The latest round of fixtures in the Champions Cup was action packed and I’m still trying to catch my breath. Here is a brief round up of some of the games with a couple of winners and losers from the weekend and an overview of how I did with my predictions.
Guy Thompson – What a performance from the Wasps number 8. He was imperious at the base of a scrum that was going backwards for most of the game. He contribution was so telling that Wasps hardly missed Nathan Hughes. To cap it all off he powered over for a try beating four players along the way including his illustrious opposite number Duane Vermuelen.
Joe Simpson – Unbelievable performance from the young half back, he gave his all for the jersey which was epitomised by the late tackle on Duane Vermuelen a man probably at nearly double his weight and forcing a knock on. If Eddie Jones wasn’t aware of him beforehand he sure will be now.
Alun Wyn Jones – Leading from the front as he normally does, he put in an incredible shift which has positive omens for the Welsh national team. When he plays well he drags players with him.
Sam Underhill – Another standout performance for Ospreys in the game against Clermont. This young lad has shoulders like boulders and is learning how to force turnovers from Justin Tipuric. A young English 7 which is forcing turnovers. Eddie Jones better get on the phone to him asap!
Harry Mallinder – He came on after about 20 minutes for Tom Collins and fitted in seamlessly at full back on his European debut. He is a big lad at ~ 6’5″ and capped off a fine performance with a try to give his side the win and his dad a smile the Cheshire cat would be proud of.
Stuart McCloskey – What a young talent he is! A great break in the first half that ended up with Ulster going over in the corner. If Ireland can harness him he could be the breakthrough of the 6 nations.
Drew Mitchell – Not so much a sinner as a destroyer of dreams. He just seems to be the man for the moment and always is in the right place at the right time.
Treviso – Suffered an absolute thumping at the hands of Leicester. They have been involved in the Pro12 and the top table of European rugby for a number of years now without any noticeable improvement. They must start delivering or surely their time must be up as they give the other teams a guaranteed 5 points.
Chris Ashton – Celebrated his recent England call up with an over exuberant tackle to the face and eye area of Luke Marshall, which could result in a lengthy ban.
Wayne Pivac the Scarlets head coach – He fielded a massively weakened team in the trip to Racing, leaving out 14 players which included 7 internationals. Yes you need to develop young players but not at the stake of making the game a farce.
Saracens vs Ulster
I was expecting this to be closer than it eventually turned out being. Saracens collective strength is greater than the sum of its parts and this is what enabled them to pull away from Ulster in the end. I predicted a home win by 7 points and was right in the final result but not the score.
Bordeaux Begles vs Exeter
Rob Baxter came out in defence of fielding a slightly weakend side, but I don’t think he needed to as they gave a great account of themselves. Give it a couple of years and I can envisage Exeter challenging at the top of the Premiership and Europe. I thought Bordeaux would win by 10 and was again right with the result but not the score.
Leicester vs Treviso
Treviso may as well have not turned up. Leicester were almost playing a training game and this enabled Tuilagi to get some valuable game time. I predicted a Leicester win by at least 20 points and was right on this one.
Leinster vs Bath
Only pride was at stake in this but for all intents and purposes this was a game where Leinster showed some mettle and game away with the win with Ian Madigan kicking plenty of points. how much will Leinster miss him next year? I thought Leinster were to win by less than 5 and again the result was right but not the points difference.
Munster vs Stade Francais
A bit of an upset considering how Stade Francais thumped them last week I had a sneaky feeling that Munster would cause an upset and as expected CJ Stander put his hand up for Ireland selection with an excellent display. I’m went for a home win by 5 and maintained my 100% result prediction record without the score being right.
Northampton vs Glasgow
Decided late on it the game but this was one of high tempo with turnovers from both sides and left Northampton with hopes of still qualifying for the knock out stages. I predicted the right score and points difference with Northampton muscling their way to victory by less than 7 points.
Racing 92 vs Scarlets
Racing showed their predigree with result and really made them the team to avoid in the knockout stages by inflicting a record points defeat to Scarlets in Europe. I went for a Racing victory and they duly delivered.
Toulon vs Wasps
The game of the weekend, it had everything, turnovers, power, counter attacking, big defense epitomised by the tackle from Ashley Johnson on Bryan Habana. I couldn’t take my eyes off this game and was on the edge of my seat throughout. This is how rugby should be played. Wasps were without key players James Haskell, Joe Launchbury and Christian Wade but they showed no respect to Toulon and it took the galacticos from the South of France till the last play to steal the win. I said Toulon would win by 10 and I am sad to say I was right in the result as Wasps deserved more.
So how did I do for my predictions? Well I wish I put a pound accumulator on as I predicted 100% of the wins for the games I previewed. Roll on next week and hopefully my crystal ball will give me the same luck this week.