Sunday, December 9, 2012

Three from four for the Irish provinces - #Leinster, where's your excuse note?

Watching the Ulster match, and reading my preview, I feel like a prophet. I said Northampton didn’t have big match temperament  and that Ulster would win.  Well, Northampton were comprehensively outplayed in the history of  comprehensively outplayment! There are names on the Northampton team, Woods, Lawes, Hartley, Fodden,  Mujati, Tongahuia, but you didn’t hear or see those names at all. There was a sweeping white wave casting all asunder on the way to a four try bonus point win. In defence, and especially on attack, Ulster were special. Jarred Payne was awesome, Rory Best was unbelievable, Cave, Wallace Trimble, Henderson, you could go on and on. Paddy Jackson had his ‘None shall pass’ sign up. Trimble and Wallace were imperious – hard to see who’s going to stop them this year.

And while Ulster were knocking 7 shades of poo out of the Saints, Connacht were doing exactly the same to Biarritz! What a night for the West and North, what night for Ireland.

On Saturday it was Munster’s turn to make the Galacticos of the Premiership look very ordinary indeed. Munster sucked them down into an arm wrestle, with predictable consequences. It was a feisty affair, with fights all over the place, DOC yellow carded – well I never, with Rhys Gill,  for an off the ball scrap. Munster are getting to grips with a new style, they need to get a bit of patience back, but they are starting to hum nicely. I thought James Coughlan and Dave O’Callaghan were outstanding, and being tackled by Doug Howlett is like running into a brick wall. Big names like Goode, Ashton and Farrell weren’t mentioned often. The Fortress Thomond is backup and running!

So it was left to Leinster to make for 4 from 4 for the Irish teams…which they couldn’t quite do. They got really close though, playing intelligent, skilful rugby. They kept the ball in hand, played well in the tight, and had Clermont’s defence guessing  out wide. Damian Browne is growing every match, but where they really need some magic now is in their line out, as they butchered at least three good opportunities to score some points with fumbled lineouts. Tacking scrum penalties off Clermont though, that is some achievement! The pack all played well, and in the backs McFadden was outstanding, with kick chases,ferocious tackling, and a handful in attack. Clermont are a team of stars, but even then Bonnaire shone, and Fofana is such a dangerous runner. At least we can bank the point, and hope for one better next week.

Otherwise, I saw the Ospreys giving Toulouse a reasonable game – really like Tupiric, and Kahn Fotuali'I was man of the match for me. Sale made life awkward for Toulon in the next match, where James Gaskell put in a hugely impressive performance.

Heineken Cup
Sunday , December 9
Leicester 33 - 25 Benetton Treviso 
Clermont Auvergne 15 - 12 Leinster 
Cardiff Blues 24 - 35 Montpellier 
Saturday , December 8
Racing Metro 92 19 - 9 Edinburgh 
Munster 15 - 9 Saracens 
Scarlets 16 - 22 Exeter
Zebre 14 - 57 Harlequins 
Sale 6 - 17 Toulon 
Toulouse 30 - 14 Ospreys 
Friday , December 7
Glasgow 6 - 9 Castres 
Connacht  22 - 14  Biarritz    
 Glasgow  6 - 9  Castres    
 Northampton  6 - 25  Ulster 

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