Another full on weekend of european rugby has gone past and we get a few weeks to recuperate. Here is my review after the second set of games.
So how did the predictions go?
8 of 10 in the Champions Cup and 8 of 10 in the Challenge Cup. With over half the Champions Cup wins coming from the away side and the Challenge Cup being such a lottery at times I think I did well.
Starting with the Champions Cup review:
Munster 14 v 3 Saracens
A real tight game over in Ireland, the wet weather won’t have helped and in the end it came down to a yellow card in the second half for a tip tackle. But Muster were on top at that time after giving up both territory and possession in the first half and really managed to take control after the break. Having 70% possession and territory in the second half Munster will be very happy with their game management. They managed to make sure that Saracens have very few opportunities in the second half to score points and so took a tight one.
Ulster 13 v 23 Toulon
Toulon make it 2 out of 2 and again whilst they weren’t at their majestic best they kept control of the score line and never looked like they would lose. They didn’t get any breathing room until their first try just before halftime. The 10 points they got in those last few minutes were probably the deciding factor. From then on Ulster had to chase the game and they never got back into it. A late try gave them the hope of a LBP but it wasn’t to be. Toulon now look to have this group under control with the Leicester double-header coming up.
Bath 19 v 21 Toulouse
After the start to the season Toulouse had they will be very happy to be 2 wins from 2 games in this competition. The name might have changed but the all time top team keep on coming. The stats were very even but Toulouse’s defence kept Bath under control and it was Ford’s 100% kicking that kept Bath in this. Bath will be happy that they performed much better than last week and that Ford’s kicking was good in a big game where it hasn’t been in the past, the boy is maturing well. At the end of the day getting into the top 4 in the premiership is Bath’s priority this year not Europe.
Northampton Saints 34 v 6 Ospreys
A TBP win for Saints is exactly what they needed after giving up the LBP against Metro last weekend. Obviously the headlines are going to be about 4 try George North and he was a game changer as this game was littered with errors, including 2 disallowed tries for forward passes. But Saints defence was also instrumental, giving up 18 turnovers (to 12) but not conceding a try is surprising. This group is starting to look it will come down to the wire and Saints will be hopping that Metro and Ospreys can take points off each other in the next 2 rounds.
Montpellier 13 v 15 Glasgow Warriors
How did Glasgow win this attritional game? It came down to discipline but again Glasgow gave up 16 to 9 penalties but it was all about where on the pitch. I think that Glasgow were lucky as even though both sides missed 3 penalties each, all of Glasgow’s ones were from long-range. But at the end of the day it doesn’t matter how you win as long as you do and Glasgow will be over the moon to be leading their group even if it is only by 1 point. The next two games against Toulouse should see who is going to win this group and will make interesting viewing.
Scarlets 15 v 3 Leicester Tigers
If Scarlets had kicked better than 33% the margin would have been bigger. But the score is misleading this was an attritional contest with neither side being particularly incisive. Scarlets two tries came from turnover ball, one a dropped ball and the other an interception so opportunistic. Games at this level will be won on such moments and yet again the stats were very even in this game, there wasn’t one that you could call out that showed how one side dominated. Well maybe turnovers conceded 13 to 20.
Castres 16 v 21 Leinster
Castres put up a much better showing this weekend in front of their home crowd. But it was not to be, after starting well in both halves Leinster had the experience to take the upper hand. Leinster couldn’t get across the try line but French indiscipline allowed them to keep slotting the kicks and get an important away victory. With Quins also winning the double header between the two sides will decide who qualifies top.
Clermont Auvergne 35 v 3 Sale Sharks
As Clermont have done so many times before they took measure of their opponents in the first half before going through the gears and powering away in the second. Clermont had a good but not really commanding lead at halftime but 3 tries in the second half gained the TBP and put this one to bed. Sale were always going to struggle, playing at possibly the hardest place to get an away win in Europe they will have learnt a lot about themselves. This pool is still wide open and only time will tell who comes out of it.
Wasps 16 v 23 Harlequins
Wasps will be really glad of the LV= Cup break to rest some players, this was another ding dong battle that Quins just edged in the second half. Wasps have been really good this season at home and so it was not a surprise that they pushed Quins all the way. In the end it wasn’t the boot but the scrum that won it with Quins getting the upper hand and earning the decisive penalty try.
Benetton Treviso 10 v 26 Racing Metro 92
The first half was close even thug Metro dominated both territory and possession. I’m assuming that they got a right rollicking in the dressing room and came out to take an early decisive leading after half time. With 483 meters with ball in hand compared to 189 for Teviso this was more comfortable than the scoreline suggests. The main concern when you are that dominant but not getting the points is that frustration takes over but not this time.
Now the Challenge Cup Review
London Welsh 20 v 52 Bordeaux Begles
Another big loss for Welsh and their points were scored once the result was already decided. Welsh are now out of this competition and need to figure out how they are going to stop teams scoring so many points.
Bordeaux get themselves back into this competition and will have to see how they do in the double-header vrs Lyon when the next set of European games. I don’t thing that we can take much from this game except the points and how it affects the table.
Grenoble 15 v 25 London Irish
Irish set themselves up well in this competition and the double-header against Cardiff is now going to decide who wins this group. They took control of this game in the first half and then added the bonus point try in the second half. These results will add confidence to Irish who have performed so far this season but not got the results they would have wanted.
La Rochelle 25 v 13 Bayonne
I understand that in the past in French rugby there was a gentleman’s agreement that the home team won. It seems that tradition is still alive and kicking in the challenge cup. In the future when French teams are playing each other just go for the home team and don’t worry who the sides are.
Newport Gwent Dragons 26 v 30 Newcastle Falcons
So Newcastle go something like a year without a win in the Premiership then win 4 games in 4 weeks! This is one that they had no right to win but win they did. Dragons will be kicking themselves, they missed half their kicks at goal leaving 10 points on the pitch and lost 5 of their own lineouts. So with those errors Dragons deserved to lose, even if they did rack up an amazing 508 meters running with the ball well over twice that of Newcastle. A lot of the stats were similarly lopsided but Falcons fought through and got the win.
Brive 21 v 26 Zebre
It’s hard to find good reports on the games that don’t include British and Irish teams in the English press. Even after Brive’s demolition by Gloucester last weekend this is a large upset by the Italian side who are the second bottom of the Pro12. I know that I have mentioned it a lot but here is another case of the French teams not caring about this competition at all. Good on Zebre for the victory but this really has handed the group to Gloucester now.
Edinburgh 25 v 17 Lyon
Edinburgh took control of this right from the start and fully punished Lyon’s ill discipline. A big lead was built up early which was needed as 5 Edinburgh players went off injured in the first half. This puts Edinburgh in control of the group with the double-header against London Welch up next.
Rugby Rovigo 18 v 33 Cardiff Blue
Cardiff got the TBP win but boy did they make hard work of it. Against a semi-pro side they really should not have had to come from behind to win the game. To be fair they got into the lead after 24 mins and never looked like losing the game but this should have been cricket score and it wasn’t anywhere near.
Bucharest Wolves 9 v 13 Stade Francais
Really? Ok there was snow falling so the conditions weren’t great but even so how can a team like Stade but pushed so close by a team from Romania? It’s not like Stade didn’t include any of the their internationals for example Digby Ioane and Morne Steyn were playing. This should have been a cricket score but in the end Wolves got a LBP, it’s results like this that make it such a lottery to pick the results.
Exeter Chiefs 33 v 13 Connacht Rugby
Exeter totally dominated this game with the score line only looking semi respectable due to a late try for Connacht. The TBP took Chiefs top of the group and back into the competition. Like nearly all the teams in this competition, the domestic league will be the priority so who knows what team will be selected for the next game.
US Oyonnax 15 v 25 Gloucester Rugby
Gloucester took control of their group with a double-header against Zebre coming up. This was a real lesson in keeping the scoreboard ticking over. Whilst Oyonnax did a good job in keeping in touch, giving up 18 turnovers to 10 was always going to hurt them.
I can really see the English teams doing well in this competition as there are some good sides in there and also the French teams just really aren’t interested.