You may remember me writing an article at the tail end of the last season about how it was a record season in Europe for the Pro12– the first time that not one team from the competition has qualified for the knock out stages.
It’s very early days, but there are early signs that this year might be better. Here’s a quick look at how the results went and what that means in a wider context.
A Perfect Weekend for Scottish Rugby
4th VS 4th
That’s what it was when Leicester Tigers visited Glasgow Warriors at Scotstoun Friday evening. Leicester sit 4th in the Aviva Premiership, with Glasgow warriors 4th in the Pro12.
Despite a few injuries on both sides, especially in the Glasgow back-row, both teams fielded strong sides, with a number of internationals present on each side.
On the night, Glasgow looked like a team possessed and scored more points than any other team has against Leicester in Europe as they ran out 42-13 winners.
Edinburgh see off Timisoara Saracens
As was to be expected, the Scottish capital side made light work of the European Champions… Romanian sister club. The Scots ran in 9 tries to win 17-59 away from home.
Challenge Cup not much of a challenge for the Welsh!
Cardiff Blues VS Bristol
Despite a better attacking show from Bristol than in many games, they still didn’t manage to get that illusive win as the Welsh Capital side picked up the spoils away from home at Ashton Gate, final score Bristol 20- 33 Cardiff Blues.
Newport Gwent Dragons pick up rare win
I didn’t see the game, but it sounds as though the Dragons were on form as they dispatched of Brive with five tries to one, final score 37-16 to the Welsh Region.
Ospreys ease past Falcons
Ospreys are in Europe’s second tier competition for the first time ever and they seem eager to prove they’re in the wrong competition as they swept Newcastle Falcons away 45-0, with some brilliant tries, including a brilliant chip and chase from Justin Tipuric.
Wales’ only Champions Cup side, Scarlets see off Sale Sharks
A game which I only saw in part- although Sale looked exciting at times and were pushing right up until the final whistle, ultimately they couldn’t break down the Scarlets and left Parc y Scarlets with a 28-11 defeat.
Italian’s swept aside easily
Sadly, if not inevitably, both the Italian sides slipped to defeats- Zebre by 82-14 against Wasps in the Champions Cup and Treviso 10-41 against La Rochelle in the Challenge Cup.
A mixed weekend for Irish Rugby
Leinster dispatch of Castres
Leinster made light work of the strongest defence in the Top 14 this season, scoring five tries in their 33-15 win of Castres. Despite having only conceded eleven tries to date in the Top14, Castres couldn’t cope with Leinster once they gained some momentum at the RDS.
Connacht go big
We know after their Pro12 title last season that Connacht aren’t to be taken lightly, but after the loss of some key players and some hefty score lines against them, some thought Connacht had lost it.
Alas, their 23-21 win over European giants Toulouse well and truly announced them to Europe, as they held out right to the last minute to secure a vital home win. Are Connacht back?
Bordeaux finish with a flourish to down Ulster
This game was fairly tight throughout, with the teams never more than seven points apart. That was all to change though after 72 minutes. Sebastien Taofifenua went over, followed by a penalty try and a try from left winger Blair Connor. The final result was 28-13, perhaps not a reflection of how close the game really was.
I absolutely don’t want to get carried away, but that was a good start. Of the nine Celtic teams playing this weekend, only one lost.
Now there are many games to come, but the early signs are good. Hopefully soon we’ll have a bit more of an idea of just how much the Rugby World Cup affected the Pro12 sides last year.
I’m not going to say what or who I think will make the play offs, but the Pro12 sides didn’t do any harm this weekend.
Now, take the positives of the weekend, keep grounded and lets see what more our sides can do next week.
Finally, a word for Anthony Foley and Munster
This morning the Foley family, Munster Rugby and Irish Rugby lost a loved one. Munster coach Anthony Foley was found dead in his Paris hotel room, aged just 42.
The Irish veteran epitomised what it meant to play for Munster and Ireland and you only have to hear what the likes of Paul O’Connell say about him to realise that.
In his playing days, Foley made two-hundred-and-one appearances for Munster and was capped sixty-two times for his country. He played eighty-six European ties, three European finals and three semi-finals. He was later appointed head coach at Munster, working this season alongside Rassie Erasmus.
On what has been a brilliant weekend of Rugby, it’s a shame that Foley won’t get to see his Munster side give it another crack, but you can sure bet they will be playing to make him proud this year. As with everyone in the rugby community, I extend my thoughts to the Foley family at this difficult time. Rest in peace Axel.
The Scribbler, 16th October, 2016