“Only a fool would try and guess who avoids the bottom 3 core spots in the [IRB 7s World Series] standings.”
PORT ELIZABETH, SOUTH AFRICA: There were some big matches this weekend in the Heineken Cup and the Amlin Challenge Cup as both tournaments hit their midway point of pool play. However, the most exciting moments, controversial calls and lively discussion centered around the HSBC 7s World Series, South Africa leg – the Nelson Mandela Bays 7s. That said, we’ll start this week’s Weekend Rugby Wrap-Up with the 7s action.
We suggest you click here for some “spirited” back and forth debate on the games and action. Anyway, a few things came out of this tournament that underline what some of us already knew but also created more topics for discussion:
1) After 4 straight wins of the SA 7s leg of the Series for New Zealand, the title should be changed to the All Black 7s Invitational. Where are the naysayers now calling for RWU friend DJ Forbes’ head and questioning his leadership???
2) There is parity and then there is: “What the f**k! I can’t believe Team A just beat Team B!” It is worse than any given Sunday out there. This season there is no easy game and your achievements last round don’t mean a thing. You are only as good as your last game and that still might not matter.
3) The standings show that you are not allowed to have a bad tournament. Staff member Mike Holzman dropped me a line saying “It’s going to be a real scrap to avoid those bottom 3 core spots in the standings. Hard to imagine England will stay in that zone for much longer.” I replied “Only a fool would try and guess who avoids the bottom 3 core spots in the standings.”
4) Speaking of England, it appears they are now in 13th place in the standings and somewhat rudderless without the creative ability of RWU contributor Mathew Drew Turner and all-around workhorse Chris Cracknell. Ben Ryan has had no luck replacing those two and it is why we still support him as the England coach. The importance of creative players and team workhorses was evidenced this weekend in the work RWU friend Richie Pugh did for Wales and how lost Canada looked after playmaker Phil Mack was lost to a red card in the match against USA.
5) Portugal might be the new Kenya, in that they are making bigger strides than people thought they could… The French also accounted themselves very well in this tourney… Samoa looked gassed from last weekend, while Spain got back in stride in Day 2. Even non-circuit member Zimbabwe managed to give all the sides in its pool a run for their money, including the USA. They shocked Scotland before losing in the Shield Final… New Zealand have opened up a 14-point lead between them and 2nd place. Their 15 points difference between 2nd and 8th place… We still have 6 legs to go so, anything can happen but everyone knows one bad tournament and you are in trouble.
6) Team USA played well over the two legs for the first time in long while. Carlin Isles is coming along nicely, Luke Hume (minus one criminally poor pass) had a good tourney. Nick Edwards played very well and Folau Nuia is becoming a playmaker. Finally, the experience and workrate of Matt “Polar Bear” Hawkins is making a difference… Our friend Curtis the Honourable gives a good in-depth review on Team USA’s performance
NOW FOR THE EUROPEAN CUP ACTION
Heineken Cup: Round 3 of the Heineken Cup had some great rugby and interesting results. Ulster remain undefeated in all competitions as they proved Northampton are not the same side they were two years ago. They seem to have put the Nevin Spence tragedy in perspective. We don’t want to speculate if it is a motivation but it appears they are playing with a clear focus and intense drive… Champions Leinster lost on the road to Clermont Auvergne as Clermont got revenge for last year’s semi-final loss and ended Leinster’s 17 game win streak in Europe. Johnny Sexton’s gamble is all the talk… The Exeter Chiefs can celebrate a hard fought victory over Scarlets.
The French giants Toulon and Toulouse also had impressive wins and look very strong. Toulouse put Ospreys to the sword, while Toulon seemed unable to kick into high-gear in their match against Sale. Also looking strong were Munster as Ronan O’Gara’s kicking was far better than Owen Farrell’s, who seemed to have left his kicking boots at Twickenham after England’s record defeat of New Zealand. Farrell missed 4 kicks. He and his Saracens side – featuring Chris Wyles of TEAM USA – lost… Racing Metro 92 dispatched a feisty Edinburgh side… More tomorrow with our Expert Panel results.
Here are all the scores from the weekend:
Fri – 7th Dec 12
Pool 3 Connacht 22 – 14 Biarritz
Pool 4 Glasgow 6 – 9 Castres
Pool 4 Northampton 6 – 25 Ulster
Sat – 8th Dec 12
Pool 1 Munster 15 – 9 Saracens
Pool 1 Racing Metro 92 19 – 9 Edinburgh
Pool 2 Toulouse 30 – 14 Ospreys
Pool 3 Zebre 14 – 57 Harlequins
Pool 5 Scarlets 16 – 22 Exeter
Pool 6 Sale 6 – 17 Toulon
Sun – 9th Dec 12
Pool 2 Leicester 33 – 25 Benetton Trevis
Pool 5 Clermont Auvergne 15 – 12 Leinster
Pool 6 Cardiff Blues 24 – 35 Montpellier
Amlin Challenge Cup: RWU favorites London Welsh were outclassed again by a French side. This time it was a Grenoble side that came ready to play. Fly-half Freddie Burns starred as Gloucester came back to beat Aviva Premiership rivals London Irish… Romanian side Bucharest won for the first time against Agen… The tightest match of the round was between the Bayonne and Wasps, which ended in a draw.
Complete score round-up goes as follows:
Thu – 6th Dec 12
Pool 1 Bordeaux-Begles 13 – 20 Mont de Marsan
Pool 2 Worcester 22 – 21 Perpignan
Fri – 7th Dec 12
Pool 5 Grenoble 20 – 9 London Welsh
Sat – 8th Dec 12
Pool 1 London Irish 22 – 29 Gloucester
Pool 2 Bizkaia Gernika RT 13 – 3 Rovigo
Pool 3 Mogliano Rugby 0 – 33 Newport Gwent Dragons
Pool 3 Bayonne 13 – 13 Wasps
Pool 4 Bucuresti 25 – 22 Agen
Pool 4 Bath 67 – 11 Calvisano
Pool 5 Cavalieri Prato 23 – 37 Stade Francais
That is it for me for now. Please feel free to comment below, look for and “Like” our Facebook Rugby Wrap Up Page and follow us on Twitter @RugbyWrapUp, @JunoirBlaber, @Declan Yeats and @Mathew Drew Turner, respectively.
And as always, stay low and keep pumping those legs.