Euro battle starting to take shape
October 22, 2012
Toby Flood inspired Leicester to a bonus point win over the Ospreys © PA Photos
The latest round of the Heineken Cup produced its usual mix of pulsating action, tense finishes, quality tries and bonus points and some teams already appear to be out of the running for a spot in the quarter-finals. It ESPNscrum gives a rundown of all the key talking points from the 12 matches played over the weekend.
Saracens made it two from two when they dispatched Racing Metro 30-13 in Brussels. For the twelfth match running they were playing in a different stadium but they showed no ill effects of their nomadic existence. They failed to collect the four-try bonus point but did enough to secure the win with Chris Wyles, Steve Borthwick and Will Fraser all going over. Schalk Brits was also in inspired form while Metro's try came thanks to an outstanding move involving Pumas duo Juan Martin Hernandez and Juan Imhoff.
Elsewhere in the pool, Munster heaped more misery on beleaguered Edinburgh. The Irish province's 33-0 victory means that last season's Heineken Cup semi-finalists are without a point to their name - both on the scoreboard and in the group standings. But the news is better for Munster. It was a tense first-half with the home side going into the break 6-0 up but in the second 40 they pulled away with Conor Murray, Peter O'Mahony, Sean Dougall and Damien Varley all going over much to the delight of the Thomond Park crowd.
Leicester Tigers got their campaign back on track with a 39-22 bonus point win over the Ospreys on Sunday. It was the Welsh side that took the lead through Ryan Jones' try but Leicester hammered away at the Ospreys - with Manu Tuilagi crossing in the first-half - and eventually secured the all important fourth try in the last play of the match. Ben Youngs and Toby Flood both crossed in the second half to cap impressive individual performances while Tuilagi grabbed his second in the 80th minute.
But it is Toulouse who are at the summit of the pool. They survived a scare in Italy against Treviso with the RaboDirect PRO12 side having led 18-9 at half-time. But the Top 14 giants eventually did enough to come away with the win with Louis Picamoles and Vincent Clerc's scores helping to carry them home. However, their victory was slightly soured by the news of an injury to their skipper Thierry Dusautoir.
Harlequins get to grips with Dan Parks © PA Photos
Harlequins are in control of Pool 3 after they buried last season's demons with a 30-22 win against Connacht on Saturday. The Irish province ended their title hopes with victory in Galway last term but it was O'Shea's men who came away from the Sportsground with the win this season. The home side kept Harlequins sweating for the entire match and it was Connacht who went ahead in the sixth minute through centre David McSharry's try. Dan Parks kept Harlequins pinned back with his boot and slotted the rest of their points but a double from Danny Care alongside Ben Botica's accurate kicking was enough to give Quins their second win of the campaign.
Biarritz prevailed in atrocious conditions against Zebre - running in six tries against their Italian rivals. Fabien Barcella, Yann Lesgourgues (2), Taku Ngwenya, Pelu Taele-Pahivi and Arnaud Heguy all scored for the French side while Dries van Schalkwyk crossed for Zebre.
Ulster head Pool 4 with two wins to their name following a hard-fought 19-8 win against Glasgow Warriors on Friday night. Chris Henry crossed for the Irish province - who are undefeated this season in all competitions - with Paddy Jackson kicking the rest of their points while Nikola Matawalu went over for Glasgow. But ahead of their double header with pool rivals Northampton in December, they have lost the services of skipper Johann Muller who is out for six weeks with a thumb injury.
Northampton Saints fell to Castres 21-16 in France on Friday evening with the Top 14 side outscoring them two tries to one. George Pisi scored for the Saints but Paul Bonnefond and Antonie Claassen went over for the hosts.
Wesley Fofana darts past Exeter's Tom Johnson © PA Photos
Clermont Auvergne put in the performance of the weekend with a six-try 46-12 victory against Exeter Chiefs at Sandy Park. The Chiefs went toe-to-toe with their French counterparts and edged the first-half 12-10 but Clermont pulled away after the break. Their six scores came thanks to efforts from Napolioni Nalaga (2), Wesley Fofana (2), Julien Bonnaire and Sitiveni Sivivatu and they look to be in a strong position for qualifying for the quarter-finals of the competition.
Leinster are hot on their heels though after they recorded their second win of the competition thanks to a 20-13 triumph over the Scarlets. Isa Nacewa scored for Leinster while Jonny Sexton kept the scoreboard ticking over with the boot. The home side's try came from Gareth Maule while Rhys Priestland slotted eight points.
Toulon overcame the threat of the Blues at the Arms Park with Steffon Armitage turning in a Man of the Match performance. Jonny Wilkinson slotted the rest of the points in their 22-14 triumph and with nine points from two games, they remain on course for the quarters. Leigh Halfpenny was the Blues' best player on the day and he got the scoreboard ticking over with a stunning try in the first minute and would knock over the rest of their points.
Elsewhere in Pool 6, Montpellier beat Sale 33-18 at the Stade Yves du Manoir. It was the Sharks who took the lead after three minutes with Mark Cueto catching Danny Cipriani's cross-kick to dot the ball down but the French side stormed back with Francois Trinh-Duc in inspired form. He scored their first try in the 49th minute while Timoci Nagusa and Julien Tomas crossed for their other two. Richie Vernon's late try put some gloss on the scoreboard for the Sharks but they now have just one win in eight matches to their name this season.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
"The thirst for knowledge has seen coaches break away from the confines of rugby and look to America." Tom Hamilton on the two-way learning process
On Saturday, New Zealand face the USA in a match that has been 40 years in the making. Tom Hamilton finds the atmosphere building in Chicago
Most modern rugby players will not know the name Ray Williams but they should be eternally grateful to him, writes John Taylor
With the All Blacks playing the USA Eagles this weekend, Craig Dowd says rugby is ready to make a professional breakthrough Stateside