TOULON, FRANCE– There are now only 4 teams left that can still boast of intentions of being European Champions. With quarterfinal weekend over, 4 more teams can be added to the scrap heap. Season’s over, dreams of glory put to bed. The same can be said for some members of our six-pack, in the Heineken Cup picks contest. We will get to the pick’s tomorrow but for right now, let’s begin reviewing the quarter final round of the Heineken Cup.
Munster v Toulouse (#MunvTls) Though it doesn’t hold as long an unbeaten streak as Clermont’s Stade Michelin, Thormond Park is a fortress in its own right. The term cauldron is often banded about but witnessing the sea of red, hearing the Fields of Athenry and see the fired up faces of the Munster fans and team, it would be only just to feel a shiver in your bones. Poor Toulouse went into this cauldron missing key players, struggling for form and clinging on to the final spot in the Top14 playoffs. As such the Toulouse boys didn’t have the heart for the affair, unfortunately for them Munster couldn’t have cared less. The Mighty Men of Munster put the Toulouse men to the sword, with great indifference as they ran in 7 tries to win 47-23. Oddly enough though, Toulouse would score more points than any of the 4 teams that lost on the weekend. Maybe they should get credit for putting up a bigger fight than it appeared on the scoreboard.
Ulster v Saracens (#UlsvSar) At Ravenhill, Saracens grinded out a result against a brave Ulster side. The game was mared by a red card in the 4th minute to Ulster fullback Jared Payne after a challenge in the air against Saracens fullback Alex Goode. A reckless challenge with no malicious intent, the red card could have been interpreted as harsh. Despite playing 76 minutes with 14 men down, the Ulster defense held pretty firm. Saracens did manage to score 3 tries but only made one conversion. That conversion would be the difference as the never say die Ulster lads, fought like a wounded animal and the combo of Ruan Pienaar and Paddy Jackson made 5 penalty kicks. Alas they didn’t get a chance at a 6th and Saracens left Ravehill 17-15 winners.
Clermont v Leicester (#CrmvLes) 75 is the magical number at Stade Michelin. 75 matches unbeaten at home in all competitions. During that run there have been performances that ranged from the good, the bad and the ugly. Clinical demolitions, nip tuck affairs, and surviving an onslaught have been the types of matches won. The quarterfinal match was a bit of the last two. Les Jaunards racing out to a big 19-6 in the first half and it looked like the Tigers were crumbling under the pressure as many teams before them had. However, the boys from Leicester orchestrated a brilliant fight back. They fought tooth and nail to get back in the match and pushed the hosts. Unfortunately for Leicester, Clermont at home happens to have a steely calm and deep resolve in front of their fans and they showed it on Saturday. The home ruthless as Morgan Parra kicked the pens and helped seal another victory in front of the Auvergne faithful.
Toulon v Leinster (#TlnvLen) In clash that was expected to be close, it turned out to be predominantly tense but not as close as many hoped. Toulon walked away29-14 at home against a Leinster side that was never really in it. The match saw the clash of legends Brian O’Driscoll and Johnny Wilkinson. Sir Johnny left the match with an early injury, while BOD bids the European arena farewell. Leinster head coach Matt O’Connor’s choice of Jimmy Gopperth over Ian Madiganproved to a big deciding factor as the attack struggled against the fast rushing Toulon defense. On offense to say the Toulon attack was relentless was an understatement. If it wasn’t for a series of knock-ons and turnovers inside theLeinster 22 meter mark, the score could have been much worse. Playing without locks Bakkies Botha and Ali Williams, Toulon flanker-come-lock Dannie Roussow, had a mammoth performance and Steffon Armitage showed a display at 8man that has to have England fans wondering, if maybe, just maybe the RWC2015 is special enough reason to include the Armitage brothers.
That’s it for now, Feel free to comment below, 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, Jaime Loyd, Karen Ritter , Jamie Wall and Declan Yeats, respectively.
And until the next time… stay low and keep pumping those legs!