It’s Just A Little Airborne, It’s Still Good, It’s Still Good!

Munster and Leinster aren’t out of the Heineken Cup just yet, but oh me oh my, they’re cutting their chances pretty fine after losing what were, on the face of it, must-win matches this weekend.  Munster sit on 11 points in their pool, and Leinster are on 10.  We wrote previously how the two could be on some sort of collision course, potentially taking one or another out of the tournament.  Well, they sure are now, but it ain’t no two horse race.  It’s time to get out the calculators.

Oh, and it probably makes sense to add a health warning at this point: looking too far ahead in the Heineken Cup can be a fruitless exercise, the most likely outcome of which is making yourself look foolish.

So who’s liable to be scrapping over the two precious runner up spots?  Here’s a guide which should hopefully give Leinster and Munster fans an idea who they should be rooting for over the next two rounds.

Pool 1: Munster are third with 11 points, but are on course for second, as Racing have played hapless Embra twice.  Saracens will probably go to Racing and do the business, although Racing have kept their interest in the pool alive after back-to-back wins over Edinburgh, so it’s by no means guaranteed.  If Sarries slip up, the pool will become a three horse race, with Racing very much in the mix.  The group would probably be settled on bonus points, and it would change the dynamic of their visit to Thomond Park.  Munster have Edinburgh away before they welcome Racing in Week Six.  It’s time to bring out Rob Penney’s attacking ideas in their full glory, because they’ll be looking for 5 points from each.  21 would almost certainly be enough to qualify.

Forecast: Saracens top, Munster second on 21 points.

Pool 2: Leicester and Toulouse meet in round six, and the winner will top the group.  Results this weekend might prove to be helpful. Ospreys’ defeat of Toulouse means it’s hard to see a runner-up breaking 20 points.  Leicester are on 14 and Toulouse are on 13, but they play each other in the final round.  Unless Leicester beat Ospreys with a bonus point, but then contrive to lose to Toulouse by less that seven, or claim an unlikely draw, the runner-up here should be below the 20-point watermark.

Forecast: Leicester top the group, Toulouse second on 19 points

Pool 3: Biarritz are second on 9 points, and still have to face Harlequins.  Quins are runaway winners here and should have eyes on securing the top seeding.  Biarritz can achieve a maximum of 19 points, but that would require they beat Quins with a try-scoring bonus.

Forecast: Harlequins through, with six wins.  Biarritz second with 15 points.

Pool 4: Ulster losing to Northampton this weekend could have significant knock-on effects, and not in a good way.  Had they lost, Northampton were buried, but they’ve been handed a lifeline.  Ulster are still in control here, despite the hiccup and should still come out on top, though the final game in Castres could be nervy.  Northampton have 10 points and with Castres at home and Glasgow away, they, like Munster, will be eyeing up a 10 point haul, that would put them on 20 points.

Forecast: Ulster through, Northampton second, on 19 points, with only one of the two bonus points.

Pool 5: Clermont are home and hosed here.  They’ll beat Exeter at home and crush Scarlets, putting them on six from six.  Leinster have it all to do.  They haven’t had their try-scoring form with them this season, but should be able to manufacture a four-try win over Scarlets.  That would leave them travelling to a doughty Exeter looking for a four-try win to try and get to the magical 20 point mark.  Memories of Bath in 2006 spring to mind, but they’ll need to look considerably sharper than they have done to to do it.  Exeter are no pushovers and could still have the Amlin to play for.

Forecast: Clermont top.  Leinster to get two wins, but only one bonus point: 19 points.

Pool 6: for Leinster fans, if they do get to 20 points, it all looks to hinge on this pool.  Toulon are on 18 points and Montpellier are on 13.  The other two teams in the group are hopeless: Sale and Cardiff.  Toulon will beat Cardiff at home and top the group.  Montpellier should beat Sale, getting themselves to 17 at least.  Montpellier face Toulon at home in the final week.  Toulon should be already qualified when the game takes place.  Montpellier’s need will surely be greater.  A win and they’d launch themselves to 21 points at least.  Leinster fans must hope that Toulon turn up and win in Montpellier, or that Sale manage to recover from their 62-0 beting to somehow beat Montpellier.  Neither is especially likely.

Forecast: Toulon to top the group, but lose in Montpellier.  Montpellier to finish second with 21 points.

Overall forecast: Montpellier and Munster through as best runners-up.

The above of course, would leave our quarter final rankings looking something like:

  1. Harlequins
  2. Clermont
  3. Toulon
  4. Ulster
  5. Saracens
  6. Leicester
  7. Munster/Montpellier
  8. Munster/Montpellier

So the good news for Munster is we think they will not only sneak through, but avoid having to go to Toulon for another mashing. Clermont is equally as intimidating a venue of course, but it’s not the site of Munster’s most significant mental scarring. The Stoop would be a nice venue for a knock-out game – blood capsules all round!

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25 Comments

  1. Morton Slumber

     /  December 18, 2012

    Fangios article in the Sindo is worth a read -it seems ROG suggested/told (delete as appropriate) Penny that his new strategy wouldn’t be used in the H Cup

  2. Yup. All those Leinster fans who retain some blind optimism should read this.

    Leinster’s hopes are slim and rely on a couple of teams slipping up and Leinster tearing up their formbook from the first half of the season (by scoring lots of tries and eliminating errors).

    The flip side is the solace of a potential home final in the RDS for a competition they have never won: the Amlin.

    • PS I do not think Montpellier will win their next 2 games, I just don’t think Leinster’s 19 points will be good enough to be either Toulouse or Northampton on 19 points.

    • ORiordan

       /  December 18, 2012

      If Leinster are in the Amlin, they won’t have a home quarter final.

      The top 4 ranked Amlin clubs get home games:
      Amlin 1 v Amlin 4
      Amlin 2 v HEC 11
      Amlin 3 v HEC 10
      Amlin 4 v HEC 9

      I believe there is an open draw for the semis.

  3. @Completebore

     /  December 18, 2012

    Regarding Ulster – am I right in saying they could win the group after the next round of games? If they get 5 points against Glasgow at home (managable if they can scrounge up some second rows) and Castres fail to beat Northampton away they will be on 20 points which only the Saints can match and at that point the head-to-head goes to Ulster (6-4) if I understand the rules correctly. It would take the strain out of the away to Castres if it was for ranking and not qualification.

    • Not if Castres win their final two games. If Ulster finishes second on 20 points, there are a number of teams that can surpass them: Munster can get 21, as can Montpellier – both of those teams and Leinster could conceivably get 20 points (and then it comes down to tries). Even Pool 2 could through one up.

      • @Completebore

         /  December 18, 2012

        I get that if Castres win both games they can top the group (with 20-22 points) which is why the specific scenario I was looking at was Castres losing to Northampton in week 5 leaving them with a maximum total of 18 (current 12+LBP+possible 5 in week 6 versus Ulster), Northampton with a maximum of 20 (current 10+2*5) and Ulster with 20 (assuming they can get the 5 against the Scots). It just seems the most likely scenario (to my biased eyes) at the moment and would leave Ulster uncatchable at the top after week 5. Or maybe I’m not doing the sums right, I have run out of fingers and toes.

      • If Ulster wins with a bonus and Castres loses, then Ulster tops the group as I see it.

  4. TJ Hooker

     /  December 18, 2012

    No doubt Munster have a chance to qualify and two wins are very possible, but the psychology of ‘having’ to secure a bonus point in both games could be an inhibiting factor. Hopefully then 20 points would be enough.

  5. Len

     /  December 18, 2012

    I can see things going two ways for Leinster. One they continue to plod along in the same form that brought us last Saturday, will fail to get the bonus points they require and might not even make the Amlin. Or two (fingers and toes crossed) the defeat last Saturday will annoy them enough to spark some life back into them and they’ll return to the form that those of us who support them know and love. Both bonus points will be achieved in a brutal destruction of the Scarletts and the chiefs (not to mention any pro 12 opposition). If that happens then at least they’ll have done all they could. If by some miracle of the rugby gods we do get through to the quarters then with players back from injury all bets are off.

    • Bowe gathers

       /  December 18, 2012

      Would be a Houdini-esque escape for sure, but to politely drizzle on your parade Ulster will be feeling equally let down and a big win against our bête noir in ravenhill is just the ticket for a merry Christmas all round. Factor in a WWI style casualty list for leinster and the red hand gang will be feeling confident…

      • It will be interesting to see how Ulster cope with all the injuries. Who will your second row be? Henderson and Ricky Lutton. I know little about the latter – any good?

      • Bowe Gathers

         /  December 19, 2012

        As far as I know Lutton is a prop, and he’s not played any game time to my memory. The chap who’s squad cover is called McComb. He’s always been a grafter, line out specialist and tough but nothing much else on offer. Lewis Stevenson (not sure if he’s fit) has impressed me more this season, as his work rate is pretty visible and he’s effective at the breakdown and the set piece. At a pinch Diack could cover, he’s no starter but I’ve seen him fill in there when yellow cards late in the game force scrum changes. He’s 6’5 plus and always a line-out option. Our locks may be thin, but not as thin as Leinster (thank heaven!)

      • Bowe Gathers

         /  December 19, 2012

        Otherwise the rise of NWJMB marches on…

  6. zdm

     /  December 18, 2012

    A small part of me hopes that Leinster don’t go through – it would be a huge boost for the Pro12 if Leinster (and potentially also Munster) were focusing solely on that competition. It would go a long way to silencing the English Rugby Mafia anyway.

  7. A bit of shoe pie

     /  December 18, 2012

    The English rugby media mafia are not easy to silence, but a couple of bottles of vino and a twitter account and they can make themselves look daft

  8. Racing have conceded 3rd fewest points in the T14 this season. Fewer than Toulouse, Castres, Montpelllier (only more than ASM and Toulon). I don’t think anyone can be that sure of taking a bonus point of them. Racing are in 2nd remember and if they beat Sarries at home it’ll all come down to a winner takes all game in Thomond… Maybe not a likely permutation but definitely an exciting one. Unfortunately it might prevent Leinster qualifying (if Sarries finish 2nd with 20 points).

    Let’s just all pray that Toulon smash Montpellier.

  9. part time punk

     /  December 19, 2012

    For the unititated – NWJMB ??

  10. Rich

     /  December 20, 2012

    New Willie John Mcbride! Genius

    Stevenson is fit as far as I know although tuohy still being assessed. Bowe a huge loss although cover is not bad.

    Poor from Leinster but injuries have taken their toll. Ulster and Connacht certainly going the right way, Munster any better than last year? Tough to say. Leinster certainly weaker in 2nd row and injuries in the backs have left goodman at 12, hardly a pupil of the josef style of rugby.

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