Positives all-round for Irish in Europe David Colgan

The Heineken Cup fixtures in mid-December showed how Ireland’s provincial clubs remain at the top end of the spectrum. Munster and Ulster both managed narrow wins against Welsh outfit, Ospreys, and English heavyweights Bath respectively. Leinster, unable to field a full team with injuries to British and Irish Lions tourists found themselves at the wrong end of a 20-13 score line against a powerful Clermont-Auvergne team.

Ulster fielded a strong team on a cold Saturday afternoon which included South African veteran scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar, who, despite passing on the kicking duties to David Humphreys, played well and organised his forwards excellently. The back row performed as a unit and competed ferociously at the breakdown, boosted by an in form Stepehen Ferris they carried well and were unforgiving in their defence. Eventually their performance was rewarded through a try for No 8 Pedrie Wannenburg in the 34th minute to bring them back into the game having already conceded two tries.  Humphreys accurate left boot proved instrumental as he capitalized on Bath’s indiscipline scoring a total of 17 points to seal this 4 point victory.

Munster and Leinster both kitted out on Sunday, with the RBS Six Nations looming all eyes were on the out-halves as the battle for the Ireland number 10 jersey continued.  Munster had to dig deep to see off the Ospreys in spite of a poor performance.  The Welsh team kept the game tight thanks to Dan Biggar and Tommy Bowe, who snatched an opportunistic interception try. Despite the flattering scoreline Munster were unquestionably the superior team on the day scoring three tries to the Ospreys’ one.  O’Gara controlled the game fantastically which is typical of him and his men in red however he wasn’t as accurate as we have come to expect, missing his first three attempts at goal.

The Leinster v Clermont-Auvergne fixture was always going to be tight. Leinster went in as underdogs but played like favourites as they drew first blood with a well worked try for Shane Horgan in the corner in just the 3rd minute. This early lead however was short-lived as Julien Malzieu saw off poor defensive efforts to score a well worked try only 3 minutes after Horgan’s effort. Both tries were converted,  then Parra and Sexton exchanged penalties but Clermont-Auvergne managed another try and it was only thanks to some misguided kicking from Morgan Parra in the closing minutes that allowed Leinster a losing bonus point.

Coming into next week Leinster and Munster enjoy top of their table positions and Ulster are also looking strong in second with two wins from three.

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