Well, it was 1 of the great days of Irish rugby! All 4 of the Irish provinces won their matches and comfortably so, denying the opposition teams a losing point. The victories put both Leinster and Ulster on top of their pools, Munster have bounced back after a disappointing start last week and Connacht have recorded their biggest win in the history of the Heineken!
Connacht were first off, thrashing Zebre, 33-6. They led for the whole game, with Dan Parks on great form, kicking 23 of the points. Unfortunately, Connacht weren’t able to score the 4 tries for a bonus point, but the win is still very impressive, considering the fact that Zebre had the home advantage going into the game. It’s very difficult to get an away win in the Heineken.
Connacht are doing very well in the Heineken, much improved from the start of the season, when they only won 1 of their 5 matches in the Rabo tournament. They came very close against Saracens last week, getting a losing point (being within 7 points of the winner) and now their great performance against Zebre.
Connacht have a very tough time coming up, playing Toulouse twice in December, but they’ll be buoyed by their performances so far.
Toulouse very narrowly beat Saracens, 17-16, to go top of the pool. Toulouse are out in front of the pool, with 9 points, Connacht have 5 points. To be honest, Connacht are unlikely to progress from the pool (Pool 3) but they won’t be embarrassed by their form.
Leinster’s performance against Castres wasn’t as solid as their match last week against Ospreys, but they still beat the French team, 19-7. It was an exciting game with the advantage changing hand regularly. It wasn’t a vintage performance by Leinster and they were lucky that a late Castres ‘try’ was disallowed but they’ll still be happy with the win.
Leinster now go clear of Pool 1 with 8 points and are the only team in the pool that are unbeaten. Northampton beat Ospreys, 27-16, making up for their loss against Castres. Norhtampton only have 5 points now, though, which puts Leinster clear in the lead of the pool. Leinster will play Northampton in 2 games back-to-back, in December. Leinster have a good chance of topping the pool now.
Ulster claimed 1 of their biggest scalps in Heineken history when they beat Montpellier, 25-8, in the French clubs home ground. This is Ulster’s 2nd victory in a row, which puts them on top of Pool 5, with 8 points. It was a great performance by Ulster, with a try by Andrew Trimble and 17 points kicked by the returning Pienarr contributing to the score.
Ulster are the only team in their pool that are unbeaten. Leicester thumped Treviso, 34-3, to have 6 points, but Ulster are slightly ahead with 8 points. Ulster next play Treviso twice in December. Ulster have gotten off to a great start, beating the 2 stronger teams in their pool. If they can get maximum points in the games against Treviso they could very well proceed to the quarter-finals as the top team in the pool!
Munster returned with a vengeance by beating Gloucester, 26-10! Munster had had a difficult time against Edinburgh last week, but they put in a great performance to win the game. They were led by the returning Peter O’Mahony who won the man of the match award. Munster now go 2nd in Pool 6, with 5 points. Perpignan are slightly in front, with 6 points.
Pool 6 is very open, with every team having both won and lost a game. Perpignan made up for last week’s loss to Gloucester by thumping Edinburgh, 31-14. Gloucester fielded a much-changed team this week which contributed to their loss against Munster. Munster play the double against Perpignan in December and they have a good chance against them.
It was a terrific day for Irish rugby and hopefully the players can bring that great form into the internationals coming up in November. The provinces all have games in the Rabo next week but the test players should be rested so they’re fresh for the matches against Samoa, Australia and New Zealand. It will be a very tough series!