Heineken Cup 2013: Predictions for Weekend Fixtures and Recap of Friday Results

Tom Sunderland@@TomSunderland_Featured ColumnistDecember 14, 2013

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - DECEMBER 13:  Robin Copeland of Cardiff (L) celebrates victory at the final whistle during the The Heineken Cup Pool 2 Match between Glasgow Warriors and Cardiff Blues at Scotstoun Stadium, on December 13, 2013 in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)
Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

The Heineken Cup takes centre stage once again this weekend, with Cardiff Blues, Glasgow Warriors, Ospreys and Castres all ensuring the action got off with an early bang on Friday.

However, the bulk of this weekend's fixtures await, with the giants of Ireland, France, England, Wales and Italy all waiting with bated breath to find out their European fates.

This week could bring about our first official exits from the competition, not to mention seeing which first teams guarantee their group qualification.

Read on for a recap of Friday's entertainment, as well as a preview of what's to come.

Heineken Cup Fixtures: Saturday, Dec. 14 - Sunday, Dec. 15
Treviso vs. UlsterDec. 141:35 p.m. GMT/8:35 a.m. ET12-34
Toulon vs. Exeter ChiefsDec. 141:35 p.m. GMT/8:35 a.m. ET26-14
Saracens vs. ZebreDec. 143 p.m. GMT/10 a.m. ET42-7
Scarlets vs. Clermont AuvergneDec. 143:40 p.m. GMT/10:40 a.m. ET20-30
Perpignan vs. MunsterDec. 143:40 p.m. GMT/10:40 a.m. ET18-25
Leinster vs. Northampton SaintsDec. 146 p.m. GMT/1 p.m. ET28-8
Connacht vs. ToulouseDec. 146 p.m. GMT/1 p.m. ET13-20
Harlequins vs. Racing MetroDec. 1512:45 p.m. GMT/7:45 a.m. ET17-12
Gloucester vs. EdinburghDec. 153 p.m. GMT/10 a.m. ET32-20
Montpellier vs. Leicester TigersDec. 153 p.m. GMT/10 a.m. ET22-25

Friday Results Recap

Ospreys 21-12 Castres

Ospreys got their first win of the Heineken Cup campaign on the board at the Liberty Stadium on Friday evening, points coming exclusively from the boot of Dan Biggar.

SWANSEA, WALES - DECEMBER 13:  Ospreys player Ben John is tackled by Remi Lamerat during the Heineken Cup pool 1 round 4 match between Ospreys and Castres Olympique at Liberty Stadium on December 13, 2013 in Swansea, Wales.  (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Im
Stu Forster/Getty Images

Just as it was in Castres last weekend, fans of these two sides weren't exactly treated to the most exciting of games per manner of scoring, Biggar nailing all seven of his penalty attempts and doing no harm to his bid to become Wales' first-choice fly-half.

Rory Kockott provided four penalties in reply for the French visitors, who just came up short of claiming the bonus point as Pool 1 all of a sudden looks considerably closer.

Glasgow Warriors 7-9 Cardiff Blues

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - DECEMBER 13:  Leone Nakarawa of Glasgow is tackled by Sam Hobbs of Cardiff and Gareth Davies of Cardiff during the The Heineken Cup Pool 2 Match between Glasgow Warriors and Cardiff Blues at Scotstoun Stadium, on December 13, 2013 in G
Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

Although not quite as exciting an encounter as the two produced last Friday, the result was the same at Scotstoun as Cardiff Blues tied up back-to-back wins over Glasgow Warriors.

Another thing that was replicated this week was the influence of Rhys Patchell and Leigh Halfpenny, who between them put their side 6-0 up at half-time before moving on to a 9-0 lead with just 15 minutes left.

A late Ryan Grant try, converted by Duncan Weir, was enough to pull the Glasgow hosts back into some contention thanks to their bonus point, but it's the Blues who reap the benefits of their exploits, heading to the top of Pool 2.

Weekend's Key Predictions

Leinster vs. Northampton Saints

Leinster can make it four Heineken Cup victories out of four against Northampton Saints this weekend, these two sides having established a slight rivalry in years gone by.

Leinster did the unthinkable by amassing a 33-point difference between themselves and Jim Mallinder's men on their visit to Franklin's Gardens last week week, by far the tougher fixture of their two meetings.

Now back at the RDS, Matt O'Connor's backs will look to tell the tale exactly as they did last weekend, where the likes of Luke Fitzgerald and Brian O'Driscoll in particular were in fine attacking mood.

Prediction: Leinster 28-8 Northampton Saints

Connacht vs. Toulouse

Connacht's hopes of staging a shock double win over Toulouse will have been affected now that the Top 14 side's tails are up following their surprise defeat at home to Pat Lam's side last weekend.

Rugby World's Paul Williams was on hand to describe the magnitude of that result:

However, the Sportsground hosts will head into the fixture knowing they're fully capable of reproducing the same, fine standards shown in France just six days ago.

Connacht's back row were in particularly good form on that occasion, captain John Muldoon and Jake Heenan especially putting in the necessary tackle count to defend their lines, while centre Eoin Griffin also stood out in the backs, the only one to manage getting his tackle count in the double digits.

Prediction: Connacht 13-20 Toulouse