Heineken Cup quarter finals: The Aftermath


For years ITV's The Bill was a police programme that people enjoyed but deemed too light. It didn't tackle the real issues, happier to cover penny sweet theft and underage cigarette smoking over murder or assault. The revamped Bill was promised to be darker grittier and edgier. And it was. But unlike The Bill's short attempt to be cool, Leinster's transformation looks far more permanent. They too have become grittier.

(Although probably not darker or edgier. What does that even mean?)

Leicester is a great side. Probably the only one in England. People used to say Munster could beat Ireland. Looking through Leicester's side it's reasonable to suggest they could do the same to England.

Leinster's defence is their safety blanket and the most effective fire service ever, putting them out before they occur. Even when they (Luke Fitzgerald) don't convert chances the defence will keep the score low enough that one raid should be enough.

Nacewa was immense. He is the best counter attacker in Ireland. His outstanding try wasn't even the highlight. His dummy of Ben Youngs was so good he probably missed his flight waiting for Nacewa to pass.

The front row gained parity in the scrum and excelled in the loose. Healy and Strauss carried like back row's and Ross carried like, well, a front row but he made huge inroads with his put the head down and shut the eyes style.

It's a betters nightmare trying to pick between Ulster's Adam D'Arcy and Rory McIlroy for choker of the weekend. For a half Ulster played frisky and inventive rugby with great running lines in the backs. In the second half the Piano movers in the Northampton pack exerted huge pressure on the Ulster eight, with two thirds of their Springbok contingent were conspicuously missing. As I warned in my preview (What's wrong with patting myself on the back?) Foden and Ashton got involved in key areas and produced a breathtaking move that swung the game.

But just when Ulster looked out of it, Pienaar justified another ‚¬10k of his salary with a smart quick tap that was worked to D'Arcy five meters out. D'Arcy was lucky not to get sin binned for a deliberate knock on, such was the ferocity he spiked the ball to the ground with.

The most important moment during the weekend's matches wasn't a try, a tackle or a break. It was a decision. Well, a decision and a beard.

Toulouse's David Skrela lay on his back, eyes unfocused after colliding with Erik Lund's mammoth beard, and was clearly concussed. After the recent furore regarding concussion in rugby it was certain Skrela would be replaced.

The cool maestro Guy Noves had other ideas. He sacrificed his player to win the game, which almost turned out to be counter productive. Staggering around the field wearing both blood and bandage, Skrela could have easily past for a young tourist in Amsterdam rather than a professional playmaker.

He forgot how to play rugby. He couldn't run or pass. He could kick, barely, but it took him so long to that it put Toulouse on the back foot rather than the front one.

Biarritz hung around like an unwanted person at a party and if it wasn't for the stupidity of Ilikena Bolakoro they would have stayed all night. Serge Blanco should send Bolakoro to the dole queue for not running the ball closer to the posts, which would have guaranteed victory. The egotism of doing a Chris Ashton swan dive in the corner took precedent over winning the game.

There is no better back three in club rugby than Heymans, Medard and Clerc. They anticipate each other so well, running perfect lines to meet an offload. If Toulouse is still in the hunt for the Top 14 it will be interesting to see how cool Guy picks his semi-final side. He says it's impossible to win both but if any side can double dip it is this one.

P.S: Perpignan vs Toulon wasn't as exciting as the other games but those (me included) that thought George Smith's pineapple hairdo was the source of his power are wrong. He was the best player on the pitch and should go to the World Cup.