Ah yes, if this is to be the last weekend of the Heineken Cup, well, actually, it wasn’t a great one was it?
There were lots of lopsided games with plenty of big wins for teams gunning for the bonus. Clermont, Leinster, Toulouse and Saracens all had fairly facile victories to make it into the last 8, while only Leicester v. Ulster really hit the heights we’re used to for a final weekend.
Despite Billy Keane labelling Munster’s 6 try romp over Edinburgh as a ‘miracle’, there was really little to set the pulse racing on the final day in particular. Having said that, what a final 8 we’re in for eh?
Pat Lam could be on borrowed time at Connacht if this keeps up
When the Samoan legend came west last year, he spoke of bringing things back to basics, infusing quality into a youthful Connacht squad, buying into the Connacht underdog mentality and improving handling skills across the squad. Well, bar an incredible victory in Toulouse, a one off that Connacht seem capable of producing only sporadically, there’s been little evidence of any of the above.
Lam chose Dan Parks and Gavin Duffy to come back into the team for the visit to the most plastic stadium/club in the land and Parks, in particular, again showed why he’ll be off at the end of the season.
Let’s call a spade a spade here, that performance was one of the worst in Europe this season. Alex Goode is no world beater, but was made to look like Christian Cullen at times, while Connacht’s forwards just couldn’t compete. With the revelation that they’re 900k in the hole from Fanning yesterday, it’s worrying times for the clan indeed.
Zeeboooooooo is back
After an ‘adventurous’ Summer, the rapper turned rugby player is back and lighting up Thomond. While the Munster backs overall showed more of a spark, it was the replacement for unfortunate injury victim Earls that was the most heartening spectacle ahead of the 6 Nations. Zeebs looks to have lost a few lbs since the start of the year and his trademark striding style and pirouettes were on show. A dark horse for a start against Scotland? Believe it.
Elsewhere, Keatley showed his mettle with a fine performance in open play. Belvo’s finest has an excellent eye for space on the counter attack, and should start in April against Les Toulousains.
BOD not God?
Blasphemy I hear you say, but if you were living on the moon for the last 15 years and saw the last four Leinster games, it wouldn’t be a certain #13 that you’d pick as a once in a generation superstar. Whether it’s a form thing or just the untimely end is hard to tell, but the hallowed one just looks a shadow of himself, particularly in attack. Worrying ahead of the 6 Nations, given there’s no real alternative.
Leinster struggled to a win in a fractured game, with Reddan impressing again. The wee man’s on form and will bench behind the imperious Murray.
Ireland’s options at 7 looks healthy
Chris ‘Duracell’ Henry put in the backrow performance of the weekend at Welford Road on Saturday night. While he’s never going to replace SOB, the Ulsterman stood up and led along with Best and Tuohy (a guy who perhaps needs to keep his trap shut by the way). Henry will likely start against Scotland, and definitely deserves his shot. On the other hand, Tommy O’Donnell offers more of a ‘wildcard’ option and is ostensibly a more effective carrier, an area where Henry lacks real top class. Schmidt likes his 7s mobile and powerful, and while both are that, don’t be surprised if there’s a lot of rotation between the two.