LONDON, ENGLAND – Though English clubs endured a difficult weekend in the Heineken Cup, they absolutely dominated Europe’s second tier competition, guaranteeing that while the Premiership may not have the European champion this season, it will produce a champion. London Wasps, Bath, Harlequins, and Northampton will contest the semifinals in the coming weeks. As always, we kept a close eye on the competition, and here’s the resultant Amlin Cup Quarterfinal Review:
Bath Demolish Brive
It was always going to be a bit much to ask Brive to win at the Recreation Ground, but Bath demolished the French team in a comprehensive 39-7 victory. Nick Abendenon touched down for Bath, while Horacio Agulla bagged an impressive hat-trick. Gavin Henson came on and made a positive impression, a step in the right direction for the troubled inside center. George Ford’s usually impeccable boot failed him on two conversions, but it hardly mattered as Bath headed into the half ahead 25-0. Brive were certainly courageous in defeat, limiting the scoring in the second half to a desultory two tries, but they will not look back on this day fondly.
Northampton Back on Track
Following three consecutive defeats, the Saints were desperate for a sterling performance against the Sharks. Fortunately, that is exactly what the East Midlands side produced, scoring four tries away from home to wrap up a 28-14 victory without too much bother. Much like Bath, the Saints put the game away in the first half, heading into the interval with a 28=7 lead. Jim Mallinder’s side took no unnecessary risks in the second half, tightening up and preventing Sale from mounting a realistic challenge. Ben Foden crossed the line for the Saints, but their real weapon was the catch and drive from the lineout, which produced three tries in the first half. The Saints will face Harlequins in a marquee matchup, with a place in the final on the line.
Quins Victory Marred by Eye-Gouging Accusations
Nick Evans turned in a flawless performance, sparking an orgiastic outburst from the Aviva Premiership’s official Twitter account during the match. The visiting Quins raced away from Stade in teh second half, scoring twenty unanswered points to put the game away. Mike Brown scored a try once more, continuing his rich vein of form. The game was not without controversy. Stade captain Laurent Sempere claimed that he was gouged, an accusation that referred to the TMO. No evidence was found to support his claims, but Sempere continued to advance his accusation in his post-match press conference. Conor O’Shea was quick to dismiss the concerns, but for the second time in two weeks, English clubs were involved in an unwanted dialogue concerning on-the-pitch behavior.
London Wasps Turn in Best Performance of Season
The Wasps defeated Gloucester 36-24 in their most potent attacking display of the year. Though Dai Young’s team came into the match struggling from form, he harbors hope that the victory will inspire a solid run-in. Andy Goode scored 21 points in a masterful performance, demonstrating that experience counts for much in an elimination match. The final scoreline was flattering to Gloucester, who managed a consolation try at the death. Wasps will face Bath at home in the semi-final, setting up a massive match for a team that still maintains silverware aspirations following a difficult domestic season.
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