Well, it’s been another great weekend of Heineken rugby for the Irish provinces. Both Leinster and Munster have qualified for the quarter-finals, Ulster performed an amazing demolition of a former Heineken giant, and Connacht didn’t disgrace themselves against a formidable opponent.
Leinster had a tough game, away to Glasgow. The first half was very even, with both teams going into the break with 6 points. Leinster scored a crucial try, an amazing piece of talent by full-back Rob Kearney, just minutes into the 2nd half (it was a great day for the Kearney family, as younger brother David was making his Heineken Cup debut. It was a very good performance as well).
Glasgow responded with a try of their own, late in the match. But Isaac Boss, coming on as a replacement, scored the match winner, soon after. It wasn’t a vintage performance by the reigning champions, but it got the job done, although Glasgow still got a bonus point, the match ending 23-16 to Leinster.
Leinster have now qualified for the quarter-finals, with one match still to play. They’ll be hoping to get maximum points in their final pool game, against Montpellier, to insure a home quarter-final.
Montpellier just about managed to beat Bath, although they’re actually far behind Leinster on the table, with only 11 points (meaning they have no chance of reaching the quarters). Montpellier actually drew with Leinster the last time the 2 teams faced each other, which was the first game of the pool.
Munster are also through to the last eight, with one match still to play. They beat Castres 26-10. Munster got off to a great start, with Johne Murphy scoring a try just minutes into the match.
It looked like it could turn into a rout, but Castres responded with a score almost immediately. Castres were very persistent, and Munster couldn’t maintain a clear lead until mid-way midway through the 2nd half.
The game ended with Munster wining, 26-10. O’Gara got most of the points, with 4 penalties and 2 conversions (16 points). Not a vintage display, but at least they denied their opponent’s a bonus point.
They’ll also be looking to score maximum points in their last match, against Northampton, who beat Llanelli Scarlets, 29-17 (Ben Foden scoring an intercept try to deny Scarlets the bonus). Munster just scraped past Northampton the last time the teams faced each other, winning 24-22.
Ulster were the stand-out Irish province over the weekend. They crushed Leicester, 41-7. This was a terrific result, though Leicester aren’t the team of old. Andrew Trimble had a cracking game, scoring 2 tries, which should definitely give him a place on the Irish team for the 6 Nations.
It was a poor performance by the former 2-time champions. They never really got to grips with Ulster’s dominance. One high note for Irish fans was that the only Leicester try was scored by Geordan Murphy.
Ulster will now be looking to get a home quarter-final, but that’s by no means certain, especially considering the other result in the pool.
Clermont crushed Italian side Aironi, 82-0, with 2 players (one of whom was former New Zealand great Sivivatu) getting a hat-trick, and 2 players getting braces, one of whom was Welsh full-back Lee Byrne. Clermont v Ulster will be very close.
Connacht travelled to the home of Heineken giant’s Toulouse, and looked set to suffer a hiding. To their credit Connacht put up a fight, and Toulouse had to work for their 4 tries.