Heineken Cup Round 6: 5 things we learned


1. Stampgate
This weekend we saw two episodes of stamping that, although the older generation may disagree, has no place at all in the modern game. Ospreys’ Ian Evans was correctly shown a red card after stamping on Mike McCarthy’s head in a maul on Friday night and on Saturday, Brad Barritt was the recipient of a similar incident in which he was at the wrong end of Nathan White’s boot. Referee Leighton Hodges went to the TMO and even after everyone in the stadium and watching at home agreed that this too was a red, White only received a yellow. Now we don’t like to criticise referees here but more consistency is needed.

2. David Strettle
For some reason, many people don’t agree with the fact that Strettle’s form was deserved of an England call-up for the Six Nations. He is leading try-scorer in the Premiership and he scored a hat-trick in the Heineken Cup, and even though Connacht were poor, this is no mean feat. With England having a host of injuries on the wing, surely Strettle is an experienced back to call upon?

3. Unbeaten Ulster and the Pienaar Show
Ulster go into the quarter-finals of the Heineken as top seeds after a superb victory at Welford Road at the weekend and this was down to one man – Ruan Pienaar. The South African scored all of his side’s 22 points but it was his game management that won the match; his territorial kicking was superb, as was his decision making that left Leicester unable to play. The scrum-half has quite frankly been the best player of the tournament so far.

4. Worcester finally win
It may have been an irrelevant match, but Worcester’s win against Oyonnax and the confidence that the players will get from it is a result in its own. The Warriors hadn’t won a game at Sixways for nearly a year and they are still to record a victory in the Premiership, but Dean Ryan will be hoping that this is the win that can kick-start their campaign. Oyonnax have, after all, beaten Castres, Clermont, Perpignan, Racing and Toulon this season.

5. Irish pain
You have to feel for London Irish. They conceded the least amount of points in their Amlin Challenge Cup Pool, scored the most points and tries, finished with the same amount of Pool points as Stade Francais, yet they still finished second and failed to progress to the quarter-finals. This is because Stade had a better head-to-head record against London Irish so they will now face Harlequins at home. Do the ERC have to look at this rule with the option of changing it?

By Calum Gillon (@C_Gillon)

Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images

9 thoughts on “Heineken Cup Round 6: 5 things we learned

  1. If the Amlin is to be a round robin competition then, as such, round robin criteria should apply. London Irish were certainly deserving of a quarter final place. Additionally, there should be no need for two teams from the Heineken to drop to the Amlin quarter finals. If you don’t make the cut, then that should be the end of it.

    Oh and don’t get me started on the Rabo teams and their place in the senior tournament!

    Still next year there wil certainly be changes

    1. What do you mean About the Rabo teams in the senior cup. Sarries would not be qualified if they were not in the easiest group and Leicester group had another Italian team in it. So I think Ur English clubs were lucky that the Rabo teams were included or else there would be no English clubs involved after the group stages.. The same last year when quinns got the easy group and all hyped up but got monstered by Munster in the quarter if I rem..

      1. It’s interesting that there is a generalised view of the Rabo. Pound for pound, the Irish are by far and away the most successful country in European club competitions. Then come the French and English with the rest of the Rabo bringing up the rear. It’s almost a two tier league, and sadly the gap is going to widen due to money. Am not convinced that that is healthy for NH rugby.

  2. I’m not particularly happy about the Heineken cup teams dropping into the Amlin either. The principal of it works, but Irish should be going through.

    Also, Wasps win very game in their group, convincingly, and now have to play a team who have just finished second in a Heineken Cup poo, doesn’t seem all that fair to me to be honest.

  3. Re. Strettle

    I’ll admit to not having seen all of Sarrie’s HC or Premiership matches, but from the highlights I have seen, Strettle’s scoring record seems to consist of just running in tries from 1 metre after everyone else has done the work.

    I accept this may be unfair and will happily retract if anyone can point me to a bit of Strettle genius

    If not, then I would suggest that the reason no-one wants him in the England team is that scoring tries at international level is much harder than just running them in – especially for England.

    With England’s recent struggles to create, wingers are needed who can add a spark from nothing – and players like Watson, Nowell, May and when fit, Yarde and Wade, need the chance to prove that they can do this at the top level.

    Also, if we were choosing wingers solely by the number of tries scored in the premiership, we’d have Cueto on the other wing and whilst he could do a job, I don’t think anyone is putting that forward as a solution

  4. Hats off to Sarries. They have reinvented themselves from a negative anti-rugby side to one that is determined to make best use of their fast playing surface.

    We’ve got to be careful not to get carried away with players looking good in an excellent side. Strettle has had plenty of opportunities and not looked up to it at international level. Same with Goode, same with Ashton (in current England playing style) and same (to a lesser extent) with Barritt.

    If Strettle comes back for another attempt it will inevitably mean wasting a few caps to decide, yet again, he’s not a top class international winger. We have to move on from players that have been tried and have not succeeded, especially when we have a load of alternatives to take a look at.

  5. Pablito and Matt

    I am a Sarries fan, and I am delighted in the turn around in our playing style. Admittedly as pointed out possibly due to our fast pitch. But I think a large part of the difference between a lot of the clubs playing styles (i.e. moving the ball around more and getting it wide quickly) and England’s current playing style is due to the coaching. Without a top level attack coach in the England set-up, can we seriously expect to see the likes of May, Wade and Yarde running in tries for fun.
    The same could be said for Farrell. He’s been breaking the line, offloading and running more ball at Sarries. But I’m sure that when he’s got his England shirt on next week, every one will be moaning when he’s not doing the same! Coaching and instruction on the day will have a major effect on how the game is played.

    Strettle has benefited from having a forward pack who are making yards and putting the opposition under serious pressure, and then a back line who are drawing defenders, offloading at the right time and putting him in space. Whilst he may not score many outstanding one-man tries, what he is doing is what any winger is expected to do, and that is finish his opportunities when they’re on a plate.

    I don’t think Strettle should be in the EPS or the Saxons. With so many younger players coming through in this position, we should be giving them a shot. But I do think he’s got some unnecessary stick for doing what he’s meant to do. At the end of the day, he’s there to finish off scoring opportunities, and at the moment he’s doing this incredibly well.

    1. Agree with all of that. “Right place, right time” finishers like Strettle and Ashton will always suffer when there is nothing to finish.

      Ignoring the non-competitive fixtures of under strength Argentina this summer and Fiji last year and the number of back 3 tries scored in the Lancaster era is 5. 5 tries from back 3 players in 19 matches is dismal. So May, Watson, Wade, Yarde, Nowell etc are aren’t likely to be running in tries for fun, but guys with more pace, better ability to beat someone one-on-one or better ability to break a tackle will stand at least a better chance.

      NB, I don’t think the pitch is the cause of the new playing style, more the reason they decided to change, i.e. how can we best exploit this as a competitive advantage. Think the likes of the Vunipolas are also benefiting from improved fitness from the faster pace of the game, which is great from an England perspective.

      1. Absolutely Matt. It’s interesting to watch Sarries from my perspective because we’ve started to notice a pattern. More so with the top teams like Bath, Leicester etc that we’ve played this season. First half we kick a lot, and get them running around more to wear them down, which the surface helps with. And then second half we run the ball a lot more and put more pressure on the breakdown. I don’t know the statistics, but I would imagine that the majority of our tries scored this season would be in the second half.

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