European Rugby Champions Cup 2014-2015 Round 3 Review

Another round of this great competition completed with some really big competitive games. Here’s my review of how it all went.

So how did the predictions go?

First up here’s a link to my predictions.

6 out of 10, isn’t a great return but who predicted a draw? Also there were a few upsets and I’m happy to have called a couple.

Montpellier 5 v 30 Bath

Bath achieved a big win on the road in France off the back of discipline and a sold defence. In poor conditions they took full advantage of their hosts poor discipline to build a score in the first half, first with Ford’s boot and then tries as players were sent to the bin. It would have been easy for Bath to be dragged into this especially when you see one of your team mates hit from behind.

A try ten minutes into the second half secured the win and brought on the bench but Bath couldn’t punch on for the TBP. Montpellier got a conciliation try during their third yellow card but it was all too little too late. A very impressive win for Bath especially when they made twice as many tackles as Montpellier, it’s very rare to see that with such a convincing scoreline.

Key Stat: Penalties Conceded Montpellier 15 Bath 5

Montpellier led in territory, possession, meters run, clean breaks and defenders beaten. But if you are going to give away that many penalties and 3 yellow cards you’re make hard work for yourselves. Add in 16 turnovers and missing 33% of your tackles and it’s a bad day at the office.

Montpellier are clearly now not going to progress but Bath have given themselves a slim chance but it’s still only slim.

Sale Sharks 15 v 19 Saracens

Sale will be disappointed not to have picked up a win here. They were ahead on nearly every statistic and were battering Saracens for the last quarter trying to get that winning score. It wasn’t to be and Saracens won this one with their famous defence.

Sale have rediscovered the form that got them into this competition after a slow start to the season and so it was always going to be tight. The lead change 5 times in the first half as the sides traded scores. In the end Saracens took a slim 1 point lead into half time.

Saracens ould have hoped to have pushed on when they got an early try in the second half but it wasn’t to be. Sale pulled themselves back with a a try on the hour mark but the missed conversion meant they were still behind and a drop goal from Farrell was the last score of the game.

Key Stat: Tackles made/missed Sale 70/7 Saracens 124/19

Saracens might have missed a few but they made enough of their tackles to hold on for the win. With Munster having to travel away to Clermont and Sale probably resting a couple of players, Saracens will hope to claim second spot next weekend. Sale are now not going to progress so I expect them to turn their attention to the Premiership.

Benetton Treviso 15 v 38 Northampton Saints

There’s not much to learn from this comfortable win for Saints. It panned out as expected with Saints doing the working the first half to tire out the Treviso defence and then capitalised in the second. There was no complacency which could have been their greatest issue and will be something they have to guard against this week.

Key Stat: Runs Treviso 70 Saints 95

56 of those 95 runs were made by the pack, this laid the foundation for the regulation win. Even these wins need the commitment and effort to achieve. Saints should back this up with another win next weekend and the return fixture with Metro is looking like the important one. Treviso are obviously not going to progress.

Ospreys 19 v 19 Racing Metro 92

In a game of few opportunities it was important to keep the score board ticking over at every opportunity. Racing had the best of the first half with South African Goosen pulling the strings, not only kicking the points but also making the break for the try. The boot of Bigger was accumulating points for the Welsh men and two penalties early in the second half cut the lead to 4. A drop goal from Goosen looked to have sealed the win but a late try and conversion evened things up. That wasn’t the end of the drama but a another Goosen drop goal was short and the points were shared.

Key Stat: Turnovers conceded Ospreys 8 Racing 15, Tackling success rate Ospreys 85% Racing 92%

The scavenging of Ospreys negated by the brick wall of Racing. For both sides next week’s game is pivotal in what is proving to be a close group.

Munster 9 v 16 Clermont Auvergne

Clermont won a famous victory through being more incisive and get defence especially from their forwards who tackled all day long. 101 of Clermont’s 129 tackles were made by their forwards.

Clermont got out to an early lead and never gave it up. Keatley just about kept Munster in the game with a couple of penalties but two tries meant that Clermont went into the break with a 10 point lead. The second half was all about Munster campaign Clermont territory but a mixture of sound defence, discipline and questionable decisions from Munster meant only 3 points were scored. Munster kicked for lineouts three times when penalty goals were on offer and when your pack is not on top that’s a questionable tactic.

Key Stat: Average meters per carry Munster 2.5 Clermont 4.0

Clermont were more incisive with the limited amount of ball they got and their defence just stopped Munster from doing anything. The group is extremely tight with Clermont having a 1 point lead over Munster and Saracens, so all the games are going to be important.

Ulster 24 v 9 Scarlets

Ulster got their first win of the competition over fellow Pro12 side Scarlets in a game that was decided early on. Scarlets took an early lead but a late tackle saw their flanker sent to the bin after 12 minutes. Whilst Scarlets were down a man Ulster scored 14 points and never looked back.

Scarlets weren’t able to break down the Ulster defence and even when they pulled back within 5 points, Ulster scored two more tries to pull away and get the TBP. The gap should have been larger but Humphreys had an off day with the boot missing 2 penalties and 2 conversions.

Key Stat: Penalties conceded Ulster 8 Scarlets 16

When you’re chasing the game giving the ball and territory back that many times and also picking up a second yellow card doesn’t help. With all sides taking points off each other who knows how this group is going to pan out.

Castres 17 v 32 Wasps

This was a really close game until a yellow card proved to be the catalyst for Wasps to pull away and register what looks like a convincing victory. Castles really didn’t help themselves in this game. Three missed penalties stopped them from being able to keep the score board ticking over and applying pressure on Wasps. That is to take nothing away from Wasps who’s back row in particular put in a massive amount of work.

The first half was entertaining rugby with Wasps getting the first score but Castres responding each time. Wasps managed to go into the break with the noses in front by 1 point. The second half lacked the same quality with a penalty each until the 70th minute. A high tackle leading to a yellow card and penalty try gave Wasps breathing room and allowed them to push on for the important 4th try for a TBP.

Key Stat: Yellow Cards Castres 1 Wasps 0

That yellow card really turned a very even contest. It also means that Wasps have picked up a bonus point in every game so far giving them an outside chance of qualification. Castles three losses means they are out of it.

Harlequins 24 v 18 Leinster

Quins put in a great defensive shift and looked much more like themselves in this important win over Leinster. Struggling in the Premiership but unbeaten in Europe, Quins restricted Leinster to just penalties. With both side going into half time on 9 points it was 2 tries in 5 minutes, just before the hour mark, where Quins took control. The first from good work and then the second from an interception as maybe Leinster were trying to force things.

Key Stat: Average meters per carry Quins 4.6 Leinster 3.6

Clearly the 70 meter interception try helped the figures but even so Quins made more ground when they ran the ball. Also that is down to their hard working defence.

Quinn now lead the group but the return fixture allows Leinster to stick back quickly and it’s still between these two.

Toulouse 19 v 11 Glasgow Warriors

Toulouse’s powerful scrum allied to Glasgow ill discipline decided this one. Toulouse only scored 3 points whilst Glasgow were a full strength. Toulouse tried to play an expansive style of rugby with 30 offloads, but were unable to retain possession for any length of time to apply pressure turning the ball over 22 times.

This must have been a frustrating game to watch as there was no continuity. Glasgow also turned over the ball 15 times, the only try of the match came from one of them. Add in Glasgow conceding 14 penalties and there was no way they could string the phases together to score points.

There was nearly a kilometre of running with ball in hand so it should have been an advert of attacking rugby. It’s a shame that disciplined errors prevented that.

Key Stat: Yellow cards Toulouse 0 Glasgow 11

Toulouse scored nearly all their points when Glasgow were down to 14 men. Toulouse have put themselves in the driving seat of they group. However Glasgow will know that they can win the return fixture next week if they clean up their discipline.

Leicester Tigers 25 v 21 Toulon

In an intensely physical encounter Tigers started the better dominating the first quarter of the game to take a 13 point lead. Toulon fought back though in the second quarter scoring exactly the same with the help of an intercept try to go in level at half time.

In the second half Williams kept punishing Toulon with penalties to keep the score board ticking over. So even though Toulon got the only and took the lead, it was only temporary.

Key Stat: Penalties conceded Tigers 9 Toulon 14

Those penalties allowed Tigers to maintain the pressure and score points. With all the sides in this group taking points off each other it could go anyway. Currently Toulon sit top of the group and with a home game coming up are in the driving seat still.

Here’s a link to my Challenge Cup round 3 review.

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