Is not his castle it would appear, as we had a weekend of drubbings provided from our Gaelic and French counterparts!
A tough weekend for the premiership sides in the Champions cup saw Wasps, Harlequins, Exeter, Northampton, Leicester and Bath all falling on their sword.
The big surprise had to come from Exeter who have been nigh on impenetrable at Sandy Park for over a year, but they have the opportunity to make good on this loss very quickly as they meet Leinster again this Saturday at the RDS Arena. I’d imagine that Rob Baxter is probably feeling a little nervous inside, as Leinster with the Dublin crowd behind them, will be all the more fired up for a victory, but as we know from experience, Exeter have a knack of pulling the rabbit of out of the hat at just the right moment. Suffice to say that Baxter might as well be using Paul Daniels magic set as his playbook for this game, because I dare say that it will require not only some grit and determination from the Chiefs but a couple of magic wand moments as well.
Bath will be ruing the day that they didn’t take advantage of an “out of sorts” Toulon team, who could have been tucked up at the weekend, but thanks to a shortage of numbers and some hand eye errors, they were left agonisingly close to winning their first three games and now have to live with Toulon being 3 points clear of them in the league. Bath haven’t hit the panic button yet in terms of form, but if you look at how well they played last season, they have come unstuck on a few occasions this year where it could make all the difference at the business end of the season. Toulon will visit The Rec this Saturday and much like Exeter will be seeking retribution outside of their own back yard, Bath will be very much looking for it within theirs!
Wasps have lost a lot of their spark and “joie de vivre” from last season, and I am really struggling to see where it has gone. From table topping invincibility in 2016-17 to mid-table contenders at the halfway point in the season? Much the same applies to their rugby outside of the domestic league and it is not the case that they are playing bad rugby, it is more the fact that they do not seem to be able to step up to the mark when it comes to the big-name games. I know they have had their injury woes, but to be quite honest, they’re in pretty good shape at the moment, so we will have to wait and see if the lights get switched back on.
What a breathless game of rugby it was between Northampton and Ospreys on Saturday. 11 Tries! Most of which it felt like came in a ten-minute window either end of half time. Just bonkers rugby. Both sides needed this win badly and with this being Northampton’s fourth loss across all competitions, you have to say that this was probably the nail in the coffin for any champions cup hopes. The only good thing about a game of rugby like this though, is, that win, lose or draw, you know you have been to a good game and got your pound of enjoyment flesh out of the action if nothing else. This probably won’t placate Saints fans for long though, and they will be expecting a return to winning ways in the domestic league very soon! Unluckily for them, their next game up in the premiership is? Exeter… Merry Christmas Jim.
Harlequins might have got to play their game in a very festive looking Twickenham Stoop this weekend, but I doubt they will have had much cheer inside them as they took part in an arm-wrestle that eventually saw them dumped out of the competition by Ulster. A tough game which Ulster desperately wanted to win after they were thumped by La Rochelle in their last game, and this win now moves them clear of Wasps in the pool. You never take your foot off the gas as a professional athlete, but you cant help but think that Quins will be returning their attentions squarely to the premiership after their win over Saracens last week, they will want to continue that kind of form when the league resumes later this month.
The only other game I naturally cast my eye over at the weekend was Gloucester Vs Zebre, and I have to hand it to the Italian side as Glos are in the form of their lives at the moment, so to take it to them for the full 80 minutes probably deserves a pat on the back. They played strong rugby, but it seems that it is going to take a fairly strong set of brakes to pull up Gloucester at the moment.