Sunday, January 15, 2017

Good times for the Irish in the Champions Cup, Ulster aside!

 Ross Byrne rugby player
 Ross Byrne

Friday night served up a quarter final berth for Leinster at the RDS. Frans Steyn's red card was the decisive event of the evening - but at that stage, just 15 minutes in, Leinster had already scored two tries. The red card just blew out the score, but I've no doubt that we would have got the bonus point win anyway. Leinster are spoilt at the moment with a flood of new talented backs - Ringrose, O'Loughlin, Byrne x 2, McGrath. We can play an excellent running attacking game, or a a kicking game,  our defense is superb and our handling is just mouthwatering. And fair dues to our pack, who held their own against the huge Frenchmen.

Connacht, even with a scrum half at fly half, had way too much for Zebre, and got all they could out the match.

Munster had a n almighty battle at Scotstoun, digging deep in the last 10 minutes to get them the try that ultimately won them the match. It was a good win too, because Glasgow played well,  were right in the match right up until the end, and with a bit more composure could have stolen it. Connor Murray was man of the match for me, despite the rough attentions of the Scots. His box kicking is the stuff of legends, he directs the game supebly, and he's like another loose forward in defense. Niall Scannell is developing his all round game too, he can slot into 10 easily enough as well as being a great centre.

Finally, Exeter proved to be a challenge too far for Ulster. Their front row worries continue, and they just don't seem to have the grunt they need up front. That's despite the great quality of backs like Trimble, McCloskey, Piatau, Jackson and Marshall. With Pienaar leaving at the end of the season, together with coaching contracts coming up, there seems to be an air of uncertainty hanging over the province. The IRFU thinks differently, but I'd want to see Pienaar staying, with a long term vision of pulling him into coaching.

Sunday 15th January
European Rugby Champions Cup
Bordeaux-Begles 6 9 Clermont Auvergne FT
Scarlets 22 22 Saracens FT
Toulon 27 12 Sale Sharks FT
Exeter 31 19 Ulster
Saturday 14th January
Connacht 66 21 Zebre FT
Northampton 28 21 Castres FT
Wasps 17 14 Toulouse FT
Glasgow Warriors 12 14 Munster FT
Racing 92 34 3 Leicester Tigers F
Friday 13th January
Leinster 57 3 Montpellier

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