BUFFALO, NY – Damn you, Dingus Day! If you wanna know what Dingus Day is ask a Polish-American or someone living in Buffalo. Just know that it was the worst day of air travel in my life. However , with all that extra time on my hands, I started to catch up on the Heineken European Cup quaterfinal matches. After getting caught up, I decided to look at the 4 winners of those matches and write the reasons the shouldn’t win and why they could win for this week’s article.
EDINBURGH – They got by French giant Toulouse thanks to Fly-half Grieg Laidlaw’s precise goal-kicking and a massive defensive effort.
Why they could win it all – They understand the importance of good defence and know they are limited in attack. As long as the defense and goal-kicking hold-up they will have a chance and if they convert a mistake from the opposition into a try like last Sunday, they will get the same result.
Why they shouldn’t go further – It’s weird for a side filled with national team players to be considered nobodies but such is the state of Scottish Rugby. They do have talented guys in their line-up include Laidlaw and Dave Denton, but you just see so much uninspired attack, you doubt they have an ability to play from behind.
LEINSTER – They came out like a house on fire and put away Welsh Region Cardiff Blues early and it was over by halftime.
Why they could win it all – They are the defending champs. They have yet to struggle in any match-up and are operating like a well-oiled machine.
Why they shouldn’t go further – With their dominance you wonder if they have the resolve to deal with coming from behind. Are they able to shift out of the cruise control they have been in all tournament?
ULSTER – They came out hot and heavy and managed to hang on to beat Munster. For those not in the know, Ulster is not just Northern Ireland; it contains the counties that make up Northern Ireland and few counties in the Republic of Ireland. If you need more on that to understand the all-round implications of this rivalry, ask RWU contributors Declan Yeats or Kevin Fegan.
Why they could win it all – They have the right mix of veteran and youth as well as foreigner and Irish national. It is a delicate balance to create but the boys in the North have gotten and just right, mixing talent and skill with experience and temperament to shock people, just ask Munster.
Why they shouldn’t go further – They are not known, to a man, to be clutch in big games. They usually find a way to get unnerved and let opportunity slip. Key player and starting tighthead Prop John Afoa could be missing after being cited for this dangerous tackle.
CLERMONT – They out classed the most dominant English Team and one of the best defensive team in the history of the tournament.
Why they could win it all – They have an a capped international at every position and more on the bench. That is the kind of strength in depth that cannot be taken for granted.
Why they shouldn’t go further – They seem to lack a big game acumen. In the pool stages they seemed to play to the level of their competition and one fears they will play below their level against their next two opponents.
All of this will play out on these dates:
Saturday 4/28/2012 – Ulster vs. Edinburgh in Lansdowne Stadium in Dublin, Ireland (Due to attendance rules Ulster must find the largest stadium in the country available. It is convenient that Leinster are out of town that weekend playing their match)
Sunday 4/29/2012 – Leinster vs. Clermont in Stade Chaban Delmas de Bordeaux, France.
That’s it… I will pick the Heineken Cup winner in a few weeks. Until then, just enjoy these mouth-watering clashes for what they are,
stay low and keep pumping those legs.