Reflections on an epic European weekend

With the Heienken Cup stage set for the final in Edinburgh. we look back at an incredible weekend of rugby that saw Leinster and Leicester progress.

Jordan Crane

At Croke Park on Saturday, Leinster produced a miracle performance to achieve the impossible and defeat title favourites Munster by 25 – 6.

The game was won at the breakdown, where Leinster’s back row of Rocky Elsom, and Jamie Heaslip forced several turnovers, which is usually a rare feat against the European giants Munster. Their own back row of Alan Quinlan, David Wallace and Denis Leamy usually dominate this area of the game, and have been responsible for much of Munster’s success, but on Saturday it was Leinster that came out on top.

The side showed similar defensive resolve to that which we saw against Harlequins last month, and kept their line intact whilst they scored three tries of their own through Gordon D’Arcy, Luke Fitzgerald and Brian O’Driscoll.

Paul O’Connell was magnificent in the lineout for Munster, so there is little to read into the ‘battle of potential Lions captains’, but there may well be some grim news for Ian McGeechan.

Quinlan was caught on camera apparently gouging Leinster’s captain Leo Cullen – he may be cited, and if so, would probably receive a ban ruling him out of the tour to South Africa. We’ll keep you posted if this situation develops.

Leinster were joined in the final by Leicester after an unbelievable penalty shootout at the end of their game with Cardiff Blues.

Having led 26 – 12 with less than ten minutes remaining, Cardiff scored two quick tries through Jamie Roberts and Tom James with unlikely conversions by Ben Blair, and the scores were levelled at 26 – 26. Extra time could not separate the sides, and the penalty shootout was tantalising and horrific at the same time.

With no goalkeeper as there is in football, it was always going to end in misery for at least one player. The regular kickers stepped up and slotted it from in front of the posts without any trouble, so it was left to the part-time kickers such as Craig Newby, Martin Williams and Jordan Crane to seal the fate of their team.

Unfortunately for Cardiff hero Williams, he shanked his kick to the left and allowed Crane to steal the glory and ensure Leicester’s Heineken Cup survival. Richard Cockerill was sheepish afterwards about the tellings-off at every training session when he sees forwards practising their place kicking.

There is likely to be some debate over whether the penalty shootout in rugby is the fairest way to decide a game after Extra Time, but it’s difficult to think of an alternative. A toss of the coin would probably be more humane by not creating a villain, but it certainly wouldn’t have the drama that we saw yesterday.

Elsewhere, in the European Challenge Cup, Bourgoin beat Worcester and Northampton defeated Saracens to reach the final.

Tickets for both the Heineken Cup and European Challenge Cup finals are available on viagogo at very good prices.

8 thoughts on “Reflections on an epic European weekend

  1. As Richard Cockerill suggested, surely the answer is sudden death, aka ‘golden point’. Next team to score wins.

  2. Leinster and Leicester upset the pundits who predicted a Cardiff v Munster final without a ball being kicked. Leinster shut down Munster and played them at their own game while Leicester held on with a passionate display to win on penalties against Cardiff. It should be a cracking game on May 23. Bring in on and come on Leicester Tigers.

  3. The Tigers just keep on going, they never give up. People talk endlessly about the Munster team spirit and how they never give, and rightly so, but the Tigers are in the same league; they have a “everybody is against us but we don’t car” siege mentality, they always scrape through.

    It could be one game too far for them this year, but with Mauger coming back and Flood out injured the tigers will have their best midfield with Vesty at 10 and Mauger at inside center. Flood was excellent on Sunday but the tigers are not the same team when he plays, Mauger is the dtar and he wants Vesty.

    For all you kids julien Duoey gave a lesson on how to give quick ball, it is down to his footballing skills, while most 9’s have to look before they pick the ball up, he just takes the ball and goes confident that if there is pressure his footballing skills will be quick enough to react. People will talk of yellow cards but it was the substitution to take Dupey off the park that changed the game – no criticism against Ellis he is a fine combative player but Dupey has something else.

    Croft was a giant and with Quinlans predicament he will surely get the call for the Lions.

    People will say “why didn’t the Blues run it earlier” the answer is because Leicester destroyed them in the lineout, scrum and breakdown.

    Jenkins looks mean as hell and ready to take it to the boks. Roberts probably got the starting place on the back of his performance, Williams had a poor day, not entirely his fault, and it looks like an all Irish backrow after Heaslip’s display on sat.

  4. i watched the penalties. exciting, and not as bad a method as some people have made out:

    * the suggestion that wins in the group stages or disciplinary record should count is wrong – teams should arrive in the knockout stage with a clean slate once the q/f draw is made

    * brian moore said it would be better to toss a coin, but that’s rubbish – converting a place kick in those conditions requires nerves and skill

    * a golden point scenario wouldn’t have helped i/d a winner on sunday, and it was noticeable that not a single pnalty was conceded in extra time. you could have a third and final 10-minute period of extra time with a ‘next score wins’ rule – this is what would have happened in sydney if jonny had missed – but that’s taking players close to exhaustion and still might not lead to a winner

    * taking off 5 players from each side and playing a reduced game might be worth exploring, but complicated

    * considering shoot-out was a new thing, i was impressed how efficiently it was run, credit to alain rolland for knowing what to do, and to the players and coaches for not over-reacting as happens in football. good to see flood chatting with a cardiff player during the shoot-out

    * where did harry ellis hide? only one of 14 backs not to step up. was he injured? did he bottle it? i’d love to know what the rest of leicester’s kicking order was!

  5. Great games this weekend. The ERC need to chnage the rules, and there’s a simple alternative.

    Simple make all of extra time sudden death. The first team to score wins, simple. And it won’t go on forever because the players will get so tired and start missing tackles. Swap ends ever 15 minutes and if it takes, 2 or 3 turn arounds so be it. It’ll fun, and it’ll be fair.

  6. perhaps nobody will read this as its become tomorrows fish and chips wrappings but it has to be said that although Martyn Williams DID miss his kick in the sudden-death kick-off, HAD Tom James knocked his over when he had the opportunity to win it during the initial 5 kicks, then there would have been a different result!

  7. The Times carried a photo of Williams taking his kick. When you look at the photo his non kicking foot was too far from the ball and he was leaning back too much. He was always going to hook it left. In the background a confident Jordan Crane is already on the move as Williams kicks – with his goalkeeping experience (at West Brom I think) he was well up for it and was never going to miss. Good on him.

    I agree, Tom James should have knocked his over. Great entertainment. I don’t think there is a fairer method to decide a deadlocked game.

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