Thursday, April 28, 2011

Heineken and Amlin Challenge Cup Rugby - a right royal dust up in Paris, London, Dublin and Limerick!

I sent the wife - picture from

There’s a huge amount to look forward to this weekend, big crowds, lots of enthusiastic fans, tradition, impressive starting line ups, teamwork , fantastic ball handling skills – but enough about the royal wedding, let’s talk about rugby!

Starting with the Heineken Cup and Leinster v Toulouse, what a match in prospect! The best bit is that I’m going to be there, and Leinster’ll actually to get to hear me roaring for a change. Toulouse have a pedigree as long as your arm - record four times Heineken Cup winners, runners up twice, and with a record 17 T14 titles, it’s amazing they aren’t coming to Dublin as favourites. Looking at their record and their players – Dusatoir, Skrela, Heymans, Poitrenaud – actually I think I’ll stop doing that, it’s one scary team. But Leinster are a complete team this days, tough front row, ultra competitive loose trio, incisive backs, passionate defenders. They play smart, smart rugby, prepare well, and deliver. At home, on a roll after a good portion of the team beat England, pretty well brushed Leicester aside, I’m backing them to take this one. The BOD is going to be missing the aforementioned wedding for his Friday Captains run.

On Sunday, the Saints welcome Perpignan to the MK Stadium. This larger venue for the Saints seems to be quite an intimate cosy ground, but with one fatal flaw - soccer supporters aren’t allowed to drink if they can see the pitch apparently. This doesn’t apply to rugby, but it sounds by all reports that it’s pretty difficult to observe one of the fundamental human rights – that’s liberte´. equalite´ , and having a pint while watching a game of rugby. In the Saints/Ulster match both sets of supporters struggled manfully to deal the problem, and came through without too much hardship. No doubt the Saints/Perpignan will overcome the odds as well. And what about the rugby? Saints’ home advantage makes them favourites of course, and I think they would have been a lot more worried about playing Toulon. Also Perpignan are 9th in the T14. But I hope that doesn’t distract the Saints, Pepignan were beaten T14 finalists last year, this is a one off, and anything could happen. In particular, I don’t think the Saints are going to bully Perpignan’s forwards (one Mr Tualagi will help with that), so it’ll be interesting to see how their backs cope with slower ball. Their broken field players like Aston and Fodden are second to none, but I’d say the teams are pretty evenly matched, and this one will be decided on penalties, and is Myler the man to do that for them? Saints by a whisker.

Amlin Challenge Cup

Stade Francaise/Clermont – should be a mighty match, home advantage in France is everything, but Clermont are such an awesome team I think they’ll win this, even away from home.

Munster/Harlequins - Munster will be without POC for this match, but I don’t think that’ll be much comfort for Quins as they head for the cauldron that is Thomond Park. Munster have clicked back in to gear, they even defeated mighty Leinster a few weeks ago, and will triumph again on Saturday.


The Blues will wrap up a semi final place if they beat the Dragons, and they will.

Shark Bite

The Sharks head to Cape Town to take on the enigmatic Stormers. Likely to be a typical SA slugfest, which the boys from Durban should win.

Heineken Cup

Saturday , April 30

Leinster vs Toulouse 15:30

Sunday , May 1

Northampton vs Perpignan 15:00

Amlin Challenge Cup

Friday , April 29

Stade Francais vs Clermont Auvergne 19:45

Saturday , April 30

Munster vs Harlequins 13:00

Super Rugby

Friday , April 29

Highlanders vs Blues 19:35

Saturday , April 30

Hurricanes vs Reds 19:35

Waratahs vs Melbourne Rebels 19:40

Western Force vs Crusaders 20:05

Cheetahs vs Brumbies 19:10

Bulls vs Chiefs 17:05

Stormers vs Sharks 19:10

The Magners League

Friday , April 29

Newport-Gwent D'gons vs Cardiff Blues 16:05

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Rugby - Easter rising by the Irish provinces, the Ospreys suck, and the Sharks are the only suck proof SA side

Impressive Conor Murray (picture from )


Munster     21 79
Leinster     21 65
Ulster        21 63
Blues        20 60
Ospreys   21 59
Scarlets    21 57

It all went fairly according to plan , Ulster, the Blues, Scarlets and Leinster all won, it was the Ospreys, the new bad boys (as in not good) of Welsh rugby, who have to hang their heads in shame. Losing to Munster is no disgrace, but at home, with what was as at stake in the match, was a tiny bit of a disgrace. Jerry Collins was the villain, who gave away the penalty, that lead to the line out, that lead to the maul, that lead to the offside, that lead to the penalty, that lead to the loss.

Pretty gut wrenching for the Ospreys, but can I go wading in again will ill informed judgment, but if Hook wouldn’t stay there for a million pounds, they are not happy campers at the moment. They need players who wouldn’t move for a million pounds. The Osprey pack had a few stand out performances, Alwyn Jones looked good, but not too much was happening behind them. For Munster, Connor Murray is growing with each game and shows the home grown production line is still functioning and Felix Jones shows the Leinster academy works well too!

I saw the Ulster Connacht match too, and it was a fair result in the end. Ulster had to work for it though, they have an irritating habit of switching off at key moments in a match – just after they’ve scored for instance. Their own Cave man made the game safe in the last few minutes, and with the Ospreys losing, their future in making the playoffs is in their own hands.

Leinster’s match at Airoldi was a bit of a squad work out, but they have pretty awesome strength in depth now. A bonus point would have been nice, but a win is a win.


Leicester Tigers     21 73
Saracens               21 72
Gloucester            21 62
Northampton        21 61
London Irish         21 54
Bath                     20 53

Exiles are knackered at this stage, they fell off the pace earlier in the season and have never really come back from that. The Saints were more than they could handle, even at home. Elsewhere, Saracens got a bonus point win out of Gloucester, and Bath thumped Wasps. If my maths is right, Bath are still in contention, although they’re looking for Leeds to do them a massive favour.

Shark Bite

Sweet! Four try bonus point over the Canes! Even though I flippantly predicted it, I never really saw it coming. The Bulls sucked again, the Lions always suck, and the Cheetahs and Storemers weren’t playing so they couldn’t suck this week. And nice one by the Highlanders, beating the Crusaders! The Crusaders and the AB’s are not the same team without their DC10.

The Magners League

Saturday , April 23

Aironi Rugby 8 - 20 Leinster

Ospreys 20 - 22 Munster

Friday , April 22

Ulster 27 - 16 Connacht

Edinburgh 27 - 15 Newport-Gwent D'gons

Glasgow 29 - 37 Scarlets

Thursday , April 21

Cardiff Blues 29 - 9 Benetton Treviso

Aviva Premiership

Sunday , April 24

Saracens 35 - 12 Gloucester

Leeds Carnegie 3 - 38 Harlequins

Saturday , April 23

London Irish 20 - 26 Northampton

Wasps 10 - 43 Bath

Friday , April 22

Sale 24 - 30 Exeter

Newcastle 13 - 24 Leicester

Super Rugby

Saturday , April 23

Crusaders 18 - 26 Highlanders

Reds 19 - 15 Waratahs

Western Force 26 - 21 Bulls

Lions 30 - 34 Chiefs

Sharks 40 - 24 Hurricanes

Friday , April 22

Blues 40 - 23 Melbourne Rebels

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Rugby Easter Weekend - rough as a bear's arse Magners and Aviva final position predictions, and Henson in shock return for the Osprons!

Not hard enough to go to Rodney Parade? Picture from

Magners Predictions

75 Munster Ospreys (A) Connacht (H) Should beat Connacht 5 points, Ospreys will probably win at home, final total 80 points

61 Leinster Aironi (A) Glasgow (H) Should win both, 5 against Aironi, 4 against Glasgow, final total 70

59 Ulster Connacht (H) Dragons (A) Should beat Connacht no probs 4 points, could easily lose to Dragons, final total 63

58 Ospreys Munster (H) Aironi (A) 2 from 2, 4 against Munster, 5 against Aironi, final total 67

56 Cardiff Blues Treviso (H) Dragons (A) Scarlets (A) Blues should beat Treviso at home 4 points and win one of the other two with 4 points Final total 64 points

52 Scarlets Glasgow (A) Blues (H) Beat Glasgow 4 points, lose to the Blues final total 56.

The long and the short of it that the Dragons could well be the kingmakers here as they play both Ulster and the Blues. And if Rodney Parade was too scary a place for Mike Phillips to go to, imagine the fear and trembling in Ulster and Cardiff?

Munster are definitely through, Leinster most likely second, then two out of Ulster, the Ospreys and Cardiff Blues will make it through.

Can I just throw another scenario in? Mourad Boudjellal is the owner of Toulon, and a man who likes to get what he wants. Except he’s not getting what he wants with Toulon at the moment, 7th in the T14, and out of the Heienken Cup. With Mike Phillips rumoured to joining Toulon, it is also rumoured, mainly or possibly entirely by me that as the Ospreys cupboard is pretty now bare anyway, the Ospreys offered him a one off, ultra discounted, buy one get one free deal, where for a few extra euro they threw in the rest of the team too. This gives Boudjellal the opportunity to win a cup this year, and a handy rotational output for players.

Naming the new team is proving tricky, although the Osprons and the Toulspreys are rumoured to be the front runners. And the absolute gem in this is that Boudjellal, in a completely karmic move, is planning to shift Gavin ‘Rocky’ Henson back to the Osprons! You read it here first! Imagine Munster, Leinster & co faces’ when Jonnnyyyy and Joe van Nierkerk run out in Osprons colours! His only concern is that his players (apart from Henson of course) don’t quite have the bar brawling skills to survive in Wales.

Aviva Predictions
69 Leicester Falcons away (5), Irish at home (4) =78

67 Saracens Gloucester home (4), Harlequins away (4) = 75

62 Gloucester Saracens away (1), Sale at home (5) = 68

57 Saints Irish away (1), Leeds home (5) = 63

53 Irish Saints at home (4), Tigers away (0) 57

48 Bath play Wasps away (4), Newcastle away (5) and home (5) = 62

That’s my prediction anyway, not very cheery for the Exiles, but can’t really see them winning at Welford Road, and Saints at home is going to be hard enough in the first place

Shark Bite

The Sharks are bracing themselves for a Hurricane blowing into Durban this weekend. Note hackneyed, obvious opening sentence. The Durban men should be as fresh as the daisy after a bye last weekend, while the Hurricanes, who were nicely softened up by the burly men of Bloemfontein, should be as fresh that 4 week old kipper you sewed into the back of the couch before you left your last digs. So knock yourself out boys, and help yourselves to 5 points.

The Magners League

Thursday , April 21

Cardiff Blues vs Benetton Treviso

Friday , April 22

Ulster vs Connacht 19:05

Edinburgh vs Newport-Gwent D'gons 19:30

Glasgow vs Scarlets 20:05

Saturday , April 23

Aironi Rugby vs Leinster 13:30

Ospreys vs Munster 18:30

Aviva Premiership

Friday , April 22

Sale vs Exeter 15:00

Newcastle vs Leicester 18:00

Saturday , April 23

London Irish vs Northampton 15:00

Wasps vs Bath 17:30

Sunday , April 24

Saracens vs Gloucester 13:30

Leeds Carnegie vs Harlequins 15:00

Super Rugby

Friday , April 22

Blues vs Melbourne Rebels 19:35

Saturday , April 23

Crusaders vs Highlanders 19:35

Reds vs Waratahs 19:40

Western Force vs Bulls 20:05

Sharks vs Hurricanes 17:05

Lions vs Chiefs 19:10

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Weekend rugby - A one, a one, a one two three! In the Magners! Munster, Leinster, Ulster.

Shaggy! Picture from


On Friday I caught the second half of the Connacht/Pinks match. And I don’t want to sound preachy or anything but I did warn Connacht not to make Bradley Davis cross. And did they listen? No, and of course, he got angry, hulked out and scored the try that sealed the match for the Pinks. The Blues came in to the second half behind, but they soon had Connacht on the back foot, indiscipline told and two yellow cards later the match was gone. The second was a bit unlucky though. One thing you have to say about Connacht is that they aren’t going to die wondering, they give it full tilt all the time, and their physicality is top notch. The Dragons/Ospreys match sounded pretty good – not a night to remember for the Ospreys. And Mike Phillips not playing because Rodney Parade was a ‘hostile place to go to’. Now I don’t know all the background, but when did ignorance ever stop you having a good opinion? My two cents worth is maybe that’s why the Ospreys don’t reach the heights they want to, they should stop feckin’ around and just play rugby. Hostile place? Please!

Saturday I watched a bit of the Munster match and I wasn’t blown away. Munster fielded pretty well an academy side, bolstered by a bit of crucial experience, and Scarlets, with 8 internationals on the pitch, at home, should have taken them. I could understand why Munster weren’t firing on all cylinders with such a young side, and for them it was a good win. What was Scarlet’s excuse though?

Then the big match of the weekend for me, the Leinster Ulster Derby. Ulster brought as strong a team as they could muster, while Leinster rested a few of their top stars, and introduced other from the bench. O’Malley and McFadden looked sharp in the centres, Shane Horgan is in amazing form, and Sexton, Strauss and Nacewa just get better and better. For Ulster, Craig Gilroy is a star in the making, and Rory Best is playing out of his skin at the moment. There was a fair dose of derby argy bargy, but what else would you expect? Good win for Leinster, and good to see Ulster never lying down, playing to the end, desperate to try and get even one point out of the match.

Can I be smug for the Irish teams, in one two and three?


Sale had a record 15000 crowd to watch this match, who got to see a 5 point win by London Irish. Things are looking up for the Exiles, sitting in 5th place and looking to get in to the play offs. Steffon Armitage scored in the last minute to get the bonus point. Elsewhere Gloucester got a good draw against Leicester.

Super Rugby

The Sharks didn’t play this weekend, but the smell from the South African teams is not good. The Bulls look shagged – they all look shagged. Just in time for the World Cup.

The Magners League

Saturday , April 16

Benetton Treviso 19 - 16 Glasgow

Scarlets 6 - 13 Munster

Leinster 34 - 26 Ulster

Friday , April 15

Newport-Gwent D'gons 32 - 28 Ospreys

Connacht 12 - 26 Cardiff Blues

Edinburgh 32 - 15 Aironi Rugby

Super Rugby

Sunday , April 17

Brumbies 19 - 27 Western Force

Saturday , April 16

Blues 31 - 17 Waratahs

Reds 39 - 30 Bulls

Lions 19 - 33 Stormers

Cheetahs 47 - 50 Hurricanes

Friday , April 15

Chiefs 16 - 34 Crusaders

Melbourne Rebels 18 - 40 Highlanders

Aviva Premiership

Sunday , April 17

Wasps 51 Leeds Carnegie 18

Saturday , April 16

Bath 19 - 15 Harlequins

Leicester 41 - 41 Gloucester

Exeter 12 - 33 Saracens

Sale 20 - 34 London Irish

Friday , April 15

Newcastle 15 - 22 Northampton

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Weekend rugby - Stand up for the Leinster men, and watch out for Bradley Davies!

Don't make him angry... picture from

Without any Heineken Cup on, I get my life back to a certain extent – the trials and tribulations of being a rugby supporter and making yourself watch four quarter finals! The things I put myself through! Anyway, there is still a full list of activities to look forward to.


Connacht take on the Blues at the Showgrounds. I think I count 8 internationals in the Blues starting 15 so they should win, although Connacht should give them a good game. Just a tip for the Connacht lads though – if you’re going to pick a fight with anyone, I’d stay clear of Bradley Davies, it sounds like he’s been putting in some out of hours practice on this aspect of his game.

The Parc y Scarlets welcomes Munster on Saturday, and the Scarlets are going to be in feisty form as they look to make the semis. They lodged a complaint against the ref for their loss against Ulster, so they are looking for one to go their way this time. Hard one to call, I actually fancy Munster, even though Wales is a hard to place to go and win, as they seem to have rediscovered their rhythm that was AWOL earlier in the season.

Ulster travel to Leinster in the evening with a tough task ahead of them as Leinster are unbeaten at home in the last 24 regular league matches. Plus they have the low of exiting the Heineken Cup versus the high Leinster are on for their good win over Leicester. Leinster really need this one as well so they can cement their place in the semi race. Lyrical gangsta or what! They’ve already sold 15000 tickets for the match, and Leinster, on a roll, and at home, should win no problem. I hope to see some of the flair that Ulster revealed last weekend, and all things being equal we could be in for some entertaining running rugby. It’s ladies night as well which’ll add to the festive atmosphere.(And on, Munster fans, it isn’t ladies night every time Leinster play at home) C’mon Leinster!


London Irish are going to be taking on Sale at the Reebok. Sale are looking to attract a big crowd to this 40000+ stadium, and I wonder how Irish are going to react to all those fans. Sale pipped Gloucester at home last outing, while the Exiles swatted the Wasps- but then anyone can beat Wasps at the moment. I’m going with London Irish.

The Magners League

Friday , April 15

Newport-Gwent D'gons vs Ospreys

Connacht vs Cardiff Blues

Edinburgh vs Aironi Rugby

Saturday , April 16

Benetton Treviso vs Glasgow 15:00

Scarlets vs Munster 18:15

Leinster vs Ulster 20:00

Aviva Premiership

Friday , April 15

Newcastle vs Northampton

Saturday , April 16

Bath vs Harlequins 14:15

Exeter vs Saracens 15:00

Leicester vs Gloucester 15:00

Sale vs London Irish 17:30

Sunday , April 17

Wasps vs Leeds Carnegie 15:00

Super Rugby

Friday , April 15

Chiefs vs Crusaders 19:35

Melbourne Rebels vs Highlanders 19:40

Saturday , April 16

Blues vs Waratahs 19:35

Reds vs Bulls 19:40

Lions vs Stormers 17:05

Cheetahs vs Hurricanes 19:10

Sunday , April 17

Brumbies vs Western Force 16:10

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Weekend rugby - two out of three ain't bad for Ireland, but cheeky Leicester lose out in the end

No, we said show him a clean pair of HEELS!

Perpignan Vs Toulon

This was a really dull in the first half. Two French teams, big crowd, dry hot day, few penalties – I want a refund! Then in the 39th minute, George Smith ( all over the field, but looking as though there is a pie shop on his road) charged down a kick and scored for Toulon. That put a bit of daylight between the teams. So in the second half Perpignan threw caution to the wind, there was lots of running rugby and I got my money’s worth. I wasn’t that convinced by either side though – certainly Toulon took no advantage of being a man up for 20 minutes, and to me didn’t really look like they thought they could win. And Perpignan, full of fumbles, bumbles and stumbles, are hardly going to strike too much fear into their next round opponents.

Leinster vs Leicester

Speaking of bumbles… In the prematch build up we heard all about how England had been blown away by Ireland at the Aviva – and how Leicester had learnt all those lessons, they were going to bring the intensity, They were going to be patient etc,etc. And of course the matches were completely different- Flood and Youngs, who froze last time they were at the Aviva… froze again. Hand on a minute haven’t we seen this before? Forwards getting outmuscled? English backs standing back and watching with interest while irish backs weave intricate patterns round them? Leicester did of course have something new to bring to the party (see picture above) but unfortunately even this showstopper did them no good. Their attack strategy seemed to be as follows:
Except they didn’t run over everybody, only round a few people which is actually when they actually made some ground.  There's not nearly enough flair or guile in the Tiger's backline at the moment. I though Jordan Crane had a reasonable match for the Tigers, and that was about it. Conventional wisdom was Leicester’s pack were going to make mincemeat of Leinster’s pack, but Leinster looked thoroughly unminced to me, it was the reverse if anything. Tiger’s lineout was a total balls up as well. For Leinster, Strauss is a gift that keeps on giving, Sexton did his thing, thought D’Arcy and O’Driscoll had the Tigers worried in attack and defended stoutly, and all hail Isa Nacewa, the man’s a legend. Oh well, at least the travelling Tigers fans got a nice day out in the sun and a decent pint of Guinness.

Northampton Saints vs Ulster

Saints went into this match as favourites, very threatening in the qualifying rounds, with several players in the England squad, and after a try in the first few minutes it looked like it was going to be a long afternoon for Ulster. Ulster though weren’t going to lie down, bided their time, chipped away with penalties, struck back with a really good try, and went into the break with an improbable lead. Jim Malinder would have been tearing his hair out if there was any left to tear. He obviously found the right words to say at half time, as Ulster didn’t trouble the score in the second half, apart from one achingly close try . The Saints worked one magic try, kicked their penalties, and came away with a comfortable win. For Ulster, Rory Best is in the form of his life – think Roman Poite was a bit confused by his accent though, and in the backs, Humphries, Danelli, Trimble and D’Arcy. For the Saints, Lawes is in fantastic form, Ashton looked dangerous and Fodden is seriously dangerous. Dylan Hartley is in a class of his own, but not for the right reasons.

Biarritz vs Toulouse

It must have been the weather in Spain – which fell mainly on the players – but this match went from the sublime to the ridiculous. The first half was all Toulouse, two absolutely perfect inventive tries, and it looked like there could only be one winner. The second half was all Biarritz’s though, grinding their way back into the game with penalties, then managing to score a try from a charge down in the last few minutes of the match to tie it all up. Then to extra time, penalty apiece, and with the scores tied up, Toulouse were going through because they’d scored two tries. But it was all laid to rest in the last 2 minutes of extra time, as Nyanga charged down Yachvili’s kick and scored under the posts. Nyanga, French international, only managing to make the Toulouse bench.

So the after the quarters, the semis will be: Semi-Final 1: Leinster v Toulouse

Saturday, 30 April - Kick-off 15.30 (14.30 GMT) - Aviva Stadium

Semi-Final 2: Northampton Saints v Perpignan

Sunday, 1 May - Kick-off 15.00 (14.00 GMT) - stadium:mk

Brive 37 - 42 Munster

This sounded like an almighty match – good on Munster for getting a hard fought away win, looking dangerous in this competition.

Shark Bite

Yes please! 4 try bonus point over the Lions, just what the doctor ordered. The rest of the SA teams were pants though.

Heineken Cup

Sunday , April 10

Northampton 23 - 13 Ulster

Biarritz 20 - 27 Toulouse

Saturday , April 9

Perpignan 29 - 25 Toulon

Leinster 17 - 10 Leicester

Amlin Challenge Cup

Saturday , April 9

Brive 37 - 42 Munster

Friday , April 8

Stade Francais 32 - 28 Montpellier

Harlequins 32 - 22 Wasps

Thursday , April 7

La Rochelle 13 - 23 Clermont Auvergne

Super Rugby

Saturday , April 9

Crusaders 27 - 0 Bulls

Brumbies 17 - 16 Hurricanes

Western Force 3 - 31 Waratahs

Sharks 27 - 3 Lions

Stormers 6 - 19 Reds

Friday , April 8

Highlanders 24 - 21 Cheetahs

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Heineken Cup Quarters - the WWE comes to rugby and the French in Spain

Heineken Cup

In the Anglo-Irish half of the tournament we get the grudge rematch of that Grand slam final – only this time it’s personal – and some of it’s in Milton Keyes!

Laaaadies and genelman, in the blue corner we have the disputed cruiser weight champion of the world, the elusive, the effusive, Big Boss Man Blue Magic, taking on the veteran Hulk ‘Tiger’ Hogan, hailing from sunny little Ingerland, and the second part of this double header sees the heavyweight Northampton ‘British Bulldog’ do battle with the one, the only, Sttttttone Cold Ulster.

There are four big matches in the quarters, but being only slightly biased, Leinster versus Leicester is the biggest. Leinster have arguably played some of the most attractive rugby in tournament so far, and now they get to take on the English league leaders, in the same stadium and against many of the same players whose Grand slam hopes were dashed just two weeks ago. Leinster lost last weekend, but hey, you have to respect your elders and give the old codgers a break now and again. This week it is going to see the return of the blue steel that swept away Racing, Clermont and Saracens. Well it had bloody better do anyway! Leicester are a formidable team, with a point to prove after the 6 Nations, and no doubt in need of a bit of payback after losing out two years ago in Edinburgh. I really can’t wait, and the big moment seems to bring out the best in Leinster so I’m going with them.

Then Saints entertain Ulster at the imaginatively named StadiumMK (hint – it’s in Milton Keyes). Northampton have a strong team stuffed with internationals, and a much better recent record in the Heineken Cup than Ulster. After being the first Irish side to win the Heineken Cup in’99 and then going 4 years without being beaten at home, Ulster have had no Heineken joy in the last few years. This game is likely to be marked by bone crunching physicality, and it’s going to require a supreme defensive effort for Ulster to keep out the likes of Aston and Fodden. OK, they do have Ruan ‘Superman’ Pienaar on their side, but this could be a bridge to far even for him. Much as I support the Ulstermen, I reckon the Saints are going to take this one.

Here’s one for all you trivia fans – where are two of the four Heineken Cup matches going to be played this weekend? Yes that’s right, Spain, as we see the Catalan influence on French rugby with both Perpignan and Biarritz taking their home matches to Spain and bigger stadiums. Four French team, only two will emerge out of this round – doesn’t seem fair does it? Ah shame! I’m not going to pretend to have an in depth knowledge of French rugby, apart from the fact that all the clubs operate on the budget of a small European country, and I guess what you pick up from going goggle eyed watching HCup. On current form Perpignan/Toulon looks like a pretty evenly match, being only 2 points apart in the T14. Perpignan are at home, which counts for a huge amount in France, and while they’re not doing so well in the T14 this year, they have a rich rugby history. Toulon are literally the nouveau riche in French rugby, very talented players, but away from home and still paying their dues in experience, this is going to be Perpignan.

Biarritz/Toulouse – this is a rematch of last seasons final, but Biarritz have home advantage this year. Biarritz’ll be keen to avenge last seasons loss, and I know that home advantage is massive in France, but Toulouse are in awesome form, top of the T14, and stuffed with players you’d give your right arm for. I’m going for Toulouse to be the team to buck home advantage and come away with a win.

I'd expect a rejuvenated Munster to sort out Brive in the Amlin - given Brives lowly standing T14. Hope they don't take it too lighlty though, you know what they say about the French at home...

Shark Bite

C’mon the Sharks! Three losses on the trot, this season is going pear shaped fast! The Lions have adopted their traditional dire early season form (as opposed to their dire mid season and end of season form). Don’t let this be the match they manage to turn the corner! Sharks by 10

Heineken Cup

Saturday , April 9

Perpignan vs Toulon 15:30

Leinster vs Leicester 18:00

Sunday , April 10

Northampton vs Ulster 13:30

Biarritz vs Toulouse 16:15

Amlin Challenge Cup

Thursday , April 7

La Rochelle vs Clermont Auvergne 19:45

Friday , April 8

Stade Francais vs Montpellier 19:45

Harlequins vs Wasps 19:45

Saturday , April 9

Brive vs Munster 13:00

Super Rugby

Friday , April 8

Highlanders vs Cheetahs 19:35

Saturday , April 9

Crusaders vs Bulls 19:35

Brumbies vs Hurricanes 19:40

Western Force vs Waratahs 20:05

Stormers vs Reds 17:05

Sharks vs Lions 19:10

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Weekend Rugby and a bit of humble pie as Munster triumph

Get well soon Pauley

Mmmm, nothing like cold humble pie, eaten the day after! Leinster travelled across to Limerick, looking to extend their 5 match unbeaten run against their old nemesis, Munster. It goes without saying that the atmosphere was electric, a sell out crowd, flags, banners, a sea of red broken by three thousand brave blue patches who made the trip to support Leinster. And it was a classic of it’s kind, hard and uncompromising with the intensity of an international. The only blight on the match was Paul O’Connells injury.The teams matched each other penalty for penalty at the start of the first half, and Leinster were in the ascendancy by the end of the first half, with a good set move try and a Munster man in the bin.

I don’t know what was said in the changing room at half time, but safe to say the only blue thing in the Munster changing room was the air, and several passing sailors were seen blushing. The Munstermen girded their loins, dug deep, and came roaring back in the second half, blowing Leinster away in a stunning come back. Does this mean that after 5 attempts the Munstermen can finally claim the ladyboy title from Leinster?

For Leinster, Nacewa was in irrepressible form, Strauss was never found wanting, Ross was solid as a rock, Sexton coolly kicked his kicks, and Hines was everywhere. For Munster, their loose trio looked livelier than Leinster’s, it was a victory born and made up front, sealed by the boot of Ronan O’Gara.

What does this mean for the provinces? Leinster need to remember they have to do the hard work first before they can play their razzmatazz rugby, and there’s a time and a place for that as well. There’s also a time to pin the other team back in the corner when you’re trying to defend a slender lead. For Munster, their heart is never in doubt, they need to deliver their second half intensity for the whole match, and somewhere along the way they need to sign some centres who can create the gaps to score some tries.

At Ravenhill, Ian Humphries scored two good tries for Ulster, as the Ulstermen further extended their winning streak. They are still playing loose and fancy free though, and I don’t think that Northampton will be losing any sleep over anything they’ve seen in the last few weeks. Connacht scored a four point bonus win over Edinburgh in their fetching grey strip (not), bringing them up to a very respectable 7th in the table.Exiles


Oh yeah! Exiles continue their winning streak with a 25 – 12 win over Wasps. It was the Tom Homer show as he kicked 5 penalties to see Irish home. That takes them up to 5th and keeps them in with a shout of the play offs.

Shark Bite

The force has deserted the Sharks for the moment as they were battered by the Stormers at home this week. That’s three losses on the trot now, and a lot of the early season optimism is beginning to fade. They really need to get Lambie back, he seems to be their talisman. In Springbok terms, at least the Bulls have woken up, and the Stormers are the top team.

Magners League
 Sunday April 3

Dragons 33 – Treviso 10

Saturday , April 2

Aironi Rugby 16 - 17 Glasgow

Ospreys 21 - 21 Cardiff Blues

Munster 24 - 23 Leinster

Friday , April 1

Ulster 20 - 18 Scarlets

Connacht 27 - 23 Edinburgh

Aviva Premiership

Sunday , April 3

London Wasps 12 - London Irish 25
Leeds Carnegie 27 - 22 Exeter
Saracens 20 - 9 Bath

Saturday , April 2

Northampton 53 - 24 Sale

Gloucester 34 - 9 Newcastle

Harlequins 13 - 17 Leicester Super Rugby

Saturday , April 2

Blues 29 - 22 Cheetahs

Hurricanes 14 - 26 Bulls

Western Force 25 - 26 Melbourne Rebels

Sharks 6 - 16 Stormers

Lions 25 - 30 Reds

Friday , April 1

Highlanders 26 - 20 Brumbies

Waratahs 23 - 16 Chiefs