Some very enjoyable and tense rugby over the weekend and some of the groups are going down to the wire next weekend. Here is my review of the round 5 action.
So how did the predictions go?
First up here is a link to my predictions.
8 out of 10, is a decent result, it’s just a shame I didn’t see either of the upsets coming.
Leicester Tigers 40 v 23 Scarlets
Scarlets were missing move then half their pack to injury and Tigers made them pay. That forward power laid the platform for a dominating victory. After weathering some early pressure Tigers scored two converted tries mixing it well between forwards and backs. Scarlets did well to come back and only trail by 3 at half time.
Tigers got the first score of the second half and just turned the screw, by the time Scarlets scored again they were already 22 points behind and the game was over. There was more action but it only brought a level of respectability to the scoreline that wasn’t wholly deserved.
Key Stat: Territory (1H/2H) Tigers 54% (53%/57%) Scarlets 46% (47%/43%)
Tigers played the game in the areas of the pitch they wanted to. Tigers now need to go to Ulster and do it all over again to have any hope of qualifying.
Saracens 33 v 10 Munster
Saracens powered to a deserved win over Munster. In the first half the forwards set the platform for Saracens to have a commanding lead 20 point lead at halftime. The second half didn’t live up to the first as both defences were on top and it wasn’t until the final ten minutes that Saracens got over the whitewash and couldn’t get the TBP.
It’s a major disappointment for Munster who have been semifinalists for the last two years. You have to feel for the Irishmen and wonder at the seeding formula that leads to having 3 of the semifinalists from the last two years in the same group.
Key Stat: Territory (1H/2H) Saracens 60% (55%/62%) Munster 40% (45%/38%)
Saracens played the game in the areas of the park they wanted to, which probably made the quick penalty on the halfway line even more of a surprise. It’s now a winner takes all game in France for Saracens.
Toulon 60 v 22 Ulster
Toulon totally bossed this game, with Ulster already being out of this competition they rested some of their starts. When you do that against the reigning two times champions you are going to pay. Toulon went out to an early lead but to be fair to Ulster they pulled it back to a 3 point game by the end of the first quarter. That’s as good as it got as injuries added to a weakened side and Toulon were 17 points up at halftime.
Toulon wrapped up the TBP early in the second half and powered away, Ulster didn’t score again until they were already 45 points behind.
Key Stat: Average meters with ball in hand Toulon 4.6 Ulster 3.3
Toulon have just so many powerful runners, especially in the back row, that they just get over the gain line time and again. They are going to be a difficult side to stop.
Sale Sharks 13 v 22 Clermont Auvergne
Sharks gave a good account of themselves and after the lead had changed a couple of times, were ahead going into the last fifteen minutes. Sharks only try was a penalty try when Clermont were down to 13 men, but they still had to apply the pressure. In the end as predicted Clermont had the power and skill to pull away for the victory. What is surprising is that Clermont didn’t come anywhere near getting the TBP, their only try was in the last ten minutes to seal the win.
Key Stat: Turnovers conceded Sharks 9 Clermont 16
Clermont can’t afford to turn over the ball that much and be so ill-disciplined as to give up twice as many penalties, as well as the yellow cards, going forwards. They used up their get out of jail free card in this one.
Leinster 50 v 8 Castres
As expected Castres travelled to Ireland and lost heavily, Leinster had the TBP wrapper up by halftime so it’s no surprise that the second half wasn’t as prolific. To be fair to the French side, they did get over the white wash in the first half only for it to be ruled out by the TMO. But that would just be papering over the cracks.
Key Stat: Metres run with ball Leinster 624 Castres 193
Leinster were dominant and even though they turned the ball over 17 times to Castres 8 they still ran away with it. There isn’t really much we can learn from these types of games except that Leinster look the best they have all season. So perhaps their game is starting to click even if it never was put under pressure here.
Harlequins 3 v 23 Wasps
Wasps really put the cat among the pigeons with this result and after losing their first two games could still top the group. This was a case of taking your chances and having a solid defence. Wasps got an early intercept try against the run of play and quickly followed that up with a fine solo try. A quarter of the game gone and 0-17 up, it was just a matter of not letting Quins score. Sounds easy but it takes a lot of hard work.
A couple of penalties to Wasps and one in reply from Quins was all the scoring in the second half. Wasps defended resolutely as Quins fought in vain to get back into it.
Key Stat: Average meters with ball in hand Quins 3.3 Wasps 5.1
Quins ran 612 meters to Wasps 448 and made three times as many passes but were not as incisive and just couldn’t break down Wasps defence. When winning Wasps have made more tackles than their opponents several times this season. I do worry it will tell in the end, for example in this game they had to make 199 to Quins 78. Haskell alone made 28 tackles, none of the Quins players got into double figures.
Glasgow Warriors 21 v 10 Montpellier
The way the scoring went you would have thought that Glasgow were playing into the wind in the first half. But it wasn’t the conditions but their lack of composure that told as they forgot that you have to build a win. Four times in the first half kicked for linnets rather than points as the TBP was foremost in their minds. This let a depleted Montpellier side go into the break 7-10 up. Against the wind in the second half Warriors maintained their pressure and managed two tries to miss out on the TBP but win the game.
Key Stat: Territory (1H/2H) Glasgow 63% (63%/62%) Montpellier 37% (37%/38%)
Glasgow were on top for the vast majority of the game but lacked the composure to take full advantage and now qualification is unlikely.
Toulouse 18 v 35 Bath
Bath took advantage of their opportunities that came along in the first half to grab three tries and build up a 10 point lead at half time. It could have been more if Watson had been able to ground the ball. The second half was much closer and their defence had to stand up to a lot of pressure. The managed to restrict Toulouse to just one penalty and then delivered the killer blow as JJ create a try out of nothing. That secured the TBP and put them second in the group.
Key Stat: Clean breaks Toulouse 5 Bath 14
Bath played some scintillating attacking rugby that was allowed to win the day when coupled with their defence. This puts Bath in a strong position to qualify which appeared highly unlikely when they lost their first two games.
Ospreys 9 v 20 Northampton Saints
Neither side was able to break down the opposition defence with both tries coming from turnover ball. Saints were able to apply the pressure more and took their few opportunities when they were available. With a 9 -17 lead at half time Saints were happy to let their forwards take control in the second half and suffocate the game.
Key Stat: Turnovers conceded Ospreys 20 Saints 9
Two of those Ospreys turnovers lead directly to tries and put Saints in control of the scoreboard. From there they were happy to use their forward dominance to get the win.
Racing Metro 53 v 7 Benetton Treviso
This was one way traffic from the start, that Racing didn’t seal the TBP before half time is amazing. They did rectify that by getting it at the beginning of the second which continued the one-sided affair. Travis did get one try but that was once they were already 29 points down and Racing had just made a large number of changes. Once these players settled into the game normal service was resumed.
Key Stat: Tackles made/missed Racing 35/7 Treviso 104/39
Travis were just revolving doors, 39 missed tackles is huge and left them with a tackle success rate of 73%. Racing spent nearly the whole game in Treviso territory and were scoring for fun. The Italian domestic sides really need to up their game as it has been several years now and they are still bottom of the Pro12 and distorting the groups in European competitions.