Another round is over, but the action has been as good as we’ve ever seen. Here, as always, is the Best of the Weekend.
Harlequins run comes to an end, as Saints are thumped and Saracens press on
The prediction had been on Friday that Harlequins would be truly tested for the first time that evening. To be honest though, not many teams could have coped with the intensity which Toulouse produced at the Stoop. Dominating the breakdown throughly simply playing about two or three gears above anything Harlequins could match, the work of captain Thierry Dusautoir and standout number 8 Louis Picamoles was the difference. Brilliantly marshalled by their two Lukes, Burgess and McAlister, Toulouse exploited the Quins midfield of Benjamin Urdapilleta and Matt Hopper, with the latter missing a key tackle in the build-up to Timoci Matanavou’s try. A tough, but good lesson for Quins, who must now get a result next week in the South of France.
It was another negative result for Northampton, who are officially down and out of this year’s competition, in an incredibly disappointing turn of events after reaching last year’s final. A four try thumping away at Castres, plus 21 points from the boot of Romain Teulet at full back, lead to their defeat. Tom Wood picked up his second card in a week, this time yellow, as did Stephen Myler, not helping Saints cause or their current form, having lost four out of their last five matches.
There was however good news for Saracens, returning to Wembley Stadium once more to take on the Ospreys, and picking up a 31-26 win. A brace from centre Ashley Beck was not enough for the Welsh visitors, as Owen Farrell managed to score 16 points and spend time in the sin-bin. The win moves them top of Pool 5, with a win in Swansea next weekend putting them in good control of the group.
Plenty of Irish success home and away
Good news if you were supporting the majority of the Irish sides this weekend, as Ulster, Leinster, Munster and London Irish all picked up results at home and away. Ulster’s win over Aironi was perhaps expected, but they did the job in picking up the bonus point. Five tries in all, including scores from Stephen Ferris and Andrew Trimble, means that Ulster edge above Leicester into second place.
Leinster survived a spirited first half performance from Bath to pick up a win away at the Rec, six penalties from Johnny Sexton proving the difference and meaning that the champions are very much in charge of Pool 3. Munster took a crucial lead in Pool 1 by winning against the Scarlets, in front of a record crowd at Parc y Scarlets. In the end some crucial missed kicks by Rhys Priestland and excellent defence from the visitors was the difference, meaning the Scarlets have to get a result at Thomond Park.
One of the performances of the weekend though came in Paris, where yours truly witnessed London Irish score 24 unanswered points against Racing Métro in the second half. More on that in a Tour Diary to come later, but the results means that Irish’s seemingly dead hopes of qualification are alive again. It’s hard to imagine Racing caring much about next week’s return fixture now they are out after three losses, so if Irish can pick up another five points, then their game against Cardiff becomes massive.
Try of the weekend goes to Sireli Bobo of Racing Métro 92. A wonderful chip kick from El Mago himself Juan Mártin Hernández was gathered by Bobo, who completed a sweet one-two with Josh Matavesi before speeding away down the left hand touchline.
Hero of the weekend is Treviso’s Kristopher Burton. The fly-half kicked 16 points for Treviso in their win over Biarritz, in another epic win for an Italian side in a repeat of last year’s surprise result by Aironi. His composure to land the kick that gave Treviso some breathing space at 30-26 was crucial.
Villain of the weekend is Morgan Parra. Despite his side picking up a convincing win, images have circulated of Parra biting George Chuter’s arm prior to the Leicester hooker being sin-binned. Disgraceful.
by Ben Coles