Sunday, January 20, 2008

Heineken Cup 2008 Results

Saturday 19th January 2008
Newport-Gwent D'gons 0 VS Perpignan 25
Treviso 11 VS London Irish 24
Toulouse 34 VS Edinburgh 10
Leicester 25 VS Leinster 9
Llanelli Scarlets 0 VS Clermont Auvergne 41
Munster 19 VS Wasps 3

McGeechan rues European exit

Wasps boss Ian McGeechan was full of praise for Munster following their 19-3 victory in Ireland on Saturday, but he questioned referee Nigel Owens's decision to sin-bin Simon Shaw for not retreating the required ten yards at a penalty.

The loss means that Wasps are now out of the Heineken Cup, with the defence of their title being washed away in treacherous conditions at Thomond Park.

Munster fly-half Ronan O'Gara booted 14 points with a flawless kicking display to lead Munster's assault while Denis Leamy broke Wasps' resistance with a late try.

The holders would have progressed to the quarter-finals with a draw but ultimately could not even claim the losing bonus-point that guaranteed second place in Pool Five.

As it was, the defending champions finished third in Pool Five following Clermont's triumph over Llanelli and McGeechan conceded Munster were worthy winners.

"Simon's sin-binning was crucial but these are the things that you have to live with in big games," he said.

"We were on the receiving end of some tough calls and in a marginal game it's the little things like that become huge.

"Some of those decisions in the first half, had they gone for us, might have swung the pendulum in our way.

"We're disappointed. We said who missed out in this group would be unlucky because it was such a tough group.

"I think we played well throughout the group campaign but a couple of bonus points went begging.

"Clermont sending a second team to Munster was also quite instrumental in the outcome.

"We knew we'd have to get it 100 per cent right tonight to win but the penalty count went against us and Munster kept all the ball.

"Munster kept their noses in front at key times and it was always going to be difficult against them.

"I think we had the stronger pack so I'm not sure the wet conditions favoured Munster.

"On the night we can't complain about Munster winning."

Wasps captain Lawrence Dallaglio also questioned the decision to send Shaw to the sin-bin.

"Line-out and discipline was the key. We started well but I thought the turning point was Simon Shaw's sin-binning," said Dallaglio, who was also yellow-carded later in the game.

"I am not sure it was a sin-bin offence, a penalty yes, but in the context of the game, it helped them gain the momentum.

"Small decisions make a big difference but it is not sour grapes. Ultimately we were beaten by a side that played the conditions better than us."

Meanwhile, Munster boss Declan Kidney hailed his side who have reached the quarter-finals of the Heineken Cup for an unprecedented tenth successive year.

He said: "This is a special day. To beat a team of Wasps' calibre by this score was very impressive.

"It speaks volumes for all the players and the decision making out on pitch.

"We managed to scrape a point out of every game we played in the group stage and that was very important to qualification.

"I'm very proud of the boys. When it comes to matches like this we have to punch above our weight and that's what we do."

Kidney hailed O'Gara who also set up Leamy's try to cap a magnificent effort.

He said: "Ronan was absolutely magnificent. I can't speak highly enough of him. He's getting better and better."

But the victory was built on a titanic display from Munster and Ireland lock Donncha O'Callaghan who proved a thorn in the side of the visitors' line-out.

"Today was a cup final in itself and that was how we approached it," said O'Callaghan.

"We have huge respect for Wasps and we are thrilled to get out of the group.

"Every match was a dog-fight and it was brilliant to be a part of it. It was an immense effort.

"We would have settled for a quarter-final before the group began so not having a home tie doesn't bother us."

Friday, January 18, 2008

European Challenge Cup Fixtures(January 11- January 20)

Friday, January 11
Connacht v Brive
Dax v Calvisano
Saturday, January 19
Bath v Auch
Rugby Parma v Montauban
Worcester v Bucuresti
Petrarca v Bayonne
Albi v Overmach Parma
Montpellier v Sale
Sunday, January 20
Newcastle v Cetransa El Salvador

Foley eager to swat Wasps

Top 10 HEC Tries Of 2007

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Heineken Cup Fixtures (18th - 20th January)

Friday 18th January 2008
Glasgow v Saracens
Biarritz v Viadana

Saturday 19th January 2008
Treviso v London Irish
Newport-Gwent D'gons v Perpignan
Toulouse v Edinburgh
Leicester v Leinster
Munster v Wasps
Llanelli Scarlets v Clermont Auvergne

Sunday 20th January 2008
Gloucester v Ulster
Bourgoin v Ospreys
Harlequins v Stade Francais
Bristol v Cardiff Blues

Foley eager to swat Wasps

Munster stalwart Anthony Foley has admitted that their "tournament lives" will be at stake on Saturday when they entertain London Wasps at Thomond Park.

The Irish province need a win to progress to the quarter-finals of the Heineken Cup for the tenth consecutive time but they must first navigate their way past the reigning champions, who have no intention of letting go of their crown that easily.

Foley was disappointed with his side's first half performance last weekend in France but is adamant that Munster will not give Wasps the start they gave Clermont at Stade Marcel Michelin.

"The first thirty minutes cost us," Foley told this website.

"We didn't play as well as we thought we could and it took a good second half performance to keep us in the group.

"We gave Clermont a soft 14 points and things like that aren't easily fixed. But hopefully for the Wasps game, we'll have all of those things fixed.

"We know exactly what we need to do against Wasps."

A perennial fixture in the Munster team until a shoulder injury in October 2006, Foley struggled to get back into the Munster side until recently, with Munster coach Declan Kidney preferring Denis Leamy at number eight instead of the Killaloe native.

However, an injury to Alan Quinlan at the start of the December forced Kidney's hand and Foley hasn't looked back since, playing in the back-to-back games against the Scarlets and last weekend's match against Clermont.

"I'll always enjoy playing in the Heineken Cup because you know that you're playing against top quality opposition," added Foley.

"To get the opportunity to be back out there again playing is great."

The former Ireland international, while stressing the proven ability of Wasps at this level, acknowledged that Munster's destiny is firmly within their grasp.

"We going to concentrate on winning the game first and foremost," he declared.

"When you look at the Wasps outfit and what they've done in Europe, we've massive respect for how they go about their business.

"But we know that Wasps are coming to Limerick to do what Leicester did to us last year, so we need to focus in now on the game and not get too carried away with the build up.

"Their defence really stands out. They've got a big, athletic pack of forwards in [Lawrence] Dallaglio, [James] Haskell and [Tom] Rees and some excellent finishers in the backs.

"I could go on and on - they're a really good side.

"We've massive respect for them but we know our tournament lives are at stake on Saturday. We'll go about our business between now and then."

It is likely that coach Declan Kidney will favour an unchanged side for Saturday's game, and that will mean a Thomond Park debut for All Black record try-scorer Doug Howlett, and Foley was keen to stress just how important this match will be.

"When you're training hard back in June or July and you've got no rugby, this is what you do it for," he said.

"In the Clermont match, you saw in those last few minutes the boys' ambition in trying to have a crack from anywhere in order to get a draw out of a game which, at half-time, you wouldn't have thought possible.

"It's going to be an excellent contest."

Samoa - new coach

Tuala Lepale Niko Palamo will become the first fulltime head coach. Palamo has coached the national sevens team and the under-19 team and is chief executive of Samoa's Association of Sports and National Olympic Committee.

He has been appointed for two years, with provision to extend the contract through to the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand.

Wilkinson boots Falcons to victory

Newcastle Falcons heaped woe on basement outfit Worcester Warriors with a 15-12 victory at Kingston Park.

England fly-half Jonny Wilkinson slotted a late penalty and drop goal as Newcastle snatched a narrow Guinness Premiership victory over Worcester at Kingston Park.

Wilkinson, who scored all the Falcons' points, struck twice in the final quarter to overturn a 12-9 deficit.

Rico Gear and Miles Benjamin crossed for tries for the Warriors.

Wilkinson's 73rd-minute strike edged the Falcons to victory after Worcester had scored two superb tries which belied their basement status.

The Warriors were on top for much of the second half and had two key chances ruled out when referee Rob Debney decided the ball had been held up on both occasions.

In the first half, Loki Crichton missed a sixth-minute penalty as Newcastle enjoyed the lion's share of the possession but had little to show for it except two Wilkinson penalties and they ended the half only just in front after a 29th-minute try from Miles Benjamin.

The Falcons wasted two good chances when they messed up a line-out drive after a Wilkinson penalty to the corner and then spilled the ball close to the corner flag after a strong run by Tim Visser.

Newcastle were scrambling to prevent a try from two determined Worcester drives and each time it ended with the Falcons holding the man up over the line but a text-book move from a scrum ended with Benjamin skating over in the corner for a 5-3 lead.

Wilkinson kicked the second penalty just before the break and then added another just after half-time when Tom Wood failed to roll away the tackle.

It seemed Wilkinson had made it 12-5 with a 51st-minute penalty from 45 metres out but, although it looked to have cleared the bar, both touch judges thought otherwise.

Worcester were denied another try when James Grindal got underneath Aleki Lutui but from the scrum five metres out the ball was flashed along the line for another excellent Worcester try by Gear and Crichton converted for Worcester to lead 12-9.

Wilkinson's 40-metre penalty when Tom May was taken out off the ball levelled the scores at 12-12 but Worcester sensed a win and penned Newcastle in their own 22 until Mathew Tait and Ollie Phillips engineered a break-out and Toby Flood kicked into touch on the Worcester 22.

Worcester survived the first line-out but back came Newcastle and Wilkinson slotted a 73rd-minute drop-goal to edge the Falcons ahead and the home side was able to retain the ball in the closing minutes for a narrow win.

Newcastle: (6) 15
Pen: Wilkinson 4
Drop: Wilkinson

Worcester: (5) 12
Tries: Benjamin, Gear
Con: Crichton

Newcastle: Tait, May, Visser, Flood, Rudd, Wilkinson, Grindal, Golding, Long, Hayman, Perry, Sorenson, Parling, Woods, B. Wilson.

Replacements: Thompson, Ward, Tomes, Winter, Dickson, Jones, Phillips.

Worcester: Delport, Gear, Rasmussen, Tuitupou, Benjamin, Crichton, M. Powell, Morris, Lutui, Tuamoepeau, Rawlinson, Gillies, Wood, Sanderson, Hickey.

Replacements: Mullan, Ruwers, Bowley, Quinnell, Arr, Brown, Pennell.

Referee: Rob Debney (Leicestershire)

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

No `scrum doctoring` at Stormers

Stormers coach Rassie Erasmus does not plan to pay "special attention" to his team's scrumming, despite the ongoing perception that his team's set pieces could pose problems in the Super 14.

Erasmus, like many of his predecessors at the Cape Town franchise, dismissed the notion that they have any problems with their scrumming and said that he is sure that they will be competitive in this year's competition.

While Erasmus is confident that his forwards can hold their own this year, in the past the Stormers pack were considered a soft touch by the majority of their opponents.

"I've coached some of the best scrummagers in South Africa, and I really think it's a misperception that we can't scrum," he told this website.

"In the Currie Cup they did very well against some big names. Gary [Gold] did a really good job with the pack during the Currie Cup and I'm sure that this year we'll more than hold our own in the Super 14.

"The scrumming hasn't been too bad in training and, to be honest, I haven't really paid a lot of attention to it," he added.

Erasmus also spoke about the progress of the Stormers pre-season training saying he was happy with the progress that had been made by the Cape Town-based side.

"It's not looking too bad at the moment," he said.

"Most coaches will say it's going well, but you can't really tell. So I'd say that we'll only really find out how we've done when we play our pre-season games."

Meanwhile, concerns about the fitness of prop Schalk Ferreira after he was involved in a car accident were dismissed on Tuesday with Erasmus informing this website that the front row forward was back in training.

There was concern that Ferreira, who has had trouble with his neck in the past, may have injured it again during the accident.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Biarritz scrape unconvincing win

Biarritz hung on to beat visiting Montauban 10-8 in the Top 14 before an unhappy crowd at Stade Aguilйra. The ground was not full and those who were there expressed their discontent at the final whistle.

Biarritz Olympique - BO - were booed when the final whistle went. They may have started well but in the end Montauban were all over them as they grew increasingly planless after their opening salvo.

Not that the weather was an excuse. It was cold, but the breeze barely ruffled a flag and the ground was in great condition. Biarritz simply faded and conformed that they were having a feeble season.

Montauban on the other hand had a simple plan and stuck to it. They kicked and chased. But if they won a turn-over, which they did often, they swing swiftly into action. When Biarritz started a maul they sent just one Horatio in to perform a one-man sack, which annoyed the home side.

It was not an enthralling game. The early promise petered out. The scrums were a mess. There were 16 of them. Those 16 produced 7 resets, 14 collapses and 4 penalties. That was not entertaining.

When the score made the disjointed game exciting towards the end, the referee gave up on tackles which became a lottery as players entered at will, plunged to their heart's content and generally did as they felt like.

The standard of goal kicking was poor. Biarritz missed four penalty kicks at goal and a drop attempt. Montauban missed a penalty, a conversion and three drop attempts.

The third drop attempt was from close in with 6 minutes to go and the score 10-8. Sйbastien Fauquй's kick hit the upright and bounced out.

Biarritz started like a house on fire, moving the ball backwards and forwards across the field without really looking like scoring. Hands let them down and then Dupuy hooked a straightforward penalty. But then Dupuy set off Biarritz's only try, their first one at home in this season's Top 14.

It started when Biarritz were attacking but were penalised under the Montauban posts. Fortassin's kick did not make touch and Takudzwa Ngwenya started speeding down the left. Traille carried it on with a strong burst. He was tackled but the ball came back quickly to Dupuy who broke on an speedy arc between Yoan Audrin and Matthias Rolland. As he was being tackled he gave to Ashwin Willemse who had got to his shoulder. Willemse handed off Fortassin and scored near the posts. Dupuy converted and Biarritz led 7-0 after 25 minutes.

Dupuy missed his second penalty and then, when Montauban were penalised at a collapsed scrum, Traille kicked the goal to make the half-time score 10-0.

Biarritz did not score in the second half.

10 metres outside their 22, Montauban won a turn-over and big Yannick Caballero broke on the blind-side on the right. He raced ahead and then grubbered long. Ngwenya tried to fall on the ball but Cabellero pressurised him and the ball was loose for Fortassin to foot into the Biarritz in-goal where Fortassin beat Willemse to the touch down. Fortassin missed the conversion from touch but he made up for it when he goaled a 52-metre penalty kick which bounced off the crossbar and over.

Biarritz had a great chance to score when Nicolas Brusque broke off Santiago Dellapи and Serge Betsen carried it on. But again it petered out with poor handling and a missed penalty kick.

There was a lively scrap after this when Dellapи stamped on a prone opponent and punches were thrown.

Biarritz then did little but defend after this with Brusque kicking touches. With ten seconds left Montauban missed a long drop attempt.

The scorers:

For Biarritz:
Try: Willemse
Con: Dupuy
Pen: Traille

For Montauban:
Try: Fortassin
Pen: Fortassin

The teams:

Biarritz: 15 Nicolas Brusque, 14 Ashwin Willemse, 13 Andrea Masi, 12 Damien Traille, 11 Takudzwa Ngwenya, 10 Julien Peyrelongue, 9 Julian Dupuy, 8 Samiu Vahafolau, 7 Stиve Malonga, 6 Serge Betsen, 5 Trevor Hall, 4 Jйrфme Thion, 3 Denis Avril, 2 Benoоt August, 1 Petru Balan.
Replacements: 16 Benjamin Noirot, 17 Eduard Coetzee, 18 Santiago Dellape, 19 Jacques Cronje, 20 Julien Cibray, 21 Romain Cabannes, 22 Philippe Bidabй

Montauban: 15 Fabien Fortassin, 14 Denis Cech, 13 Rida Jahouer, 12 Yoan Audrin, 11 Jean-Emmanuel Cassin, 10 Sйbastien Fauquй (captain), 9 Cйdric Garcia, 8 Yannick Caballero, 7 Ibrahim Diarra, 6 Marc Raynaud, 5 Scott Murray, 4 Matthias Rolland, 3 Salemane Sa, 2 Camille Traversa, 1 Pascal Peyron
Replacements: 16 Grйgory Arganиse, 17 Patrick Blanco, 18 Karim Ghezal, 19 Mattew Clarkin, 20 Petre Mitu, 21 Ryan Smith, 22 Sylvain Jonnet

Referee: Didier Mene

Simpsons ringtones for iPhone


Bath pull out of Jaco bid

Bath have opted not to embroiled in a bidding war with Japanese club the NEC Green Rockets over Springbok and Bulls full-back Jaco van der Westhuizen's services.

Van der Westhuizen was being lined up by the English club for the 2008 season, but with the Green Rockets unwilling to let go of the South African - and able to pay extravagantly for his services - Bath opted out of the deal.

"Jaco van der Westhuizen is not coming to Bath," Bath's operations director Nigel Laughton confirmed to the club's official website.

Meanwhile Bath coach Steve Meehan said that the club was against becoming involved in bidding wars.

And Bath, who were on the verge of signing Van der Westhuizen when a massive counter-offer was tabled by the Japanese club, will not be looking at an alternative signing as Meehan is confident that his squad have enough depth to withstand expected Six Nations call-ups.

"The Japanese club's offer was way above anything we could, or ever should, consider spending on one player," he said.

"We don't want players coming to Bath purely because of the size of the salary cheque, we want to sign players who want to come and join a talented, committed and ambitious squad."

This is not the first time that clubs have fought over Van der Westhuizen's services - at the end of 2003 the Leicester Tigers lost out to the Green Rockets in a bid for the South African, who spent the 2004/2005 season in Japan.

Van der Westhuizen will be playing in Japan again this year after leaving to help his former club, the Bulls, to win the Super 14 competition in 2007.

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