Monday, 9 April 2012

Heineken Cup quarter-finals 2012

Heineken Cup quarter-finals are over. The tournament, as every year, proved to be the greatest test for European teams. Teams that stood against each other in 1/8 finals entertained us with top-level rugby. The games were very fierce, played at incredible speed and intensity.

The very first Saturday's game showed what we can expect from the knock-out stage of the competition. Edinburgh made a nice surprise for their fans winning 19:14 with one of the most successful clubs in Europe. The Scots, after dramatic match, defeated Stade Toulouse - a team considered to be a favourite. It is a historical success for the club and Scottish rugby. Scotland will have their team in the semi-finals for the very first time.

In the second Saturday's game Leinster won with Cardiff Blues 34:3. The Irish played as the champions should. I watched this match with a real pleasure, set-piece moves created by Leinster were a real rugby masterpiece. In my opinion, a special attention deserves Brian O'Dricsoll's try scored after excellent team work.

Third match was played between local rivals - Munster hosted Ulster. Both teams played incredibly well in the defence area. Although home team had territorial advantage, visitors were much more efficient in taking their chances. At one point they were leading 0:19. Munster is not a team that gives up easily. The "red army" players were trying their best to change the score line to their advantage, but the opponents withstood the pressure and secured the place in the semi-finals by winning 16:22.

The fourth game was the old good English-French battle. Saracens played against Clermont Auvergne at home. The first half was mainly a kicking contest. Clermont led 3:9 after 40 minutes, all points were scored from penalties. After changing sides match became much more interesting. Despite very ambitious effort of the English team, the guests managed to keep their scoreboard ticking over. Saracens lacked precision and clinical finishing in the key moments. The French took advantage of their chances and sealed the place in the semi-finals winning 3:22.

Semi-finals pairs are: Ulster - Edinburgh and Clermont Auvegne - Leinster. After watching quarter-finals matches I would bet on Irish final Ulster - Leinster. However, competition proved many times, that nothing is granted in the Heineken Cup. I will look forward for the next stage of the tournament, which is scheduled for the 28th and 29th April.