In what was another action packed weekend of rugby a number of teams really excelled at what is the pinnacle of northern hemispheres elite club competition; other teams however fell by the wayside.
Pool One: Leinster, Northampton Saints, Castres, Ospreys.
With a victory away reigning Top 14 champions Castres it looks like a simple task for Matt O’Connor’s men, win at home against bottom of the pool Ospreys and qualify as Pool One winners. Northampton’s only hope of qualification is a bonus point victory at Franklin’s gardens against Castres and for Leinster to lose heavily at home to Ospreys, something that looks less than likely. It’s been a campaign to forget for Castres, as the team that currently sit third in the Top 14 have only mustered two wins against Ospreys and Northampton, whilst many of the other French sides have delivered world class performances.
Pool Two: Toulon, Glasgow Warriors, Exeter Chiefs, Cardiff Blues.
When pool two was drawn everyone suspected the Galactios of Toulon would run away with the group, and apart from a narrow 19-15 loss against Cardiff they’ve achieved this, already qualifying for the knockout stages. Cardiff occupy second place and will look to stay there as they play bottom of the pool Exeter next Saturday. Glasgow have performed admirably but a drubbing at the Stade Mayol and two narrow defeats against Cardiff have left the Scottish team sitting in third. From early pace setters Exeter’s hopes of qualifying buckled after losing the double header against Toulon, and two more defeats against Glasgow has meant the Chiefs European dream is over for another season.
Pool Three: Toulouse, Zebre, Saracens, Connacht.
This pool always looked like a two horse race and so it has proven to be, with Toulouse and Saracens occupying first and second position. But after the French sides powerful performance at home to Saracens saw them run out victorious. Only what would appear a routine victory away to whipping boys Zebre should see them safely through. Second place is still up for grabs however, and will be decided when a Connacht side still buoyed by their win against Toulouse in France take on Saracens at Allianz Park next Saturday.
Pool Four: Clermont Auvergne, Harlequins, Racing Metro, Scarlets.
With last year’s beaten finalists Clermont looking to go one better, they have turned on the style and won the group with a round of games still remaining. Suffering only one defeat to French rivals Racing all the way back in October. Sealing there place in the Quarter Finals with a victory over Harlequins 13-16 at the Stoop on Saturday. Harlequins and Scarlets occupy second and third respectively, as Racing capitulated and there star-studied team including Lions Dan Lydiate, Jonny Sexton and Mike Phillips finished bottom of the pool.
Pool 5: Leicester Tigers, Ulster, Montpellier, Benneton Treviso.
This pool always looked like being an English vs Irish shootout for the top spot and so it’s turned out to be. Both Leicester and Ulster beating Montpellier and Treviso, meaning it’ll all be settled in a mouth-watering clash at Welford Road in just under a weeks’ time. Ulster currently have the upper hand with victory in the reverse fixture, but who would bet against the Tigers producing another superb display to gain top spot in pool five?
Pool 6: Munster, Perpignan, Edinburgh, Gloucester
Munster have cruised through the pool stages only suffering one defeat so far and sit top of the pool having already qualified, and the perennial Irish giants look like being serious contenders for the competition yet again. Elsewhere five points separate Perpignan Edinburgh and Gloucester. With Perpignan sitting bottom only two points behind Gloucester, you’d feel the French side have everything it takes to leave Gloucester taking home the wooden spoon. As Gloucester visits the South of France next Sunday lunchtime; elsewhere the already qualified Munster takes on Gloucester at home looking to put on a show for the Thomond Park faithful.
With three pools still not mathematically sewn up, and a best runners up space still up for grabs expect the fireworks, drama, big hits and sublime play we’ve come to expect of the Heineken cup over the last few seasons be on show; as teams go on the hunt for a Quarter final place, and the chance to be named Champions of Europe.