In which I look at the Heineken Cup following yesterday's results.
In which I look ahead to the sixth round of the Heineken Cup - and a crunch set of games for Wasps.
In which I look ahead to the fifth round Heineken Cup match between Wasps and Leinster
This weekend, Wasps play Edinburgh at home in the Heineken Cup. Last weekend, Wasps managed to squeeze out a win at Edinburgh, meaning that qualification is in our hands. The table at the moment looks like this:
- Leinster - played 4 - 15 points
- Wasps - played 3 - 8 points
- Castres - played 4 - 5 points
- Edinburgh - played 3 - 4 points
If we get a win at home against Edinburgh, Wasps will be on 12 points. A bonus point win (scoring 4 tries) would make that 13 points.
In January, we play Leinster (at Twickenham) - and a win there would put us at the head of the table if we beat Edinburgh. It isn't easy, but it's in our hands. We also have to play away at Castres, which again won't be easy.
To qualify for the quarter finals we must top the pool, or be one of the two highest scoring second teams (from six pools). In practice, we cannot rely on that, so passing Leinster is the only real option - and to do that, nothing less than a win tomorrow will do.
Wasps haven't been playing well this season - the premiership performance has been disappointing to say the least. Wasps are currently in the bottom half of the table, and only two points mean that we're not in 11th position.
- London Irish - played 8 - 27 points
- Gloucester - played 8 - 27 points
- Bath - played 8 - 26 points
- Sale Sharks - played 8 - 24 points
- Harlequins - played 8 - 24 points
- Leicester Tigers - played 8 - 21 points
- Saracens - played 8 - 20 points
- Worcester Warriors - played 8 - 14 points
- London Wasps - played 8 - 12 points
- Northampton Saints - played 8 - 11 points
- Newcastle Falcons - played 8 - 10 points
- Bristol - played 8 - 7 points
Our next premiership game is against Saracens, who are based in Watford (Wasps play in High Wycombe, just off the M40). A win would go a long way to improving my mood with regard to Wasps fortunes. Despite the meteoric rise last season to ultimate victory, I think this is beyond Wasps right now - I hope I'm wrong, but 'lightning doesn't strike twice'(*). What I'm hoping for in the premiership this season is a change in fortunes, some coherent play, some convincing wins, and a top six finish (for Heineken Cup qualification next year).
Doing well in the Heineken Cup could be just the catalyst to kickstart the Premiership. Fingers crossed.
(*) Physics caveat. Yes it does. Quite often.... but you know what I mean.
Wasps have played in two competitions. They played Gloucester (away) in the Anglo Welsh competition and lost. In the Guinness Premiership, Wasps have only had one victory. Satisfyingly, that was away at Leicester.
So, from Wasps point of view, this looks like a good match to start with - the teams are on similar form, and the French sides traditionally view the H-cup (as they call it) with less importance than their domestic competition. Josh Lewsey and Danny Cipriani had a spat on the training field this week, which was much publicised - as a result I'm hoping that these two especially will want to show that things are, not 'business as usual', but back to the form of previous seasons.
The team will want to produce a good performance on the field, not just because the club sees the Heineken Cup as an important competition, but to raise morale prior to the return of the premiership.
I for one will be shouting myself hoarse! Edinburgh and Leinster are also in Pool 2. Edinburgh lost to Leinster 16-27 on friday. Next week, Wasps are away to Leinster. That'll be a tough match for Wasps...
Rugby Competition Primer
- The Guinness Premiership is the top division in England, the bottom team of the premiership is relegated (assuming that the top team in National Division One is eligible for promotion).
- The Magners League contains Welsh, Scottish and Irish teams. There is no relegation - which I think is a bad thing in the long term as there is no jeopardy.
- The Anglo Welsh competition is a cup competition. There are pools, and every team plays the other teams in the pools once. As a result, some teams will play more home games and as such get an advantage. The winners of the pools enter a knockout competition.
- Heineken Cup is the European competition. As well as the Home Nations of England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, it includes teams from France and Italy. Currently there are six pools. The top teams in each pool plus the two best second place teams go through to a knockout competition. Personally, I think this structure is rather poor - an average second team in an 'easy group' might go through in preference due to a very good team being in a 'group of death'. That said, it's also the fan's favourite (although the premiership is more important - get relegated or do badly and the other competitions start to go away...)
Update: As of 10:40am. Wasps are the 1/12 favourite. Castres are quoted as 13/2 against. A draw is listed as 25/1.
On Saturday we went to see London Wasps vs. l'Union Sportive Arlequins Perpignan in the Heineken Cup. The situation going into the match was that Wasps were leading the group by 15 points to Castres Olympique's 13. If USA Perpignan won then we'd drop to second place, with a win the following week almost certain for l'Union Sportive Arlequins Perpignan against Benetton Treviso. It was a 'must win' game.
The game was hard fought, but Wasps was victorious with 22 points to 14, just denying USA Perpignan a losing bonus (it's 4 points for a win, a bonus for scoring four tries, or for losing by seven points or less). In a few places it looked like it might get a bit nasty, with fists being raised, but people restrained themselves.
The game was won thanks to the kicking skills of Alex King, who had a 100% kicking record, scoring four penalties (some from distance) and converting Dominic Waldouck's try. USA Perpignan failed to convert their try, and were held back from scoring a second try. It could have so easily have been 23-22 in USA Perpignan's favour.
As it is, then a win against Castres Olympique next week will see us through, as will a losing bonus (assuming that Castres Olympique don't also get a bonus). If both teams get the bonus, with a Castres Olympique win, then it comes down to the head to head performance, the number of tries scored and point difference. In the above situation, they will have scored four tries, which will clinch it.
For goodness sake, play for the win, not the bonus! That way is suicide.
It really was a good game, edge of the seat stuff...though a boring landslide would've been nice! There are now two away fixtures, Castres Olympique next week, and Worcester Warriors the week after. Then the six nations begin. There are four matches left at Adams Park, with the next being against Sale Sharks in February.
I went to see a third round Heineken Cup game today. I couldn't have picked a better game, really. Wasps had been third in the group, but Perpignan obligingly lost to Castres Olympique earlier this week - that meant if Wasps could beat Benetton Treviso, and score four tries, we would be on top of the group.
We did this, and some!
It was a miserable day of it, it was chucking it down with rain, but there seemed to be no stopping the Wasps - it was try, after try, after try.
Paul Sackey had a few good runs, Rees, Lewsey and Voyce each scored twice. There were a few times when I thought that they weren't using the full width (Sackey had a clear run more than once, but the ball never found him!) There were a few missed chances, and one in particular over on the Frank Adams side of the field, when three unopposed Wasps players had only to fall onto the ball, but instead it hit Voyce's leg and went dead. That's all seems rather churlish though with a 55-0 scoreline.
There was a nice moment that happened virtually in front of me, (to the lleft a bit), where Tom Voyce was hemmed in by Benetton players with nowhere to go - so he hurled the ball at a Benetton player's gut, and it bounced into touch. Nice. Risky, but nice.
We've only sat in the Frank Adams stand before, this time I was in the BCUC (very close to the players' tunnel) - the position along the pitch was equivalent, and I was closer to the pitch (which I liked) - but lower (which was less good, especially when the play was on the far side. On the whole, I think they seats were good, though the Frank Adams stand is slightly better sheltered.
The table now stands as follows: