Sunday, May 29, 2011

Magners and Aviva Finals - it's short and sour this week. Grumble grumble grumble!

David Wallace Picture from

Well, it’s going to short and sour this week, with results and scheduling not going my way. First of all, I sit down in front of the TV on Saturday at quarter to three, crack my knuckles, and put the Aviva Premiership final, not in expectation of any running rugby, but some entertainment anyway. Except it doesn’t seem to be on Sky sports 1,2,3 or 4. That’s odd. That’s because it was on bloody ESPN! Which I haven’t bothered to shell out for, because one sports channel is indulgence enough, and Sky always make out like they own the thing, that thing being Premiership rugby. Saracens managed to edge that one by the sounds of things, and fair play to them, their first Premier League title ever, about time some new blood was injected into the system.

Then it was the Magners League final, where Leinster came, they saw, they survived the gangs, but they feckin’ missed out on the double after being pretty comprehensively outplayed by fierce rivals Munster. It was a very Munster win by the men in red, born in the forwards, just hard physical simple rugby, keeping it tight, playing for territory, and grinding Leinster down. Leinster had one bright spell at the start of the second half when they looked like they might do something, but even then several periods of sustained pressure couldn’t get them over the line. Heaslip, O’Brien, O’Driscoll all seemd to lack the fire that saw them home last week. I was impressed by McFadden, but everyone else had a pretty quiet day at the office for the men in blue. Wallace was exceptional on his 200th appearance, and good to see Paul O’Connell back in form, and young players like Jones and Murray are only going to get better. Here are the gory details for the Leinster masochists among us:

Actually moment of the match was BOD, jumping up, shrugging off a medic, and putting in a tackle.
That’s domestic rugby over for the season then, and what a result for Ireland – Heineken Cup Champions, top three in the Magners and Magners Champions, Ulster in the last eight of the H Cup, and Connacht in the H Cup next year.

Shark Bite

Yes please! The Sharks squeaked past the ‘Tahs to win – thank heavens for jet lag! Amazing weekend, for SA teams, first win by the Lions in NZ in living memory, and the Stormers and the Bulls won too.

Magners League

Munster 19 - 9 Leinster

Aviva Premiership

Saturday , May 28

Leicester 18 - 22 Saracens

International Match

Sunday , May 29

England 32 - 38 Barbarians

Super Rugby

Reds 17 - 16 Crusaders

Highlanders 22 - 26 Lions

Sharks 26 - 21 Waratahs

Bulls 32 - 21 Cheetahs

Brumbies 3 - 16 Stormers

Friday , May 27

Hurricanes 34 - 28 Western Force

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Rugby Finals Weekend - Leinster plan to be on the cider, and the Tigers get ready to storm Twickenham

Brian and his trophy wife (sorry Amy)

Magners League Final

Now that The Best Team in Europe © has been decided (and it’s Leinster in case you’re wondering) , time to work out who’s the best in the Magner’s League. This is the first year of the Magners League with the Italian teams in the competition, and the last with Magners as the sponsor, as Fiat take over next year. Leinster and Munster have each one it twice, so one of them (see how fair I’m being here) is going to join the Ospreys on three wins. Leinster amazingly came out the cauldron of the Millennium Stadium without any injuries – I suppose they only played in the second half so that probably helped. Maybe they had one eye on the Magners’ after all! We all know how Leinster can play, the question is, who’s going to play on Saturday, the first half team or the second half team? My feeling is that they have momentum now, and as long as they don’t underestimate Munster they should win, and claim a rare double.

How Munster are going to play is a lot harder to predict. I’d pinpoint their loss to Quins as a hugely influential factor for them. Thomond Park has been a fortress for them now just about forever, so to lose there to a team they don’t rate, has hit their confidence hard. Then on top of that, the lady boys of Leinster go and win the Heienken Cup! I think a mixture of uncertainty in their own ablilty, and undoubted respect for Leinster’s achievements are going to play with their heads for the match. I have a lot of respect for Munster, they have a very talented players, and are fearsome at home. Leinster are going to need to give them that respect as well if they want to beat them. For Munster, I’d like to see them give their promising youngsters their head, player like Felix Jones and Connor Murray need to be brought into the game as much as possible, those are the sparks that can ignite them. And at the end of the day, if things don't work out, second to Leinster is no disgrace is it? Couldn't help myself there!

For the sake of my heart, if you it’s Ok with you lads, I know the comeback against Northampton was amazing, but would mind beating Munster without too much drama this weekend?

Aviva Premiership

Twickenham is the venue as last year’s finalists Leicester and Saracens get to lock horns again. I don’t get to watch a huge amount of Premiership rugby, partly because the TV rights are fragmented, and partly because there’s so much other rugby on. When I do get to watch, London Irish are my team, but I also like to watch the Saints, who, in my mind, play some of the most attractive looking rugby in the league, with Bath and Quins also up there. Attractive isn’t the first word that springs to mind when I think of Leicester or Saracens, brutally efficient is closer to the mark. Saracens seem to live off their defense, and hit teams on the counter attack, while the Tigers put the opposition through a cement mixer and then drive over them with a tank, which can be enjoyable in it’s own way. I don’t really see anyone except the Tigers winning this, they have the players, have the confidence and finished top because they are the most consistent team in the tournament. Would have loved to have seen an Irish/Saints final, but there you go.

The Baa Baa’s match looks like it could be a bit of fun.

Shark Bite

The Sharks have a go at the Waratahs this week – hmmm, I wonder what’s going to happen there? The men from Sydney are going to be straight off the plane, so this could be an opportunity for the Sharks to keep working on their play off place. The Sharks could be level with the Crusaders if they do well! I think they’ll win but not with a bonus point.

Magners League

Saturday , May 28

Munster vs Leinster 17:05

International Match

Sunday , May 29

England vs Barbarians 14:30

Aviva Premiership

Saturday , May 28

Leicester vs Saracens 15:00

Super Rugby

Friday , May 27

Hurricanes vs Western Force 19:35

Saturday , May 28

Highlanders vs Lions 19:35

Brumbies vs Stormers 19:40

Sharks vs Waratahs 17:05

Bulls vs Cheetahs 19:10

Sunday , May 29

Reds vs Crusaders 16:10

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Heineken Cup Final 2011 - Leinster blow the Saints away in the best comeback since Lazarus.

Picture from

Adjective Alert – for the week and the weekend that was in it, don’t be surprised to see the odd superlative crop up – fantastic, fabulous, outstanding etc etc. Unbelievable is probably the most apt to describe this Heineken Cup final. At half time I was whistling for the dogs and looking for their leads, muttering under my breath and getting ready for a week long sulk. Leinster were unbelievably dire in the first half, their scrum was a shambles, and the rest of their play was a collection of foul-ups, bleeps and blunders. My blood pressure was rising faster than the Saints’ scoreline. And of course, if I had given up and taken the dogs for a walk, I would have missed one of the great rugby comebacks of all time, because dire as they were in the first half, Leinster were unbelievably brilliant in the second half.

Northampton played the first half very astutely – gaining dominance in the scrum, kicking for field position, sucking up defenders and then getting the ball wide to their danger men. I don’t think even they could believe how they were dominating Leinster, and everything went their way – the ball rolled well for them, and they managed to outscore Leinster 7-3 during Mujati’s sinbinning. They finished the half 22-6 up, and the match was all but one. Tonga'uiha, Hartley and Mujati had propelled the team into touching distance of the cup.

Then it was half time, with Leinster dragging their sorry arses to the dressing room, while the Saints walked on air to get there. What exactly happened at half time in the Leinster changing room will forever be subject to conjecture. Greg Feek their former All Black front row coach, obviously sat the Healy, Strauss and Ross and gave them the wisdom of the ages to know how to cope with Saints’ 1,2 and 3. Joel Schmidt made a few long overdue introductions – ‘Brian, this is Gordan, Jonny, this is Eoin’, gave some really insightful advice ( When you run, carry the ball in TWO hands), and they session ended with a group hug and a rousing version of the Glee version of Journey’s ‘Don’t Stop Belivin’. In all seriousness, it sounds like Jonny Sexton gave the most amazing motivational speech that in my opinion marks him out as future Leinster and Ireland captain.

Sexton was also at the heart of the Leinster explosion that blew the Saints away in the second half. He scored two tries, kicked the conversions, kicked the penalties – there weren’t any limit to his talents. Leinster imposed their game on Northampton, and the Saint’s couldn’t live with it, couldn’t find the answers to the relentless waves of attacks. Shane Jennings was a revelation and an inspired substitution, and Sean O’Brien, Heaslip, Strauss, Shaggy and Nacewa all stood up to be counted. But for me, the whole foundation for the victory was laid in the front row, lads who don’t often get a mention in this blog (except in the same sentence as ‘pie shop’. ) Healy, Strauss and Ross, take a bow, you did you did your province proud. The whole team did.

It must be absolutely gut wrenching for the Saints, in line for a double, then to have it all snatched away from you. Ben Fodden was outstanding, as was Lawes, and they have a host of young players that as the years go by are going to get them back into the Heineken Cup Final and get themselves into the England team – players like Clarke, Dickson and Dowson.

The whole thing was a humbling experience, going from the depths of despair of despair to the elation of victory. Leinster’s victory means that Connacht get to play Heineken Cup Rugby next year, which is a fabulous result for them. And with the Queen playing a blinder in Ireland, it’s been quite a week for the country. I’m still pinching myself, unbelievable is without doubt the best description of this match.
Two Heineken Cups in three seasons, it doesn’t get better much than that.

In the Amlin Challenge Cup, Harlequins picked Stade’s pocket in the last few minutes of the match to score a try and win. I thought this was going to be more entertaining than the Heineken Cup, but both teams had a safety first approach, and in the end when Quins had no option but to throw caution to thewind and go for it, their bravery was rewarded with a try. Is this the start of the Quins’ climb back to the top? Danny Care was the dandy highwayman who provided the spark to see them home. Stade should have won that match for all money, but fair play to Quins.

Shark Bite

The Sharks were absolute pants in their loss to the Bulls, from my Twitter view of the match. ‘Alberts drops the ball AGAIN’ was the most frequently tweeted comment. If you can’t beat a so so Bulls team you aren’t going to get very far are you?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Heineken Cup Final Special 2011 - are the Saints going to be marching to the tune of the Blues?

Heineken Cup Special!

This is it, le grande frommage, 42 matches played in the build up, only one winner on Saturday. Looking back, Toulouse have won the Heineken Cup a record four times, while Munster, Leicester Tigers and London Wasps have won it twice each. Leinster have won it once, and so have the Saints. Cardiff are the only Welsh side to have played in a final, which they lost, and Scotland and Italy have never had a team in the final. Romain Poite is the ref, and the Millenium Stadium is the venue.

Northampton are going to be gunning for Leinster – they were savagely beaten by Leicester Tigers last weekend and winning the Heineken Cup would the prefect tonic for that. Also a number of their players were denied the grand slam in England colours by a very Leinster flavoured Ireland in the Six Nations. Most importantly, they have to avenge Ireland’s slighting of Blue in the Eurovision, after the UK generously gave their douze points to Jedward, while all Ireland could come up for Blue was a measly 6 points. The Queen is bound to have a word this week as well. So it’s going to be revenge, and redemption on the Saints’ mind this Saturday.

Leinster come into the match with a few injury worries, notably BOD, and Richardt Strauss. They’re also carrying the burden of favourites, which hasn’t always worked for them in the past. How do things get decided anyway, who the favourite is? The teams look pretty evenly matched to me. I see the major threats to Leinster as:

1. Northampton’s front row – They have been making mincemeat of most teams this season, and I wouldn’t pick Leinster’s front row as major strength. But Tonga'uiha and Mujati are no strangers to the pie shop, so if Leinster keep the pace up, these lads will start to puff.

2. Discipline – The Saints’ will be all over Leinster like a cheap suit – Hartley and Downey are going to be pushing the boundaries the whole match. This could be yellow cards for Leinster if they react, or it could go the other way as well, depending on how Poite refs the match

3. Careful kicking – Ashton and Fodden are pure dynamite for the Saints, so Leinster need to avoid kicking to them in broken field play – that means kicking the ball into the stands, and chasing up all their kicks.

Leinster’s 9,10.12,13 and 15 are going to have to play as well as they ever have to pierce that Saint’s defence, this is the key is for me - they can, and they will. Leinster by 3. Going to be hanging off the edge of my seat and shouting the house down for this one!

Amlin Chalenge Cup

I can see an almighty clash coming up here. Sure the rugby is going to tough, but the pink of Stade against that Harlequins pattern? On paper, Stade have a much stronger squad than Harlequins. Looking at their league finishes, Stade finished a very disappointing 11th in the T14, while Quins were 7th in the premiership. Stade’s coach Michael Cheika has tasted the big time already with Leinster in the Heineken Cup and Stade won the T14 in 2007. Quins don’t have the cups to back up the quality of their squad, but on their day they can beat anyone. The odds are heavily stacked in Stade Francaise’s favour, but who knows with the French, they’re not the world’s greatest travellers. On this occasion, I see the men in pink prevailing.

Shark Bite

The Sharks scoffed a horse on their last outing, does a Bull have any better chance? The Bulls got biblical on the Rebels arses last weekend, but these are pretty puny rebels it has to be said. With Lambie playing, I’d say the Sharks are going to take this one. Probably should end it that with I hope, but lets see.

Amlin Challenge Cup

Friday , May 20

Harlequins vs Stade Francais 19:45

Heineken Cup

Saturday , May 21

Leinster vs Northampton 17:00

Super Rugby

Friday , May 20

Blues vs Stormers 19:35

Saturday , May 21

Crusaders vs Chiefs 08:30

Waratahs vs Lions 19:40

Western Force vs Brumbies 20:05

Cheetahs vs Melbourne Rebels 17:05

Sharks vs Bulls 19:10

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Magners and Aviva Rugby - Leinster and Munster progress, and the fighting Tigers will meet Saracens

Honest he ducked in to it! (Picture )

The RDS was bathed in sunshine when the Ulstermen came to town. Well it was in the second half when I tuned in anyway. What I saw was hugely competitive and physical Ulster pounding away at a committed Leinster defense. Not very successfully it has to be said. They could really do with a few game breakers in mid field, and then they are going to be a complete team. Leinster just have more tricks in their bag – the can defend at ease for long period, but when they get into the zone they make it count. Luke Fitzgerald sprinted in for a blistering try, looking as good as he’s ever looked again, while Mr Relatable, Fergus McFadden delivered in the first half. Leinster’s scrum creaked a bit, but they made quite a few substitutions through the match so that didn’t help. That was a comprehensive victory over one of the form teams in the league, so job well done. The only concern will the sight of BOD and Richardt Strauss hobbling off, SOB got roughed up a bit, and Reddan seemed to come on pretty early.

I caught the first half of Munster v the Ospreys and it always looked to me like Munster were going to win it. They’re not as patient as they used to be, they were camped down on the Ospreys line for ages, but little errors seemed to stop them from dominating the match like they should have. Two tries from young centre Danny Barnes sealed it for them. The Ospreys looked disjointed and rarely threatened to do anything except brain themselves against the Munster defence. So it’s going to be an all Irish final at Thomond Park in two weeks time.

Aviva Premiership

Saturdays' Tigers/Saints match was the only whole match I watched all weekend. The stand out moment of the match was Manu Tuilagi heavyweight blow to Chris Ashton’s head. Now Ashton isn’t one of favourite players, but hat’s off to him for getting up at all in the first place, and more than that carrying on playing. There’s no place for that in rugby, and if the officials had seen the punch would have been a straight red for Manu. The Saints are an abrasive team, with players like James Downey, and Dylan Hartley always pushing the line. Tigers gave back as good as they got, and that just about shut the Saints down – i didn’t really notice Ashton (apart from his one sided bought with Manu) and Fodden was pretty quiet too. The intensity of the match was fantastic, but it wasn’t the greatest spectacle in the world. The Tigers march on.

I didn’t see Saracens/Gloucester, but four penalties and a two point win isn’t really going to scare the Tigers is it? The Aviva seems to be about being the biggest and the toughest team, and the Tigers the biggest, baddest meanest muthas in the whole damn championship.

Super Rugby

A few shock results here – Cheetahs and Lions not crap after all! The Lions got an overseas win against the Brumbies, and believe me, overseas wins (or any kind of win for them) are as rare as rocking horse poo. Mark their fly half Elton Jantjies as a player to watch. His sublime handling skills set up two fantastic trys. And the Cheetahs kicked the Crusaders arses! i’d have been less surprised to see Dan Carter and Ritchie McCaw announce their engagement.

Sunday , May 15

Saracens 12 - 10 Gloucester

Saturday , May 14

Leicester 11 - 3 Northampton

Super Rugby

Chiefs 30 - 23 Stormers

Brumbies 20 - 29 Lions

Bulls 47 - 10 Melbourne Rebels

Cheetahs 33 - 20 Crusaders

Friday , May 13

Highlanders 13 - 6 Hurricanes

Reds 37 - 31 Blues

Magners League

Munster 18 - 11 Ospreys

Leinster 18 - 3 Ulster

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Magners and Aviva semis - make or break time in Ireland, Wales and England

Fergus McFadden- this is what we want on Friday (picture from: )

The Magners Semis kick off at the RDS as Leinster play Ulster, hoping to make their second final in a row. On paper this is a done deal, with Leinster soaring high in the Heineken Cup, and comfortably above Ulster in the final Magners table. However, Ulster are going to be totally focused on this match, a loss here and their season is over. Leinster have more on their plates with both the Magners League and the Heineken Cup in their sights, which present a chink of opportunity for Ulster. Of course Leinster want to win both, they’d want the Amlin Challenge Cup as well if that was open to them. But if they win the Magners and lose the Heineken, in old money they are going to feel like they lost a sixpence and found a penny. I really rate Ulster as a side on the up, they have their SA contingent who are delivering in spades, they have their home grown talent shining too, and if Leinster are thinking about the Saints in this match, they are going to swoop. I’m hoping Leinster can keep their focus, think about things one match at a time, play like they did in the second half last Friday, and not stop winning until the end of the season. Leinster by 5.

On Saturday, it’s Munster’s turn to welcome the Ospreys to Thomond Park. The Ospreys have been pretty enigmatic in the last few weeks ( sounds much nicer than sh*t doesn’t it?). They’ve had their arses kicked by (takes deep breath) Edinburgh, Munster, the Dragons, and came within a whisker of seeing mighty Aironi do the same last Friday. Ospreys problem, as I delve into areas I know nothing about, is that a host of their stars are leaving – there’s a core issue there apart from filthy lucre to leave, and the players that are staying are doing to have to deal with that issue as well as the fact they are losing three big stars.

But all, in all, they are fourth in the League for their performances over the season and their current squad oozes talent. I’m sure the players leaving want to end on a high, so they are perfectly capable of winning this fixture.
Munster meanwhile, are really hard to call. I said they’d lose to Leinster at Thomond, and they beat them. Then I said the Ospreys would beat them and they won. Then I said they’d cream Quins, and they didn’t. Soooo, that wasn’t too bad, 0/3 , small room for improvement. Really the last person you want to be asking whether Munster are going to win or not is me. But I’ve never let rank ignorance get in the way of a good opinion before, so as long as they can keep focused on the game in hand and not fret too much about the next match (if they get one), they should win this easily enough.

Aviva Premiership

The big one here for me is Leicester and Northampton. And for selfish Leinster reasons. I want Leicester to win it. Firstly I want to see how they do it so we can get a few hints. My suspicion is – bully them up front. Don’t kick the ball to Ashton or Fodden. Simple really. Also a loss for them is going to dent their confidence, and make them more vulnerable for the taking in the Heineken. Northampton don’t quite seem to have the confidence in their own league that they have in Europe, and they’re playing away as well. These are two big confident teams, I hope the best one wins, and in this instance I think it’s going to the Tigers.

Saracens and Gloucester is a clash of teams that are both showing real form in the Aviva Premiership. They’ve ended up being placed where they are both for results of the season, and in particular for their form in the last 4-6 weeks. Saracens are at home and that gives them a big advantage. Their pack is pretty well faultless and allied with a mean defence, makes them a hard nut to crack. Gloucester scored 10 tries against Sale last weekend, if they score a few of those it’s going to make for a really entertaining match. I think home advantage is going to see Gloucester home though.

Magners League

Friday , May 13

Leinster vs Ulster 19:05

Saturday , May 14

Munster vs Ospreys 18:30

Aviva Premiership

Saturday , May 14

Leicester vs Northampton 15:15

Sunday , May 15

Saracens vs Gloucester 14:30

Super Rugby

Friday , May 13

Highlanders vs Hurricanes 19:35

Reds vs Blues 19:40

Saturday , May 14

Chiefs vs Stormers 08:35

Brumbies vs Lions 10:40

Bulls vs Melbourne Rebels 17:05

Cheetahs vs Crusaders 19:10

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Ireland rocks! in the Magners League, (and most other places) Tigers are tops, and the Sharks take a bite out of the Brumbies

What happens next? Picture from:

This is it, the fantastic four, or the fab three from Ireland and the fortunate one from Wales as it should really be known.

1. Munster 83

2. Leinster 70

3. Ulster 67

4. Ospreys 63

5. Scarlets 62

Munster monstered this year’s Magners, only losing three times , and Connacht slowed them down hardly at all on Friday. It was farewell for Sean Cronin, Jamie Hagan and Fionn Carr leaving for Leinster and Ian Keatley’s going to Munster. It must be really galling for Connacht to have finally built up a decent squad and then see the big boys cherry pick your stars. Alan Quinlan got a try, and could well have played his last match for Munster. Good to see this canny servant to Munster and Ireland end on a high note.

Leinster blew Glasgow away at the RDS. That’s a big victory, even if there wasn’t too much on offer for the Scots. That was a Leinster lite team as well, but the ‘lite’ players put in some heavy duty performances. How Luke Fitzgerald is first choice when Fergus McFadden is playing like that is a mystery. And he was kicking like a pro as well. I though Madigan played well with some great tactical kicking, and Kevin Mc McLaughlin was in excellent form.

Ulster broke the Dragons recent good run of results at home, scoring three tries in the first, then having a kip in the second half, but they’d already done enough to win the match. Two tries from the exciting Nevin Spence, and one from Pedrie Wannenburg sealed a semi final place for the Ulster men. The Dragons have really delivered for Ulster, beating the Ospreys and Blues in their last two matches, and then losing their spark at exactly the right moment. So it’s going to be Leinster v Ulster at the RDS next Friday for a place in the final.

The Ospreys staggered into the semis in a bewildering last day for the Welsh provinces. Aironi, bottom of the league, one win to their name went into the last few minutes in the match in the lead until Hook spared the Ospreys blushes. Both the Blues and the Ospreys have been falling over themselves to throw that lost spot away, if anyone deserved to get it was the Scarlets, who pretty well looked like they’d made it at one stage. Is it just me, or does it seem like the bigger your wage bill is in Wales, the worse you play? Munster must be bricking themselves for the semi final.

Aviva Premiership

1. Leicester Tigers 78

2. Saracens 76

3. Gloucester 67

4. Northampton 65

5. Bath 62

It was all topsy turvy in the Premiership at half time, Leeds beating the Saints and London Irish beating the Tigers. It was like some master director yelled ‘CUT’ at half time, every one read their lines again, went ‘OK, right’ and normal service was resumed. Saints threw on their A team (not THE A team) and beat Leeds pretty convincingly in the end, also consigning them to the drop (unless the Cornish Pirates do them a favour). The Tigers roused themselves and savaged the Exiles to claim top spot and a home semi. Saracens beat Quins pretty easily, with the commentators claiming that they are the ‘form’ team in the Premiership right now. Um, not if we watching the same match they aren’t. Lot’s of thud and puff but no hardly any penetration. Gloucester did a right number on Sale, and are looking good at the exactly the right time. Are you watching Cardiff Blues and the Ospreys? That’s how you do it. So it’ll be Tigers/Saints, Saracens/Gloucester, both intriguing excting matches, and Exiles – yes please!

Shark Bite

The Sharks have finally mastered the art of which half to play ( it’s the second one, boys) as they overhauled a 10 point deficit accumulated in the first half to claim a 5 point win over the Brumbies. Study the tape, and repeat until the end of the season.

Magners League

Leinster 38 - 3 Glasgow

Munster 22 - 6 Connacht

Scarlets 38 - 23 Cardiff Blues

Newport-Gwent D'gons 13 - 20 Ulster

Aironi Rugby 10 - 12 Ospreys

Benetton Treviso 31 - 6 Edinburgh

Aviva Premiership

Saturday , May 7

Northampton 31 - 24 Leeds Carnegie

Exeter 21 - 8 Wasps

Gloucester 68 - 17 Sale

Leicester 32 - 23 London Irish

Harlequins 13 - 16 Saracens

Bath 42 - 12 Newcastle

Super Rugby

Saturday , May 7

Chiefs 20 - 7 Highlanders

Waratahs 20 - 15 Western Force

Stormers 14 - 20 Crusaders

Sharks 34 - 16 Brumbies

Friday , May 6

Hurricanes 11 - 17 Blues

Melbourne Rebels 18 - 33 Reds

Lions 19 - 53 Cheetahs

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Magners League and Aviva Premiership Rugby - here's the fab four in each

Who's it going to be?

After 8 long months of the Magners , the teams round the corner, the finishing line is in site, Munster are already over the line, but the last three positions are still to be decided. Lads, what have you been doing? Talk about leaving it until the last minute! This is the league as it sits:

1. Munster 79

2. Leinster 65

3. Ulster 63

4. Cardiff Blues 60

5. Ospreys 59

6. Scarlets 57

Munster play Connacht at home and will still win even if they don’t put much of team out, they are going to be mighty sore after losing to Quins last weekend.

Mighty Leinster, Heienken Cup finalists, giants among men, (no bias here!) have Glasgow at home to clinch a home semi. The Scots are nestling comfortably at the bottom of the table, but don’t let that fool you, they definitely have the capability to beat us, so I want to see that smart blue slick Leinster machine that beat Toulouse, not the old banger that lost to Glasgow and Treviso in the first few rounds please.

Ulster need to beat the Dragons at Rodney Parade to clinch one of the remaining places in the semis, and the Blues losing there last week has done them a big favour. And lit up a massive warning sign ‘Be careful of those fiery Welshmen’. C’mon Ulster, make it a 1,2,3 for Ireland!

The Blues play the Scarlets – a 5 point win and they’re in. A 4 point win – things would really complicated as the Ospreys are sure to get 5 points against Aironi, that would leave them tied on points the Ospreys, then who would through? Anybody? Can both the Ospreys and the Blues please apply themselves to the fixture to get a clear winner and avoid a mathematical meltdown?

Aviva Premiership

The Exiles have already said slán abhaile to this years competiton, but there is still some jostling for places at the end, like a bunch of naughty schoolboys who’ve left studying until the last minute and are hoping to bluff it through now.

1. Leicester Tigers 73

2. Saracens 72

3. Gloucester 62

4. Northampton 61

5. Bath 57

Tigers are going to have to beat the Exiles to make sure they finish top, so maybe London Irish still have a say in how things turn out. However, on Exiles recent form, there won’t be too much f&t at Welford Road. Bad Boy Delon ‘Rocky’ Armitage is suspended, so we’ll leave their last words as slán abhaile after all. Tigers need to get a bonus point to secure top spot, or hope Saracens don’t overhaul their point difference.

Saracens play away to a resurgent Quins, who hopefully for Saracens will wrap their stars in cotton wool in what for them is a dead rubber. They won’t want to pick up any injuries before the Amlin Challenge Cup Final. So it should be Sarries with a 5 pointer.

Gloucester need to beat Sale to avoid the chance of getting pipped by Bath, and they shouldn’t struggle at all. Sale have been woeful this season.

The Saints need to pump Leeds, which is a pretty simple proposition. If Leeds could somehow scrape a win or get anything out of the game (apart from a ‘Welcome to Franklin Gardens’ mug) they could stay up. All I can see in my crystal ball though is pain for Leeds though, deep 5 point pain, so Saints should make up the last of the 4 places. On track for the double? Not while Leinster are around anyway.

Bath need to similarly get biblical on Newcastle’s ass and hope for a miracle at Franklin Gardens. I don’t think He’d think this warranted His attention, so Saints it is.

Shark Bite

After the Sharks were apparently outmuscled by the powder puff Stormers, I don’t know what to make of them anymore. Shark fin soup? The Brumbies are going to be thrown to the Sharks this weekend, so at least that should present an opportunity for the Durbanites to bounce back and hopefully pick up a bonus point. I just hope the Brumbies aren’t rough or rude as that seems to put the Sharks off.

The Magners League

Friday , May 6

Aironi Rugby vs Ospreys 19:05

Munster vs Connacht 19:05

Benetton Treviso vs Edinburgh 19:05

Scarlets vs Cardiff Blues 19:05

Newport-Gwent D'gons vs Ulster 19:05

Leinster vs Glasgow 19:05

Aviva Premiership

Saturday , May 7

Northampton vs Leeds Carnegie 15:00

Harlequins vs Saracens 15:00

Gloucester vs Sale 15:00

Bath vs Newcastle 15:00

Exeter vs Wasps 15:00

Leicester vs London Irish 15:00

Super Rugby

Friday , May 6

Hurricanes vs Blues 19:35

Melbourne Rebels vs Reds 19:40

Lions vs Cheetahs 18:10

Saturday , May 7

Chiefs vs Highlanders 08:35

Waratahs vs Western Force 10:30

Stormers vs Crusaders 17:05

Sharks vs Brumbies 19:10

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Heineken Cup French aristocrats get their heads chopped off by Leinster, Perpignan get royaly rogered, and Munster slip up.

I hope they saved me some wedding cake! (picture from )

Aviva Stadium was a noisy seething sea of blue, broken only very occasionally by a dab of red and black. The pitch was in great shape, it was warm, not windy and dry.The scoring started with an almighty balls up by Leinster, with the ball bouncing off the post from a penalty followed by the simplest of touch downs by Toulouse. It took a good 20 minutes for Leinster to find their rhythm after that early set back, but they clawed their way back into the lead eventually when Jamie Heaslip burrowed his way over to score. After that it was a ding dong battle with the lead changing hands several times until Brian O’Driscoll’s try sealed the win for the home side.

 On the pace for Leinster were Heaslip, O’Driscoll and D’Arcy. Off the pace was Fitzgerald, who looked like a rabbit caught in the headlights every time he got the ball. Also not at the races was Eoin Reddan whose box kicking was ordinary, who unenerringly passed to an isolated player, and if it was on on the left, he went right, and vice versa. There were also a fair amount of dropped balls and Leinster’s front row creaked, but there was awesome defense, heart in spades and bucket loads, and a steely intention to prevail. Toulouse’s scary backs never seemed to really get going, from a neutral perspective that was a pity, but it was a huge relief for me. And we’re in the final now! Sweet!

And we’re going to be facing Northampton, who must have left Perpignan feeling like they’d been sucked through a giant cement mixer. They absolutely pulverised the French, there was some deft running by the outstanding Foden, and Ashton showed a few good flashes, but this match was all about the Saints’ scrum, who basically beat 7 colours of poo out’ve Perpignan. The Saints are a team who really know how to get under your skin, they got Perpignan’s number and dialled it mercilessly until you could feel the French frustration seething out of the screen. I’m really surprised there was only one yellow card and no massive dust up. Tonga'uiha, Hartley and Mujati could be the form front row in the world right now.

Amlin Challenge Cup

Clermont went into this match as favourites (well I said they were going to win anyway). But as they discovered, even they aren’t good enough to give Stade two tries and still expect to win. The tries were both gift wrapped, presented on a silver platter and sealed with a kiss by Brent Russell. If any further proof were needed, Russell is not a fly half, has never been a fly half, and will never be a fly half. His safest bet would have been to catch a taxi from the stadium to the airport and fly straight home to SA. There was a shockingly small crowd in to watch a pretty unlikely victory for the home team, the French don’t get the Amlin Cup I don’t think. There was some good rugby played in the middle of all the gifts, but really, Clermont should have won this at a canter.

Munster’s difficult season dropped down another gear as they were beaten by Quins in front of a 25000 crowd at home. Nobody expected Quins to win, I didn’t catch the match and as a supporter of Irish rugby, the result isn’t something I wanted to see. But as bitter a pill it must be for Munster to swallow, you have to hand it to Quins, going to Thomond Park and winning is arguably one of the biggest challenges in European rugby. I fancy them in the final too now.

Cardiff put in a risible performance against the Dragons to keep the Ospreys play off hopes alive. And Bath’s win over Newcastle leaves them with a mathematical, if not realistic chance of making the playoffs.

Heineken Cup

Sunday , May 1

Northampton 23 - 7 Perpignan

Saturday , April 30

Leinster 32 - 23 Toulouse

Amlin Challenge Cup

Saturday , April 30

Munster 12 - 20 Harlequins

Friday , April 29

Stade Francais 29 - 25 Clermont Auvergne

Friday , April 29

Newport-Gwent D'gons 28 - 15 Cardiff Blues

Aviva Premiership

Newcastle 11 - 14 Bath