No hard luck stories, no second chances

7 04 2010

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Here we are at the business-end of the season. At the cusp of the Heineken cup quarter-finals and Magners League playoffs. Leinster asserted their dominance of  recent inter-provincial games between themselves and Munster last Friday night in Limerick. Neither team played well throughout the game, Munster dominated the opening quarter, Leinster the final quarter. But last weekends game has to be forgotten about because the primary focus for both teams is to succeed in the Heineken Cup, As Ronan O’Gara said this week: “It’s cup rugby to the death. Winner takes all, no second chances, no hard luck stories.”

 

This Friday night sees Leinster hosting the nearly men of French and European rugby, Clermont Auvergne. Runners up in the domestic Top 14 a staggering 10 times. They have never progressed beyond the quarter-finals stage of the Heineken Cup of which this is their 3rd appearance. To add some extra spice to the game, the current Clermont backs coach Joseph Schmidt joins Leinster as their head-coach at the end of the season.
This is set to be the game of the weekend, Leinster have a huge advantage in hosting the game in the RDS, Clermont were never ones to bring a big travelling support. However, from watching the group games Clermont have proved they have their shit together this season, they are still well in contention for Top14 playoffs and Heineken cup, I’m predicting a close game, Clermont to edge it.

Next game up sees Biarritz take on Osprey’s in San-Sebastian. Not going to spend a lot of time on this one, I can’t see past Biarritz in this fixture, mid-table Top14 team plays mid-table Magners team, French win!

Munster and Northampton is a different kettle of fish, Northampton came away from Thomond park in the group stages losing by a mere 3 points. Since then they have positioned themselves to attempt a unique treble; already won the Anglo-Welsh Cup, 2nd in the Premiership and looking for HCup glory! Munster are hurting from last weeks loss to Leinster at the RDS. Both teams will have their captains returning to action after Paul O’Connell and Dylan Hartley return from injury. I don’t see any Irish teams in the Heineken cup final this year but believe that Munster will make the semi by the skin of their teeth.

The last quarter-final is a all-French affair, Toulouse against the glamour-boys of French rugby, Stade Francais. Stade have struggled this season, they qualified from what was looked on as the easiest pool of the competition. Toulouse have already beaten Stade 0-29 away from home this season, no reason to suggest they won’t do the same in sunny Spain.

My quarter-final picks: Clermont, Munster, Biarritz, Toulouse

Semi-final 1: Toulouse v Clermont Auvergne
Semi-final 2: Biarritz v Munster

Final: Clermont v Biarritz

Any comments appreciated…

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2 responses

8 04 2010
Ciaran Kelly

We’ll see come Saturday nite !!!!

8 04 2010
ninetyninecall

It won’t stop me cheering Leinster on Ciaran, Would be great to have the ultimate revenge on Leinster to beat them in a HCup final should we both get there, that would level things up nicely!

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