The Final Whistle – the weekend review


From Rugby World reader, Andrew Hartup

Welcome to a new regular on Touch, Pause, Engage where we round up the weekend’s action (for better or worse) from around the rugby world. And if you’re Irish, well, this first entry isn’t going to be easy reading.

Four European semi-finals saw three Irish teams playing three French teams, with an Anglo-Welsh match thrown in for good measure. It kicked off on Friday evening with Connacht vs Toulon in the Amlin Challenge Cup. The Gallic visitors taught the home team a valuable lesson during the 80 minutes – if you want to get ahead, buy yourself a World Cup winning fly-half (the out of favour ones usually work best) and watch as the points tumble in. The end score: Connacht 12 v 19 Toulon, with Wilkinson bagging 14 for himself.

On Saturday the second Amlin match took place between Wasps and Cardiff Blues. Following his characteristic u-turn from the sublime to the ridiculous against Bath last week, Danny Cipriani was sidelined in favour of Dave Walder at fly-half, a move that seemed wise when the London side went into the interval 9 – 8 at half time. Gethin Jenkins powered over in the second half to see the Blues take the lead, though, and then held it to make the final outcome Wasps 15 vs 18 Blues. Cue celebrations, as the Blues become the first Welsh team to reach a European final, and the usual tirade of puns about Wasps ‘getting stung’ and the Welsh side giving Wasps ‘the Blues’. We’re sure they were funny the first few hundred times…

And so to the Heineken Cup. On Saturday Leinster travelled to Toulouse and came back with their tails firmly between their legs. The French side outclassed their Irish opponents, who suffered from a lack of confidence on the ball – very much a retelling of the game between the two in this year’s Six Nations. It ended Toulouse 26 vs 16 Leinster. Finally, on Sunday, came Biarritz against Munster, a tie the Irish were leading at half time. We fancied a Munster win for this one, but sadly (or thankfully, depending on which side of the Channel you hail from) the trusty boot of Dmitri Yachvili kicked Biarritz to an 18 – 7 win, setting up a 100% Gallic Heineken Cup final.

So, not a great weekend for the Irish, or the English… or the Scots (by default) – but it has set up two cracking European finals. Great for the neutrals, if such a group exists in rugby…

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