Saturday, October 27, 2012

Leinster tear Cardiff apart limb by limb, and dance on the pieces

Ulster got things underway for the Irish teams by thrashing the Dragons. Would have loved to watch the match – was it on anywhere?

I caught a fair amount of the Munster match, on a cold night at Thomond Park. Commentary of the season came from Jerry Flannery near half time with the scores at 3-3. TG4:"agus Jerry Flannery,cad a cheapainn tu?" Jerry:"well it's very disappointing so far, and I'm freezing my ass off!" Thanks to @CollieMoRugby for that. Penney obviously had a few choice words said to them at half time – any of you planning to play for Ireland? maybe, and the second half was much better for them. Dave Kilcoyne did well, as did Felix Jones and JJ Hanrahan got off to a flyer. He’s not the finished article yet, but he gives Munster some incision they haven’t had for a while.

I wasn’t sure what time the Leinster match was starting, and though I’d missed half the match when I tuned in and they’d already scored two tries. Not, as they had the 4 try bonus point wrapped in 26 minutes, the fastest this season. If the question was, does anybody in Leinster want to play for Ireland, the answer was a loud YES. Leinster took Cardiff apart limb by limb, and danced on the pieces. Players like Roberts,  Cuthberts, Halfpenny, Warburton and Davies will be shellshocked after leaking 9 tries. This is the Leinster that we’ve been waiting for. The forwards stood up, the backs stood up, they fell off a bit at the end, but they mean business again. Jordi Murphy grows game by game, and all the famous names did themselves justice. Good times!

Connacht as expected fell to the Ospreys.

RaboDirect PRO12
Newport-Gwent D'gons 19 - 46 Ulster 
Edinburgh 28 - 29 Scarlets 
Munster 29 - 3 Zebre
Ospreys 26 - 9 Connacht 
Benetton Treviso 13 - 24 Glasgow 
Leinster 59 - 22 Cardiff Blues

Friday, October 26, 2012

The Irish provinces get their Pro 12 groove on again

Iain Henderson - one to watch (picture

So the HC is taking a break, bit of a difference going back to the Pro 12. The next big thing to look forward to is the Autumn internationals – where did October go – where did 2012 go? Ireland have a big matches with South Africa and Argentina to look forward to. Ireland have new potential caps with centre Luke Marshall, forward Iain Henderson, prop David Kilcoyne and hooker Richardt Strauss.

Leinster have Cardiff Blues, which should be a good test for them, and hopefully see them notch another point on their upward curve. Would love to see Kearney back, and failing that, Isa at full back please. Leinster by 10.

Ulster go to visit the Dragons, and although winning in Wales is hard, they’re the form team and they should do this, and keep their 100% record. Pienaar and Marshall should be some combination at 10 and 9.

Connacht won’t beat the Ospreys I don’t think, although the Welshmen will be pretty low after a pummeling in the HC. And Munster should continue their renaissance with a win over Zebre at home.

Enjoy the long weekend if you’re Irish!

RaboDirect PRO12
Friday , October 26
Newport-Gwent D'gons vs Ulster 
Edinburgh vs Scarlets 
Munster vs Zebre 
Saturday , October 27
Ospreys vs Connacht 14:30
Benetton Treviso vs Glasgow 18:05
Leinster vs Cardiff Blues 18:30

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Ulster, Leinster, Connacht and Munster all in fine form

Ulster started the weekend for Ireland in impressive form with an away win at Glasgow. They have to be in the reckoning for another final of the Heineken Cup.

Leinster were away to the Scarlets, out to right the wrongs of their last trip to Wales, where they didn’t leave as happy campers at all. I was expecting a lot from the Scarlets, but this was a bit of a no show from this talented but erratic team. They have players like North and Liam Williams that have a lot of talent, but don’t seem to know how to get them into space. I’m not doing Leinster much justice by saying that though, because they cut down the Scarlets space, and had the control to make their own space when they needed to. The blue forwards rolled their sleeves up and stood up like they haven’t done so far this season.  Impressive stuff from players like Ross and Heaslip, and at the back Sexton, Nacewa and McFadden were always dangerous. Madigan gave me a bit of heart attack at the end, but job done.

Connacht lost to Quins, but it was no disgrace to be within 8 points of one of one of the biggest teams in Europe. I watched a bit of the Exeter/Clermont match, shouting for Exeter of course. Waste of time. If Leinster can beat Clermont – we will make it three in a row. I don’t know though…
Muster beat Edinburgh and got a bonus point. Nuff said. I’m not interested in how they did it, I know they are trying to play a bit more expansively and it’s not quite working. But when your forwards (and scrum half) can score four trys for you, who cares what you are trying to do.

Heineken Cup
Friday , October 19
Glasgow 8 - 19 Ulster 
Castres 21 - 16 Northampton
Heineken Cup
Benetton Treviso 21 - 33 Toulouse 
Scarlets 13 - 20 Leinster 
Saracens 30 - 13 Racing Metro 92 
Exeter 12 - 46 Clermont Auvergne 
Biarritz 38 - 17 Zebre 
Connacht 22 - 30 Harlequins
Munster 33 - 0 Edinburgh 
Cardiff Blues 14 - 22 Toulon

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Heineken Cup - I'm picking wins for Ulster, Leinster and Munster, and a fright for Quins!

Jordi Murphy (picture

Ulster get things going this weekend for the Irish provinces in the Heineken Cup with a trip to Glasgow. Ferris and Williams are back in the training squad, and they still have players like Roger Wilson to make their debuts. Should be easy enough for Ulster.

Connacht welcome Quins to the Sports Ground in Galway, hoping history will repeat itself. If they beat them last season, and beat Leinster this season, they can do it. They must be the only town in Ireland praying for rain this weekend…but I think Quins won’t underestimate them this time.

Leinster travel to Wales to take on the Scarlets. They got absolutely spanked there last time, and have point to prove, as well as needing the win. Scarlets are a good team, they don’t seem to have consistency, but they have X-Factor players that can turn a game on it’s head.  Leinster should have Kearney back for this one, as well as D’Arcy. My two cents worth on the team is that they shouldn’t be playing Madigan at full back – put Isa there, and put Madigan on the wing. I also think we need more mobility in the forwards - Kevin McLaughlin has been playing really well, but I’d look at starting Jordi Murphy to help improve our defense. It’s the forwards who need to stand up for this match, and make the space for the backs to do what they do best. I think Leinster will take this.

Munster  have Edinburgh to over on Saturday. I wasn’t surprised when they lost last weekend, but they won’t want any mistakes this Saturday. Edinburgh are a tidy, competitive outfit, and not to be taken lightly. They are without O’Gara, Earls and Du Preez.  O’Gara is the one everyone is talking about, but I think Keatleys up to the job, it depends on what service Murray and the pack give him.  Earls being out means they may start at Downey and Lualua in the centers, which is where I’ve seen Munster play best this season. Murray is the key though. I’m going with a Munster win.

Lot’s of other great ties this weekend, Exeter Clermont should be good – don’t write off Exeter, and Leicester Ospreys and Cardiff Toulon should be the business.

And if that wasn’t enough rugby, the Wallabies have the All Blacks at home on Saturday as well! I don’t think it’s going to be pretty for the Aussies.

Heineken Cup
Friday , October 19
Castres vs Northampton 20:00
Glasgow vs Ulster 20:00
Saturday , October 20
Saracens vs Racing Metro 92 16:40
Benetton Treviso vs Toulouse 13:35
Biarritz vs Zebre 18:00
Connacht vs Harlequins 18:00
Scarlets vs Leinster 13:35
Exeter vs Clermont Auvergne 18:00
Sunday , October 21
Munster vs Edinburgh 12:45
Leicester vs Ospreys 15:00
Cardiff Blues vs Toulon 12:45
Montpellier vs Sale 15:00
International Match
Saturday , October 20
Australia vs New Zealand 11:00

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Ulster cruise, Leinster stagger, and Munster...

Missed (picture

Ulster started the weekend in fine style for the Irish provinces with a bonus point win. Marshall was in fine form at scrum half – hope Declan Kidney was watching –full value for his two tries, and super sub Ruan Pienaar put the cherry on top with a bonus point try after the hooter had sounded.

Next up were Munster, who had to play on a soggy pitch in driving  rain. That would have suited them once, but in fairness, they are trying to play some running rugby, and it didn’t quite come off. The annoying thing is they could have won, but managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, and it was all their own doing. This wasn’t just the one that got away, it the one that stopped on the way to wave it’s private parts in your aunties face. I guess like Leinster, they have got to learn to earn the right to go wide first. Impressive first outing from Paulie. I’m ignoring the 6 foot 2inch elephant in the room (Connor Murray) as I’ve said enough about him already.

Leinster looked none to sharp fumbling past Exeter. That doesn’t do justice to how well Exeter played, they are team in serious form. But Leinster are trying to do fancy wrap arounds and what not, before theforwards have tied up the defence and created the space. The lineout is a shambles, they are missing SOB, but to play badly, and still beat a side like Exeter, they doing OK. Die hard Leinster supporters will be pointing to the fact that they looked pretty pooey at the start of their last two triumphant HC campaigns, but it takes a lot of belief to back them at the moment – Father Christmas and the Easter Bunny will be handing them the HCup this year!

Connacht got the win over Zebre, and I watched a fair amount of Quins/Biarritz, and it was impressive how Quins picked themselves up in the second half and put their foot on the accelerator.

Watched a bit of the Leicester/Toulouse match,a nd saw 30mins of hard work by the Tigers undone by one bit of magic from the Frenchmen.

Heineken Cup Ospreys
 38 - 17 Benetton Treviso 
Ulster 41 - 17 Castres
Racing Metro 92 22 - 17 Munster 
Zebre 10 - 19 Connacht 
Leinster 9 - 6 Exeter 
Clermont Auvergne 49 - 16 Scarlets 
Edinburgh 0 - 45 Saracens
 Harlequins 40 - 13 Biarritz
Northampton 24 - 15 Glasgow 
Sale 34 - 33 Cardiff Blues 
Toulon 37 - 16 Montpellier 
Toulouse 23 - 9 Leicester

Thursday, October 11, 2012

It's Autumn - your life is not your own because the Heineken Cup is going to take it over!

Sooo, the biggest club rugby competition in Europe (some say the world) is about to kick off. Toulouse have won the competition a record four times, Leinster three times, while Munster, Leicester Tigers and London Wasps have won it twice each. Leicester and Leinster have both won it twice in a row, but it’s never been won three times in a row…UNTIL this season?!

Leinster are the incumbents, and all the challengers have to wrest the cup from their cold dead hands. They have had a moderate start to the season, some would say crappy(me). Their major loss in the off season was Brad Thorne, and they still look a bit light in the lock department. They are carrying a fair amount of injured players, and some of the older guys (D’Arcy and O’Driscoll) are held together by gaffer tape and chewing gum at this stage. But…when you learn how to do something like win the Heineken Cup, you don’t forget in a hurry. They have a tough enough group with Clermont, Scarlets and Exeter . We all know what Clermont can do but Exeter and Scarlets could trip you up just like that. On pedigree though, Leinster should make it out their group, and will have to and should beat Exeter first up.

Munster are in with Edinburgh, Racing Metro and Sarries. Not the worst group really, and if they bring their good running game and their pack stands up, I could see them topping their group, with Sarries the big obstacle.

Ulster have Saints, Glasgow and Castres. In the form they’re in, no problem for them to get out of the group, starting by thumping Castres, with a certain Ruan on the bench.

Connacht have Zebre, Quins and Biarritz. Could they get a second and scrape into the next round? Certainly not impossible, I want to see it! Quins should top this.

Then, out of the final two groups, Toulouse and Toulon should top their groups, with the Tigers scraping out.
Bring it ONNNN! I’ve updated the pool and fixtures HC cup pages on my blog, so peruse at your leisure.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Ulster look dead handy, Leinster turn up, and the All Blacks are all powerful.

Damian Brone (picture

I started off the weekend watching Connacht get comprehensively beaten by Ulster. Ulster are in some serious from, Marshall looks really sharp, Bowe did well, but the whole team functions as such a tight unit it’s hard to pick out stand out players. Connacht played well, gutsy is their by word, and it’s a shame Eric Elwood is throw in the towel, because with a bit more support from the IRFU to retain players, they could turn into something really good.

The Leinster/Munster match was way better than I expected, in fact it was a belter. Reddan made a huge impact for me, combined with Sexton, and a pack that stood up. I’d pick Damian Browne out as a top performer, and Jodi Murphy’s work rate is top notch.  I’d like to see more of Fionn Carr, he’s earned his place. As much as I rate Madigan, maybe it’s worth giving Carr a shot at full back? Munster are there, nearly there, they have a counter attacking game now I can’t ever remember them having, and with a few more tweaks they will be awesome. That pack is getting better and better.

It was a black day in Soweto as New Zealand pretty comprehensively dismantled the Bokke, after an impressive start by the home team. Those All Blacks are pretty well invincible at the moment, best team in the world by a country mile. I will say this though, the Springboks are starting to evolve. It’s going to take a while to get from Neanderthal  through Cro-Magnon to Homo Erectus, but they have started on a journey, and when they arrive, they are going to be fearsome.

The Wallabies wrapped up their tournament by beating  Argentina. Great result for a team cobbled together with bits of string, and Argentina are getting their act together, and will be so much better next time around.
RaboDirect PRO12
Ulster  25 - 0  Connacht 
Zebre 16 - 34 Ospreys 
Scarlets 24 - 13 Newport-Gwent D'gons 
Edinburgh 22 - 27 Benetton Treviso
Cardiff Blues 3 - 18 Glasgow 
Leinster 30 - 21 Munster 
Rugby Championship
South Africa 16 - 32 New Zealand
Argentina 19 – 25 Australia

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The big Irish clash this weekend is sure to be a thriller - will Ulster beat Connacht? :) Plus I'm going Boks and Pumas

The big match this weekend, the one we’ve all been waiting for, the big Irish derby, is of course between Connacht and Ulster. But let’s for sentimentalities sake imagine that the little matter of Leinster taking on Munster at the Aviva stadium – with 45000 people watching – is in fact the big Irish match taking place this weekend.  Munster come in of the back of a good beating at the hands of the Ospreys, while Leinster were thrashed by Connacht. Munster have at least put a few performances together this season, looking excellent in patches against the Dragons, and playing well against Ulster even if they lost. Leinster’s form, meanwhile has been – I think the technical term is crappy. Both teams want to use this match to springboard their seasons – I guess Leinster will win in their own back yard, but at this stage it’s hard to see how this will be the start of anything for either of them. Ulster should win their match easily enough I’d say. No good news on the Injury front either with Rob Kearney out  for months. And if we get Boss or Reddan back that would be a huge step forward.

The Rugby Championship has been wrapped up by New Zealand, so the matches left are dead rubbers now.  The All Blacks however are on a 15 match winning streak, and the Springboks always want to beat them, they are their favourite team to beat.  The match is in Soweto, I think the stadium holds 90000 people, and I’m going with the Springboks, notwithstanding the performance the All Blacks put in last weekend. I think the Springboks are going to be absolutely desperate for the win.

Meanwhile, the Wallabies have limped into Argentina with a severely depleted squad.  If you’re an Aussie supporter going to the match, bring your boots.  I think Australia are ripe for the taking, and that Argentina are going to get their first win.

RaboDirect PRO12
Friday , October 5
Zebre vs Ospreys 
Ulster vs Connacht 19:05
Scarlets vs Newport-Gwent D'gons 19:05
Edinburgh vs Benetton Treviso 19:30
Saturday , October 6
Leinster vs Munster 18:30
Cardiff Blues vs Glasgow 18:30
Rugby Championship
Saturday , October 6
South Africa vs New Zealand 16:30
Argentina vs Australia 20:10