Will it be a Dis­ney style end­ing for Mun­ster in the last ever Heineken Cup or will it be more Tarantino?

Bray People - - SPORT - SI­MON NOR­TON

THE END­ING of that solemn re­li­gious ob­ser­vance that is lent spells two things for the Front Row View.

Firstly, I can fi­nally eat wheat again (al­though my waist band says I shouldn’t) and sec­ondly, the real busi­ness end of the rugby sea­son is upon us.

With only two games left in the Pro 12 it’s all about se­cur­ing a top four play off spot and (more im­por­tantly) a much cov­eted home draw.

Le­in­ster all but guar­an­teed them­selves one of those home semi’s with a Good Fri­day maul­ing of Tre­viso in a sun drenched RDS.

It was just what the home side needed to get their sea­son back on track fol­low­ing the Heineken Cup exit and sub­se­quent loss to the Os­preys in the pre­vi­ous weeks.

They did it in some style too with a bonus point in the bag af­ter only 26 min­utes against an Ital­ian out­fit that looked like they’d much rather be at home do­ing the sta­tions of the cross.

Tre­viso’s rather lais­sez faire ap­proach to tack­ling, par­tic­u­larly in the fi­nal quar­ter, meant that Le­in­ster could cut loose with some out­stand­ing free flow­ing rugby to en­ter­tain the ju­bi­lant crowd (al­ready giddy at the prospect of pints on a Good Fri­day).

Just one point from their re­main­ing two games will be enough for them to fin­ish in (at least) sec­ond place.

With Ul­ster up next in Raven­hill, the Blues will be un­der no il­lu­sions as to the dif­fer­ence in qual­ity they will face.

The North­ern­ers will be bay­ing for blood fol­low­ing a dis­ap­point­ing per­for­mance against a Glas­gow team that have been wreck­ing havoc on the Ir­ish Prov­inces of late.

Five wins on the trot have seen the Glaswe­gians usurp the Os­preys and put them­selves in con­trol of their own des­tiny with a game in hand and a rel­a­tively easy run in of matches (Ed­in­burgh, Tre­viso and Ze­bre).

For Ul­ster’s part it looks like the at­tri­tional na­ture of their Heineken Cup quar­ter­fi­nal has come home to roost.

The fall­out from that match in­cludes the loss of Rory Best, Ruan Pien­aar and John Afoa to in­jury, topped off with a Jared Payne sus­pen­sion.

It was a heavy price to pay and a win away in the fortress of Scot­stoun with­out that kind of per­son­nel was al­ways go­ing to be a tall or­der.

Payne will re­turn for the next match but both Best and Pien­arr won’t see ac­tion un­til at least the play offs should Ul­ster make it that far with­out them.

Un­for­tu­nately it’s an un­cer­e­mo­ni­ous end to Afoa’s time at Raven­hill as he more than likely won’t make it back onto the pitch be­fore he ships off to Glouces­ter.

With the cur­rent top two of Le­in­ster and Mun­ster up next it’s as dif­fi­cult a run in to the play offs as you can get for Ul­ster.

It looks like any chance they had of a home semi fi­nal is out the win­dow and they’ll have to watch their backs as the Os­preys lurk only five points be­hind in fifth place, ready to pounce on any slip up.

Mun­ster have hope­fully put just enough day­light be­tween them­selves and that dreaded fifth spot fol­low­ing a bonus point win away to Con­nacht.

While the per­for­mance was far from per­fect it still ticked quite a few boxes for Rob Pen­ney ahead of the mon­u­men­tal task in Mar­seille this com­ing weekend.

There are no ap­par­ent in­juries, Conor Mur­ray man­aged a bit of game time at out half (to cover for the in­jured JJ Ha­nara­han should the need arise) and they se­cured sec­ond place in the league.

Not to take away from what was a spir­ited per­for­mance from Con­nacht, but next weekend will be a dif­fer­ent ket­tle of fish en­tirely.

Last Satur­day, Toulon man­aged their own bonus point win away to a Per­pig­nan team that, while strug­gling in the Top 14, rarely (if ever) get beaten in the Stade Aime Gi­ral.

The scary thing is that they did it while rest­ing the likes of Carl Hay­mans, Drew Mitchell and Mathieu Bastareaud such is the level of their depth.

To be fair Mun­ster only had around six starters in the Sports­grounds from the likely line up to take the field for the semi fi­nal next Sun­day but there’s a big dif­fer­ence be­tween Per­pig­nan and Con­nacht and the en­deav­our will have to be streets ahead of where it was on Satur­day.

They’ve made a bit of a habit of con­trast­ing per­for­mances this sea­son as we saw be­fore the Heineken Cup quar­ter fi­nal though, so this won’t overly con­cern them.

Two loses and a laboured win at home to Tre­viso was the build up to the game vs Toulouse and we all know how that went.

The fact that the match is in the Stade Velo­drome in Mar­seille is cer­tainly a plus in the Mun­ster col­umn as it shouldn’t be as sti­fling an at­mos­phere as in the Stade Felix Mayol (as Le­in­ster can at­test to).

How­ever, Toulon’s owner Mourad Boud­jel­lal has started the press shenani­gans al­ready by sug­gest­ing ref­eree Wayne Barnes (who takes charge for the semi­fi­nal) was bi­ased against his team when they played Le­in­ster.

He has a bit of a his­tory of this though so I’m sure an ex­pe­ri­enced ref such as Barnes will let it all sail over his head.

Pen­ney has sug­gested that his team will have to play ‘bet­ter than their best’ to get a re­sult on Sun­day and I’m in­clined to agree with him.

It may un­for­tu­nately be a bridge too far for this Mun­ster team but you can never rule out yet an­other mir­a­cle match for them in this com­pe­ti­tion.

Could there be a Dis­ney style end­ing for an Ir­ish prov­ince in this the last ever Heineken Cup….or will it be more Quentin Tarantino?

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