WEEK TWO of the Heineken Cup gave us a dizzying doozy of a round, with some teams turning week-old convention on its head, some teams playing well but still somehow throwing themselves out of contention and others somehow scraping to the tops of tables.
Here is what we learned this time round.
Toulon are not invincible
The bookies still value Toulon as favourites to win the whole thing, but the fact Jonny Wilkinson blanked a handful of reporters at the weekend after the match tells you that the talismanic fly-half and his well-remunerated chums from the south of France were most displeased with their loss to the Cardiff Blues.
They can turn it on at home and they now have pedigree, but while they should progress there will be many hoping that away from home or at neutral grounds the flash boys from Toulon could be gotten at.
Impressive away wins should scare us
Ulster defeating Leicester Tigers in Belfast was impressive, but to back that up with 25-8 win away to Montpellier should cause everyone else in the competition to leak a bit of sweat. It could be assumed that the province will win twice against Treviso and no-one will want to play Ulster in Europe off the back of four wins.
Meanwhile, a sleeping old giant looks to have finally climbed out of its funk as Toulouse beat Saracens by a single point in front of 61,000 fans at Wembley. It took a big crowd and a hefty, slapping challenge for them to look like they are up for a competition and they only just made it because of Owen Farrell’s wayward kicking, but they could be back in business and in scoring a timely, from-behind try with substitute (!) Louis Picamoles they have shown some old championship know-how.
Pool 2 is tighter than a Walrus’ waistcoat
With Exeter Chiefs annihilating Cardiff Blues in one half and Toulon cantering to 50-odd points in week one you would expect the pair to do something similar the next week, but Glasgow Warriors ground out a win against the Chiefs and the Blues left everyone surprised with a brave win over Toulon.
Chiefs and Toulon have six points each and Glasgow and Blues have five. Who knows which of the three – OK, we’ve already said Toulon should go through eventually – will go through, if they can. It will be interesting to see if anyone has enough points to qualify as the second place team, particularly if the sides revert back to scoring as freely as they did in round one.
Leinster may be at it again…
Against the Ospreys Sean O’Brien flexed his muscles and barreled headlong into the breakdown. Then, against Castres, they leant on Jimmy Gopperth and pointed to the sticks. They have no try bonuses, but the group is so tight underneath them that this means little. They know how to edge in front and stay there and if Northampton Saints cannot beat them in the next two matches there is every chance that Leinster will continue to grow into that pale blue beast everyone fears.
Rhys Priestland is a man in form
Scarlets have made everyone feel all warm inside with their galloping, long-range rugby, replete with handling flourishes and impossible side-steps. However, at the heart of all of it is Rhys Priestland.
He admits that last season he genuinely struggled with professional rugby, but he seems to have had a word with himself and in this competition in particular he has shone, helping set up flowing tries and kicking beautifully. He has nailed more kicks at goal than any other player with 13 and he is the competition’s top points scorer with 34. Impressive.