Mathew Brown – The Rugby Channel Column
ARC, 6N & GP12!
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This past weekend was filled to the brim with oval action including three Guinness Pro12 battles and a trio of Americas Rugby Championship clashes.
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Here’s a look back at what we just showed you and a look ahead at what we’ve got coming up in the immediate future. To see all the highlights from the weekend, check out TRC Report #39.
Even without their full complement of players – because of injury and Ireland duty – Leinster were firing on all cylinders against Edinburgh in Dublin. Their Friday night win briefly put them into first place on the Guinness Pro12 table.
This was not a case of the visitors playing poorly, Leinster is just a quality side with good systems in place and talent throughout their squad to plug in wherever necessary. Leinster are intent upon winning another title and the way they are playing now it would be tough to bet against them doing so.
There are six teams with a definite chance of making the semis in the GP12 which means that it’s going to be a great finish to the campaign. Ulster dominated this contest in Belfast with solid defense and consistent physicality at the breakdown.
The Ulstermen are getting great play out of a couple of imported South Africans, longtime servant of the team Ruan Pienaar and blockbusting newcomer Marcell Coetzee. This match is well worth watching just to see this pair in action. Pienaar’s superior knowledge of the game and Coetzee’s controlled aggression are both going to be vital elements if the province is going to surge into the playoffs.
This was a fantastic match and I highly recommend that you check it out. Ospreys jumped out to an early lead and looked like they might run away with it. Those familiar with Munster know better and the men in red fought back to trail by just two points at halftime.
The second half was a good old fashioned slugfest as both teams exhibited tremendous discipline, steadiness, and courage on defense. Eventually, it was Munster that came away with the win and four points to regain top spot on the log but that doesn’t change the fact that Ospreys are one of the favorites to make the playoffs and possibly win the title.
Both teams are already top notch but I can’t wait to see how they perform when they each get their stars back from Six Nations duty when that tourney comes to a conclusion in March.
If you like watching lots of tries being scored then this was the match for you! The United States opened with two quick ones, Canada responded with a brace of their own, and the try scoring continued right to the end of the game as the teams registered a total of twelve five pointers on a chilly night in Burnaby.
Man of the Match Mike Te’o contributed a hat trick of tries and seemed to pop up in advantageous positions all over the pitch all night long. The Eagle fullback looks to have finally found a position anchoring the backline and it’ll be interesting to see if he keeps that starting role for the next two rounds.
The Canadians had some quality moments spread throughout the evening, especially the pacy running of winger Taylor Paris and the hard-edged aggression of number eight Admir Cejvanovic. Both were standouts for their team and played hard from start to finish.
This is certainly not the best available Maple Leaf team but the experience that Coach Mark Anscombe’s youngsters are gaining now will hold them in good stead when they mix back in with the overseas professionals who’ll return for the 2019 Rugby World Cup qualifying tests against the United States this Summer.
Argentina took a little while to get going against Chile but in the end they managed to run in six tries, allowed only one on a great individual effort, and produced a comprehensive win.
The more the youngsters on this Argentina team play together the better they’re going to be when faced with a tough matchup that has hardware on the line, which is important because it’s starting to look a lot more likely that the United States and the Argentina XV are going to meet as undefeated sides in Round 5 with the title up for grabs.
URUGUAY 23 - 12 BRAZIL
After a tight loss to the United States and a blowout defeat by the Argentina XV, Uruguay needed a win in their first home fixture in the Americas Rugby Championship. Just like in 2016 though, Brazil played them tough and made them earn the victory.
The margin would have been significantly larger if kicker German Albanell didn’t have an off night from the kicking tee. The Brazilians played with a lot of heart in this match but Uruguay’s superiority in tight proved decisive.
MUNSTER V SCARLETS – Friday, February 24 at 2:35 pm ET
Munster are now on 59 points, leading the competition, coming off a hugely important road win, and heading back home to play in front of their ever-faithful fans in Limerick. Scarlets have cracked the top four with 49 points, thrashed Zebre at home, and are itching to avenge their Round 1 loss to Munster. Can’t wait for this battle!
The Eagles will be a somewhat less powerful team when they head to South America to face Chile as they will be travelling without the heart of their engine room. The absence of Civetta, Brakeley, and others will hurt but it will also give less experienced guys a chance to show what they’ve got and that makes this one worth watching. Chile will play with pride at home but overcoming them shouldn’t be too big a task.
ARGENTINA XV V BRAZIL – Saturday, February 25 at 9:20 pm ET
Like the USA did, the Argentina XV should win easily against Brazil. It’ll be tempting to look past them and ahead to the Americans in the finale but especially with such a young team, that could prove dangerous. I’m guessing the Argentinean coaching staff won’t let that happen.
URUGUAY V CANADA – Saturday, February 25 at 11:40 pm ET
This will probably be the match of the round. Two physical teams, somewhat evenly matched, both in search of finishing in the top three. Uruguay at home has proven to be a stern opponent and Canada will have to build on their offensive outing versus the Eagles and shore up the defense that let in seven tries if they want to emerge victorious.
Always a match with the potential for fireworks, this year it will be even more so as both countries seek their second win after a close loss in Round 2. Scotland has been weakened by injury but will still be formidable at Murrayfield. Wales needs a win after heartbreak in Cardiff. First class viewing no doubt!
Ireland laid waste to Italy in Rome, France hung on against a ferocious Scotland in Paris. I wouldn’t be surprised by any outcome in this one. A big win by either team or a nailbiter to the death seems equally likely but the key is that I can’t wait to watch and find out.
If Italy wins it will be the greatest upset ever in Six Nations history. Everything points to a huge England win, but that’s why they play the matches.
Do you want to see your Eagles finish off their Americas Rugby Championship campaign with a very realistic chance of securing their first title?
Are you not totally enthralled by the impending fixtures in the Six Nations Championship and desirous of consuming the matches that will determine its outcome in their entirety?
Are you interested in following what’s sure to be a thrilling run to the finish in the Guinness Pro12 as three outstanding and three really good teams battle it out for a quartet of playoff berths?
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