Wall to wall Heineken Cup action is guaranteed to produce a few talking points, and Round 3 has given us plenty. A particular highlight for me was just that there were so many great games to watch, and that now we can refer to this weekend when anyone mentions the need for law changes, or that rugby has become too boring.
Munster kicked things off with a nail-biting victory over Perpignan by 24-23, with Ronan O’Gara taking a starring role, nailing a penalty in the dying moments of the game to steal the points. The victory keeps them at the top of Pool 1, whereas a home defeat would have seen them slump to third place.
One of Saturday’s highlights was Ulster’s comprehensive win over Stade Francais by 23-13. The match was indeed marred by Julien Dupuy’s gouging of Stephen Ferris, which was a reflection of the extent to which Ulster frustrated their opponents and the overwhelming nature of their victory.
There will no doubt be ramifications for Stade, who are now level on points with Ulster at the top of Pool 4, and the return fixture next week could be a very heated affair.
Cardiff’s win over Toulouse by 15 points to 9 wasn’t a spectacular match, but was a similarly impressive defeat of a French side by a Magners League team. Gethin Jenkins was monumental, playing like a back rower in the front row, and he stood out in a try-less match full of mistakes. Perhaps I should reconsider the 2009 World XV selection?
Harlequins v Sale Sharks was one of the best matches of the weekend, and perhaps of the season so far, with the visitors claiming a bonus point win (19-29) after an incredible first-half performance that saw them score three tries to Quins one. Sale now have one eye on qualification, and sit one point behind Pool 5 leaders Toulouse, level on points with Cardiff – next weekend’s return fixtures will be crucial in deciding the outcome in this Pool.
After losing to Clermont Auvergne by 40 points to 30, Leicester Tigers are facing a struggle to qualify for the knockout stages. Their disappointing defence conceded a record number of points, and the Tigers are now third in Pool 3 behind Clermont and the Ospreys. A home win in the return fixture next weekend is a must if they are to stand any chance of progressing.
Glasgow Warriors 33 – 11 Gloucester Rugby
Munster 24 – 23 Perpignan
Viadana 7 – 62 Ospreys
Ulster 23 – 13 Stade Francais
Northampton Saints 30 – 18 Benetton Treviso
Cardiff Blues 15 – 9 Toulouse
Scarlets 7 – 32 Leinster
Brive 3 – 36 London Irish
Harlequins 19 – 29 Sale Sharks
Biarritz 49 – 13 Gwent Dragons
Bath 16 – 9 Edinburgh
ASM Clermont Auvergne 40 – 30 Leicester Tigers