HEINEKEN POOL’S FINAL WEEK

Well, both Leinster and Munster managed to win their games over the weekend, coming a little bit closer to qualifying for the quarter-finals of the Heineken Cup. We now come to the final weekend of the Heineken pool stages and this is their final chance of qualifying.
 
Leinster put in a great performance against the Scarlets, winning 33-14. Crucially they got the 4 try-bonus point. Leinster dominated the first half, any fears of them crumbling under pressure were erased pretty quickly, and they had already scored 3 tries before the end of the 1st-half, with the 4th coming minutes into the 2nd half. They even managed to score a 5th at the end, more tries in their other matches combined.
 
It was a great performance by the defending champions, with recently returned Kearney and Fitzgerald both touching down. Brian O’Driscoll was rested for most of the game, and managed to pick up a slight niggle when he came on but luckily there were no lasting injuries.
 
Leinster’s focus now moves on to Exeter in their final pool game (Sat @ 6). Another 4-try victory is a must if they are to have any chance of qualifying. Not so easy, considering that Leinster only beat Exeter by 9-6 when they played at the start of the season. Leinster are a better team now, though, and have a good chance. 
 
Munster, on the other hand, were quite lacklustre in their win over Edinburgh, 26-17. Their seemed no hurry to get the 4-tries which they sorely needed, and were quite complacent. Edinburgh were always threatening and came close to getting a losing bonus point. Munster still has a hope of qualifying but it’s pretty slim.
 
Munster now move on to Racing Metro (Sun @ 12.45), needing a 4-try win to qualify. Unfortunately for them, they also need other matchces/results to go their way, something they have no control over. The 4 try win is a difficult task, especially seeing as Racing beat Munster the last time the team’s played.
 
Adding to the difficulty is the fact that Munster may also be without Ronan O’Gara, who has been cited for alledgedly kicking one of the Edinburgh players. His hearing is on Thursday. Losing O’Gara would be a big problem. Someone with his big-match temperment is crucial at this stage in the competition.
 
Some teams have managed to qualify for the quarter-final stages already: Harlequins have 24 points, with both Toulon and Clermont at 23. Ulster are topping their pool with 19 points and look sure to qualify, a win against Castres (Sat @ 1.30) would seal it. Nothing is certain, but Ulster did beat Castres 41-17 the last time they played and Ulster are on a real roll.
 
Leicester v Toulouse in Pool 2 (Sun @ 3) will be a crucial game for both teams. Toulouse are leading the pool with 18 points, Leicester have 16. A win will be important for both teams, though Toulouse could squeeze through with a draw, bringing them up to 20 points.
 
Leinster and Munster both have 15 points so they need all the points they can get. Depending on other results, a win may not be good enough by itself, they’ll need the extra point.  

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