Another big weekend of Rugby where we found out the finalists of the European competitions. Here’s my review of the weekend’s action.
European Rugby Champions Cup
Clermont Auvergne 13 v 9 Saracens
Toulon 25 v 20 Leinster
2 from 2 for my predictions, which isn’t a great achievement as both favourites won.
Saracens pushed Clermont all the way but at this level the differences are so small and it came down to one moment of magic. Which is simple to say but there will have been plenty of attempts at one of those magic moments from both sides. It’s just that Clermont got themselves in position and managed to pull one of them off. But it should be no surprise that it was close as both these sides have made it at least this far for the past 3 years.
This one was a lot closer than most of us expected, wet conditions didn’t make it easy on the players and there was plenty of kicking. The first 80 minutes left it at 12-12 and there was plenty of kicking in that and not so much running. The extra 20 minutes were better and Toulon had a slight lead but it took an intercept try from Habana to seel things. Leinster did manage a late try but it was too little too late.To give you an idea as to the style of rugby Toulon managed 2 clean breaks to Leinster’s 0. I just hope the final is dry and has some Champaign rugby.
European Rugby Challenge Cup
Edinburgh 45 v 16 Newport Gwent Dragons
Gloucester Rugby 30 v 19 Exeter Chiefs
1 from 2 for my predictions, I let my heart lead this weekend but don’t know if my head would shave chosen differently.
With both teams stuck in mid-table mediocrity this tournament was always to define Edinburgh and Dragons season. Edinburgh led by their scrum half took control of the game and full advantage When Dragons were reduced to 14 men. Edinburgh scored 27 of their points when the Dragons were reduced. There has been lots of praise for Sam Hidalgo-Clyne and Gloucester will need to shut him down.
Gloucester got themselves in front and held that lead for the whole game. But it was closer than the final score suggests. The Chiefs got themselves within a score twice in the second half but each time Gloucester pulled away. Gloucester were always in control of this one even if they did need an intercept try to seek the deal, but that came from making the Chiefs chase the game.
So in two weeks time the final is at the Stoop in London and we’ll see if the Pro12 or Aviva Premiership side wins the new cup.
Crusaders 9 v 26 Chiefs
Hurricanes 24 v 29 Waratahs
Highlanders 30 v 24 Blues
Brumbies 8 v 13 Rebels
Force 6 v 13 Stormers
Sharks 10 v 17 Bulls
Cheetahs 17 v 18 Reds
4 from 7 for my predictions, some upsets but it would be nice to pick one every now an then.
Crusaders were given a lesson by the Chiefs and were to blame for some of their downfall. The Crusaders fell asleep for the first try and then the Chiefs showed their clinical side. Chiefs were given another couple of sniffs and both times finished things off. With SBW showing some great skills the Chiefs are growing into this competition.
The Hurricanes bossed this game but through naivety they lost it. Dropping the ball when it was easier to score a try was bad enough but they also gave up two tries through poor decisions. The first was chipping through when on their own try line and the second an intercept after the hooter had gone for halftime. The Tahs are picking up points but not conniving that they are going to defend their title.
The Landers totally dominated the scoreboard in the first half racking up 3 converted tries and nilling the Blues with only half the possession. But the Blues came back through their pack and got within a score. Landers got a let-off as the Blues showed their lack of trust in their backs. Twice cross field kicks were tried when they were camped on the Landers line and both times they were squandered. There is clearly potential in this Blues side but they are lacking confidence and coherent coaching.
The Brumbies had all the possession and territory and yet should have lost by more. The Rebels missed 3 penalty kicks at goal and tackled their heart out for their first win in Canberra. The Rebels are racking up firsts this season and whilst they won’t trouble the top of the table are improving as a club. The wheels appear to be coming off the Brumbies and as the old adage goes you don’t win the tournament at the beginning of the season.
Over 800 meters of running in the Force v Stormers clash and only a penalty try to show for it. The Stormers still have not lost to a non-NZ team and whilst this wasn’t pretty they got the 4 points. That might be enough to get to the playoffs but it won’t get them far once they are there.
We saw a couple of tries of retreating scrums this week so maybe they are doing their job of sucking the forwards in. That try and Pollard’s kicking was enough to give the Bulls the win over the Sharks. Showing again the worth of a kicker as the Sharks missed 3 out of 4 kicks at goal or more than the 7 points they lost by.
O’Connor dragged the Reds kicking and screaming to this win. Yes the Cheetahs were lucky with their try from a partially charged down kick but they also missed the simplest of kicks near the end to take the lead. O’Connor showed why teams take the off-field risks with hiring him as he created both tries and his meters run with ball was more than twice anyone else on his side.