Heineken Cup Round Five

Whiff of Cordite went on its second trip of the season this weekend – a swift eight-hour round trip to Belfast.  It was Leinsterman Palla Ovale’s first proper Ravenhill experience (Ireland A v Tonga doesn’t really count).  Talk about timing – the old ground heaved as Ulster racked up a wonderful four-try victory that keeps them in the hunt.  The highlight was the three fans behind us who with, as typical Nordies, refused to get carried away when Palla began to laud the Ulster display, responding ‘Aye, but Leicester are sh*te!’.  Here’s our Good Week/Bad Week, and where else to start but at Ravenhill.

Good week

Shtand up for the Ul-[whistle]-termen:
The standout performance of the weekend – Ulster absolutely smashed Leicester, dominating the collisions and set-piece and leaving England’s most storied team of the professional era a leaderless rabble by full-time. The tone was set by an immense hit by Fez on Agulla to prevent a Tigers try early on, and the ferocious work never stopped. Once the ball made it to the piano players, they did the business as well – even PedrieWannenbosh had two gorgeous try-making offloads. The pity is that they probably won’t qualify – the lost bonus point in

Welford Road

might prove crucial. True, they will make it if one of Toulouse, Quins, Embra or Cardiff slip up, but that is still odds against. Mind you, stranger things have happened, and better to have one in the hand then to need a win in Galway when you are playing sh!te…

When Eric eats a banana, he turns into…
Bananaman!  If you closed your eyes slightly, you would have though fifteen Erics were playing on Saturday morning. Egg Chaser was enjoying a leisurely lunch with the family when he decided to check the latest score from the Zaffanella on the off-chance there would be a shock. Errr … no. It was 47-0 at half–time. Then the Erics added another 35 in the second half for a grand total of 82 points and 12 tries. Okay, it was only Aironi. But still.  Aironi beat Biarritz last year, and gave Leicester a pretty uncomfortable time of it this year.  They have home wins against Embra, Treviso and Connacht in the AAALeague and gave Cardiff and Ulster some heart-in-mouth moments. Sure, they are bunnies, and they target matches (Munster, 12th of February, watch your backs), but they are improving – they are certainly not an 82-0 team. If Clermont get 4 more tries and win on Saturday, they will likely have a home quarter final, and from there, anything can happen. Ask Eric.
Send Them Homewards tae the Knockout Stages
Scottish rugby has been in the doldrums for so long, you sometimes forget the positives. They have some decent back-row forwards, they should have won the Triple Crown in 2010, and they will soon have HupHupTim Visher. But they have loads of negatives. Glasgow have no history of rugby and struggle to get the deposit back from Partick Thistle Nil and are losing Richie Gray to Sale (Sale!).Embra do well to pack 10% of Murrayfield on a weekly basis. So with those handicaps, its great to see Embra show such bronca – 2 last minute away wins, and a 30 point comeback in this group –its the stuff quarter-finals are made of. If they beat London Samoa at home, they are in. Given they might make it at the expense of Ulster, it’s a stretch to say we will be cheering them on, but no-one could begrudge them, and Scottish rugby, their day in the sun.

Bad Week

Peter Stringer and the Wobbly Kick

There could hardly be much more goodwill towards Peter Stringer – we were in a Bath pub full of travelling Leinster fans who loudly cheered his debut appearance against Ospreys.  What a pity to see his kick charged down, resulting in a Biarritz try on Sunday.  His boot out of play to secure the win also went at a strangely low trajectory – it would have been funny-painful to see Ngwenya catch it on the full and gallop in for a winning try.  Things have gone well for Strings up til now – he’ll put this one behind him.

Biarritz and Leicester – All Pedigree and no Trousers

Pedigree is often argued to be the crucial ingredient in the Heineken Cup – it’s what digs Munster out of tight spots and gets Toulouse through the group stages without breaking a sweat.  Biarritz and Leicester have it in spades, but it will only get you so far.  Both are a pale shadow of fomer sides.  Biarritz were never the most watchable of teams, but the forward power that used to intimidate is no longer there.  Leicester became a rabble on Friday night.  They are admittedly beset by injuries, but they don’t appear particularly strong in any unit.  Castro is no longer the force of old, and the backrow was anonymous on Friday, smashed to pieces at the breakdown.  12×3 had a meltdown, and Ben Youngs is starting to look a bit overrated.  Both these teams will be focussing on domestic affairs for the rest of the season.

Stuart Barnes Has Something to Say

Oooooohhh Barnesy, what a week!  Darren Cave took him on in his Sunday Times interview (questioning his pick of Leicester as among the favourites), and came out on top.  After the Friday debacle, he made an extraordinary admission: that the Rabo Pro12 is better, and quicker, than the Premiership.  The Premiership Sky Hype, the perennial excuse that the powder-puff Rabo gives the Celtic sides an unfair advantage – all gone in a flash.  You half expected the producer to get in his ear and make him recant.

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5 Comments

  1. Surely Keet & his horrendous passing deserved a mention? Even the Indo admitted he had a bad game! No, really, they did!

  2. The Munster game was pretty hard to watch alright, we won't lie.Its the return of McGahanball – slow ruck ball and ponderous back play – after 12 months. And you can add employing your scrum-half as your number one ball carrier to that…

  3. Superb performance by Ulster at the weekend, can't really find fault with it! Ben Youngs must dread coming to Ireland his game always falls apart. There was a raft of players putting their hands up for Ireland selection. Ferris, Tuohy, Cave, Trimble, Best and Henry SHOULD all be in the mix. One does suspect that of the 6 only Ferris and Best will start and maybe Trimble will be on the bench. In another life all but Henry would be starting. Leicester (and Sky) must face up to the fact that they are in need of some serious rebuilding. The Tank my rumble through Wasps rear guard easily but the Heino is another step up. Interestingly Ulster should now be 2nd seeds next year in theory giving them an easier group to navigate.I have to say the Munster match was one of the worst games of rugby I have seen this season. They were awful! POC is back to his 0.0006m carries, which the Thomond faithful seem to love! Murray, not for the first time, showed us that he isn't yet ready to top level rugby. He was ponderous and his decision making is so slow! In this form only POC should be in the frame to make an Ireland 15. Ryan is looking in good form but I prefer him coming off the bench in internationals. DOC, who had an unexpected bench oppurtunity, was invisible and in most countries would have played his way out of contention!Leinster seemed to struggle to put any pace on their game at the weekend. They looked to be going through the motions a lot but then would pull a touch of class out of the bag now and again. Cronin and Healy were superb in the loose and Devin Toner is really growing into his role. As much as I dont want to say it Leo Cullen's place in the team must be coming under serious threat. As a carrier he is looking seriously underpowered, Toner seems to be the go to man in the lineout and his penalty count is only getting higher. SOB looks to be growing into the role of 7 with some crucial turnovers. Leinster did enough to win but there are still the same nagging doubts that you have touched on previously. Kudos must go to the men from the West this week also. Keeping Toulouse to 4 tries at home is a tremendous achievement for them and I hope they can give Quins a mighty game on Friday.I must say I can not believe Barnsey praised the PRO12! I mean the evidence has only been compelling for around 6 years now. Perhaps Sky are eyeing up the TV rights so pundits are being encouraged to go town on it. Last but not least if you want to know who has replaced ROG as Wales most disliked Ireland player check out http://www.gwladrugby.com. One eyed Welsh fans are hilarious come 6 Nations time, its almost as funny as the time Stephen Jones called Ayola Erinle the long term answer to Englands issues at 12

  4. @JSRF – I had a look at that messageboard, and it was bananas, I hadn't a rashers what anyone was on about! I couldn't find the new Irish Villain amid all the mayhem. Go on, reveal all!

  5. Palla they dont seem to be fans of Cian Healy at all… The Welsh fans on the site feel he is extremely overrated and a thug apparently…

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