European Champions Cup Quarter Finals Recap

As Europe’s best clubs flexed their muscles, there were several things that stood out to us here at RBP, and, knowing that some of you won’t be remembering much of the weekend, figured we should give you a few of the key reminders.


Leinster 18- Bath 15

Clermont 37- Northampton 5

Racing Metro 11- Saracens 12

Toulon 32- Wasps 18

George Ford is the real deal:

In a game which Leinster seemed to have a pretty good grip on, Bath’s flyhalf, along with fullback Anthony Watson and winger Horacio Agulla, seemed to be the only thing that the Irish province couldn’t stop. Kyle Eastmond and Jonathan Joseph were never able to make an impact on the match, but Ford still tore Leinster’s blue wall apart time and time again. He read the Leinster defence perfectly, and when he spotted mismatches, like against Cian Healy or Devin Toner, he dummied and darted his way through gaps like a stabbed rat. In a match where Leinster were more than happy to sit back and play slow disciplined rugby, Ford was the breath of fresh air that kept Bath in the game.

Clermont are not here to mess around:

The matchup between Northampton and Clermont was supposed to be a tight, intense affair. Clermont, however, had other ideas. Northampton were simply blown off the park, and never even given a chance by a clinical and brutally efficient Clermont side. For all his 6 Nations struggles, Wesley Fofana sparked, and Noa Nakaitaci sliced his way through a surprisingly brittle Northampton defence. Jamie Cudmore is a great leader, and will be bringing his brunt to bear against Saracens in two weeks time. For Northampton, they will have plenty of regrets, and teams will be keeping a close eye on how two French sides, Racing and Clermont, blew Northampton out of the water in key European fixtures.


Toulon are not unbeatable:

For all their might, and for all their spending, Toulon are not immortal. Yes, Wasps never looked like winning, but Toulon could never really put them away, and for periods of the match Wasps looked like a better side. The European Champions will need to be better against Leinster, or else the Irish province could come away with a victory. Will Helu’s double brought Wasps within 7, and it took a late try from Ali Williams for Toulon to secure a victory. Carl Hayman said “It wasn’t what we demand of ourselves”, and you get the sense that while a Toulon playing at its best is nearly unbeatable, a Toulon playing like this will trip up at some point.

Leinster are back, but have a lot to fix:

The three times champions have been in poor form this season, that is plain to see. Repeated poor performances compounded by injuries to key players like Cian Healy, Sean O’Brien, Dave Kearney, Marty Moore, Jordi Murphy, and now Rhys Ruddock, among others meant that players had heavy workloads and Matt O’Connor was denied his best XV. Now though, with international players back in the setup, and injury ridden stars back in the lineup, Leinster are back to their old tricks. While Leinster looked labored and cumbersome for much of the match against Bath, Eoin Reddan brought a spark and dynamism that saw Leinster look like scoring a try for the first time in the match. That said, Leinster’s boring, one dimensional play will not see them beat a team like Toulon, and if something does not change before they head to the Marseille, they could find themselves on the wrong end of an absolute hiding.

Saracens are still a force to be reckoned with:

Sarries have had some bad luck due to injury this season. Losing players like Owen Farrell and Brad Barritt is never going to be easy, so the fact that Sarries played as well as they did is very impressive. USA Eagle Chris Wyles has shown his versatility in the absence of Barritt, filling in at both inside and outside center, positions that he has never really had any extensive experience in. Jamie George was solid week in and week out when Saracens need him to be, and even though Farrell is gone, Charlie Hodgson and Alex Goode have been admirable in his place. Saracens have been on a roll, and when you include this most recent win over Racing, and the LV=Cup win over Exeter, Clermont will need to be on their toes when Saracens come to town for the Semi-Final.


Team of the Weekend: 

1. Mako Vunipola: Very prominent everywhere for Saracens, beats out Cian Healy who missed 4 tackles

2. Guilhem Guirado: Toulon hooker was solid at lineout time and always puts in a lot of work around the field

3. Davit Zirakashvili: Played a large part in Clermonts all around demolition of Northampton

4. Ali Williams: Scored the key try even though a bit of dirty play will mar the memory of his day

5. Sebastian Vahaamahina: Plenty of good, physical work around the field for the Clermont second row, good work at the breakdown on defence.

6. Jordi Murphy: Murphy was simply everywhere for Leinster. In attack and defence he threw his body around with reckless abandon, and carried very well.

7. Steffon Armitage: Sneaks in over the likes of Sean O’Brien and Jacques Burger, after overshadowing James Haskell and putting in a lot of good work against Wasps.

8. Jamie Heaslip: Great leadership from the Leinster No.8. Provided constant go-forward ball and was a constant factor at lineouts.

9. Maxime Machenaud: Scored Racing’s only try and brought them back from the brink after taking over the kicking responsibilities.

10. George Ford: You could easily argue for other players to take this spot, but Ford was simply magical. Scored one try himself, set up another, and kept Bath in the game despite stoic Leinster defence.

11. Luke Fitzgerald: Great day for Fitzgerald defensively, and his dazzling footwork meant that he always beat the first defender.

12. Wesley Fofana: Mesmerizing. Ian Madigan would be in the side, but his lack of spark with ball in hand, and Fofana’s all around dominance means that he just misses out.

13. Marcelo Bosch: Game winning kick was as clutch as it gets, the Puma just keeps Saracens in the hunt for titles time and time again. Big mention for Elliott Daly, who looked very good against Toulon.

14. Noa Nakaitaci: His two tries sent Clermont off and running for their semi-final against Saracens, all around a great match.

15. Nick Abendanon: Star of the show. His try was fantastic, and he was virturally unstoppable on the day. Alex Goode is going to have his hands full in two weeks time.


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One Comment
  1. Good selection and agree with the comment that Madigan lacked sparkle with ball in hand but was good with the boot.


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