As we pass the halfway stage in the Heineken Cup 2013 pool phases, the serious business of rugby is not far off now. Teams know they must finish top of their pool to qualify; otherwise, they are forced to rely on being one of the top point-scoring second-place teams.
So points are key, and performances are crucial. That was evident in Saturday’s round of games as we were treated to some marvelous action. We also have some excellent fixtures to sample on Sunday.
Here are the results of Saturday’s games and a couple of predictions ahead of some tasty clashes on Sunday.
Leinster 9-18 Northampton
Toulon 32-20 Exeter
Saracens 64-3 Zebre
Connacht 9-37 Toulouse
Scarlets 13-31 Clermont Auvergne
Treviso 3-35 Ulster
Perpignan 17-18 Munster
Gloucester vs. Edinburgh
The Tongan international prop Sila Puafisi will be in Gloucester’s ranks for the first time against Edinburgh after he finally secured a work permit. He looks set to be amongst the replacements as these two sides face each other in the second of two back-to-back fixtures.
The English outfit secured bragging rights at Murrayfield last Sunday to come on top, and this time Edinburgh will be hopeful of making the trip south and bagging a win on the road.
But it’s imperative that Gloucester secure a win here. Munster are running away with this group and sit six points atop of Pool 6. The best that Gloucester can realistically hope for is qualification via second place, but if Edinburgh can get the better of them here, that would be unlikely.
Edinburgh will be keen to put up a fight after losing on their own patch last weekend, and they will be boosted by the return of Scotland hooker Ross Ford ahead of this one.
But Gloucester will be too strong for them and should run out as comfortable winners.
Prediction: Gloucester 24-7 Edinburgh
Montpellier vs. Leicester
If this game is half as good as last week’s enthralling contest, then we should be in for a treat.
Leicester will welcome back Niall Morris and Thomas Waldrom for this one, and those two will give the English side added impetus going into this match. They should give Leicester a big lift when they travel to Montpellier.
The French outfit will be desperate to get one over on Leicester after just falling short in last week’s 41-32 defeat at Welford Road. But for the English side, another win is vital.
They trail runaway leaders of Pool 5 Ulster by seven points and need to accumulate as many points as possible if they are to qualify as one of the top-ranked second-place teams.
Leicester have much more to play for than Montpellier, and they’ll beat the French side for the second time in a week in another high-scoring encounter.
Prediction: Montpellier 27-33 Leicester