Sunday, January 15, 2012

Heineken Cup - Irish teams in 1,2 and 3 in the qualification standings

Devin Toner ( )

Leinster had their work cut out for them by the burly Scots in Glasgow. The Warriors brought unrivalled physicality to the party, and had Leinster rocked and pegged back in the first half. So smart game plan by the Scots, absolutely playing to their strengths. Leinster had to keep themselves occupied with repelling the Scots, and it took a moment of magic by Sexton and Kearney, and one prolonged attack finished by a belligerent Boss lunge, to win the match. Well, we know Leinsters defense is the business, but the Scots had their attack under control. They missed Fitzgerald, and I’d be looking at Carr not Dave Kearney. McFadden showed a few good touches, and his place kicking is immaculate. Cronin had some stormng runs, and Toner is growing more influential in the team all the time. Even my photocopier is telling me, you need more toner! Leinster qualify for the quarters, and have next week to work on home advantage.

Ulster Leicester was the match of the weekend, with the Ulstermen using home advantage to absolutely pulverize the Tigers.  It’s seldom that you see the Tigers get so comprehensively outplayed in every facet of the match, but they weren’t just played, they had a tank driven over their scrums, their lineouts, their mauls, their backline. Good times for Ireland as Trimble, Cave, Tuohy, put their hands up for national honours. The crowd, the atmosphere, this match has passed straight into Ulster folklore. It had the hairs on the back of your head standing up the whole match.

Munster had a tough encounter at home against a determined Castres side. Post match interviews with O’Connell talking about frustration with their performance. Hard man to please, five from five, qualification in the bag, only unbeaten side in the tournament, and they feel they should have done better. Admittedly they left a few tries behind, but Castres are some team, big strong talented players. Munster need more composure in the last 5 metres, and I think that’s where Murray is still learning his trade, his control of players and split seconds decisions are still coming. Great to see three Irish sides in such good form, one two and three in the current qualification table.

Toulouse beat Connacht 24-3, so fair showing from the Galwegians. Exiles passed up a good chance to push for something more as they fell to the Blues. I also saw the Scarlets hopes dashed by the Saints, just felt the Scarlets should have done better, they needed to take their chances. And I saw Saracens beat Bairritz, not very convincingly, but they all count.

Heineken Cup
Friday , January 13
Ospreys 44 - 17 Benetton Treviso 
Racing Metro 92 24 - 27 Edinburgh 
Ulster 41 - 7 Leicester
Saturday , January 14
Montpellier 24 - 22 Bath 
Scarlets 17 - 29 Northampton 
London Irish 15 - 22 Cardiff Blues 
Aironi Rugby 0 - 82 Clermont Auvergne 
Munster 26 - 10 Castres 
Harlequins 20 - 14 Gloucester 
Toulouse 24 - 3 Connacht
Sunday , January 15
Glasgow 16 - 23 Leinster 
Saracens 20 - 16 Biarritz 

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