WORCESTER, ENGLAND – Another weekend of Amlin Cup action saw some unexpectedly close matches, as well as the anticipated blowouts; poor Arix Vianda’s point differential stands at negative 106 after this weekend.
Pool 1 might be accurately described as the competition’s “Pool of Death,” with four legitimate sides in Worcester, Sale, Onnayax, and Biarritz. Worcester’s woeful start to the season continued with a decisive loss to Sale, by a final scoreline of 29-15. The match had the added indignity of being the Warriors first home game of the tournament, meaning that the side remains without a win at the Sixways this season. To Worcester’s credit, they attempted to claw back from a halftime deficit of 24-3, making the final score line respectable, but it was a bridge to far for the struggling outfit. In the other Pool 1 match, Biarritz overcame their early season struggles to see off Top 14 upstarts Onnayax. The newly promoted side face some growing pains, evidenced in their draw at home to Worcester and their decisive loss to their French rivals, but they have certainly done a creditable job thus far this season of providing a level of competition few thought the side capable of producing.
Pool 2 continues to be headed up by Bath, as Tom Heathcote kicked 18 points through the uprights to ensure a 26-10 triumph against the Newport Gwent Dragons. British and Irish Lion Toby Faletau could not provide enough muscle for the Welsh region to win, though the score stood at 10-10 at the half. Bath’s 16 unanswered points to close out the contest ensured that Newport will spend the ensuing break between European competition firmly in second place, ahead of woeful Bordeaux and Mogliano. The French club’s victory against Mogliano marked their first European victory in the last five matches, and they squeaked through 32-20. Next round will see Bordeaux face the Dragons, while Bath will likely look to give their starters a rest against Mogliano.
Brive are top of Pool 3 following the second round of play, with one victory and one loss to their name. Newcastle Falcons, despite flying relatively high in the Premiership for the moment, have crashed back to Earth in European competition, having narrowly avoided what would have been an embarrassing loss to the Romanian outfit Bucuresti last time out before dropping this weekend’s matchup. Pool 3 is probably the least competitive in the Amlin Cup this year, but one side will have to emerge to the knockout stages, and that side looks set to be the French outfit, who will face Newcastle in the next round of fixtures.
In direct contrast to the struggles of Newcastle, London Wasps continue to flounder in the Premiership while soaring abroad. Though their 90 point demolition of Arix Vianda may not be much to crow about, their most recent victory over Bayonne at Adams Park should provide supporters with a point of pride in the weeks ahead. Andy Goode demonstrated exactly why he was signed, as the veteran fly-half contributed 16 points from the boot, while the English club as a whole demonstrated impressive resilience after Bayonne scored a try within the first five minutes of the match. Arix were demolished by Grenoble by a final score of 40-7, a result that could have gone a lot worse for the Italian side.
London Irish confirmed England’s dominance of the first two rounds of fixtures, and stand as the fourth English side in first place at this stage. They made it two wins out of two with a victory over the Lusitanos XV, cruising to a 67-6 victory after a lackluster first half. Cavalieri Prato almost hung on for what would have been an earth-shattering victory against last year’s finalists Stade Francais, before being denied at the death as the Parisians clung to a 17-16 victory. Despite running out a second string side, Stade should have no excuse for a shockingly sloppy result, and the side will doubtless have some soul-searching to do in the wake of an abysmal performance. Full credit to Cavalieri, who demonstrated what a team with real belief can do, and demonstrated that the Amlin Cup, warts and all, is a competition capable of providing some truly compelling rugby.
As ever, comments are always welcome… and please look for and “Like” our Facebook Rugby Wrap Up Page and follow us on Twitter @: RugbyWrapUp, Junoir Blaber, DJ Eberle,Nick Hall, James Harrington, Cody Kuxmann and Declan Yeats, respectively.