Heineken Cup – Munster Seek Final Berth


Sad as it is, the Heineken Cup, that has been such a happy hunting ground for Irish teams through the years, has now got three more days of action to its name. This weekend’s semi finals and the final in May will be the last hurrah these four teams get in a competition that has been the sight of some of their most famous days. None more so of course than Munster. Holding all the remaining Irish hope in their hands, there’s no question over which game is the “must-see” of the weekend. Two giants of the game are set to go head to head, the second French thriller of the year, and the result should be worthy of legend.

Munster have been creaking and soaring in equal measure since the departure of Declan Kidney. There’s been non-qualification for the knock outs, but there’s also been Harlequins in Twickenham. Never before have they been so unpredictable as a team. One thing that is for sure over the last few weeks however is that their defence is worrying. An uncharacteristic and shocking loss to Glasgow in the Rabo, as well as their porous display against Toulouse is reason to be concerned ahead of the trip to Marseille.

Toulon, if nothing else, carry serious weapons in attack. What’s worse, they have them 1 to 15. Even with the kicking wizard Jonny Wilkinson at the steering wheel, they manage to bully and bruise their way over the gain line without his assistance anyway. Leinster found this out the hard way with their own defensive mess, Munster will need to front up double time. As for what Toulon can ultimately do against them, well win really. Bernard Laporte has hypothesised that the odds are 51% in their favour, never before has one percent been so crucial. Lest we forget too that the last time these teams met Munster suffered a defeat akin to Leinster, never really getting their game going against a ruthless Toulon.

They may be soaring on legacy and reputation for the most part, but Munster will do anything but roll over on Sunday. That being said Toulon are quite simply on fire at the minute and it is hard to see past them. For the second time this season I can only say
Toulon win

Nobody much likes Saracens. And they’re cool with that. They brand themselves, and play, with a sense of borderline arrogance that you can usually only get away with via results. Though they haven’t garnered them in this competition, they have displayed some fine rugby, although it is well documented that they had a helping hand in their last fixture against Ulster.

Clermont on the other hand still have the one single biggest factor against them, lack of mental strength. So many times, as recently as last year, they have managed all but one great moment required for victory. French don’t travel, Sarries are lethal in Twickenham. If you think it’s bad that we rehash all of these ahead of games like tomorrow, how do you think it must be to the mental health of Clermont.

Much goes for and against both of these sides, Clermont are unquestionably skilled across the park, but they are the travelling French. Saracens, mostly via Owen Farrell, have shown some poor mental resolve at times, but they host the visitors in Twickenham, ’nuff said. As has been the case in most of this year’s tournament, nothing but home advantage can sway it.
Saracens win

Image courtesy of RTE

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