Sunday, May 25, 2014

Toulon sweep all aside for back to back Heineken Cups


The big one of the weekend was Saracens v Toulon. For once this season, Saracens came up against a team where their physicality didn’t count. Big players for them like Burger and Britz just didn’t feature, Toulon had size on the pitch, and size on the bench, and they murdered Saracens at the breakdown. And playmakers for Touolon  like Giteau, Basteraud, Mitchell, Fernandez and Smith combined to make tries that overcame the stout Saracens defense. Saracens are really good team, but Toulon are a class above – they need to develop a more rounded game to have a plan B for when they don’t dominate physically.

Toulon are the modern team of all nations, but Saracens aren’t far behind. There were a huge number of South Africans on the pitch – Burden, Botha, Rousssow , Smith, Claassens and Habana for Toulon, and Britz, Hargreaves, De Cock, Stevens, Botha and Barett for Saracens (OK, some of them are English now!). And even some English and French players! Jonny Wilkinson is a total professional, and a regular down to earth guy too, one of the best players of all time. But unlike Sky commentator Stuart Barnes, I wouldn’t bear his babies without anesthetic. A word too for Alain Rolland, signing off on a high , one of the greats of the game.

Northampton v Bath wasn’t quite the free flowing event it might have been, but it was decent contest for most of the match. Bath took their chances well in the first half, but just couldn’t live with Northampton’s power in the second half, as the Saints claimed their first cup of the season.

Wasps made hay against a flaky Stade Francaise team, who pressed the panic button way too early in the match, and at the end handed the win and the final spot in the new European on a plate to Wasps. There’s a lot of quality in that Wasps team, my man of the match was Joe Simpson, who ran the show superbly from scrum half.

Finally Leinster  A retained the British and Irish Cup with a 44 – 17 wins over Leeds Carnegie.

Heineken Cup
Saturday , May 24
Stade Francais 6 - 20 Wasps 
Toulon 23 - 6 Saracens 
Amlin Challenge Cup
Friday , May 23
Bath 16 - 30 Northampton

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