Rugby union comment: The English and French domination of rugby union’s continental competitions continued on the final weekend of the pool stages of both the European Cup and the Challenge Cup.
Yet though much of the action seemed a tad predictable, there was also a considerable shock when four-times winners Toulouse, one of the true aristocrats of this tournament, were dumped out as the Leicester Tigers rode their luck to claim a 9-5 victory.
The French outfit have not been quite the side that they were in the past and their goal-kickers let them down badly.
Between outside-half Lionel Beauxis and Kiwi centre three-quarter Luke McAlister, Toulouse missed kicking opportunities worth 17 points in total.
Fortune seemed once more to favour Leicester, who only the previous week escaped with a 15-15 draw from the Liberty Stadium after Ospreys fly-half Dan Biggar missed four kickable, and potentially decisive, penalties.
That said, the Tigers’ luck looks almost certain to run out in the quarter-final stage as they travel to Toulon to face Jonny Wilkinson’s trusty left boot.
Sadly there are no representatives from Italy, Scotland or Wales in the latter stages of either cup competition.
Further analysis shows that both Glasgow and Cardiff Blues each won just one fixture in the pool stages, while Edinburgh, Treviso, Zebre and Llanelli Scarlets failed to win any of their pool encounters home or away.
Such failings will prove key talking points when the English and French unions reconvene to discuss the qualification process for European Cup competitions from 2014.
One of the main points of contention is the question of why three clubs from Wales, three from Ireland, two from Scotland and two from Italy are handed automatic European qualification from the
Celtic League when the other unions have to qualify from their position in the League.
In England, the top six in the English Premiership qualify for the senior tournament and in France, the top seven.
There is an argument for the Celtic League’s position as a development organisation but if it is indeed an inferior league in intensity to the English and French leagues, then how have the Irish provinces managed to win the European Cup five times in seven seasons?
It’s not all about having the ability to rest certain players before big European fixtures, which it is alleged that some of the Celtic League teams do.
Leinster won this competition in the last two seasons due to the quality and intensity of their rugby — and failed to proceed from the pool stages this time because Clermont Auvergne were in their group and beat them home and away.
Leinster still have another chance for glory after dropping into the the Challenge Cup, where they are drawn away to London Wasps.
The Irish will be particularly keen to progress in this competition as the final is held at their home ground in Dublin’s RDS Showground on May 17.
Home sides normally come through quarter-final stages at this level, although a fully fit Ulster squad with Tommy Bowe, Stephen Ferris, Jared Payne, Nick Williams and Johann Muller back in the fold could upset Saracens in the fourth quarter-final.
But first there is the little matter of the Six Nations championship, where Wales defend their 2012 Grand Slam status.
If you appreciated this article then please consider donating to the Morning Star's Fighting Fund to ensure we can keep developing your paper.