Nothing is guaranteed in this life, least of all the outcome of a matchup between two professional sports clubs. This truism is doubtless cold comfort to Harlequins fans after the mighty Quins 24-3 road stomping received from Northampton. The Quins are, however, still atop the table with an 11-2 record, while the win gives the Saints an 8-5 record, meaning they stay in third place. The Quins' nearest challenger, the Saracens, crept closer with a 26-19 home victory over Bath, giving the Sarries a 10-1-2 record and keeping them in second place, while the loss drops Bath to 10th place and a 5-8 record. Leicester likewise secured their hold on fourth place with a 29-11 home victory over London Wasps, giving the Tigers a 7-1-5 record, while the Wasps stay in 11th place with a 4-9 record.
The middle of the table, however, saw yet another reshuffle, as London Irish's 21-19 home victory over Sale moves the Exiles into fifth place with a 6-1-6 record, with the loss dropping the Sharks to 7th place and a record of 6-7 and 30 points. Exeter carved out a tough 16-10 road win against Newcastle, moving the Chiefs into 6th place with a record of 6-7 and 31 points, while the loss keeps the Falcons firmly in last place with a 2-1-10 record. Finally, a 21-15 home victory for Worcester over Gloucester allowed the Warriors to move into 9th place with a record of 5-1-7 and 25 points, while dropping Gloucester to 8th place with a record of 5-1-7 and 29 points.
By contrast, Leinster won a tough 23-19 road victory against Cardiff to stay in first place in the Pro12 with an 11-2 record, while the Blues drop to 7th place with a 6-6 record. The Ospreys lost a 21-20 nail-biter in Newport to the Dragons, but managed to hang on to second place with a 9-1-3 record, while Newport Gwent used the points to climb to 10th place with a 3-1-8 record despite the loss. Munster's 29-11 home victory over Benetton Treviso moved the Irish club into third place with an 8-5 record, while dropping the Italians into 8th place with a 6-7 record. Glasgow also had a tough week, losing 16-14 to the Scarlets in Llanelli, dropping the Warriors into fourth place with a 7-2-4 record while pushing the Scarlets into fifth place with a 7-1-5 record.
Ulster had a good week, pounding Edinburgh 42-20 in Murrayfield to move the Irish club into 6th place with a 7-6 record while dropping the Scottish club to a record of 4-1-8, keeping them in 9th place. Aironi found someone they could beat; granted, it was fellow cellar-dweller Connacht, but their 20-6 home victory brings the Italian club's record to 3-10 and 14 points, while dropping the Irish club's record to 3-10 and 17 points, meaning that if Aironi can somehow beat Munster next month and Connacht loses to Cardiff (okay, the latter is much more probable than the former, but still), they might be able to climb out of last place. Hope springs eternal, borne aloft sometimes on a heron's wings.
When it comes, to beatdowns, however, let us turn our attention Stade Ernest Wallon, where Toulouse absolutely destroyed Lyon 51-10, show just how far the distance is from the top of the table to the bottom. The victory gives Toulouse a 12-1-2 record and a continued hold on first place, while Lyon drops to last place with a 3-2-9 record. Clermont Auvergne continued to provide a healthy challenge to Toulouse, beating Toulon 25-19 at home to keep Clermont in second place with an 11-1-3 record, while Toulon drops to a tie for third place with Castres with a record of 8-2-5 and 40 points. For its part, Castres lost in Paris 38-21 to Stade Francais, giving the Parisians a record of 8-1-6 and bringing them into 5th place and that much closer to the top tier of clubs.
As for the rest, well.... Some are admittedly not that far behind. Racing Metro drew at home with Perpignan, bringing the suburban Paris club into 6th place with a 7-1-7 record and 36 points, while Perpignan stayed in 10th place with a 5-1-9 record. Agen's 15-6 home loss to Biarritz dropped them to 7th place with a record of 8-1-6 and 36 points, thanks in part to the vagaries of the French scoring system, while pushing Biarritz up to a tie for 12th place with a record of 4-2-9 and 23 points. Biarritz is tied with Bayonne, who lost at home 27-20 to Bordeaux-Begles, keeping Bordeaux in 9th place with a 7-7 record. Finally, Montpellier won 23-9 at Brive, keeping Montpellier in 8th place with a 7-1-7 record, while the loss keeps Brive in 11th place with a 3-1-11 record.
The premierships will skip the rest of January, so I'll be bringing you Heineken Cup updates, as well as new about the Six Nations.