Sunday, March 30, 2014

No gouging or murders in the Leinster/Munster match!

 CJ Stander (picture

And here was me thinking the 6 Nations would invigorate the Irish teams! Last weekend, apart from Connacht, it was pretty ordinary stuf from the provinces. And then this weekend, only one win!

I only watched a bit of the Ulster Cardiff match, and they were 5-0 up when Ieft them, from then on it went pretty pear shaped obviously, in a fixture you felt they should have won.

The big clash was Leinster Munster, in front of a sell out 50000 crowd. It was an intense physical match, fortunately no injuries, with a real finals rugby feel to it. Munster won the first half, and Leinster the second and the match. The best break and offload was from a flank, as Jennings set up O’Driscoll beautifully for his try. Apart from that, there was a lot of bashing up, tackling, scrum resets, but while it was tense, there was no overtly foul play, no gouging or murders, so that was good. For Munster, CJ Stander was the stand out forward for me, while Earls and especially Zebo look really sharp. Lualua is always dangerous, but doesn’t link all that well with the rest of the team. For Leinster, Jennings had a great match, as did Kearney, D’Arcy and Heaslip, and BOD put in a sublime kick just on half time. Frankly, both teams (and Ulster) are really going to have to step it up for next week. Leinster’s attitude at the end was job done, rather than being elated, both teams have bigger fish to fry now!

Connacht just lost out at the Scarlets – they really seemed to have turned a corner in their season, getting two bonus points out of the match. There’s  a lot of rugby still to be played, but they are one position off qualifying for Europe on merit, awesome for such a small team.

RaboDirect PRO12
Sunday , March 30
Scarlets 32 - 30 Connacht 
Saturday , March 29
Zebre 25 - 25 Newport Gwent D'gons  
Benetton Treviso 20 - 16 Edinburgh 
Cardiff Blues 28 - 23 Ulster 
Leinster 22 - 18 Munster 
Friday , March 28
Glasgow 11 - 9 Ospreys 

Friday, March 28, 2014

It's going to be feisty at the Aviva!

 Stirring (picture

Last weekends poor PRO 12 matches are a distant memory now, I found the electroshock therapy and the psychotropic drugs worked a treat.  This weekend we have REAL rugby, nevermind England v Ireland, this Leinster v Munster!

Munster have Donnacha Ryan out, although they are not exactly short of big physical forwards, while Leinster have nearly a full squad to pick from. There’s a lot of crossover these days, with players like Ross, Cronin and Reddan for Leinster, and Felix Jones and Downey for Munster. Nothing as enjoyable in sport as knocking lumps out of your mates from the Ireland camp! While it’s first plays second in the league, I wouldn’t say that either side near their best this season. Leinster have an edge in the backs, and nearly parity – in fact probably definitely parity in the scrum, so have to starts as favourites. Both teams are talking each other up, Rob Penney is trying to stir it up, but for me, home advantage is going to tell, so Leinster in a tight match.

Ulster go to Cardiff, and should take care of what is an out of sorts Welsh team at the moment.
And then Connacht wrap things up for Ireland with a trip to Parc y Scarlets, where they’lll be lucky to come away with points.
Glasgow v Ospreys will be good Friday night viewing too!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Connacht shone, and Ulster, Leinster and Munster didn't!


Well, forget the sparkle, the Irish teams were mostly in dire, but winning form this weekend.
I didn’t see the Ulster match, as did hardly anybody because a technical broadcasting fault, but that was just as well, for a match with four penalties only scored. Ulster came out the right side of it, but it didn’t sound like thrilling stuff.

I started watching Leinster’s match, against lowly Zebre after half time, and spared myself the fumble fest that was the first half. Not that it got much better – Leinster had a purple patch of about 10 minutes  where they scored two tries, and squeezed one out at the end, but it was pretty ordinary stuff. I guess they haven’t been playing much , and the big guns are still out. I hope they play better next weekend! Luke Fitzgerald, Richardt Strauss and Jordi Murphy were the only highlights for me.

I watched most of the Munster match, for my sins, and it was not great. It was freezing, raining and they haven’t played together recently, but still.. they got two tries they would have been outraged to have awarded against them (although they surely should have had a penalty try), no bonus point…no doubt they’ll turn it around for next week, but they’ll need to! That was also the most limp, indecisive reffing I’ve ever seen. Felix Jones though, had a stormer, and was easily the best player on the field.

Finally, it was up to Connacht to spare Irelands blushes and turn in a rousing four try victory over the Dragons at Rodney Parade, not an easy place to go at all. They are finding some good form, the Galwegians, and have charged up to 7th in the table.

RaboDirect PRO12
Sunday , March 23
Newport Gwent D'gons 8 - 24 Connacht
Saturday , March 22
Glasgow 14 - 6 Scarlets 
Munster 14 - 3 Benetton Treviso 
Friday , March 21
Ospreys 34 - 9 Cardiff Blues 
Leinster 27 - 0 Zebre 
Edinburgh 3 - 9 Ulster 

Friday, March 21, 2014

Irish teams likely to sparkle in the Pro 12 this weekend!

Sean Doyle ( picure

After  a close exciting 6 Nations, back to the RaboPro12, where I’m expecting all the Irish teams to be in top form after the boost of the 6 Nations title.

Leinster don’t have most of their front ranking international back, but still feature 11 internationals, which is pretty amazing. Furlong and Strauss start in the front row, and it’s Ian Madigan’s birthday and his 100th cap.  Zebre won’t trouble them at all, and it could be a bit of carnival atmosphere at the RDS tonight.

Ulster travel to Edinburgh, and look really strong. Ferris starts, Tuohy is on the bench, and the form of Sean Doyle has been just sensational these last weeks. They should roll Edinburgh over.

Munster also have gone all guns blazing for the vist of Treviso, looking for the bonus point I gues.. Not sure why they’re playing O’Connell after such tough shifts for Ireland, but good to see Earls staring, and they have former Blues and Crusader Quentin MacDonald on the bench. They should get their bonus point easily.
Finally, Connacht will have their work cut out for them,as the Dragons at home are a tough proposition. As the Welshmen have made a few speculative selections, there’s a glimmer of hope, but I think the Dragons will do it.

RaboDirect PRO12
Friday , March 21
Ospreys vs Cardiff Blues 
Leinster vs Zebre 
Edinburgh vs Ulster 
Saturday , March 22
Glasgow vs Scarlets 
Munster vs Benetton Treviso 
Sunday , March 23
Newport Gwent D'gons vs Connacht

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Ireland claim the 6 Nations 2014 title, despite conceding a record number of heart attacks in the last 5 minutes!


Ireland rocked Paris this weekend, with a tough, hard fought victory, in a match that was alive until the last  second. They claimed only their second 6 Nations title in 14 years, had the best points difference, had the best points scorer, Jonny Sexton (66) , who also shared the most tries scored (4) with Mike Brown.  We conceded the least penalties (36) , and managed to win the final despite conceding the most heart attacks in the last 5 minutes (4.5 million). Yes, it wouldn’t have been a proper victory without giving the opposition every opportunity to snatch the win in the last few minute – ‘You’re sure like?’.

Brian O’Driscoll was 21 when we last beat France in Paris, so what better way to end your career with a victory in a place that was so hard to get wins. He retires with the record for international caps, was both an Irish and Lions captain, he put his body on the line for 15 years for his country, and it’s really tough to say goodbye, but better to celebrate his career than be sad he’s leaving.

It was day for heroes, Trimble, Kearney, O’Connell, Murray, Toner, world class performances but even more the ultimate team performance. France of course, couldn’t have played rubbish like they did the three matches before, oh no, they came out all guns blazing, but the team, and coaches Joe Schmidt and John Plumtree had a plan, and the rest, as they say is history!
Elsewhere, worthy runners up England put 50 points on Italy, playing their rugby this year with a lot of heart and skill. Italy had an awful tournament, with no wins, taking over from where France left off last year!

Wales got a big win over Scotland, in a match that ended as contest  when Stuart Hogg was red carded for a late hit in the 22nd minute. Fortunately, Dan Biggar wasn’t badly injured, and Hogg will never in a million years deliver such a sweet uppercut with his shoulder again! Not a great season for Wales, after back to back tournaments, but they have all the players, they just need the x-factor back. Scotland still lack the players and the belief, but maybe new coach Vern Cotter will start to fix that next season.

RBS Six Nations
Saturday , March 15
Italy 11 - 52 England 
Wales 51 - 3 Scotland  
France 20 - 22 Ireland 

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Ireland by 10...

This is it, the last weekend of the 6 Nations 2014, and WE (ie Ireland) have a decent chance of winning it!
First up on Saturday though is Italy v England, where England’s target will be to thump the Italians and  overhaul Ireland’s point difference. They have form, no injuries and a lot of self belief going in to the match. The Italians have been saving themselves for this match, after resting Parisse and a few other front runners against Ireland last weekend.  In the 19 matches between them, Italy have never won, and have lost by an average of 27 points.  In Rome, the average is 22, and in the last three matches Five. The result isn’t in question, and I could see England winning by probably 30 points.

Wales v Scotland is a dead rubber, two underperforming teams jostling for mid table positions. Wales just haven’t really clicked this year, but go into this match with a few changes, notably Biggar at 10, which might liven them up a bit. If Scotland had just hung on last week, they could have had a decent season, but Italy look sure to get the wooden spoon, so it isn’t an out and out disaster year for them. Wales by 10-15 points I’d say

Finally, the match of the weekend, hopefully the tournament, will see Ireland rout the French in Paris, for the first time in forever, and storm home with the trophy. It’s the final FINAL farewell for BOD, and it’d be rude not to send him off with another 6 Nations gong. Ireland have a settled look, it’s been the same team week in, week out this tournament, the players all know their roles, and have approached each game with a good gameplan. France, meanwhile are typically all over the place – no consistency in selection and no apparent tactics apart from Joue Joue. Ireland really have to win this match in a blow for sanity and order in this world. And of course, the win is no by means secure. France could be out chasing an 80 point winning margin to win the whole thing, and nearly do it…or they could try and get a record margin, fail miserably, and end up losing by a record margin themselves. Anyway, my call is a 10 point margin for Ireland. Allez les vertes!

RBS Six Nations
Saturday , March 15
Italy vs England 13:30
Wales vs Scotland 14:45
France vs Ireland 18:00

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Ireland thrash, France fumble, and England smash

The whole of the Aviva stadium was swept away with emotion as BOD donned the green jersey in Ireland for the last time on Saturday. He was subbed on 62 minutes – not before setting up three tries, and a putting in a typical amount of crunching tackles and steals at the breakdown.  There’ll be a book, and a musical out of it, I‘m thinking along the lines of Evita… they’ll probably call it ‘Brian’ though, or maybe B O D Superstar.  He’s the man!  Italy were competitive for half an hour, then got blown away in the second half, with Ireland scoring 7 tries, including two each for Sexton and Trimble. Sexton had a great game, and Paddy Jackson did well when he came on. Job done, points difference up to 81!

Scotland and France each produced a performance that was pretty well expected, France were rubbish, but just good enough to win, while Scotland look much improved, but just couldn’t finish the job. This is so beautifully set up for Ireland, they will rarely enter the last week of the 6N in a better position, with France all over the place, and probably just a win enough o claim the title.

Finally, England were comfortable winners at Twickenham, playing really well and scoring all the tries. It wasn’t like Wales weren’t trying, but they just seemed to be going backwards all the way. In context, Ireland did really well to keep the losing margin so tight against England, and France hit the luck jackpot when they beat them. England are the form team.

RBS Six Nations
Sunday , March 9
England 29 - 18 Wales 
Saturday , March 8
Ireland 46 - 7 Italy 
Scotland 17 - 19 France

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Do you believe in the power of BOD Almighty?

 One more cap for the record (picture

Another BIG weekend of Six Nations action get’s going on Saturday afternoon in Dublin this weekend. Ireland have only two objectives:
1.    Celebrate the awesome playing career of one the all time greats of the game, BOD Almighty, in his final appearance in green in Ireland, the same match he sets the world record for international caps (140)
2.    Rend the Italians limb from limb, smite them down, get downright biblical on their asses, and rack up a record points difference win against them
Ireland have the same amount of points as France, England and Wales going into this weekend, but a points difference of 42, 21 better than England.  If we could push that points difference out to 60-70, then a win against France in our final match and we’ve done it! Italy have rested a few of their front runners for the match, and seem to be saving themselves for England next week which suits us fine. We have essentially the same team starting again for the third match in a row, BOD on our side – I could see us winning by 20!

France need to try and catch up Ireland points difference against Scotland, which means a 40 point win, but in all honesty they’d be lucky to win at this stage. They’ve made a whole lot of changes for the match, but in my experience, once those French heads go down, they don’t come up in hurry, so I think they’ll win, but not by much. Scotland have Kelly Brown back in the team and captain again, and where they are now a narrow defeat by France would be a result.

Finally, the big one will be England and Wales. Whoever loses that will be out of the running this year. From an Irish point of view, it’s better if Wales come out with a narrow win, as if we beat France next week, I don’t think they’ll make up the points difference they need against Scotland in their final match. England lost this fixture 30-3 at the Millennium stadium last year, so payback will be on their minds. It’s really down to Wales, whether they surrender like they did in Dublin, or come out rampant style like in the France match. It’s a tight call, and  I think England will probably win – they have the size to stop Wales’ ‘A’ game, which is to stomp all over them, and, In Dublin anyway, Wales didn’t have a B plan. But it’ll be a hell of a match either way!

RBS Six Nations
Saturday , March 8
Ireland vs Italy 14:30
Scotland vs France 17:00
Sunday , March 9
England vs Wales 15:00

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Leinster go top again!


Ravenhill proved to be a daunting experience for the Dragons, who hardly put a foot right on Friday night. Ulster were carving them up all over the place, I didn’t see Bowe’s tries but it looks like he’s a sharp as ever, and should be on the bench for Italy. Cave was excellent, so was Henderson, it’s a fearsome unit even without their Ireland stars. Ref Lloyd Lintons hair was the only thing more scary than the Ulster scrum on the night!

Munster Scarlets was an odd one. All I can say about the match is that I wouldn’t have been happy if I was a Munster fan, and that the Scarlets fans would have been really unhappy f they’d lost too. Thank God Leinster had Nigel Owens reffing!

Connacht were all kinds of awesome registering a bonus point try against Treviso. ‘mon the Wesht!
Finally, Leinster  and Glasgow fought it out in style, with Leinster just shading it at the end. Hard to believe Glasgow are fifth, or that both teams had a rake of internationals missing. Madigan was as cool as you like slotting over the kicks, Noel Reid put in some good touches, and Jordi Murphy impressed again. Darragh Fanning improves  with each game, I wonder if they’ve ever thought of putting him in the centre, not a bad option at  6-2. And we’re top again!

RaboDirect PRO12
Ulster 38 - 8 Newport Gwent D'gons 
Edinburgh 31 - 25 Ospreys
Zebre 15 - 10 Cardiff Blues 
Leinster 28 - 25 Glasgow 
Scarlets 18 - 13 Munster 
Connacht 38 - 6 Benetton Treviso