Biarritz and Toulouse set up all-French final

Heineken Cup

Biarritz defeated Munster and Toulouse saw off reigning champions Leinster to set up an all-French final in Paris on 23rd May.

Whilst both semi-finals were utterly gripping, neither was a classic, and the French had the upper hand for most of both games. But for me, the highlight of the weekend was seeing Iain Balshaw and Ayoola Erinle in action.

Both players have featured for England in the not too distant past, but for Biarritz, they looked like children playing a man’s game.

Erinle dropped several passes in the first quarter, took several wrong decisions when choosing to run at a man rather than use people outside him, and was then substituted just after half time.

Meanwhile, Balshaw was clearly identified as a weakness by Ronan O’Gara who showered him with high balls. He dropped most of them. A particularly amusing moment though was when Biarritz turned the ball over, the ball came to Balshaw and he had two defenders in front of him, and three teammates outside him – including the lightning Takudzwa Ngwenya.

Choosing to kick was clearly the wrong option, but Balshaw put boot to ball nonetheless, and what made it even worse was that he kicked it out on the full to give Munster the throw into the lineout in the Biarritz half.

With no English teams in the semi-final stages, it was somehow fitting that Balshaw and Erinle, along with Magnus Lund, were England’s sole representatives. Perhaps they’ll take the final by storm and prove me wrong, but somehow, I doubt they’ll have much of an impact.