WATCHING Bath’s easy victory over Brive in Sunday’s Amlin Challenge Cup quarter-final will have confirmed what most people have thought.
Namely, that the sooner Bath return to the Heineken Cup – or whatever its future equivalent will be – the better.
The Amlin tournament just doesn’t compare to the Heineken for colour and intensity – a fact brought home more than ever last weekend.
The Heineken Cup is a fantastic product and it’s difficult to believe that, amid all the recent political wranglings in rugby, some seemed to be trying to destroy it.
While the Amlin is more on a par with your regular club match, the Heineken Cup is a different kettle of fish altogether.
Of course, the Heineken Cup quarter-final that perhaps attracted the most attention was the Ulster versus Saracens match – an incredible match unfortunately more or less decided by one refereeing decision.
I’ve seen many different viewpoints on the sending-off of Ulster full-back Jared Payne and while, yes, the rulebook probably states it was the right decision, I’m not so sure.
At no point did Payne look at Saracens’ Alex Goode until right before their collision – they were both genuinely looking at the ball and I thought it was very harsh.
Unfortunately, that moment will haunt Ulster for a long time and that’s wrong.
The laws of the game are there, but sometimes commonsense needs to be applied.
What we’re left with are two superb semi-finals, with Saracens taking on Clermont Auvergne and champions Toulon facing Ireland’s Munster.
I fancy Clermont to have a bit too much for Saracens in the last-four clash and to come through at Twickenham, but Munster could definitely go away to France and beat Toulon.
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