It was another thrilling weekend in the Heineken Cup with close matches and a few surprise blowouts. The biggest of those surprises came as Leinster ran all over Northampton 40-7.
Brian O’Driscoll was in fine form, including a through the legs pass, for Leinster who now lead Pool 1. Northampton will need a lot of help to reach the quarterfinals. In other matches, Jonny Wilkinson had a rare off day from the tee and was even removed from the kicking duties during Toulon’s 14-9 win over Exeter. Halfway through the competitions things are still tight across the board. If the quarterfinals were to occur today Leinster, Toulon, Toulouse, Saracens, Clermont, Ulster, Leicester, and Munster would all be in.
The Amlin Challenge Cup also took place over the weekend but hardly anyone noticed. Once again teams from England and France beat up on lesser teams from Italy and the rest of Europe. The biggest match of the round saw London Irish defeat Stade Francais. England dominates the pool leaders with London Irish, London Wasps, Newcastle, Bath, and Sale all at the top after three rounds.
Blitzbokke Win Emotional Title
It was only fitting that rugby was played at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium this last weekend in Port Elizabeth with the IRB Sevens Series making their annual visit to the country. Even better, South Africa were able to come away with the title after beating New Zealand 17-14 in the final, eerily reminiscent of the famous 1995 World Cup final. During the tournament the IRB paid a nice tribute to Mandela.
U.S. Continue To Struggle
It wasn’t nearly as Dubai but the Eagles 7s team slumped to another poor tournament. They once again went winless on day one with losses to Wales, New Zealand, and Portugal. The New Zealand and even the Wales losses were expected but the extremely poor 33-17 loss to Portugal will sting for awhile, especially since it allowed Portugal to make the Cup quarterfinals. Things were better on day two as the Eagles beat Spain in the Bowl quarterfinals before losing to England in the Bowl semi-finals. The win over Spain was important because it means the U.S. has increased their lead in the race to avoid relegation.
Three college champions were crowned this last weekend. Kutztown defeated Pennsylvania rival Penn State 33-18 in the ACRC final while the University of Minnesota-Duluth beat Salisbury 31-7 for the DII title. Both teams played for the same title last spring with a Salisbury winning that one. One the women’s side, Norwich beat Army 32-15 for the ACRA DI title. Winona beat Notre Dame College 28-14 for the DII title. Lastly, the Northeast ODA, playing as the NYC 7s, won the Tobago 7s by beating Esher in the final.