Another weekend of enthralling action in both domestically and in Europe. Here is my review of all the action.
European Rugby Champions Cup
Bordeaux Begles 10 – 28 Clermont Auvergne
Racing Metro 92 34 – 10 Glasgow Warriors
Stade Francais 27 – 7 Munster
US Oyonnax 23 – 24 Ulster
Toulon 12 – 9 Bath
4 from 5, I backed Munster to do well away but Stade might be pulling things together. It was very close in a couple of the other games so it could’ve been so different.
The last time Clermont visited Bordeaux they shipped over 50 points. This time they were much more resolute restricting Bordeaux to 3 clean breaks whilst making 13 of their own. Still Bordeaux got the first points on the table via the boot. The Abendanon danced through for the first try. Bordeaux came back to even things up with a try of their own but in an exciting end to the half, Clermont responded to lead 10-17 at the break. In the second half Clermont stretched their lead through the boot of Parra early on. Then they defended resolutely so that Bordeaux weren’t able to add any points before a late try sealed the game.
Quarter of an hour had gone before Glasgow broke the deadlock with a penalty goal. But Racing ended the half with a mini flurry to lead 13-3 going into the break. Racing continued strongly at the beginning of the second half adding two converted tries to take a commanding lead. Just when you though they would posh on for the TBP they were unable to. Maybe it was down to a number of substitutions. Glasgow came back with a try of their own but never really got back in touch. Then at the very end of the game Racing engineered the 4th try to claim the TBP.
Munster suffered a couple of early injuries and neither side managed to break the other down for the first half hour. Then Stade struck with a try and penalty to lead 10-0 heading towards halftime. What should have been the game turning moment then happened just before half time. Raisuqe got a straight red card for contact with the eye area. After half time Munster weren’t able to take advantage of the extra man as Stade were on top. State scored a penalty and converted try around the hour mark to double their lead. Then with ten minutes to go another try for Stade put the game to bed. A try for Munster five minutes from time was little consolation.
Time to wheel out the old cliché of it being a game of two halves for this one. Oyonnax have had a poor season so far but started strongly with a early try and opened up a 10-0 lead. They also finished the half strongly with another try to lead 23-0 at half time and have many fans despondent on social media. Ulster got the first score but were then held out until the hour mark. Two tries in quick succession just after the hour mark closed the gap to 2 points. Jackson then held his nerve to kick the last penalty to win the game in one of the most remarkable comebacks.
Toulon held their nerve to win a tight kicking duel. Bath got the first penalty only for Toulon to peg them back. Ford them knocked over a drop goal to reopen the lead. But discipline let Bath down as Toulon evened things up before half time. The second half started much in the same vein with Ford knocking over a drop goal and Toulon getting a penalty to even things up. Things stayed like that with Toulon turning over the ball and Bath giving up penalties. Late on one was in range and Michalak won a narrow win for Toulon.
European Rugby Challenge Cup
Section Paloise 21 – 30 Castres
0 from 1, I went against the grain on this one and got it wrong.
Castles got the better of the start backing up a penalty with a converted try to lead 0-10. Things got worse for Pau as they lost a player to the bin but Castres weren’t able to take full advantage only getting a penalty. Pau managed to close out the half with a converted try to go into the break 7-13. Pau then backed that up with the first score of the second half to lead 14-13. Another yellow card soon after though gave Castres the upper hand and they took full advantage with two tries. Casters then maintained their dominance and added another late try. Pau again managed a try at the end of the half to make the scoreline look more respectable but it was a mere consolation.
Exeter Chiefs 19 – 10 Gloucester Rugby
Harlequins 29 – 23 Saracens
Leicester Tigers 30 – 27 Northampton Saints
London Irish 20 – 15 Newcastle Falcons
Wasps 32 – 22 Worcester Warriors
4 from 5, like most people I didn’t pick Quins win.
Exeter played the conditions better and in the first half with the wind at their back put pressure on Gloucester. This led to Hook getting charged down leading to the first score. Then Chiefs executed a driving maul to add another try to the Tank’s total. Then Cook let a chip through bounce and Chiefs collected for a 19-0 half time lead. Gloucester struck first with the win behind their backs with a penalty. Exeter were kicking better into the wind and it wasn’t until there was only ten minutes left that Gloucester spun the ball wide for their only try of the game. From there Exeter closed out the game where they had done enough in the first half to win.
Horwill got carded very early on for a swinging arm entering the ruck. Saracens took full advantage to drive a scrum over for their first try. Quins closed the gap with a wonderful try from lineout move off the training groud to put Care through a gap. Saracens used their scrum again this time, Quins stopped them but it tied in the flankers and Vunipola came off the back and barged over. Then just before half time some great hands and running lines opened up Saracens defence and Quins led 15-14 at the break. There was an exchange of penalties before the game changing moment. Saracens lost Gill to a straight red card for a tip tackle that lucky didn’t lead to serious injury. From there Quins kicked a couple of penalties and drove over for a late try in what was an ill tempered game.
Tigers dominated the early proceedings racking up three converted tries using width for the first, then a driving maul and finishing it off with a break from Youngs. It looked like the game was over at 21-0 after just slightly more minutes. Saints though began to close the gap and used the driving maul to trail 21-10 at the break. Tigers then tried to play too much and turned the ball over for Saints to run in a try. Then Saints took advantage of a yellow card for Cole to get another try from a driving maul and a Myler penalty evened thing sup at 27-27. Then at the very end of the game Burns held his nerve to take a narrow win.
Irish scored the only points of the first half via two penalties. Falcons came close but knocked on over the line. Then the game sprang to life at the beginning of the second half as Irish reclaimed the restart and burst over the line for the opening try. Then soon afterwards Irish stretched their lead to 20-0 via a cross field kick. Like in a few games this weekend though Falcons came back into it. First they burst over from a driving maul and then Goode came on and kick a penalty as Irish were reduced to 14 men. Falcons then took more advantage as a little grubber was collect for another try. Irish put in a big defensive effort to hold on for the win.
Warriors took a good leading the first half via the boot and then an intercept try after some tough defence. Wasps lost the ball over the line and only managed a penalty in response to trail 3-13 at the break. Warriors survived a yellow card relatively unscathed but even at 15 men they couldn’t hold out some typical running rugby from Wasps which evened things up at 13-13. Warriors then went about rebuilding their lead with three penalties to lead by 9 points with quarter of an hour to go. But Wasps dominated from there first driving over from close, then spinning it wide and finally closing out the game with a turn over ball hacked though for the 4th try and TBP. This was a missed opportunity for Warriors in a season where every point could be important.
Edinburgh 28 – 13 Benetton Treviso
Ospreys 9 – 22 Leinster
Scarlets 21 – 19 Connacht Rugby
2 from 3, I wasn’t expecting that from Leinster away.
Scarlets stayed at the top of the table but Leinster are only 1 point behind with a game in hand. 7 teams now have one or more games in hand which makes it a bit hard to make sense of the table. What we do know is that Treviso are still bottom of the table and Irish sides still occupy 4 out of the top 6 places.
I’m trying something new this Monday at 7pm, a live streaming show rounding up all the Aviva Premiership action. I’ll be joined by Debbie Knight from 365 Sporting Days. You can type comments and questions during the show and then after the recorded part I’ll be opening up seats for people to come on line and join us for a chat.
Edit: Here is the recording of the Weekend Rugby Roundup