Monday, December 2, 2019

Europe's Pro League WRaps: Gallagher, Guinness and Top 14

The three European Leagues (Guinness Pro14 boasts a brace of South African sides as well) resume play after a fortnight off, though those two weeks afforded no rest as that interval encompassed the initial rounds of the Champions and Challenge Cups 

Gallagher Premiership Round 5 Wrap - By the Numbers

12 teams, all in England; 22-match, home-away schedule; semifinals June 12, Grand Final, June 20

Home Happy: Exeter, Harlequins, Northampton, Worcester
Road Warriors: Saracens
Sis-kiss: Bristol - Irish

Can Saracens still earn a playoff berth after the GP death sentence? Short answer: YES;  

Saints yet in the ordering spot at table, and Saracens are currently deep-sixed in the Premiership sub-basement and locked in a cabinet after choosing to drop their appeal of a near $7 million fine (for salary cap improprieties) and 35-table point hit that has put in serious doubt the club’s ability to defend the English title that they’ve won four of the last five years - last year Sarries claimed Europe (EPCR - Champions Cup) as well. For Saracens to make champion in their league this season, they must win their remaining fixtures, ideally with bonus points in each victory. If Saracens are successful in that herculean endeavor, it will earn the club a total of 67 table points, sufficient, one thinks, to gain the semifinal playoffs; the last five years’ points haul for fourth place finishers: 2019 - 56 (Saints); 2018 - 63 (Falcons); 2017 - 66 (Tigers); 2016 - 65 (Tigers); 2015 - 68 (Saracens); so, Sarries can get there theoretically, though reaching that goal in real time could be a stretch.

However, in their remaining 17 contests, if Sarries fail to earn five points from a win as they did in Round 4, subtract one point from the club’s potential total at season’s end - i.e. pre-Sarries Round 5 match, there were 18 games remaining on the schedule, or 90 (18 X 5) possible table points on offer. If Sarries were able to win them all with bonus points, their points total at year’s end would be 68 (or 90 - 22), sufficient to obtain a final playoff berth. But they only got 4 points from the Bath win, so take a point from the potential total and the most those Corsairs can possibly get now is 67, yet enough to see extra time, one might calculate.

On the Weekend, By the Numbers:

                20           for Saracens 10, Owen Farrell, on 1-and-6 true the sticks and Sarries have set out from base camp far below that of their climbing competition in an effort to salvage their season with the 25 - 15 victory over Bath on the trot at the Rec; flyer Sean Maitland touched down in the 32nd minute for the traveler’s total;

                3              from 4 trys scored by frontrowmen in Exeter joy, 28 - 3, over Wasps at Sandy Park; 11 for Chiefs 10, Garo Steenson, on 4-and-1;

                5              try Northampton, all converted by 10, England and Saints legacy 21 years old James Grayson - his dad’s Paul “Larry” Grayson, who notched 11 on 4-and-1 in the home side’s 36 - 13 pasting of Leicester at Franklin’s Gardens; Tigers were ahead 10-7 after 22 minutes, but 17 unanswered by the midpoint, gave Northampton a lead they’d not lose;

                51           total minutes of 14 on 15 too much for weary Sale and Worcester returned in the second stanza from 6-10 deficit to record 20 - 10 victory at Sixways; Warriors counted all their points while Sharks were down a man;

                27           for everyone in the shop at ’80 and Bristol got an additional table point for 4 trys, while their guests, London Irish, had to settle for a pair of t-ps only; red shown the Irish tighthead at ’40 with his side ahead 7-3 abso no help whatsoever; 12 for visitors 10, Stephen Myler, on 3-and-2 struck off his shoe, the last sticksplitter to draw level Bears near time;

                6             lead changes in lively action at Twickers with the home XV taking the last lead at the hour mark and Harlequins got the comeback victory, 23 - 19, over Gloucester; 13 for Quins 10, Marcus Smith, on 2-and-3 from his tee.

   upcoming Round 6:

                Friday, 12.20:

                                Gloucester (11) v (13) Worcester Warriors at Kingsholm: this’ll be a real ripper and guaranteed to affect the chart!
                Saturday, 12.21:

                                Leicester Tigers (4) v (15) Exeter Chiefs at Welford Road: only reason homeboys aren’t in the cellar is due Saracens consequences; Jefes could be happy road warriors today;  

                                Sale Sharks (12) v (19) Northampton Saints in AJ Bell at Salford City: homeys looking to rebound from their last, and against the top of the league... bang-bang-bang;

                                Saracens (-18) v (17) Bristol Bears in Allianz Park at Barnet Copthall: home side has no recourse but to defeat the remaining clubs on the schedule while holding their opponents pointless, making for determined desperation and damned exciting sport;

                                Wasps (5) v (10) Harlequins at Ricoh Arena: Hornets maintain the inefficient and insubstantial effort exhibited thus far this season, they may be the first club that Sarries overtake on their exit from the Premiership dun-dah-dun-dun dungeon;
                Sunday, 12.22:

                                London Irish (12) v (8) Bath at Madejski Stadium: travelers looking for joy, but the London venue may not be the place they find it, not this year;

Guinness Pro14 Round 7 Wrap
14 teams = 2 conferences of 7 in 5 countries on 2 continents playing home-away within the conference, plus non-conference teams once, plus 2 additional games for a 21-match schedule; Grand Final on June 20th at Cardiff City Stadium, with playoffs on the four weekends preceding that date
Home Happy: Connacht, Ulster
Road Warriors: Cardiff, Cheetahs, Edinburgh, Leinster, Zebre

With one-third of their campaigns done, Group A sees reigning champ, Leinster, out in front by better than a b-p win while in Group B, it’s all cozy at the top with four clubs within a four-point victory of one another.

By the Numbers:

                62           minutes after the starting whistle, Fijian-born Edinburgh flyer, Eroni Sau, touched down the go-and-stay-ahead try for the 18 - 16 road win over Munster at Thomond Park; first Scots joy there in 15 years;

                5              points in the 5-try home win for Ulster topping Scarlets at Ravenhill, 29 - 5; 24-0 midway; double for 13, Matt Faddes, the first to open scoring in the 4th minute, and the second to close it down in the 78th; travelers could not count until replacement three-quarters, Jac Morgan, born the very first 21st of January in this 21st century, touched down with 8 minutes left;  

                4              points left on the deck against 0 for the travelers and Cardiff returned 14 points in the final 15 minutes for the 31 - 28 road win at Treviso;

                2              trys for flyer J Porch paced Connacht to the 5-point joy at the Sportsground in a 24 - 12 win over Southern Kings;

                5             try Zebre got the bonus-point victory, 39 - 13, on the trot at Dragons;

                13           for Leinster 10, Ross Byrne, on 2-and-3 off his tee and a double by flyer, Cian Kelleher, against only a brace of touch downs by Glasgow 15, Ruaridh Jackson, made for a 23 - 10 road happy at Scotstoun;

                2              points in arrears at the half, 8-10, for Cheetahs no problem as Fast Cats returned to better hosts, Ospreys by a converted try in the second stanza for an 18 - 13 road win; Sea Eagles now on a six-game slide in their last half dozen between EPCR and their GPro14 efforts;

Upcomes Round 8:
                Friday, 12.20:
                                Leinster (33) v (25) Ulster at the RDS: true holiday happiness will be on for the better XV;
                Saturday, 12.21:
                                Zebre (7) v (14) Benetton Treviso at Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi: result will be half the war for the Italian rugby elite title, naught supersedes that inspiration;
                                Connacht (24) v (25) Munster at Galway Sportsground: homeys looking to rebound from their pre-holiday gift to the Monarchs of the SoHemi last outing, while visitors were taken short last outing at sacred Kingspan and require significance here;
                                Dragons (9) v (21) Scarlets at Rodney Parade: travelers will be counting on a win here;
                                Glasgow Warriors (15) v (23) Edinburgh at Scotstoun: Round 1 in this season’s Battle for the Scots Crown and nothing else matters;
                                Ospreys (7) v (15) Cardiff Blues at Liberty Stadium: Wotcher, home boys?
* Cheetahs and Southern Kings are off over the December Break and will make up those matches during the first round of 6 Nations and at the end of May;

Top 14 Wrap - Round 10

Home Happy: Brive, Clermont, La Rochelle, Montpellier, Toulouse
Road Warriors: Bordeaux, Toulon

On the Weekend, By the Numbers:

                5              lead changes in the fractivity that saw both sides 13s, Virimi Vakatawa and Semi Radradra, for Racing and Bordeaux resp., ground braces and earn 10-minute seats at La Défense Arena on the busy day that kept the scoreboard turning over until a 34 - 30 record was had by the visitors; a penalty struck by 92 halfback, Maxime Machenaud, earned hosts the losing bonus point;

                14           for Toulon 10, Anthony Belleau, on 1-and-4 from the floor and the guest got the best of their host at Stade du Hameau with Section Paloise suffering 9 - 19 defeat;

                11           for Clermont 9, Morgan Parra, on 1-and-3 off the tee and home team got the 19 - 9 win over Agen;

                11           too, for La Rochelle 10, Brock James on 1-and-3 as the faithful at Marcel Deflandre celebrated their XVs  22 - 13 win over Castres;

                4             of 5 trys by Montpellier grounded by forwards and 4-of-5 converted by the home side 9, Benoit Paillaugue, for the 33 - 8, 5-pointer over current frontrunner, Lyon;

                16           for Brive 10, Thomas Laranjeira, on 2-and-4 from the floor as home side stopped Stade Français at the Amédée Domenech, 26 - 21; a sticksplitter by 21 years old Nico Sanchez relief at 10, Joris Segonds, got the Parisians the losing bonus point;

                            reds, one for the Bayonne 8 in the 33rd, and the second for their blindside at ’64 meant a whole lotta gaps for homeys to run through, which Toulouse did at the speed of 45 - 10; home 15, Tommie Ramos counted 13 on 5-and-1;              

Upcomes Round 11
                Saturday, 12.21:

                                Castres (18) v (35) Lyon at Pierre Fabre: travelers seeking to bounce back from the drub last time out, while the same goes for the home side;
                                Bayonne (21) v (22) Brive at Jean Dauger: Match-of-Weekend;
                                Racing 92 (19) v (24) Montpellier at La Défense: homeboys stumbled last out and their guests have not lost in the league since early October;
                                Agen (16) v (24) Toulouse at Stade Armandie: visitors formidable right now;

                Sunday, 12.22:
                                Stade Français (10) v (21) Section Paloise at the Jean-Bouin: Pau need it and so too their hosts;

                                Bordeaux Bègles (34) v (22) La Rochelle at Stade Chaban-Delmas: could be a nickel for the home team;

                                Toulon (24) v (24) Clermont at Felix Mayol: other M-o-W;

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