European Rugby Champions Cup 2014-2015 Round 4 Review

Another good weekend of rugby with some tight games and the odd blow out. Here is my review of the Champions Cup action.

So how did your predictions go?

First up here’s a link to the predictions.

8 out of 10, is just OK as there weren’t many upsets this week even if a few of the games were close.

Bath Rugby 32 v 12 Montpellier

OK I’m sorry but I have to vent, Burgess may turn into the greatest player of all time but please can we just treat him like the other players in a match report? If you want to do a feature on him that’s fine but report the bloody game not your pre-written piece on one player.

Now that’s out of the way, the game. Bath came out of the blocks well and were already 2 tries and 17 points up after 14 minutes. The rest of the first half went scoreless though and  Bath knew that it was as much about scoring 4 tries as it would be getting the win.

The third came ten minutes into the second half, with Montpellier also losing a player to the sin bin, everything looked set. However Bath were unable to take advantage of the extra player and Montpellier came back with 2 tires of their own. The win was never in doubt but the TBP was until right at the end when Agulla crossed the white wash.

Key Stat: Turnovers conceded Bath 13 Montpellier 20

Montpellier led many of the stats including possession, territory, meters gained and defenders beaten but turning the ball over that often just robbed them of any fluency. Added to that Bath averaged 4.3 meters a carry to Montpellier’s 3.1 and you can see Bath were much more incisive with the possession (42%) they had.

Glasgow 9 v 12 Toulouse

A mixture of the defences being on top and the referee not allowing the game to flow lead to this being a stop start game with little go forward. What go forward there was came from the Scottish side as Toulouse got a head early and kicked to relieve pressure. With defences on top it turned into being all about penalties and the French were better at kicking for goal.

Key Stat: Penalty goals Glasgow 3 from 6 Toulouse 4 from 5

Glasgow had the territory and possession to win this game but couldn’t break down the French defence and missed their kicks. Some were at long range but others should have been made.

Northampton Saints 67 v 0 Benetton Treviso

It took ten minutes for Saints to score their first try but after that they were totally in control with the TBP wrapped up before half time. A couple of tries early in the second half kept things ticking over. Treviso managed to keep Saints out for quarter of an hour but emptying the bench reopened the flood gates with five tries in the last quarter of the game.

Key Stat: Meters with ball in hand Saints 897 Treviso 182

We have had a few 1K games recently but we have not seen 800+ meters from one team before.

Toulon 23 v 8 Leicester Tigers

Toulon came out of the blocks at a blistering pace and quickly racked up a 13 point lead via the boot of Halfpenny and an Ali Williams try. After this 15 minute blitz Tigers managed to gain some parity but were only once able to break the champions defence. This meant Toulon took an eleven point lead into the break.

The second half was much more of an arm wrestle, which is never good against one of the bigger stronger sides in Europe. It lead to just two scores, a converted try for Toulon and a penalty for Tigers. Williams had a poor kicking game both at goal where he hit only 1 of 3 and from hand. But Toulon were very up or this game and I don’t think that would have changed the result.

Key Stat: Territory (1H/2H) Toulon 63% (63%/63%) Tigers 37% (37%/37%)

Toulon had the power and class to play the game where they wanted.

Racing Metro 18 v 14 Ospreys

Ospreys started the brighter but were unable to capitalise and having their scrum half sent to the bin took the wind out of their sails. Whilst Metro didn’t manage a try during the sin bin, soon afterwards they notched up two to take a 15-0 lead into the half time break.

In the second half Ospreys were unable to take advantage of Metro’s first yellow card but the second sparked the fight back. Then with ten minutes left in the half a second try closed Racing’s lead to just one point. Ospreys weren’t able to take advantage of their momentum and a late penalty for Racing finished the scoring.

Key Stat: Turnovers Racing 15 Ospreys 21

This was a free flowing game that could have gone either way. Ospreys had 62% possession and 58% territory in the first half but were unable to take advantage. Ospreys will be very disappointed with this result as they could and maybe should have won this, but just gave the ball away too often. Racing will be very happy with the result especially as they got on the wrong side of the ref and gave up 13 penalties to Ospreys 5.

Saracens 28 v 15 Sale Sharks

Saracens always looked like they were going to win this game but it took a long time for the scoreboard to look so convincing. Saracens took the lead with a couple of penalties but an unconverted try by Hines pulled Sale back into it. Goode then replied and Saracens took a three point lead into the break.

Saracens then pulled away just before the hour mark with another try before adding their third with 5 minutest to go. But the TBP wasn’t going to happen and Sharks actually finished the stronger, scoring a consolation try and making the scoreline look more respectable.

Key Stat: Meters per carry Saracens 5.0 Sale 2.1

Saracens were much more incisive all game and only tenacious defending kept them out for so long.

Leinster 14 v 13 Harlequins

Leinster dominated the first half to take an 11-0 lead, perhaps they should have taken more advantage from their possession and territorial dominance. As it was they were helped by Quins poor kicking as Swiel missed two penalties.

Swiel’s kicking improved much in the second half and two penalties plus converting Brown’s try, put Quins in the lead with about quarter of an hour to go. But with nine minuets to go Madigan stepped up to kick Leinster back into the lead. A fiercely contested finish saw Matthews yellow carded and both fans unhappy with the referee’s performance.

Key Stats: Offloads Leinster 1 Quins 8, Rucks Leinster 105 Quins 66

These stats show the contrasting styles of the two sides. Leinster were happy to go through the phases whilst Quins were looking for more continuity to break down the opposition defence with offloads.

Wasps 44 v 17 Castres

Wasps were in control of this from the start and crossed the whitewash in only the 4th minute. Castres clearly had their minds elsewhere as poor tackling let Wasps across the gainline time after time. Castles did manage one try in the first half but it was already too little too late as Wasps racked up 4 and the TBP before the break.

Substitutions helped Castres make the better start in the second half but an unconverted try was their only score. Varndell replied with his second try of the game but it wasn’t until the last ten minutes that the second half got going. Three converted tries were scored in the last ten minutes, two for Wasps and one for Castres, as Adams Park was given a rousing send off.

Key Stat: Clean breaks Wasps 9 Castres 3

Wasps were more incisive through out the game and deservedly got the 5 points. Both sides should have scored more as the kickers missed more than they hit (Wasps 44% Castres 25%) leaving 18 points on the pitch.

Clermont Auvergne 26 v 19 Munster

Munster had the better of the opening exchanges and took a 6 point lead. After that though Clermont just absorbed Munster’s attacks and took their opportunities when they came. Two tires led to a 9 point lead at half time and even though Munster got the first score of the second half Clermont pulled away with a couple of penalties. With 8 minutes to go Clermont got their third try and just as you though they might push on for the TBP, Munster came back. A converted try and penalty with the last kick go the game earned the Irish men a LBP. They really should not have been that close as Clermont missed as many kicks as they made leaving 10 points on the pitch,

Key Stat: Clean breaks Clermont 13 Munster 6

When they spotted an opportunity Clermont just took it, they are now many people’s favourite to win the whole thing.

Scarlets 22 v 13 Ulster

Scarlets came out with the much better game plan for wet and windy conditions in the first half. Kicking from their own half and going through the phases until a penalty was given in the opposition half, lead for a 12-0 lead at half time.

At the beginning the second half Ulster decided to try running the ball and quickly scored a try. After that it was all about Scarlets defending their lead as Ulster dominated territory and possession. It was a total contrast to the first half and Ulster got to within 2 points with 8 minutes left. Pushing for that final score to take the lead, allowed Davies to intercept the ball and run in a try to seal the win for the Welsh men.

Key Stat: Territory (1H/2H) Scarlets 49% (66%/35%) Ulster 51% (34%/65%)

Territory just shows how Scarlets came out with the better game plan in the first half. Ulster then adapted to the conditions and made a great comeback only to come up short.

Here is a link to my Challenge Cup round 4 review.

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