HEINEKEN CUP

LEINSTER BEAT OSPREYS, MUNSTER SHOCKED BY EDINBURGH, ZEBO OUT FOR 10 WEEKS, O’DRISCOLL STILL INJURED  

Well, it was quite a weekend for the Irish provinces in the opening round of the Heineken Cup! On a positive note, all 4 teams came away with at least a point from their respective matches. There was also great wins from Leinster and Ulster and a great performance by Connacht.  

Ironically, it was the team that looked like having the best chance of winning their match that came away with a loss. Munster were beaten 29-23 by Edinburgh. Edinburgh weren’t fancied going into the match but managed to overcome Munster in a very close match. Edinburgh’s 2 tries, which bookended the match, were the deciding factor.  

To compound Munster’s woes, Simon Zebo was injured in the match and will now be out for 10 weeks! This means he will miss Munster’s game against Gloucester on Saturday. He will also miss all of Ireland’s November internationals and won’t return until after Christmas. This also means that he’ll miss Munster’s 2 games against Perpignan in December. Zebo is a great attacking player and his absence will be felt.  

On a similar note, Brian O’Driscoll still hasn’t recovered from his injury (calf strain, I think) and he will miss Leinster’s game on Saturday against Castres. There’s also a chance that he might miss Ireland’s November games as well. The first match takes place in 3 weeks against Samoa (November 9th).  

Leinster put in a great performance against Ospreys! They had some powerful running in the 1st half, capped off by a try from Sean Cronin. Ospreys took the lead in the 2nd half, but superb Leinster defence kept them from scoring a try (Ospreys were actually the only team not to score a try in the first weekend of the Heineken!).

Leinster won the game 19-9, also denying Ospreys a losing bonus point, which is very important.   It was a great team effort by Leinster. Jimmy Gopperth had a terrific game at out-half, really controlling the show. He put in some great runs and also a try-saving tackle. He kicked 14 points in all.

The pack played well, marshalled by O’Brien and Heaslip (Heaslip had a great game). O’Brien won man of the match. Both helped set up Cronin’s try.   Leinster’s win is all the more impressive as it was only Ospreys 2nd defeat in 23 home games in the Heineken. In other words, Ospreys have only been beaten twice in the Heineken at home in the last 7 years or so.

Also it was only Leinster’s 3rd win over Ospreys in the last 14 matches between the 2 sides.     Leinster will have a tough game against Castres on Saturday. Castres will be buoyed by their winning a tough game against Northampton. 

Leinster will have the home advantage in the match which should help them as Castres don’t travel well. There’s also talk of Castres fielding a weaker side so that they can concentrate on the Top 14. This would be a blow to the Heineken but would help Leinster’s chances!  

Munster will have a tough time against Gloucester, who won a close match against Perpignan. As with Leinster, Munster will have the home advantage which should help them. A 2nd consecutive loss will seriously damage Munster’s chances of advancing out of the pool.  

Ulster won another close game against Leicester, 22-16. They will have a tough time against Montpellier on Saturday. Montpellier are currently top of the pool and Ulster won’t have the home advantage. Most of the French teams are very difficult to beat when their at home.  

Connacht put in a great performance against Saracens. Saracens are 1 of the top teams in England, in Europe actually, and Connacht made them fight for the win. Connacht also came away with  a losing point which is a great achievement. Their next opponents are Zebre, who were thumped by Toulouse. Zebre should be Connacht’s least difficult opponents.  

In other Heineken matches, Exeter won an amazing game against Cardiff. Cardiff managed to score 4 tries, but it wasn’t enough to beat Exeter, not even enough to get a losing point. Exeter won the game, 44-29, giving them 5 points. They currently top the pool with Toulon, who beat Glasgow, 51-28. Toulon also have 5 points now.  

Toulouse are the only other team with 5 points, they top Pool 3 (which is Connacht’s pool). Toulouse beat 38-5. That Toulon and Toulouse are leading is not surprising. Exeter, though, have really impressed with their victory over Cardiff. Exeter’s game against Toulon should be very exciting.  

Jonny Sexton’s Racing Metro also won their first game, beating last year’s runner’s up Clermont, 13-9. Racing next face the Scarlets, who beat Harlequins in a close game 33-26.

 
HEINEKEN CUP MATCHES:
 
LEINSTER V Castres, Saturday 19TH @ 3.40 PM
 
ULSTER V Montpellier, SAME
 
MUNSTER V Gloucester, Saturday  @ 6 PM
 
CONNACHT V Zebre, Saturday @ 1.30   HEINEKEN CUP SQUABBLE   In a new development to the Heineken Cup row, the English Premiership club chairman has stated that several of the Rabo clubs have shown interest in joining the proposed new French/English club competition. This contradicts the clubs themselves stating that they have NO interest in joining any such tournament! Who to believe?   
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