History was made this weekend, well history is made everyday but this weekend something happened that will be remembered. Here is my weekend rugby review.
European Rugby Champions Cup
Clermont Auvergne 18 – 24 Toulon
0 from 1, my prediction for this one was wrong. Overall a 70% success rate got me into the top 12% globally.
Anyway to the game, for a proper write-up head to a paper or rugby website. From reading the papers and following twitter, Mitchell’s wonder try won the game. But did it or was it the work of the forwards led by MoM Williams? Or if we look at the scoring was it Halfpenny with his two extra kicks? As was we all know from all the previews there was skill and experience all over the pitch but only 4 of the Toulon starting 15 were French.
Those international players created history by being the first team to win the top European competition three times in a row. With Nonu and Cooper arriving after the RWC there will be plenty of quality for a shot at a fourth. But it’s not really the backs that will need strengthening but the pack where age is catching up and retirement of some key players. It’s going to be interesting to see how they try to replace the wealth of experience they currently have in their second row.
For Clermont it’s another loss in a final, to go with their Heineken Cup final loss and 9 French championship losses. It took them ten attempts to win the French championship so they clearly will keep on trying in Europe too. Clearly that’s a stupid thing to say as all teams keep on trying but it does show that they are used to this scenario and will be able to pick themselves up and keep going domestically.
European Rugby Challenge Cup
Edinburgh 13 – 19 Gloucester Rugby
1 from 1, I got this one right. My 84% accuracy got me 227th globally or top 4% so happy with that.
Again you can get match write-ups all over the web so I’m not going to repeat that. You could simplify this down to Laidlaw winning the battle of the Scottish goal kicking scrum halts. That’s not the real story though, Gloucester were on top but the tables were turned when they lost a Meakes to a red card for an illegal tackle. Edinburgh scored a converted try to get back within one score but Gloucester held out to ensure that no Scottish side have ever won a European trophy.
Highlanders 48 – 15 Sharks
Brumbies 10 – 13 Waratahs
Blues 41 – 24 Force
Hurricanes 29 – 23 Crusaders
Rebels 16 -15 Chiefs
Cheetahs 25 – 17 Stormers
Bulls 35 – 33 Lions
3 from 7, a poor week on the predictions front. I didn’t manage to call the upsets and the one I did go for didn’t happen!
The Highlanders got their season back on track with a resounding win. The Sharks kept in touch for the first half hour but were out of it ten minutes later at half time. The Highlanders have a wonderful back three but it was Sopoaga who took all the plaudits. Some wonderful kicking and passing from him must have put him in the All Black picture even in a RWC year when you need experience.
The Waratahs took big step towards qualifying for the playoffs, they might still be behind the Brumbies but they have a game in hand. It was a real arm wrestle and unsurprisingly came down to a few moments of discipline and kicking.
The Blues blew away the Force where they were in control at half time but really sealed it early in the second half. It was only the second win of the season for the Blues but they have been playing some good attacking rugby. They just haven’t been able to put together 80 minutes of it and also it doesn’t help being in the hardest conference. For the Force it’s another season at the wrong end of the table and I can’t see how they are going to change that anytime soon. But as far as the playoffs are concerned this game didn’t matter.
The Canes cemented their place at the top of the table with where there was as much coverage of the fly halves as there was the game. The starting All Black fly half was playing this game it’s just a matter of knowing who it was? Slade had some great moments of skill creating two tries with decisive breaks, but also giving one away with a bad choice of pass on the line. Barrett returned that poor pass for a try and whist he didn’t have the same show stopped moments he also didn’t have the mistakes either. Oh and there was also someone called Carter playing.
The Rebels are having a real breakthrough season, first they won their first overseas game ever. Then their first win in the capital and now they have beaten all New Zealand teams at least once in their 5 year history. The Chiefs took a blow but are still in the hunt but they really are missing Cruden and it looks like it’s going to cost them either getting into or in the playoffs.
This really was a week where teams who looked on track stumbled and the Stormers added themselves to that list. The Cheetahs have been struggling having lost so many players at the end of last season. But here they took full advantage when the game broke up and they do like it when it’s fast and loose. The Stormers looked nailed on to win the South African conference but they will now be hoping the Bulls had a tough tour.
The Bulls climbed back to the top of the South African conference before their tough tour. It was a close game with plenty of action but the thing that will have the Stormers in good heart is that the Lions lost this rather than Bulls winning it. The Lions were sloppy especially early on and if they want to make that unlikely playoff appearance then they are going to need to be more precise.
I’ll be hosting the #RugbyChat on Tuesdays at 8pm New Zealand time on twitter. So join in and let us know your opinion.