Heineken Cup — Leinster’s replay reprieve and Toulon’s Welsh woes
FOR THE FIRST time in Heineken Cup history, four Irish provinces were all victorious on the same day. Leinster and Munster secured doughty home wins but the heroics were provided by Ulster and Connacht.
A combination of lofty expectations and the high stakes of pool stage rugby left Munster and Leinster fans somewhat underwhelmed despite a pair of home wins. The Blues looked set for a canter as they led Castres 9 — 0 yet were forced to defend bravely in the closing stages to deny the visitors a losing bonus point. Johne Murphy’s late try for Munster put a sheen on a 26 — 10 triumph at Thomond.
Jack McGrath scores for Leinster and keeps the tournament sponsors happy in the process. INPHO/Morgan Treacy
Two Irishmen plying their rugby trade abroad also made a significant impact in the cup this weekend. Robin Copeland delivered a man-of-the-match performance in Cardiff Blue’s unexpected home win of reigning champs, Toulon. Jonny Sexton kicked 16 points for Racing Metro but was left frustrated after their 26 — 26 draw with Simon Easterby’s Scarlets. The outhalf missed a late penalty and set up his teammate for a try only to have play called back for a contentious knock-on.
Niall Morris played at fullback in Leicester’s home win over Treviso. Tigers assistant coaches Geordan Murphy and Paul Burke were pleased at snatching a late bonus point but their joy was tempered by Ulster’s exploits in France the following day. Gareth Steenson kicked three penalties in Exeter’s 20 — 16 loss to Glasgow Warriors. Harlequins and Conor O’Shea failed to end Clermont’s six-year unbeaten run at home are are now 0 from 2.
Mark McCall’s Saracens were beaten 17 — 16 by Toulouse at Wembley as Owen Farrell proved he is no Ronan O’Gara… yet.
H-Cup try of the weekend
Ulster’s first [and only] try against Montpellier was pure backline magic. It was initiated by Tommy Bowe, some 80 metres from the French tryline, and featured a lovely cut-out pass by Jared Payne and Darren Cave, who found Andrew Trimble off his left shoulder in support.
Bowe never stopped running from his deep-lying position and arrived right on cue to swap a one-two with Trimble, who kept his head and touched down near the posts. Check it out here [the fun starts around 1:20]
YouTube credit: Ballboll81
Bledisloe Cup — All Blacks raise the roof in Dunedin
New Zealand made it a perfect 10 wins from 10 this year as they swept their Bledisloe Cup series with Australia. The visitors managed to post 33 points on the scoreboard but the All Blacks were still eight points to the good.
Julian Savea kept up his scoring knack and there were second-half tries for Kieran Read and Aaron Cruden. The diminutive Cruden also played a key part in setting up the try of the game for flanker Sam Cane. His crossfield kick was claimed by Savea, who found Israel Dagg in support. The fullback beat two men and fed Cane to dive over by the posts.
YouTube credit: world news
British & Irish Cup — Fantastic four
The provincial ‘A’ teams kept up the running win this weekend as they all claimed the spoils in the B&I Cup. Ulster Ravens beat Jersey 24 — 19 on Friday and Munster edged out Nottingham 17 — 16 at Meadow Lane. Connacht Eagles recorded a fine win over Rotherham [27 -- 25] while Leinster went away to Moseley and came back with a 24 — 22 win in the bag.
Andrew Conway made his return from injury to feature for Munster A. Yes, that is a soccer goal in the background. INPHO/Alison Bowden
What was your highlight of the rugby weekend?