Power Ranking Europe's Top 10 Clubs

Danny Coyle@dannyjpcoyleFeatured ColumnistOctober 21, 2013

Power Ranking Europe's Top 10 Clubs

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    Round two of the Heineken Cup gave some sides control of their pools while scrubbing out the chances of others almost entirely. 

    Cardiff pulled off a soaked, shock win over Toulon while Saracens waved goodbye to their winning start to the season at Wembley.

    There were also some fine individual performances to pique the interest of the national head coaches with just one weekend left before the start of the autumn internationals.

    Here are this week's movers and shakers.

10. (New Entry) Racing Metro, Top 14

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    Scarlets’ stock rose considerably with a thrilling win over Harlequins at the Stoop in the first round, but they blew a 13-point lead on Saturday against a Racing side who are coming together nicely.

    A tight home victory against Clermont looked to have been followed by a defeat as Scarlets moved out to a 23-10 lead with half an hour left, but Sakiusa Matadigo’s try sparked the Parisians into life.

    Jonathan Sexton hit two penalties to level the scores on the hour and traded once more with Rhys Priestland to ensure a share of the spoils.

    Scarlets might sit top of the pool, but with a double header against Clermont to come while Racing face the struggling Quins, it’s likely this group will have a different complexion by the time these two meet again.

9. (9) Northampton, Premiership

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    Courtney Lawes put in an eye-catching display to inspire the Saints to a much-needed home win that all but dumps the Ospreys out of the competition.

    Lawes was sublime in the lineout and his tackle count went through the roof, boosting his chances of starting England’s autumn Test series as a first choice lock.

    The Saints now have a lifeline in this devilishly tough group, but their progress will be determined by their home and away clashes with Leinster in December.

8. (New Entry) Ulster, PRO12

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    The Red Hand Gang are handily placed after a thoroughly impressive win in Montpellier.

    Having beaten Leicester the previous weekend, the French league leaders on their own patch posed a tougher challenge for Mark Anscombe’s men, and they rose to it handsomely.

    Andrew Trimble’s try on 11 minutes was superbly crafted, and Ruan Piennaar’s assured boot accounted for five penalties.

    They marched all the way to the final two years ago, so don’t rule out another fine campaign after a start that gives them firm command of the group, with back to back fixtures against Treviso to come in December.

7. (7) Leicester, Premiership

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    The Tigers delivered everything expected of them against Treviso with a four-try bonus point in a 34-3 win.

    It was the sort of performance they needed after falling off the horse against Ulster the previous week.

    Toby Flood also took the opportunity to remind the England selectors of his quality with the boot with 14 points. Leicester travel to Wasps next Sunday.

    Dai Young’s men sit ninth in the table, so it’s a clash that Leicester simply have to win well if they are to keep their title-contender credentials intact. 

6. (8) Clermont Auvergne, Top 14

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    The men from the Massif Central heaped more misery on Harlequins with a win that gets their campaign back on the rails following an undeserved defeat away to Racing in the opening week.

    Three early tries from Lee Byrne, Wesley Fofana and Thierry Lacrampe put a distance between last year’s runners up and the Londoners that Quins were never able to make up.

    This was despite a try from Tom Williams and a late Nick Evans drop goal that salvaged a losing bonus point.

    Clermont entertain lowly Brive back in the Top 14 next weekend, a great chance to get some momentum into a season that still promises much.

5. (6) Munster, PRO12

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    Ten years since the miracle match, Munster needed a win at home to Gloucester if they were to keep hopes alive after a shock loss away to Edinburgh in the first round.

    They made sure of victory at Thomond Park this time with a Johne Murphy try created by one of the best cross-field chips you’ll see all season from Ian Keatley.

    He may lack the consistency of his predecessor Ronan O’Gara but the young No. 10 is equally as talented as the Munster legend whose shoes he has to fill.

    Munster lack the quality to challenge the very best French sides in this year’s competition, but they’ll give everyone else a fight to the bitter end.

4. (4) Leinster, PRO12

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    A hard-fought win over French champions Castres at the RDS was enough to put the Dubliners in charge of their section.

    Jimmy Gopperth was on target with three penalties before the visitors got themselves back into the game with Rory Kockott’s converted try.

    But yellow cards undid Castres’ hopes of a rare away win, while Pedrie Wannenburg’s late effort was judged not to have quite made it over the whitewash.

    For Leinster, Jack McGrath’s try made things safe.

    The three-time champions have put in more explosive displays, but if it gets them into the quarter-finals, functional will do over flowery for a side who fell at this stage last season.

3. (2) Saracens, Premiership

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    Sarries lost their 100 percent record in front of over 60,000 fans at Wembley.

    They didn’t do an awful lot wrong against a powerful Toulouse side.

    Owen Farrell played brilliantly and kicked well. Their back row fought fire with fire, and on another night Farrell’s last penalty attempt may have scraped over the bar and his drop goal might have been successful.

    The margins between the main contenders look like being slender this season, and if the return in Toulouse is equally as tight, you would still back Farrell, who was distraught at full time, to come through with the final say.

2. (1) Toulon, Top 14

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    Having demolished Glasgow so impressively in the sunshine last week, Toulon found themselves up against a wounded Cardiff side in a match played largely under a torrential downpour.

    On paper, the star-studded European champions were heavy favourites against a team of up and coming youngsters with a smattering of Welsh Lions, but they could not get hold of the game.

    They were unable to get a hold of the game due to handling errors and a motivated opponent with a point to prove after last week’s embarrassing display against Exeter. Eventually, they succumbed to a piece of fast footwork from Gareth Davies in the dying minutes.

    This pool is now one of the most intriguing in the tournament.

4. (3) Toulouse, Top 14

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    You can debate the decision to award Louis Picamoles’ game-winning try, and you can point to the 16-7 lead Saracens deservedly built.

    But there is no arguing with the big, bruising and belligerent forward pack that Toulouse built their effort on at Wembley on Friday night.

    Let’s also not forget the 17-16 scoreline could have been more comfortable had Luke McAlister not missed three first half penalty attempts.

    Guy Noves has a side experienced and talented enough to find a way to win tight games, and that has put them in the driving seat of this pool.

    With lumps like Gillian Galan rumbling off the back of the scrum and powerful men like Yoann Huget constantly looking for involvement off his wing, this side won’t get outmuscled by many, if any, of the other sides in the competition.