NEW YORK, NY – This weekend saw the penultimate round of pool play for the Heineken Cup & Amlin Cups. There was plenty of off-field news going into the weekend but let’s begin with all the on the field action.
Four teams have booked their place in the quarterfinals:
Ulster of Ireland and the RaboDirect 12
Harlequins of England and the Aviva Premiership
Toulon of France and the French Top 14.
Clermont Auvergne also of France and the Top 14.
Of the four, only Ulster may have to worry about going on the road for their quarterfinals. They have 19 points while both Saracens (Pool 1 leaders) and Toulouse (Pool 2 leaders) have 18 points.
The first matches of the weekend saw Ulster take on Glasgow at home. The Ulstermen seem to have shaken of the apathy that was plaguing them a few weeks back and put Glasgow to the sword. The Warriors were resilient but just were outmatched… Northampton then went on to defeat Castres in a tough encounter that could have gone either way… Montpellier were rude guests as they went into Sale and heaped more misery on the Sharks, as Sale’s dreadful 2012-2013 campaign continues to be one hiding after the next.
Saturday saw a great contest between Saracens and Racing Metro. Racing (pronounced “Rassing” by the British broadcasters in deference to the French pronunciation) played some brilliant rugby. Unfortunately, they also played some of the dumbest rugby of the weekend. This was epitomized by fly-half Juan Martin Hernandez, kicking the ball dead and not making touch on a penalty with minutes left and Racing trailing. It was a fitting way for the game to end…. Harlequins showed no mercy to Connacht, nor did Biarritz to Zebre… The theme of one side throttling another continued all day long, as Clermont embarrassed Exeter, Toulon racked up the tries against Cardiff and Leinster beat up Scarlets…
On Sunday, the Ospreys were statistically eliminated from the quarters but continue to be a handful as they tied Leicester. With the draw and their defeat of Toulouse two weeks ago, the Ospreys are true spoilers, forcing Leicester and Toulouse to play a winner-take-all match-up next week… Toulouse, meanwhile, disposed of Treviso in Italy, while Munster missed a bonus try in a win against Edinburgh. Their quarterfinal hopes are now in a precarious situation.
Here are all the scores:
Ulster 23 – 6 Glasgow
Northampton 18 – 12 Castres
Sale 6 – 27 Montpellier
Racing Metro 92 28 – 37 Saracens
Harlequins 47 – 8 Connacht
Zebre 6 – 32 Biarritz
Clermont Auvergne 46 – 3 Exeter
Leinster 33 – 14 Scarlets
Toulon 45 – 25 Cardiff Blues
Edinburgh 17 – 26 Munster
Ospreys 15 – 15 Leicester
Toulouse 35 – 14 Benetton Treviso
While you’re processing that, we’re tipping our green bottles to our Heineken Of The Day winner – Owen Farrell (above) of Saracens. He was 75 of 75 with his kicks in the first half alone versus Racing Metro! Seriously, he single-handedly kept them the Sarries from being blown out on his way to a Heineken Cup record of 10 penalties made, lifting the Sarries to their huge comeback win. Here’s to you, Owen! [Clink, glug, glug]…
Now on to our Expert Panel and the results of their Heineken Cup Picks!
NOTE: The Panel is comprised of West Ghana’s Junoir Blaber, Ireland’s quick-witted fly-half (that’s redundant) Kevin Fegan, the infamous Ireland National, Declan Yeats, feisty French #8 Pyk O’Kallapfer and contrived Kiwi Johnathan Wicklow Barberie… Rugby Rain Man (Junoir Blaber) continues to lead but the pack is caching up. The Irishmen Fegan and Yeats both were perfect but for the Leicester/Ospreys draw and Fegan added to his perfect with his Pick Of The Week selections. He’s now 5-0.
Here are their results:
Amlin Cup: The first 6 spots for the quarterfinals have been secured. It is now just a matter of who plays where. Bath, Gloucester and London Wasps will get home draws if they win next week as they sit on 24, 22, 21 points, respectively… Stade Francais, Worcester and Perpignan all sit on 20 points, with the latter two tied in the same pool… London Irish, Mont de Marsan, Bayonne, Newport-Gwent Dragons, Agen, Grenoble and RWU favorites London Welsh are all mathematically still eligible for playoffs. Bayonne and Grenoble are currently in the pole position for the last two spots… As usual, when the RaboDirect 12, Aviva Premiership and Top14 sides played against each other, the matches were quality. When some of the sides played 3rd tier opponents, it resulted in one-way traffic. The rare 3rd tier vs 3rd tier match-up, like Calvisano versus Bucurest, was a cracker of a match.
Here are the scores:
Mont de Marsan 14 – 20 London Irish
Bayonne 25 – 22 Newport Gwent Dragons
Bordeaux-Begles 26 – 31 Gloucester
Rovigo 17 – 80 Worcester
Bizkaia Gernika RT 15 – 50 Perpignan
Wasps 71 – 7 Mogliano Rugby
Calvisano 34 – 20 Bucuresti
Bath 19 – 16 Agen
London Welsh 62 – 5 Cavalieri Prato
Grenoble 15 – 9 Stade Francais
Feel free to comment below, look for and “Like” our Facebook Rugby Wrap Up Page and follow us on Twitter @RugbyWrapUp, @JunoirBlaber, @Declan Yeats, @Mathew Drew Turner and @Ebstide52, respectively. And until the next time… stay low and keep pumping those legs.