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Heineken Cup Review

19th November 2007 By Munster Rugby

Heineken Cup Review

After only two rounds of the 13th Heineken Cup tournament only half a dozen clubs can boast two from two – with no-one in Pool 3 recording back-to-back wins and Cardiff Blues the closest after following up their Round 1 win with a draw at Harlequins.

Pool 1 is the tightest group so far with London Irish and Perpignan yet to lose with the Sunday showdown at the Madejski Stadium on  December 9th crucial to both teams’ hopes and the Exiles the only club with a maximum return of 10 points.

Elsewhere defending champions London Wasps, Gloucester Rugby, Biarritz Olympique and Toulouse have won both their matches as the tournament takes a three-week break after a thrilling start.

And while on the pitch there have been upsets and matches high on quality, intensity and drama, the supporters have been voting with their feet as almost a quarter of a million fans went through the turnstiles for the first two rounds.
The 12 Round 2 matches attracted 120,645 to go with the tournament record for a round of 128,587 in Round 1 to add up to just 768 short of 250,000 at the 24 matches – an average of 10,385 per match across the six competing nations. And last weekend they were suitably rewarded with 59 tries at just a fraction under five a match.

Half of the Round 2 gates were five-figure ones with Toulouse taking the honours with 18,806 at Stade Ernest Wallon to see them run in four tries against Leinster followed by a professional era club record for Gloucester when 16,500 were at Kingsholm for the victory over the Ospreys. The other crowds in excess of 10,000 came at Leicester Tigers (15,865), Munster (12,003), Harlequins (11,304) and Bristol Rugby (10,756).

Perpignan celebrated becoming the 14th club to win an ERC Elite Award for 50 Heineken Cup matches while Llanelli Scarlets’ international wing Dafydd James could soon have company in the 25 Tries Club.

At the moment he is the sole member with his 29 tries but, after Toulouse wing Vincent Clerc crossed against Leinster, there are now three players closing in on an award after Toulouse’s Michel Marfaing was left stranded just one try short when he retired over four years ago.

Leinster wing Shane Horgan and Munster evergreen back row forward Anthony Foley – who has now appeared in an unrivalled 81 Heineken Cup matches – are just two tries short of joining James as elite try scorers. Others homing in on awards are London Wasps forwards Lawrence Dallaglio and Simon Shaw who have both appeared in 49 tournament matches.

Defending champions London Wasps became only the second team to leave Stradey Park with a try bonus point in 33 home Pool matches after running in five in their Round 2 win, one short of Toulouse’s haul two seasons ago.
Llanelli Scarlets won seven successive games last season before falling at the semi-final stage. However, that semi-final defeat last season and this season’s defeats at Clermont and then home to London Wasps means they have to win at home to Munster in Round 3 to avoid their worst losing streak in their 12th season in the Heineken Cup.

Munster’s victory over Clermont at their “work in progress” Thomond Park saved the Irish province from losing successive home games for the first time. The game marked the occasion of the 100th competitive cap for Shaun Payne and the full-back
scored the opening try of the game and threw the scoring pass for his side’s third try scored by Brian Carney.


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