetransa El Salvador vs Petrarca 11:00

Rugby Parma vs Leeds Carnegie 13:30

Newcastle vs Exeter 15:00

Sale vs Brive 15:00

Gloucester vs La Rochelle 17:45

Monday, December 13, 2010

Good Heineken Cup Rugby Weekend - unless you were Biarritz or a Sky Reporter!

Brendan Venter Photo from:
This was a great rugby weeknd - unless you were a Biarritz supporter or a Sky news reporter. Good weekend for France with 6 wins, two each for Engalnd and Ireland, one each for Wales and Italy, and Scotland failed to trouble the scorer.

Ulster 22 - 18 Bath

This was a bizarre match with 3 turn over tries – both teams seemed to be trying their hardest to throw it away. You score – no your turn, I insist. I was very impressed by the Ulster front row as Botha and Court destroyed Flatman and Wilson. Ulster’s SA stars Muller, Pienaar, Wannenburg shone as did their home grown talent of Tuohy, Ferris and Trimble. Ulster need more incision in midfield but their scrum is as good as any now. Bath are just out of luck at the moment, Bannahan looked dangerous (well he can’t help looking dangerous with those tattoos can he?) and that was it.

Saracens 21 - 24 Racing Metro 92

The talking point of this match is now Brendan Venter’s post match interview which has already passed into legend. Pity because it wasn’t a bad match at all, lit up by a scorching try from Sireli Bobo. Brad Barrett scored a try which was just as well as it cancelled out his gift to Racing in the first half. Chabal was in impressive caveman form. He can be a grumpy fecker too!

This is Brendan Venter's interview after the Racing match. I think he's trying to protest at the fines for criticizing the refs. Have to say it’s typical though. Can’t be MY fault we lost. The players won’t like it if I blame them. THE REF! IT’S HIS FAULT!
Northampton 23 - 15 Cardiff Blues

Again the match was overshadowed by Romain Poite’s yellow card frenzy, you only had to look at him sideways and you were gone. The lights went out as well, and somewhere in the middle of that - some rugby was even played as well. It was a decent match , Cardiff gave it their all but probably a fair result in the end.

Munster 22 - 16 Ospreys

This was a massively confrontational match, played with skill and passion, and went down to the wire, with the Ospreys in the match until the final minute. Cheeky Tommy Bowe pinched a try for the visitors and Phillips and Holah were mightily impressive although Holah’s involvement does make a mockery of the citing process. Paul O’Connell had a short lived cameo before being given a straight red for a swinging arm. Stand out players for me were Paul Warwick, and Ronan O’Gara (second half). Munster won, Ospreys got their losing bonus point so it was a fair result all round.

Clermont Auvergne 20 - 13 Leinster

Hat’s off to Leinster for an Herculean effort against Clermont Auvergne taking the loss but getting a losing point. It was mortal combat, brutal hand to hand warfare, with both teams going at it hammer and tongs, no quarter given or asked for. Leinster started well with a try from Shane Horgan who’s hit a rich vein of form and Clermont scored two in reply. Clermont are a massive team, Rougerie is an absolute animal in midfield and they’re not just big they’re skilled too. Leinster stood up to their physicality, with good matches for Mike Ross, O’Malley and D’Arcy. Bring on next week!

Harlequins 20 - 9 Connacht

Quins were too strong for Connacht as expected but they found it far tougher than they expected. To me, Connacht need to find more inspiration in midfield, as they are more than competent everywhere else.

London Irish 13 - 19 Toulon

Exiles are all over the place at the moment, that’s six losses on the trot now. They won’t be looking forward to the rematch either.

Out of the rest, Leeds got a good win, and so did Exeter, I’d say the most Irish team in the Premiership now. Biarritz, hang your heads in shame, and teh Tigers did well to get a losing bonus point.

Heineken Cup

Fri - 10th Dec 10

Glasgow 16 - 28 Toulouse

Sat - 11th Dec 10

Ulster 22 - 18 Bath

Aironi Rugby 28 - 27 Biarritz

Northampton 23 - 15 Cardiff Blues

Castres 21 - 16 Edinburgh

Saracens 21 - 24 Racing Metro 92

Perpignan 24 - 19 Leicester

Scarlets 35 - 27 Benetton Treviso

Clermont Auvergne 20 - 13 Leinster

Munster 22 - 16 Ospreys

London Irish 13 - 19 Toulon

Newport-Gwent D'gons 16 - 23 Wasps

Amlin Challenge

Montpellier 39 - 14 Bourgoin

Sat - 11th Dec 10

Petrarca 37 - 10 Cetransa El Salvador

Brive 18 - 9 Sale

Exeter 36 - 10 Newcastle

Bucuresti 20 - 29 Stade Francais

Rovigo 10 - 33 Agen

La Rochelle 6 - 13 Gloucester

Harlequins 20 - 9 Connacht

Bayonne 65 - 7 Cavalieri Prato

Leeds Carnegie 55 - 6 Rugby Parma

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Kiss your loved ones good bye and prepare to get square eyed! It's the return of the Heineken Cup and the Amlin Challenge Cup

Roll up, roll up, it’s the greatest show on earth! 12 Heineken Cup matches, 10 Amlin Challenge Cup matches, kiss your loved ones good bye and prepare to get square eyed! All the match details are at the bottom.

Ulster Vs Bath

Ravenhill (if they can sort out the snow) is the setting for Ulster’s match against Bath. Ulster have had a so so seaon so far and haven’t lived up to their pre season billing. We need to see all that expensive South African beef start performing now. Bath meanwhile are hovering in the bottom half of the Aviva Premiership. A good Heineken Cup run by either club would brighten their seasons up a lot. We have a red hand here, and Bath, surely rich material for the amateur humorist – red hand takes Bath? Bath take bath from red hand? I think Ulster are going to win anyway.

Munster vs Ospreys

Bring it on! These are two ultra competitive teams, both stuffed with quality internationals. The Ospreys are little weakened by Marty Holah’s two week ban for a trip (tsk tsk dirty Kiwi!) and Lee Byrnes somewhat unfortunate hand injury. Still, the Ospreylians are a formidable outfit, with Hook, Phillips and Williams in tow. It should be a hell of match as Munster look like they are at last starting to rumble, their stars like O’Connell and O’Leary are drifting back in, and Thomond Park is the graveyard of the Heineken Cup aspirations of many a European team. I think the Ospreys are going down.

Clermont Auvergne vs Leinster 

This is another mouth watering contest – if you’re a rugby fan anyway, and if you’re not, what are you doing here? Move Along! There’s history between Clermont and Irish teams, and Clermont have felt all the pain so far. They have a host of stars, none more so than their back three of Julien Malzieu, Napolioni Nalaga, and Aurélien Rougerie. If I wasn’t a Leinster supporter I’d be worried, but pah! French teams show them a bit of steel and they roll over no problem. Okay, I am worried, these guys actually won something last year for the first time ever (the T14) and French club sides, unlike their national squad, make wins at home non negotiable. Leinster are carrying a few injuries with Kearney and Fitzgerald out and O’Driscoll in doubt. It’s a cliché but it’s the dark arts up front where this match is going to be won or lost. The pressure on Jonny Sexton is going to huge as well after a night to forget last weekend in Wales. Realistically, a bonus point will make this a successful trip for Leinster.

London Irish vs Toulon

Are the Exiles going to end their slump against one of the glamour teams of France, the old stomping ground of Sonny Bill Williams and the current home of a certain English Jonny? Toulon, like most French teams, are a bit iffy away from home. Having said that, they are hovering outside the top four in the T14, and the Exiles are going to have a battle royale(see what I did there?) on their hands to contain them. Looking at form and personnel available, in this case I’m going with Toulon.

Harlequins vs Connacht

Connacht face a tricky encounter at the Twickenham Stoop. The fact that Eric Elwood and Conor O'Shea are old team mates only adds spice to the proceedings. On paper, Quins are the far stronger team, with a good share of English internationals in their midst, with Care, Monye and Easter. Fortunately Connacht don’t play their games on paper, otherwise last season would have been a disaster instead of one for the record books. Things are on the up at Connacht with their recent securing of financial stability. They have quality players of their own with the likes Fionn Carr, Sean Cronin, John Muldoon and Ian Keatley. They are always weaker away from form home though so this should be Quins.

Out of the rest, Perpignan vs Leicester should be excellent, and Saracens vs Racing Metro should be good as well. I’m tipping the Tigers and Saracens.

Heineken Cup

Friday , December 10

Glasgow vs Toulouse 20:00

Saturday , December 11

Aironi Rugby vs Biarritz 13:30

Perpignan vs Leicester 13:30

Ulster vs Bath 13:30

Scarlets vs Benetton Treviso 15:00

Saracens vs Racing Metro 92 15:30

Castres vs Edinburgh 17:45

Northampton vs Cardiff Blues 17:45

Sunday , December 12

Munster vs Ospreys 13:00

Newport-Gwent D'gons vs Wasps 13:00

Clermont Auvergne vs Leinster 15:00

London Irish vs Toulon 15:00

Amlin Challenge Cup

Thursday , December 9

Montpellier vs Bourgoin 19:45

Saturday , December 11

Bucuresti vs Stade Francais 13:00

Rovigo vs Agen 14:00

Petrarca vs Cetransa El Salvador 14:00

Exeter vs Newcastle 15:00

La Rochelle vs Gloucester 17:30

Brive vs Sale 19:45

Sunday , December 12

Leeds Carnegie vs Rugby Parma 15:00

Bayonne vs Cavalieri Prato 17:45

Harlequins vs Connacht 17:45

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Last gasp draw for Leinster, things get murky at Thomond Park, and the Ba Ba's triumph

Fergus McFadden from

Scarlets 17 - 17 Leinster

Munster 16 - 9 Cardiff Blues

Ospreys 33 - 16 Edinburgh

Scarlets 17 - 17 Leinster

I was out fishtailing in my car for most of the match and so I only caught the last ten minutes of this. Having said that, I think I saw exactly the right ten minutes. Or maybe I saw exactly the right 9 minutes, two awesome flowing tries from Leinster, followed by an absolute howler from Sexton. A legendary howler from Sexton. When he wakes up sweating in the night, he’ll see his fumble over and over again. Let’s hope that he’s got his kicking and catching blues out the way in time for next week. In the bits I saw Fergus McFadden and particularly Sean O'Brien were in hugely impressive form. O’Brien must be breaking the door down into the Ireland team.

Scarlets are an exiting looking outfit, not stuffed with Welsh stars, but stuffed with performing Welsh players.

Barbarians 26-20 South Africa

The Barbarians scored a good win here over a disjointed Springbok side. The Ba Ba’s scored three tries in the first 20 minutes through a porous defence. , then Boks made a come back in the second half to make the score look respectable. It was a second string Bok side, and apart from a good run out for Elton Jantjies, no one put their hand up for the 1st team, I’m starting to feel really old skool here though – in the olden days the touring team used to play their full team, never kick penalties, and played against mainly Northern Hemisphere players. These days it’s half strength squads, a host of overseas players, and more cautious play all round. This is the way it was:

Munster 16 - 9 Cardiff Blues

A couple of things stood out in this match. The first was the sight of Tony Buckley charging along, ball in one hand, Paul Tito upside down in the other, with another Blues player hanging on for dear life. The second was Paul O’Connell back in red on the pitch again. The third was what I didn’t get to see which was the last ten minutes of the match, as Munster built up a lead and then cannily let the fog out. The Blues could easily have scored two tries in the last 5 minutes (and probably did for all we know) and no one would have been the wiser. The commentary, as gaeilge, wasn’t shedding too much light on the proceedings either. Did Thomas O’Leary get on? I didn’t see him, but then Jonah Lomu probably made a guest appearance as well. Munster had an indifferent first half, then did enough in the second to bag the points.

So two out of two for the two Irish provinces hard enough to play, with softies Connacht and Ulster postponing their matches.


It was another glum day at the Madejski Stadium as the Tigers ran out 23-14 winners. That’s 5 losses on the trot now, come on Irish wake up! Their front row is looking extremely dodgy at this stage, can Faan Rautenbach finally be put out to pasture please?

Friday, December 3, 2010

Twitter style wrap of the Autumn internationals, the Barbarians play the Boks, and bits and pieces of Magners League and Aviva Premiership

Autumn Round Up

New Zealand

4 from 4 Nah nah nah nah nah! We’re the kings of the castle and you’re the dirty rascals! Well they are the King’s of the castle at the moment


3 from 4 They were down! They were up! Like a rollercoaster. Some of their fans threw up after the England game

South Africa

3 from 4 Strange tour, looked rubbish apart from the last game but only lost once. Are they old and tired and past it or are they going to pull a rabbit out of the hat next year?


2 from 3 Appalling against the AB’s, gritty and victorious against the Boks, so so against Samoa. Will the real Scotland stand up please?


2 from 4 Looked like they were building until the Boks ran them over. Lots of potential, on the up at eh moment.


2 from 4 Slipped up against the Boks, did OK otherwise. Can at least blame missing personnel. New Zealand match gave the country something to take their minds off the economy.


1 1/2 from 4 Have to be disappointed if you’re Welsh, should have got the Boks, should have beaten Fiji. Should be doing better.

Weekend Preview

South Africa v the Barbarians

First up, I’m impressed to see they’ve found some barbarians who don’t play for South Africa. Ohh, it’s the Barbarians, not the barbarians, now I get it! I love this fixture, open rugby tries and the spirit of rugby. It doesn’t always live up to that, of course, there are just about no Northern Hemishpere players because it’s outside the Autumn window. And the Bok team has a youthful look about it too, and there’s been far too many 3 pointers in the last few encounters. The Spirit of Rugby is now Heineken or Guinness I guess. But I’m still looking forward to it, sounds like the coaches are preparing the teams for entertainment, and weather permitting it should be great. Here’s a few snaps from training:

Magners League

Scarlets vs Leinster

The Magner’s League didn’t stop in August, it just felt like that, now the spotlight returns as Leinster visit the Parc y Scarlets – the only teams in the league hard enough to take the cold tonight! It’s a decent looking Leinster side even with a few stars missing, and most of the firepower for the Scarlets seems to be on the bench, so I’m going with Leinster.



Munster vs Cardiff Blues

The other tough teams in the league (what is it with other lightweights, scared of a bit of snow?) match up at Thomond Park. It’s an impressive looking Munster squad, excellent to see O’Connell and O’Leary back in the frame. No news yet on The Blues team but If Australia can’t win at Thomond I can’t see the blues doing it either, Munster by 8

Munster Squad

Aviva Premiership

London Irish vs Leicester

This looks like an excellent match. I haven’t seen the teams yet – I’ll have to have a look on Wikileaks as they seem to be treated with the utmost of secrecy right up until the match. I fancy Irish are going to put some manners on the Tigers, but we’ll see. Actually I won’t as I’ll be watching the Ba Ba’s.

Fri - 3rd Dec 10

19:00 Magners Lge Connacht vs Aironi Rugby

Postponed - due to frozen pitch

19:05 Magners Lge Scarlets vs Leinster

19:05 Magners Lge Ulster vs Newport-Gwent D'gons

19:30 Magners Lge Glasgow vs Benetton Treviso

19:45 Aviva Prem Sale vs Gloucester

20:00 Aviva Prem Newcastle vs Bath

Postponed - due to frozen pitch

Sat - 4th Dec 10

14:30 Barbarians v South Africa

17:00 Magners Lge Munster vs Cardiff Blues

18:30 Magners Lge Ospreys vs Edinburgh

14:30 Aviva Prem London Irish vs Leicester

Sun - 5th Dec 10

14:15 Aviva Prem Saracens vs Harlequins

15:00 Aviva Prem Leeds Carnegie vs Northampton

15:00 Aviva Prem Wasps vs Exeter