Best of the Weekend: Leinster and Northampton book date in Cardiff

With the majority of the Northern Hemisphere’s elite side taking a break this week, all attention turned to those teams left in the Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup. The semi-finals of both competitions ensured that there was plenty of rugby action on this second Bank Holiday weekend.

Leinster fans

Leinster get revenge over Toulouse

In the game of the weekend, 2009 Heineken Cup champions Leinster faced their adversaries from last year Toulouse, who had put paid to their hopes of defending their title when they defeated the Irish side in the semi-final. But led by their irrepressible captain Brian O’Driscoll, Leinster accentuated their improvements with a thrilling victory in a match that was underpinned by a resilient pack performance.

The match had begun badly for Leinster. When an innocuous David Skrela penalty bounced off the post, rather than the Leinster defence lapping up possession, Toulouse centre Florian Fitz was the beneficiary as he gathered under the nose of Brian O’Driscoll to touch down for the first try. Fly half Skrela duly added the extras. But as they have done before, the Leinstermen hit back. Jonathan Sexton’s metronomic boot combined with a Jamie Heaslip try, in which he showcased some extendable arms more reminiscent of Inspector Gadget, brought Leinster the lead at half time despite the sin binning of Brian O’Driscoll after a ruck infringement close to the Leinster try line.

As the match resumed, Toulouse took advantage of the man advantage when Louis Picamoles crossed after a five-metre scrum, but Leinster hit back with gusto and the returning O’Driscoll crossed for Leinster’s second and his 30th Heineken Cup try. Despite some late Toulouse pressure, Leinster held on to their lead, greatly aided by a heroic man of the match performance from number 8 Jamie Heaslip.

Saints impress in Milton Keynes

From one Irish number 8 to another, Roger Wilson did his best to eclipse Heaslip’s performance as Northampton comprehensively beat a surprisingly poor Perpignan team. The Saints are renowned for their dominant pack, although the superiority achieved over Perpignan was unexpected. Fly half Stephen Myler looked shaky at times, but Jon Clarke and the rampaging Ben Foden were constant dangers to Perpignan and both helped themselves to tries. A second half touch-down off the back of the driving maul restored some pride for Perpignan’s battered forwards, but it was little consolation as they bowed out meekly.

Quins conquer Thomond Park

In what was undoubtedly the performance of the weekend, Limerick-born Conor O’Shea masterminded a Harlequins victory over Munster at Thomond Park, achieving a feat that has eluded many fine sides in recent times. Harlequins clearly caught Munster cold, and despite a Nick Easter red card they held on for what was only the second European loss Munster have been inflicted at Thomond Park. ‘Quins now move on to the final where they will face Stade Francais, who had triumphed over Clermont Auvergne just one night previous.

Falcons grab vital bonus point

Newcastle may have fallen to a 14-11 defeat at home to Bath in their rearranged match, but Luke Fielden’s late try ensured that they left the game with a vital bonus point that keeps them one place above bottom club Leeds. With Leeds set to battle Northampton at Franklin’s Gardens and Newcastle heading to the Rec to resume pleasantries with Bath, each point holds huge weight, and Leeds’ inferior points difference means that they must take at least two points to give themselves a chance of safety.

However, the future of the Premiership’s bottom club will depend on the victor of the match between Worcester and the Cornish Pirates, who booked places in The Championship final after victories over Bedford and London Welsh respectively. While a Worcester win would assure them promotion, the Pirates do not satisfy the Premiership’s entry criteria of a 10,000 capacity ground. Thus, should they beat Worcester in the final then they would be crowned champions but with the caveat of staying put in the same league. In doing so they would grant the Premiership’s bottom club a reprieve.

I’m a sucker for tries off first phase ball, and Luke Morahan’s effort for the Reds against the Hurricanes wins try of the weekend. Off the lineout the ball was shipped to Quade Cooper who elegantly laid it inside to the onrushing Morahan who went on to beat three would-be tacklers to score.

This week’s hero will go to Jamie Heaslip, who put in a performance against Toulouse that fully deserved his man of the match award. The main flash-points were his try and second half try-saving turnover, but he was a colossus across the pitch throughout the match.

Villain of the week is tough, with a few flying arms this weekend not going amiss. But with the farcical Championship play-offs approaching their conclusion, I’ll award this to the RFU. I don’t disagree that checks should be in place to assure sustainability, but that 3 of the 4 clubs competing in the Championship play-offs were not eligible for elevation to the Premiership is quite damning. This is probably another article in itself.

Citing Report: Sean O’Brien has been one of the outstanding performers in this year’s Heineken Cup, but he could be watching the final on the side-lines after a back-hand hit on Toulouse flanker Yannick Nyanga. Most rugby players will have been there, the player tugging you back as you head for the ball-carrier, but unfortunately for O’Brien his outburst of passion could mean that he risks sanctioning:


Those were my highlights, what were yours? And do you think Sean O’Brien could risk a punishment for his backhander on Nyanga?

18 thoughts on “Best of the Weekend: Leinster and Northampton book date in Cardiff

  1. cracking weekends rugby, albeit watched recorded @ 3 am with small baby.

    my head says Leinster, depends on who has the better set piece. I think NOrthampton have the front 5 to do it, so ill put money on northampton. plus i think they will want it more.

    how good was Robshaw v Munster? got to go to the RWC.

  2. I think the Quins performance was a real highlight – I did not see that coming at all!

    Robshaw was outstanding, and Dowson was pretty incredible against Perpignan as well…both to go to RWC?? Lots of back row options, including Waldrom!

  3. Villain of the weekend surely has to be Candelon for his disgusting hit on Dickson whilst Dickson was in the air

    As for O’Brien, provocation or not, that should be a short-ish ban for the punch, Leinster better hope he’s not cited. They will need him against the Northampton back-row

  4. Sean O’Brien does deserve a citing but Nyanga was definitely asking for it, disgraceful professional foul! Try shouldn’t have been awarded.

  5. Paolo – Good point. That must have slipped my mind as the Championship matches were the last thing I watched and it’s farcical nature annoyed me. It was terrible, though I agreed with the ref when he only awarded a yellow.

    Graham Kitchener was almost deserving of villain of the week too for his mess-up of a certain try for Worcester. He’s a very, very lucky boy that it didn’t cost them – and with him set for Leicester next year and so perhaps less reliant upon promotion, I don’t think his teammates would have been particularly understanding.

    I think we should hear on O’Brien very soon…

  6. Tom
    i saw that game as well, Kitchener is normally so reliable!
    O brien was virtually faultless. Northampton should target him if he isnt banned!

    Hutch – dowson did very well.

    I really hope MJ will be watching Northampton and Quins to see which players should be looked @ for RWC.

    Monye seems to have got his mojo back, have just about forgiven him for Lions tour!

  7. Not convinced by Monye’s ‘return to form’ but he does have some useful experience, and he seems to fit Johnno’s preferred dimensions for a back. There don’t seem to be that many wing options that Johnno would consider, so maybe he will go.

    He’s bound to be looking at Saints, and now Quins after Saturday’s performance, Tigers as always, and maybe even Sarries and Gloucester for a change!

    With Northampton in the Heineken final and already pretty much assured of a playoff spot, it could be a life-saving favour to Leeds if they decide to rest players this weekend. I can’t see Newcastle getting anything in Bath…can Leeds pull off a final day victory??

  8. Hate to say it, but O’Brien should be cited for that – the first swing might be reactionary, but he turns and gives another smack. Can’t afford to be without him in the final either.

  9. no citing for o’brien!!! lucky boy
    think it will be a tight match if leinster can stand up to the scrum i think their all round game is much stronger!

  10. Didn’t Nyanga have to go off after that as he was concussed? How can O’Brien not be cited? That doesn’t make any sense to me.

    I was hugely impressed with Harlequins’ expansive play in the first half v Munster. It seemed that the ref was giving the ball carrier/supporting players a bit more time to let go/clear the ball than usual which helped the game flow. Nick Easter was a fool to sacrifice himself like that, if Quins were that desperate to slow the ball down illegally someone else who wasn’t on a yellow card already should have caused the infringement. Does that mean he misses the final?

    Anyone see that drop goal from Viljoen?


  11. Can’t believe O’Brien didn’t get cited for that. Yes Nyanga should have been penalised for holding but if the ref sees the retaliation it’s a red card, he’s pretty much elbowed him.

    Interestingly, Nyanga’s was the same offence as that commited by the Worcester flanker which allowed Kai Horstman to score the winning try against Bedord in the Championship play off (what a game that was). The flanker was held into the scrum by the shirt and Horstman just ran into the space which he would have been covering. Cost Bedford the match. How the officials consistenely miss that offence is beyond me, it’s not like the linesmen are overburdened with things to look at at the scrum.

    Dowson was outstanding for Northampton. I know Tom Wood played very well in the 6 NAtions but if I’d been consistently turning in the performances Dowson has over time I would be asking why someon leapfrogs over me after a few good games. Has to be in the mix for PwC, not least because he can play all across the back row.

    That drop goal is unbelievable. That would have gone close from his own 22. Kicking at altitude must be so much fun.

  12. Stuart – I can’t check the video right now to confirm my suspicions, but when watching it back last night it looked like the first offence was SO’B breaking early from the scrum anyway!

  13. but sure if ur looking at every decision it shouldn’t have been a scrum cos darcy had a foot in the in goal area so should of been a 22 drop out!

  14. And you couldn’t conclusively see that Cueto’s foot was in touch so England are World Champions and they would have ridden that wave of confidence to 4 successive Grand Slams meaning that all results since 2007 are null and void. Apart from those against Australia. Good, glad we’ve cleared that up.

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