Brucie Bonus

When you are scrapping for your life ™ in a Pool of Death ™ every point, nay try, can be crucial ©. Yes, amazingly, this particular piece of trite hyperbole is true and undeniable. Both Munster and Ulster are in prickly pools, and the bonus point distribution is very likely to be a key factor in who tops the pool, and whether the runners-up can join them in the next phase.

In both cases, the baseline scenario for the three contenders (Munster, Saracens and Clermont; Ulster, Toulon and Leicester) is:

  • Nine points from the group bunnies (Sale and the Scarlets)
  • Eight points from two home wins against the two good teams
  • Two points from two away defeats against same

coming to a total baseline of 19 points. Axel and Doak will be thinking that if they get 20, they should qualify, but if they end up with 18, they could finish third in the pool. And, of course, if you lose to the bunnies away or any of your home games, you are goosed.  Denying others points is just as important; if Munster can beat Saracens by more than seven points and deny them a bonus, it’s almost as good as an extra match point.

Munster, by the skin of their teeth, are still alive in the tournament – had they not managed their terrific comeback, they could forget about qualification. But manage they did, and the four points effectively means they are par for the course after one round. In their pool, Globo Gym picked up a home win, and, possibly crucially, scored four tries and got a fifth point. That, in effect, puts them a point ahead of the benchmark, edging them ahead of Clermont and Munster in the reckoning. Clermont will be content enough with their losing bp, particularly as they put it up to a team which had embarrassed them and fed them a forty-burger six months ago, and are also level par. The aggregate number of points dished out in the match was six, which is the result Munster would have least enjoyed.  Contrast with Leinster’s pool where Harlequins and Castres received only four points between them.  Slight advantage Saracens after round one.

The other slightly unfortunate news for Munster is that in beating Sale away from home in round one they may simply have softened them up for everyone else.  It’s a scenario Ulster ran into last year.  Beating Montpellier away looked like a pool-defining result, but it only resulted in Montpellier being less than fully commited and allowed Leicester to follow suit a few weeks later.

In Ulster’s pool, it looked like curtains for the Northerners at half-time in Welford Road – the Tigers had three tries on the board (almost a fourth) and a losing bp seemed a long way adrift. Finishing the game on a match score of 4-1 when 5-0 looked odds-on was quite the achievement – 5-0 would have put Leicester two points up on Ulster in the bonus-off, but now both are on par. Both teams will be feeling a bit bummed after the game – Ulster for losing and Leicester for eschewing a chance to get the boot firmly on a group rival’s throat.

In the same pool, Toulon beat the Scarlets but did not get four tries – this was a slight negative for the champions as they would have been expecting a full haul. They are still more than capable of going to the non-fortress that is Parc y Scarlets and running amok, but it ups the pressure a little. Toulon are just off schedule a little, but plenty of time to rectify that.

Next up it’s must-win home games against last years finalists – Munster open round two up against the likeable ruffians of Saracens and Ulster face the uphill struggle that is Toulon at home. Four points each, and they’ll both stay on course for the target of 19.  Deny the opposition a bonus point and it’s better still.  Easier said than done, though.

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17 Comments

  1. Ulster have every chance of beating Toulon. Scarlets hat them well rattled after taking the lead with the Liam Williams try, only to within seconds have a kick charged down, leading directly to a try for Mermoz. If Scarlets had kept their wits about them, the pressure would have been on Toulon and who knows how the game might have turned out. Ulster need to put in a performance like the one against Glasgow. If they do, I think they’ll win. Go mbeidh an t-ádh leo, ar aon nós!!!

    • The key for me is shutting down Giteau. Whenever he hasn’t played, Toulon have lost this season, when he’s on the pitch, they win. Simple as. Obviously the pack will have to front up bigstyle and the lineout will *have* to function as well, but I think Giteau is very much the lynchpin at Toulon these days.

      That said, all of this is moot if we put in another first half performance like we did last week.

      • D6W

         /  October 23, 2014

        Massive ask for Ulster, but if Newport can scare them like that, then maybe they are a bit vulnerable. Is it possible the loss of Johnny means they are not quite the team they were last year?

        Slightly off point, but if I was Cheika, the first thing on my to-do list would be to sound out Giteau for a possible return to Oz colours. Long shot, but if you don’t ask…

        • Think it was Barnesy who made the case that they are worryingly better without wilkinson. Giteau has been unleashing the backline better behind their dominant pack.

          I’d partly agree with him but think losing wilkinson has to make them less steady/consistent. They didn’t used to blow that many teams away, but they will possibly do more of that now. On the other hand I’m hypothesising that they might not be just as good at grinding victories as before. They were the masters of the tight win, played very low risk and Wilko was the steadiest of hands on the tiller for a forward orientated game.

          Playing that bit more openly is hard to do though and they could come more unstuck? If they hit form now though – look out. Giteau is just so good at creating space for others and if you decide to drift off him he will take that too.

        • Mary Hinge

           /  October 23, 2014

          Think you mean Llanelli.

  2. I have tickets for Ravenhill. I’m not confident. A miserable assessment, yes, but when “we can’t be as bad as last week” is the sunny side surely I can be excused?

    Our second row issues still worry me greatly. I thought that would do for us last week and, even though it didn’t – Stevenson was OK, the team was dreadful, Tigers were no good and, given their mediocrity, we should have beaten them handily regardless – it remains a massive concern this week.

    I broadly agree with your assessment above and fear we could be sunk after two games.

    • You just know the mood/confidence isn’t great when Ulster are sending e-mails with #wearwhitebeloud and giving out scarves to the first 500 people at Ravenhill. I don’t think it’s impossible, but I think it’s going to take a monumental effort (and a bit of luck).

      • I think you may be reading too much into the marketing. With all the provinces having the money to employ morkeshing types, they always feel they need to do *something* even if it is a bit risible (as evidence, see Ulster and Leinster’s promotions for the Hallowe’en games)

    • Amiga500

       /  October 23, 2014

      Our 2nd row and hooker throwing arm issues.

      RB might be captain and might be like an extra 7 in loose play, but if he can’t reliably (>70%) hit his mark in the lineout then we’re in trouble. Although I did notice he was trying to loosen his arm up quite a bit last week, so its possible he took a bang on it that was putting him off.

      Oh to have a Rory Best/Duncan Casey hybrid!

  3. While in a “group of death” it is very important to get as many Brucie Bonuses as you can to make the top two, in any other group the Brucie Bonuses are less important this year. I know you’ve already mentioned before that 2 runners up from 6 is more competitive than 3 from 5. I think this will be very evident in Leinster’s group. If Harlequins or Castre beat them to first place they still have a 60% chance of getting through, vs 20% last year. Munster and Ulster are still screwed, but Leinster should be under far less pressure than previous years thanks to our good friend Mark McCafferty and his more competitive tourny.

    • garzoo

       /  October 23, 2014

      *should be 33% last year

    • Indeed. Bonuses are especially importand in Munster and Ulster’s groups because it’s highly likely that you’ll have three teams on four wins, so it all comes down to bonus points.

      In Leinster’s pool, it’s probable that the team winning the pool wil win 5 of the 6 games so bonus points probably won’t decide it, rather outright wins.

      • VNVObit

         /  October 23, 2014

        Hope you’re right and it’s us but am not that confident just yet. Quins haven’t been that impressive so far this season.

  4. Paddy

     /  October 23, 2014

    When did Saracens become likeable?

    • I don’t think Saracens as an entity are anywhere near likeable, but it’s hard to deny that they have a team of relatively down to earth individuals who go out and play for each other.

      Do I think that Owen Farrell is a bit of a snotty brat on the pitch? Absolutely. Do I want to punch Chris Ashton in the face for his swan dive? Of course. But if you see them in interviews etc you don’t see any “English club arrogance” (Schalk Brits, for example, came over to our section of the terrace after the QF last season and thanked the crowd for the atmosphere we made, which I thought was a nice touch), and their wolf-pack mentality has to be admired, if not liked.

      Charlie Hodgson is a way better 10 for them though.

  5. Cian Murphy

     /  October 24, 2014

    Definitely agree that Saracens are in the driving seat now in Pool 1. My stats are still saying it’s unlikely for either Munster or Ulster to qualify, but then it doesn’t account (yet) for different performances by teams in Europe and domestically:

    http://www.bal-do.net/2014/10/heineken-cup-debrief-round-1/

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