Posts Tagged ‘ Montpellier ’

Heineken Cup – The French Connection Continues

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What is it with Irish teams versus the French? The English have Le Crunch, but with fixtures like Leinster VS Clermont in 2010 at the Aviva, again two years later in Bordeaux, Ulster VS Montpellier and Munster VS Perpignan this year, you’d have to say the Celtic and Gallic head to head has just created a huge buzz in recent years. Good news then that two of the three Irish provinces are of course taking on French opposition this weekend. Pure sporting nectar. Continue reading

Heineken Cup – Scramble For The Quarter Finals

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So it’s here, the final weekend of the 2014 Heineken Cup pools stages, Brian O’Driscoll’s final European bow in the RDS, and who knows what other finals this could wind up being as the European rugby situation still sits in utter turmoil. But enough of that, for now there’s a serious amount of permutations and predictions to get through.
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Heineken Cup – Another Clean Sweep For The Provinces

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Not bad, not bad at all. Not perfect, not by any means, but there is a certain sense of pride to be taken from the Irish teams all sweeping the board in this Round 5 weekend. Not something to get boastful, or big headed about, but evidence of how strong the Irish presence is in this competition and that no bonus points were obtained shows how fiercely competitive this tournament still is, and long may it continue.
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Heineken Cup – Big Business Ahead For Leinster And Connacht

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So here it is, months of permutations, battles over the future of this wonderful competition and injuries and upsets to boot. It all comes down to the next two weeks. The 13/14 Heineken Cup has seen somewhat of a return to form for Leinster and Ulster, though Edinburgh and Northampton Mk2 would best be forgotten, whilst Ulster and Connacht have continued their relative progression towards being true contenders on their respective levels. In all, from an Irish perspective at the very least, it’s been a glowing highlight of exactly why the Heineken Cup needs to stay alive.
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One Last Chance For Leinster And Munster

JSFor two Irish provinces there is nothing but pride and a solidifying of a home knock out to play for. For Munster and Leinster though, there is a real chance that with the required effort they could find themselves qualifying, against all odds. Munster arguably have the sweeter position, as the last team in action they will know exactly what is required of them. For Leinster, they can do no more than try as hard as they can to win and hopefully do so with a bonus point. What they will have is the Toulon/Montpellier result in mind, letting them know if they are fighting for one of two or just the one qualifying position.

Munster have a second advantage in that they will surely have the weaker of the two oppositions. Racing are out of the equation and now have a Top 14 to play for, all in all meaning that Munster are most likely to be facing a second string side with little or no interest in the competition. Then again in their first game of the competition they faced an extremely similar side, equally not bothered, but Munster could not do anything with them. Basically what I’m trying to say is that too much focus is sitting on Munster having the easy enemy, and nearly all focus has shifted from the fact that Munster have misfired constantly in this competition this season. Against Edinburgh it took them all eighty minutes to gain a fourth try at home, the return fixture last week was sloppy and infuriating. Really they have only come to life against Saracens this year.

That other lost team though, Leinster, are working in the opposite direction. Leinster have had a disastrous season by all accounts when put up against the last three or four. They do look like they would be slightly more primed and able to get out and grab four tries however, were it not for the rock solid brick opposition that is Exeter. Unlike the Munster game, the argument for the oppositions quality is far more valid in this game. Exeter have been hockeyed in this tournament twice by Clermont and will also feel they had Leinster for the taking in the first game and let it slip. They will field a much stronger team and by in large Leinster will find it hard to get the scores needed. The shining light for them is that they are a team with a greater try scoring ability than Munster. The other two games of Irish interest do not have rankings in the mix, though Ulster still have a home quarter to nail down. The news that Nick Williams is out through injury certainly won’t help there case but a Castres team that are out of contention you would think may arrive to the ground a little disinterested, much like Racing. For Connacht they have a chance to snag a fantastic three wins after last year’s sole victory. A great result for a team still lurking on the fringes, unfairly, and a fitting send off for Elwood from European competition.

Oh and there is of course the slight issue of that Sexton fella supposedly leaving for French pastures. Somehow I feel compelled to say worry not Irish rugby fans. As much as I think it would be a great personal move for him and probably his last chance to do so, the most recent reports from the Racing camp are that he has, as most do, merely been using the French as a bargaining tool with the IRFU and will most likely stay in Ireland. Everything should become clear after the Heineken Cup games this weekend when surely the IRFU will open the cheque book and nail him down for a 3 year contract. Hopefully….

Part One Complete For Leinster And Munster

Edinburgh Rugby v Munster - Heineken European Cup Pool OneIt’s a little apt that Heineken’s current television campaign is based on The Great Escape, for that is exactly what Leinster and Munster were attempting this weekend. Both teams needed big wins, and some other good results around them, to stand any chance of still being in contention next weekend. Both got results that will help them in major ways, yet both teams also left a lot behind them on the pitch that could have helped their cases. Ulster too got the required job done and sorted out a qualified spot, but that home quarter final still hangs in the air. And Connacht, well once more nobody predicted a win, but an equal amount didn’t predict the level of that hammering.

Of all four teams in action, it has to be said that Ulster probably looked most complete, baring in mind that they are missing too stars in the shape of Ferris and Bowe. Still, they fielded shooters like Payne, Jackson and the brute force of Nick Williams and more and came away with a solid win. The worrying thing is how they fell off in the third quarter, and it was doubly worrying that they didn’t exactly have the match sewn up at that stage. That they had the ambition for the bonus point too and were so well primed to get it too only for Pienaar to make an extremely uncharacteristic error was unsettling too. The bonus point of course had no bearing on the qualification but it was yet another of those championship moments, and Ulster fell short. Like the argument for Munster qualifying and not doing much with it, Ulster need to fins consistency of brilliance in order to be proper contenders in the knock outs. For now though, with sheer brilliance such as that scintillating run from Darren Cave for his try, this will do. Ulster 23 – 6 Glasgow

Connacht fans were hoping for more, but the hammering they got was truly disheartening. The effect is lessened somewhat by the fact that Quins are simply unstoppable this season and that Connacht were missing Dan Parks. Though he can misfire, for the most part he has guided them exceptionally well this season and his presence was definitely missed. Admittedly there was some questionable refereeing and Connacht leaked two tries that came whilst they were most deflated, at the end of the game and one when they were down to 13 men. A spirited first half saw a smaller margin however and moving on to host Zebre in Galway you would think Elwood’s men are primed for a fine finish to their second, and largely more successful, Heineken Cup campaign. Harlequins 47 – 9 Connacht

Then Saturday came and the calculators were out. After Sale couldn’t do Leinster a favour by beating Montpellier, the bonus point against Scarlets was all the more crucial. Realistically to be any way comfortable in the table Leinster need two bonus point wins in a row. And boy did they know it. From the off Sexton was repeatedly going to the corner. Tries tries and more tries. And thanks to titanic efforts from Healy, Kearney, Fitzgerald and Jennings the job was done shortly after half time. Again, like the Ulster game, Leinster left tries out there, particularly in the first half where infuriating fumbles and communication break downs led to missed chances. For the most part though Leinster looked so much more complete, with the returning wounded of Kearney, O’Driscoll and Fitzgerald adding much needed spark. And staying with Fitzgerald, what a performance from somebody who has in the past taken a few games to get back into a rhythm, yet here he showed up to involved in absolutely every inch of the pitch and got a deserved man of the match award for his troubles. Aside from the Scarlets try, which technically was against 14 men, the Leinster defence looked remarkable too though Exeter may ask more questions of it. Still, part one done and all that. Leinster 33 – 11 Scarlets

Deja vu struck on Sunday when Munster took the field in Scotland, they too were striving for a performance like Leinster’s. What they produced did fall unfortunately short, like Leinster they left a lot of scores out there. It was telling also that the game raised in intensity immensely when Keatley replaced O’Gara. Penney cannot deny it now that Keatley must start against Racing next weekend, which is all the more likely now given that O’Gara will surely be cited for his senseless lashing out at Sean Cox which will surely earn him at least a week off, and if more could see him miss the Six Nations opener in February. He will be missed for many reasons, but Keatley really has to be able to step up at this stage. Edinburgh 17 – 26 Munster

So as for permutations and all of that, the table currently looks like this :

Harlequins 24
Toulon 23
Clermont 23
Ulster 19
Toulouse 18
Saracens 18
Montpellier 18
Leicester 16

What this means is that Leinster and Munster fans will be hoping for losses next week for Leicester and Montpellier, meaning that wins for both provinces will see them qualify in both runner up spots. As for who goes where, Munster would currently occupy seventh place with one try more than Leinster though it has to be said both teams would have nightmare quarter finals away to any two from Clermont/Harlequins/Toulouse. There are other possibilities such as Montpellier gaining a losing bonus point meaning try bonus points and try difference decides which of Leinster or Munster go through. Leicester too could snag a win against Toulouse and coupled with a good result for Montpellier, both provinces would slip into the Amlin if they were to win next week. It’s brain frying stuff, no doubt about it, but both teams can do no more than play the game in front of them. It’s going to be one hell of a weekend of rugby next weekend, make no mistake. Prepare to have your nerves shattered.