A big weekend of rugby both in European competitions but also in the domestic competitions of South Africa, New Zealand and Australia. Here is my round-up of all the action.
European Rugby Champions Cup
Glasgow Warriors 42 – 13 Leicester Tigers
Wasps 82 – 14 Zebre
Leinster 33 – 15 Castres
Toulon 23 – 31 Saracens
Northampton Saints 16 – 14 Montpellier
Connacht Rugby 23 – 21 Toulouse
Scarlets 28 – 11 Sale Sharks
Bordeaux Begles 28 – 13 Ulster
Racing Metro 92 -Postponed- Munster
Exeter Chiefs 8 – 35 Clermont Auvergne
6 from 9, 3 away wins that I went for didn’t come off as the Top14 had a tough Saturday.
The weekend finished with the sad news of Anthony Foley passing away. He coached at Munster and correctly the Racing v Munster game was called off. I found this very sobering as I’m 42 just like he was, I have a wife and 2 kids just like he leaves behind. It’s a reminder to enjoy the moments we have and let our loved ones know how much we feel for them as you don’t know how much time you have left.
Glasgow made a statement of intent with the victory over Tigers in Pool 1. however with the Racing v Munster game postponed it’s going to be sometime before we can say how this one is likely to pan out.
Wasps thrashed Zebre in pool 2 but as the other sides are also likely to register TBP wins that doesn’t tell us too much. Connacht’s victory over Toulouse suggests that they have recaptured last seasons form at home at least. Toulouse will be a different prospect at home so there are some big games to come in this pool.
Saracens might sit second in pool 3 but their away win over Toulon means that there are firmly in the driving seat. Scarlets win over Sale will give them a good confidence boost but Sale always struggle away from home so stiffer tests await. Toulon remain favourite to finish second.
Leinster did the job at home and sit top of the group. Saints scrambled home over Montpellier but it wasn’t a convincing performance. Leinster are clear favourite to top the group now but they will again face harder tests in their away games. Montpellier aren’t out of this with their LBP but will need to win at home next weekend.
Pool 5 is the one pool where the French teams lead. Clermont get a fine win over in Exeter and are rightly favourite to top the group. Bordeaux got the home win but will need to show that they want to play away as well. Ulster again disappointed in Europe and so I can’t see them going far and finally Exeter are out of form and need to click soon.
European Rugby Challenge Cup
Harlequins 43 – 21 Stade Francais
Grenoble 13 – 39 Lyon
Ospreys 45 – 0 Newcastle Falcons
Newport Gwent Dragons 37 – 16 Brive
Bristol 20 – 33 Cardiff Blues
Enisei-STM 19 – 12 Worcester Warriors
Timișoara Saracens 17 – 59 Edinburgh
Benetton Treviso 10 – 41 La Rochelle
Bayonne 27 – 47 Gloucester Rugby
Pau 22 – 25 Bath
7 from 10, 3 away wins messed up my predictions.
In Pool 1 both La Rochelle and Gloucester started well. La Rochelle carried with good Top14 from over and Gloucester seem to love this competition. Obviously it’s early days but this pool looks like it will be decided between these 2 teams.
Ospreys were the stand out team in Pool 2 with their demolition of Newcastle. They have been going well in the Pro12 and brought that form across. Lyon got a good away win but we will have to see how they do when they leave the French shores.
Dragons were impressive in their win over Brive and top the group, but we will have to see how they don on their travels. Enisei got another good scalp after grabbing 2 last season. Their 3 home games are all at the beginning of this tournament due to the weather in Russia and they will have to get their points in these games. This one is far from over and Warriors or Brive could come back into it.
Cardiff and Bath registered away victories in Pool 4 and this looks like another 2 horse race. Both these sides have good domestic form and it should be a good battle.
Edinburgh and Quins picked up the expected victories but Stade aren’t out of this one yet. As Edinburgh’s victory was over the Romanian side we will have to see how they do when they face more serious opposition.
Cheetahs 55 – 17 Lions
Blue Bulls 36 – 30 Western Province
2 from 2, the top seeds won their games.
The Cheetahs maintained their perfect season and it’s hard to look past them winning the final and completing a perfect season.
North Harbour 27 – 27 Tasman
Taranaki 35 – 32 Auckland
Manawatu 14 – 21 Otago
Counties Manukau 33 – 21 Canterbury
Hawke’s Bay 24 – 26 Bay of Plenty
Wellington 24 – 28 Waikato
Tasman 56 – 0 Southland
Northland 28 – 44 North Harbour
4 from 8, a Saturday of upsets ruined my picking.
In the Premiership Canterbury topped the table as they have promised to do all season and will host Counties Manukau. The other semi final is a repeat of the final from 2014 with Taranaki hosting Tasman. 2 years ago Taranaki took the game 36-32 let’s hope is as entertaining a game.
In the Championship Otago held on at the top after a late season wobble and will host Manawatu in a repeat of the game this weekend that Otago won. North Harbour won the final game of the round and will travel to Wellington in the other semi final. A peculiarity of this tournament means that Manawatu made the semi finals with a losing record of 4-6. This is because there are cross over games between the Premiership and Championship. If you look at the Premiership table only Hawk’s Bay, who came last, had losing record.
NSW Country Eagles 50 – 24 Melbourne Rising
Sydney Rays 24 – 42 Perth Spirit
1 from 2, I went with the top seeded teams.
The Eagles will host the Spirit next weekend for the final of the competition. As Brisbane City have won the previous 2 seasons we will be seeing a first time winner crowned.
Join the #RugbyChat on twitter for an hour of discussion about the action this weekend. If you can’t make the hour then you can still give your view as the conversation keeps going over the following day.
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