Irish Provinces’ Sluggish Start

Insincerest apologies are conveyed to all English, Francais, Scottish, and Welsh followers of European club rugby, but here is the latest outpouring of my green-tinted review of the Oirish quartet of clubs in rugby’s answer to the Eurovision Song Contest.

Three Irish clubs won their opening European fixtures, but the patchy early season form of Leinster and Munster was much in evidence again, as both these superpowers had to come from behind to narrowly overcome English opposition.

Perhaps pride of place should be granted to the improving Connacht whose convincing triumph in their Challenge Cup encounter does reinforce the view that they could be dark horses for the eventual prize.

Ulster meanwhile have demonstrated yet again that whilst they remain nigh unstoppable at Ravenhill, they mysteriously become an altogether more vulnerable creature away from their home comforts. A draw away to the Scarlets followed by defeats at Zebre and now struggling Leicester are not going to launch the northern province into the last eight of Europe’s premier club competition this season unless the team quickly rediscovers the knack of winning away from Belfast. The White Knights have the small matter of a visit from the formidable Toulon lying in ambush this forthcoming weekend.

Whilst the Ulster warriors didn’t quite pull a rabbit out of the hat and come from behind at Welford Road, Leinster did precisely that after having been stung in the first half by London Wasps. The erratic displays of the east coast giants are cause for concern. In the permanent absence of O’Driscoll and the temporary absence of Healy and O’Brien, the men in blue no longer appear to be the invincible conquerors of yesteryear. Maybe it is a testimony to their fighting spirit that they overcame a half-time deficit, but one suspects that Leinster’s season could become filed under ‘in transition’.

Meanwhile Munster have little to be smug about either. It took a late dropped goal from Ian Keatley to get the southern province out of jail at Sale. Munster have been blowing hot and cold of late, and they ought to be aware that the imminent visit of Saracens could severely test their trophy-winning aspirations.

The results were as follows:

European Rugby Champions Cup

Leicester 25 ULSTER 18

Ulster try-scorers: Bowe; van der Merwe

Ulster receive one losing bonus point.

LEINSTER 25 London Wasps 20

Leinster try-scorers: Fanning(2); Ryan

Leinster earn four points.

Sale Sharks 26 MUNSTER 27

Munster try-scorers: Kilcoyne; Conway; Murray

Munster earn four points.

European Rugby Challenge Cup

Connacht 48 La Rochelle 12

Connacht try-scorers: Carty; Marmion; Henshaw (2); Loughney; Poolman; Healy

Connacht earn four points plus an extra bonus point.


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