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Heineken Cup – Munster Finish Their Heineken Cup History On A Low

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“Not with a bang, but a whimper”. The words of T.S Elliot may seem a somewhat harsh reflection on the weekend’s rugby, but for two teams like Munster and more significantly Clermont to bow out of the competition’s final ever incarnation in such fashion was deflating at best. Munster can take heart from the fact that they lost to the best and that they were at least extremely close to functioning fully, whereas Clermont will only be too happy to close the door on the competition that has caused them such mental anguish over the years, in the hope that the new Championship brings more prosperous times.

By comparison to Leinster at the start of the month, Munster had much to be proud of in their performance on Sunday against Toulon. Their downfall in the end was the same plight they have been suffering for much of the season however. Whatever of their powerful scrum and maul, Munster are suffering dearly in there defence. Not that it yielded tries for the merchandise, but Munster had such a torrid time keeping the line breaks under control that they were just dead on their feet in attack through exhaustion.

Toulon were immense once again however and Munster of old would have even had a hard time against them. Jonny Wilkinson commanded the scoreboard, kicking all bar three of their points, with Matthieu Basteraud and Steffan Armitage once again providing the wrecking ball lines to keep Munster exhausted. Looking beyond their “paid” nature, you can’t much argue the skill set of Toulon, and their fans are fully invested regardless. They thoroughly deserve this chance at a second trophy in as many years.

As we finish this chapter of European rugby let it be said that Munster have nothing to be ashamed of. They have lost out to French teams in France for two semi finals in a row. They still have the spirit and hunger but they are lacking in that extra level of skill and finishing. This can be fixed, Anthony Foley can fix it. Munster will return to their rightful place in the elite.
Toulon 24 – 16 Munster

There’s not a lot that can be said about Clermont and their implosion against Saracens. It’s not the way Heineken Cup semi finals should go, and if it’s the best the English and French can muster up then one wonders why they had any credence whatsoever to dictate the ways and rules of the new competition.

Saracens had opportunity and took it where they could, credit to them. Whether the final outcome would have been the same, their first score of the game within eight minutes of kick off certainly told all that they were more up for it. From there many will argue that Nigel Owens had an off day in favour of the home side. I will agree that I think the penalty try call was a little far fetched, but Clermont had already bowed their heads even in that early stage.

They must be one of the most infuriating teams to follow in European rugby. Arguably even more so than Toulon, given the more current age profile of their squad, they are seriously talented. But as many an Irish national team supporter is familiar with, they just can’t help but bottle the big ones. Once more on Saturday they did just that, and it was painful viewing. Excruciating.

Routs can be fun if you’re wearing the right colours, but not with teams of this calibre. Not in Heineken Cup semi finals. Leinster did the same to Cardiff two years ago, and I suppose therein lies one argument for the change up initiated in the competition. Hopefully the new season will see more deserved qualifiers due to the smaller pool number. Hopefully.
Saracens 46 – 6 Clermont

Image courtesy of RTE.ie

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