Sunday, January 22, 2012

Irish provinces in the Heineken Cup - so many superlatives, they broke my superlomometer!

James Coughlan (picture )

Leinster put in a solid fifteen man performance to top their pool, and confirm their home quarter. Missing a few of their out and out stars in the starting 15, they still had enough in the bag to effectively put away Montpellier, who had picked a full strength side. Kearney, Mc Fadden, and the usual suspects in the pack of SOB and Heaslip all stood up to be counted. A bonus point would have been good, but apart from that it’s home quarters and all to play for.

Connacht had kicked things off for the Irish provinces in awesome style on Friday with a fine gritty over Quins. The match was played in near hurricane conditions, and somehow, Qunis couldn’t use the  wind at their backs in the second half to get the win. To describe Connachts’s tackling as ferocious is to do them a an injustice, it was an out and out war around the rucks and mauls. Connacht won the match with sheer bloody mindedness, just absolutely refusing to lose. Quins could go to Toulouse and win, but not to Galway! The  Galwegians had a win coming in the HC, and this was not no more than their due.

Connacht’s heroics had ensured Ulster’s qualification, but the Ulstermen had to try and get something out of Clermont’s home fortress for a home quarter. It wasn’t their afternoon really, they had a few decisions go against them, and they didn’t have the ruthless efficiency they showed against  the Tigers the week before to put away the chances they did get. But they got close, really close to a win and there aren’t too many teams that get to do that. So qualification again for Ulster, two years in a row, not too shabby.

It was left to Munster to round things off for the Irish provinces, against the in form Saints at the MK stadium. Munster were 5 from 5 coming into the match, but have been in scratchy enough form, requiring a few drop late goals to scrape through and not ever hitting their straps up until now. Even in the first 20 minutes, it didn’t look like it was going to be their afternoon.  Ronan O’Gara got a pass in their own 22, found a pen, wrote ‘hospital’ on the ball and popped it off to Mafi, milliseconds before Mafi was absolutely creamed by Manoa. Saints got a penalty try from that scrum.  Mafi a few minutes later tried a really speculative offload in the Munster 22, and again the Saints came away with points. But Munster hung in there, got a try of their own after a storming run by Coughlan, who’s in sensational form, and were in touch at half time. In the second half, Munster flicked the switch and unleashed a blitzkrieg attack on the Saints, and didn’t let up until the last minute. It was the stuff of nightmares for Northampton. I think it’ll be a while before such a complete second half performance is matched, probably not this year anyway. Munster are back, big time, and must be favourites now for this years tournament. Zebo got a hat trick, but it was the ultimate team performance that delivered those tries and more and that win.

So this is the draw for the next round:

Munster v Ulster
Leinster v Cardiff Blues
Edinburgh v Toulouse
Saracens v Clermont Auvergne

Overall, English clubs are the big losers with one only one club through, the Rabo Direct Pro 12 are the winners with 5/8 and france are about right at 2/8. One Irish side is going to have perish straight away, but apart from that, things couldn’t be better for the Irish teams right now.

Friday , January 20
Connacht 9 - 8 Harlequins 
Gloucester 34 - 24 Toulouse
Sunday , January 22
Biarritz 36 - 5 Ospreys 
Benetton Treviso 20 - 26 Saracens 
Saturday , January 21
Bath 23 - 18 Glasgow 
Leinster 25 - 3 Montpellier 
Leicester 33 - 6 Aironi Rugby 
Northampton 36 - 51 Munster 
Castres 13 - 16 Scarlets 
Clermont Auvergne 19 - 15 Ulster
Edinburgh 34 - 11 London Irish 
Cardiff Blues 36 - 30 Racing Metro 92

1 comment:

  1. Hello. Great job. I did not expect this. This is a fantastic story. Thanks!
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