Alivereti Raka scored three times as Clermont Auvergne dominated the rescheduled Pool 2 encounter, thrashing defending champions Saracens 46-14 at Allianz Park.
In Auvergne’s rather brusque statement preceding this encounter, Les Jaunards said that they would use the past 24 hours as motivation and the visitors certainly delivered on that front.
Raka was the one to do the damage, touching down for a hat-trick inside 24 minutes which gave them a 21-0 buffer, before the Englishmen hit back when referee Nigel Owens awarded a penalty try.
Morgan Parra’s penalty kept the home team at arm’s length, however, and Flip van der Merwe’s try of the season contender in the second half effectively secured the victory.
Sarries were simply outplayed throughout and Wesley Fofana and Isaia Toeava completed a remarkable victory to condemn the Premiership team to a sixth consecutive defeat.
The hosts did get a consolation score through George Kruis but it has been an embarrassing couple of days for the Londoners.
On the other hand, Franck Azema’s men were outstanding and set the standards early on, going 7-0 ahead via Raka, who proved impossible to stop from close range after evading a poor tackle from Jamie George.
It was an opening try that rather summed up the contest. Auvergne were evidently fired up but the two-time European champions were absolutely atrocious in defence, missing a number of one-on-ones.
Sarries are usually so mentally tough that they can recover from poor starts but it began to affect even their most calm and collected individuals.
When Owen Farrell missed touch from a penalty, it allowed the French outfit to counter-attack and once again Raka was the one to benefit, barrelling his way through a porous rearguard.
Mark McCall’s team were shell-shocked and they conceded for a third time as George, who had a match to forget, missed another crucial tackle to let Clermont’s Fijian-born wing in for his hat-trick.
To their credit, they managed to respond when Fritz Lee illegally collapsed a maul, resulting in a penalty try and yellow card, but the comeback never materialised.
Auvergne rode out that sin-bin period and, at the start of the second half, they killed off the game with a truly brilliant score instigated by that man Raka. He beat several would-be tacklers, running fully 60 metres before off-loading to Van der Merwe, who merely had to cross the whitewash unopposed.
Saracens had gone mentally and the visitors could enjoy themselves. Although they only added two further tries, with Fofana and Toeava going over, it was enough to cause the hosts more pain.
Kruis touched down for Sarries late on but it was an awful evening for the English club.
For Saracens: Tries: Penalty try, Kruis Con: Farrell
For Clermont: Tries: Raka 3, Van der Merwe, Fofana, Toeava Cons: Parra 5 Pens: Parra 2 Yellow Card: Lee
La Rochelle underlined their European Champions Cup title credentials by thrashing last season’s quarter-finalists Wasps 49-29 at the Stade Marcel-Deflandre.
The French outfit were utterly relentless in the first half, scoring three converted tries via Pierre Aguillon, Pierre Bourgarit and Levani Botia. Brock James also kicked three penalties as Patrice Collazo’s men took a comfortable advantage into the interval.
Dai Young’s side had little answer to the power, tempo and skill level of the hosts, even if they initially responded to their opponents’ brilliance through Rob Miller and Thomas Young efforts.
If their director of rugby had expected a response from his charges in the second period, it failed to materialise as Vincent Rattez scored the home team’s fourth try.
Rattez added his second later on but Wasps managed to rescue a bonus-point with Elliot Daly, Joe Simpson and Will Stuart going over.
However, the dominant outfit in Pool 1 deservedly had the final word when Botia scampered clear.
La Rochelle are the current leaders of the Top 14 and Collazo’s team showed why on Sunday afternoon, displaying a range of skills and ambition that no team in Europe can match.
They were superb from the kick-off, almost going the length of the field, before outstanding youngster Thomas Jolmes was tackled into touch.
It was a sign of things to come but their bright start was only rewarded with a James’ penalty after Young had been sin-binned for a tip tackle. Instead, the visitors hit back with a well-worked move which resulted in Miller crossing the whitewash for a 5-3 advantage.
That score failed to prevent the La Rochelle juggernaut, however, as Danny Cipriani’s attempted clearance kick was pounced on by Aguillon, who touched down.
Another Wasps’ mistake then resulted in the hosts’ second try when a botched lineout allowed Bourgarit to go clear. Although the hooker was taken down just short of the line, the 20-year-old picked himself up and scored from close range.
Young’s excellent finish gave the English outfit hope but they were simply outclassed throughout and, after Botia had re-established their 12-point buffer, successive James three-pointers meant that the away side had it all to do in the second half.
Any hopes of a comeback were duly extinguished almost immediately through some intelligent play by scrum-half Alexi Bales. He allowed Daly to commit before feeding Victor Vito, who off-loaded to Rattez to score.
The England back did get some revenge by crossing the whitewash, but the wing’s opposite number went over for La Rochelle’s fifth.
To their credit, the visitors continued to battle and secured a try bonus-point when Simpson and Stuart touched down, but Botia scored late on to rubberstamp the French team’s victory.
For La Rochelle: Tries: Aguillon, Bourgarit, Botia 2, Rattez 2 Cons: James 3, Lamb 2 Pens: James 3
For Wasps: Tries: Miller, Young, Daly, Simpson, Stuart Cons: Gopperth 2 Yellow Cards: Young, de Jongh
Ulster climbed to second place in their pool after they beat Harlequins 17-5 in a Champions Cup game played out in the snow on Sunday.
Jacob Stockdale’s try and John Cooney’s boot saw Ulster to the four points as they overtake Wasps, who lost at La Rochelle at the same time.
The weather didn’t help the game in terms of tries at Twickenham Stoop with only one crossing, coming in the 26th minute from wing Stockdale.
Cooney’s sixth minute penalty after Harlequins were caught offside moved Ulster into a 3-0 lead but he was off-target in the 20th minute, as both sides struggled with the slippery ball. In between those attempts, Harlequins lost their flanker, Chris Robshaw, following a head collision.
Ulster’s try came from a superb break from scrum-half Cooney before he offloaded to Stockdale who did the rest, making it an 8-0 advantage.
And that’s how things were going into the break as Quins were struggling to replicate their form of last weekend that saw them beat Saracens.
Harlequins weren’t helped by Danny Care failing his own HIA but did get on the board in the 51st minute when prop Kyle Sinckler went over from two metres out. That score was unconverted so Ulster’s lead was three points at 8-5 before Cooney struck on the hour for 11-5.
Cooney was on the board again in the 69th minute to extend his side’s lead to nine, crucially over the one-score margin as time ticked on.
And he secured the win with one minute left when a high tackle on Ross Kane allowed the scrum-half to kick his fourth penalty of the contest.
Munster made a statement of intent when they claimed a 33-10 bonus-point win over Leicester in their Pool Four clash at Thomond Park on Saturday.
The Irish province were full value for their win as they held the upper-hand for large periods. They eventually outscored the Tigers four tries to one and the result moves them to the top of their pool.
Munster were in control of proceedings from the outset and laid the groundwork for this win in the first half. They had the bulk of the possession and territory and led 23-3 at the interval.
They took the lead as early as the eighth minute courtesy of an Ian Keatley penalty but the game came alive midway through the half when Rhys Marshall showed great ball control to hold onto a pass from Conor Murray before powering his way over the try-line.
Keatley added the extras and he slotted another three-pointer off the kicking tee midway through the half which gave his side a 13-0 lead. And on the hour-mark, Keatley delivered a delightful chip kick – behind Leicester’s defence – which Simon Zebo gathered before diving over for a deserved try.
Once again, Keatley added the extras before George Ford opened Leicester’s account with a penalty five minutes before half-time. But it was Munster who would finish the half stronger as another Keatley penalty, in the 38th minute – after Tom Youngs was blown up for a neck roll on Chris Cloete – gave the hosts a comortable 23-3 lead at the interval.
The second half started cautiously as both sides tried to gain the ascendancy but Munster were back on top in the 55th minute when Marshall did well to win a turnover and after several waves of attack, the ball was shifted out wide where Darren Sweetnam drew in the last defender before offloading to Peter O’Mahony, who crossed in the right-hand corner.
Ten minutes later, Leicester got over for their only try when Harry Thacker barged over from close quarters off the back of a lineout drive deep inside Munster’s 22.
Three minutes later, the home side did struck back in similar fashion when Cloete emerged with the ball from under a mass of bodies after driving maul close to the Tigers’ try-line.
The final 10 minutes was a frantic affair as Leicester launched several attacks in a bid to haul in their hosts but they were unsuccesful as they were kept in check by a solid defensive effort from the Irish province.
Toulon moved three points clear at the top of Pool Five after they claimed a hard-fought 24-20 victory against Bath at Stade Mayol on Saturday.
As the scoreline suggests, this result could have gone either way although Toulon deserve credit for the way they fought back in the second half after Bath had the better of the early exchanges.
Toulon eventually outscored the Premiership side by three tries to two with a 76th minute five-pointer from Anthony Belleau proving to be the match-winning score in the end.
The visitors were fastest out of the blocks and after Rhys Priestland put them in front courtesy of a penalty in the 13th minute, they silenced the Stade Mayol faithful thanks to a fine try from Anthony Watson.
Aled Brew deserves plenty of credit as he did well with a barnstorming run down the left-hand touchline before shrugging off a tackle from Josua Tuisova. Brew was hauled in by Chris Ashton deep inside Toulon’s 22 but managed to free his arms and offloaded to Watson, who had an easy run-in for the opening try.
Priestland added the extras which meant Bath led 10-0 but Toulon struck back in the 34th minute when Ma’a Nonu rounded off a superb team effort which was initiated by Semi Radradra. The ball went through several pairs of hands before Nonu found himself in the clear and he cantered in for a deserved try which Francois Trinh-Duc converted.
On the stroke of half-time, Toulon were blown up for illegal scrummaging and Priestland slotted the resulting penalty which meant the visitors held a 13-7 lead as the teams changed sides at the interval.
10 minutes into the second half, Bath were reduced to 14 men when Chris Cook was sent to the sin bin for a cynical defensive indiscretion close to his try-line.
Shortly afterwards, Alby Mathewson gathered from the back of a scrum on Bath’s five-metre line before barging over for his side’s second try.
Trinh-Duc converted which gave Toulon the lead for the first time but on the hour-mark Bath regained the lead in bizarre fashion. This, after Tuisova took a quick throw-in at a lineout close to his try-line. Ashton gathered behind his posts and attempted a clearance kick which sliced off his boot and didn’t come close to going into touch. This meant that Jonathan Joseph gathered close to the touchline before crossing the whitewash for an easy try.
Priestland converted and with the score at 20-14 in their favour, Bath were on course for a deserved triumph. But Toulon fought back via a penalty from Trinh-Duc in the 66th minute which set up a thrilling finish.
And 10 minutes later, replacement fly-half Belleau caught Bath’s defence by surprise when he stabbed a grubber kick through deep inside his opponents’ 22 before regathering and dotting down.
That meant Toulon led 22-20 but Belleau sealed the win when he slotted the resulting conversion, with Toulon repelling Bath late on.
Kelian Galletier touched down twice as Montpellier kept their European Champions Cup hopes alive following an impressive 29-22 victory over the Glasgow Warriors at Scotstoun.
The Warriors have a perfect record in the Guinness PRO14 but they have been far less assured in Europe’s top-tier competition and this defeat continued their disappointing run.
Vern Cotter’s team came to move the ball and they delivered, scoring four tries in all via Galletier, Jacques du Plessis and a penalty try.
Although Leonardo Sarto (twice) and George Turner crossed the whitewash for Glasgow, the French outfit ultimately had too much quality for the hosts.
After a disappointing start to the game, where there were far more spills than thrills, the encounter burst into life. Finn Russell opened the scoring from the tee before Aaron Cruden showed his class, scything through a hole and throwing a perfectly weighted pass to Galletier.
The flanker still had plenty of work to do but he finished with aplomb, holding off two attempted tackles and touching down out wide.
Sarto responded for the Scottish team, taking a nice line off the shoulder of scrum-half Ali Price, before Turner increased their buffer by benefiting from Russell’s good work to score.
Dave Rennie’s side were in control but then came the turning point in the contest. With the hosts under no pressure, Turner needlessly took Louis Picamoles off the ball and he was yellow carded as a result.
With their opponents down to 14 men, the visitors profited. Firstly, Galletier spotted a gap in the Warriors’ defence to reduce the arrears before their maul surged towards the line. Jonny Gray, who felt that he had little option, took down the drive and referee Matthew Carley duly sin-binned the lock and awarded a penalty try.
Montpellier took that momentum into the second period and within seven minutes of the restart they had gained the bonus-point.
Cotter’s men are a difficult team to stop when they are on the front foot and du Plessis rewarded their physicality by going over from close range.
It was now a long way back for the Warriors, particularly with the Top 14 club hitting their stride, but they displayed commendable resilience to fight back.
They constructed a wonderful try, which ended in Sarto touching down after Russell, Ruaridh Jackson and Huw Jones had combined.
However, Montpellier always seemed to have the edge after the opening quarter and Frans Steyn’s penalty meant that they secured the win and moved level on points with Exeter Chiefs in Pool 3.
For Glasgow Warriors: Tries: Sarto 2, Turner Cons: Russell 2 Pen: Russell Yellow Cards: Turner, Gray
For Montpellier: Tries: Galletier 2, penalty try, J. du Plessis Cons: Steyn 2 Pen: Steyn
Saracens continued with their fine start to the tournament when they claimed a 36-34 bonus-point win over the Ospreys at Allianz Park on Saturday.
Despite outscoring their visitors five tries to four, the champions had to dig deep for this result and the sides were level at 17-17 at half-time after the Ospreys dominated for most of the first half.
Ospreys were dealt a double blow shortly before kick off when their Wales international flankers Dan Lydiate and Justin Tipuric were both forced to withdraw with back injuries.
This led to Guy Mercer replacing Lydiate and Sam Cross took Lydiate’s place in the Welsh region’s run-on side while prop Gareth Thomas was drafted onto the replacements bench as back row cover.
Saracens were fastest out of the blocks and opened the scoring as early as the eighth minute when long passes from Owen Farrell and Alex Goode put Chris Wyles in the clear and the USA international cantered over for an easy try.
The Ospreys struck back in style shortly afterwards when, after a strong run, Cory Allen was brought to ground inside Sarries’ 22 but he did well to free his arms and offload to Dan Evans, who went over for a well-taken try.
And midway through the half, Nicky Smith did well with a strong run before the ball came out to Evans, who cut through the home side’s defence with a telling break, before crossing for his second five-pointer.
Dan Biggar added the extras which meant the visitors led 14-7 and he extended his side’s lead courtesy of a penalty on the hour-mark.
Farrell cancelled that effort out with a penalty of his own in the 34th minute before Schalk Brits went over for Sarries’ second try and the conversion from Farrell meant the teams were all square as they changed sides at the interval.
A 45th minute penalty from Biggar, restored the Welsh region’s lead before Sarries went in front, ten minutes later, courtesy of a penalty try after Evans stopped a certain try when he knocked the ball from Nick Tompkins’ hands close to his try-line.
Evans was yellow carded for his indiscretion and with the score 24-20 in their favour, Sarries had their tails up. And in the 61st minute, they secured their bonus point when Liam Williams went over for their fourth try although Farrell missed with the conversion attempt.
The visitors continued to attack and they were rewarded in the 69th minute when Owen Watkin beat a couple of defenders before dotting down under the posts and Biggar’s conversion meant Sarries held a slender two-point lead with 10 minutes left to play.
The home side responded when Tompkins went over for their fifth try, three minutes later, but the Ospreys did not surrender and shortly before the end, Cross rounded off a flowing move in the right-hand corner which meant the visitors left Allianz Park with two deserved bonus points.
Leinster secured a comfortable 34-18 victory over Glasgow Warriors in European Champions Cup action at Scotstoun Stadium on Saturday.
Tries from Johnny Sexton, Noel Reid and a Cian Healy brace proved too much for Glasgow who scored through Stuart Hogg and Tommy Seymour.
Sexton gave Leinster a 3-0 lead with a penalty after three minutes but Glasgow fly-half Finn Russell responded on the 15 minute mark.
Glasgow scored the first try of the game on 17 minutes largely thanks to their British and Irish Lions contingent. Russell got the wrap around from Peter Horne and Russell’s clever grubber kick through was booted further ahead by Seymour for Hogg to dot down just within the dead ball line. Russell added the extras for a 10-3 lead,
Soon after, Leinster had the penalty and opted for touch deep in Glasgow territory. The driving maul was halted just short and from the recycled ball Healy powered over from close range. Sexton’s conversion levelled the score at 10-10 after 25 minutes.
Leinster won a penalty after the hooter as reward for their pressure and opted for touch instead of the three points. That gamble paid off when Healy powered over at the back of the driving maul for his brace. Sexton’s conversion gave Leinster a 17-10 lead as they headed into the interval.
Shortly after the interval, Sexton dotted down after his classy give-and-go with Scott Fardy, converting his own try and taking the visitors out to a 24-10 lead.
Glasgow responded as Seymour showed good pace to finish in the corner as the ball was spun wide by the Warriors. Russell missed the conversion but added a penalty 15 minutes later to bring the hosts within a converted try, 24-18 behind and 15 minutes to go.
Sexton stretched Leinster’s advantage back to 27-18 and was taken off immediately afterwards, a sign head coach Leo Cullen felt it might have been job done by his star playmaker.
Reid put the icing on the cake after he cut back inside through a big hole in the Glasgow midfield to race in under the posts to secure the bonus point for Leinster as they ran out 34-18 winners.
For Glasgow: Tries: Hogg, Seymour Con: Russell Pens: Russell 2
Bath claimed a precious 18-13 win over Scarlets in European Rugby Champions Cup action at Parc y Scarlets on Friday evening.
The wet and windy conditions made handling difficult and thus both sides opted for a tactical kicking game aiming to feed off the mistakes of the other.
Bath fly-half Rhys Priestland and Scarlets full-back Leigh Halfpenny exchanged penalties in the opening 10 minutes of the game.
Sam Underhill then did good work at the breakdown to get his body over the ball and clamp down to earn his side a penalty which Priestland gratefully accepted to restore Bath’s lead to 6-3 with 13 minutes gone.
A period of tactical kicking ensued with both sides trying to gain the ascendancy in the territorial stakes or force handling errors for penalties.
But much to the delight of the rapturous home crowd Scarlets claimed the lead with a well taken counter-attacking try. Great handling and interplay between backs and forwards as the hosts spread it out to the left ensured Steff Evans made the break before shifting it to Gareth Davies who managed to offload from the ground returning it to Evans who dotted down between the posts as Halfpenny converted for a 10-6 22nd minute lead.
But Bath regained the lead with two penalty goals from Priestland; one for not releasing and the other for a high shot as the sides went into the interval with Bath leading Scarlets 12-10.
Priestland extended the lead in the 55th minute to 15-10 and again to 18-10 after 68 minutes with penalty goals.
Halfpenny responded with a penalty goal of his own in the 73rd minute to bring Scarlets back within five points with seven minutes to go.
But Bath held on to their five-point lead for a precious 18-13 victory.
For Scarlets: Try: Evans Con: Halfpenny Pens: Halfpenny 2
Saracens made a statement of intent as they beat Northampton Saints 57-13 in their Champions Cup opener in Northampton on Sunday.
The champions scored eight tries in a convincing victory away from home that sends a strong message to the rest of the teams in their pool and the entire competition.
Saints opened the scoring with a Stephen Myler penalty before Sarries scored the opening try when Liam Willaims crossed over in the left corner.
Owen Farrell added a penalty before Brad Barritt gathered from the back of a drivng maul to score Sarries’ second try.
Williams scored another, this time in the right-hand corner after gathering a loose ball.
Myler added another penalty to reduce the deficit but Northampton suffered a setback when David Ribbans was sent off before Sarries scored again just before half-time through another powerful driving maul which Calum Clark finished, making the half-time score 29-6 to the away side.
Vincent Koch scored for Saracens very early in the second half following an excellent dummy and break from Farrell. Koch’s fellow prop Mako Vunipola also went in, crashing through three defenders on his way to the whitewash in the 55th minute.
Alex Lozowski came off the bench and continued his fine form by scoring after taking an inside ball from Williams off the back of a great backline set move.
Mike Haywood scored a consolation try for the home side but Ben Spencer showed great instinct to dive on a loose ball at the back of a Saintsruck on their try-line to secure an emphatic victory for Saracens.
Castres and Munster could not be separated as they played out a hard-fought 17-17 draw in their Champions Cup clash in Castres on Sunday.
Last minute drama was provided by a questionable TMO call and a missed Benjamin Urdapilleta drop-goal that could’ve changed the final result.
After five minutes without any points scored, Munster were dealt a blow when Conor Murray was sent to the sin bin for tackling a player without the ball in a scoring position.
The home side made full use of their numerical advantage and were rewarded in the 12th minute when Robert Ebersohn intercepted a wayward pass from Chris Farrell and sprinted 60 meters to score under the poles.
When Murray returned, Simon Zebo managed to get one back for Munster, crashing over from a few meters out to level the score on the half-hour mark.
Castres did not have to wait long to regain the lead though – Julien Dumora hit a wondeful angle before scoring their second try in the 32nd minute.
Five minutes later, Ebersohn went from hero to villian for the hosts when he was yellow carded for cynical play at the breakdown. Tyler Bleyendaal converted the resulting penalty which meant Castres held a slender 14-10 at half-time.
Munster scored early in the second-half when Murray tapped and passed to Dave Kilcoyne who crashed through a few surprised Castres defenders for a deserved try.
Urdapilleta landed a penalty in the 51st minute to level the score at 17-17.
The rest of the match was a slugfest but neither side could add to their points tally although Castres will feel they were denied a chance to secure victory in the game’s dying moments. After the final hooter sounded, a questionable call was made when Robin Copeland knocked the ball out of a Castres player’s hands at a ruck. That was ruled as a knock-on and the seemed to stun most observers.
Castres had another chance to secure vitory but Urdapilleta pushed his drop-goal attempt wide of the posts and the two sides had to settle for the draw.
For Castres: Tries:Ebersohn, Dumora Cons:Urdapilleta 2 Pens:Urdapilleta Yellow card:Ebersohn
For Munster: Tries:Zebo, Kilcoyne Cons:Bleyendaal 2 Pens:Bleyendaal Yellow card:Murray
Toulon was able to hold off a brave Scarlets side in a second half comeback to secure a first round win at home on Sunday when they beat them 21-20
The home side made a bright start and dominated the early exchanges but, to their credit, the Welsh region came back strongly and the result was in the balance until the end.
Both sides eventually scored two tries apiece and although the Scarlets were the dominant side in the second half, they had to settle for a losing bonus-point.
Toulon made a terrific start and opened the scoring as early as the sixth minute when Eric Escane intercepted a pass from Aled Davies just inside Scarlets’ half and raced away before crossing for a deserved try.
Anthony Belleau slotted the conversion and extended les Toulonnais’ lead a minute later when he landed a penalty after several Scarlets players went off their feet at a ruck.
The visitors had a chance to reduce the deficit in the 11th minute when Swan Rebbadj played the ball from an offside position but Leigh Halfpenny’s shot at goal was off target.
That miss proved costly as Toulon were soon on the front-foot again and were rewarded in the 13th minute when Guilhem Guirado scored their second try after gathering a pass from Josua Tuisova, who set up the try with a bullocking run – in which he flattened Halfpenny – in the build-up.
Ten minutes later, the Scarlets were penalised again and Belleau added his second penlty which gave his side a comfortable 18-0 lead. Halfpenny eventually opened Scarlets’ account courtesy of a 33rd minute penalty after Ma’a Nonu infringed at a breakdown.
Three minutes later, the complexion of the game changed when Hugo Bonneval was sent to the sin bin for taking Aled Davies out illegaly at a ruck deep inside Toulon’s half.
The visitors did not benefit from their numerical advantage immediately, but they got the second half off to a superb start when Johnny McNicholl crossed for their first try.
This, after Rhys Patchell launched a teasing cross-field kick which Chris Ashton failed to deal with behind his try-line and the bounce of the ball favoured McNicholl who went over for the five-pointer.
That score swung the momentum in the Scarlets’ favour and they had the bulk of the possession and enjoyed territorial advantage for the next 10 minutes.
And in the 50th minute, Halfpenny gathered a well-timed pass from Scott Williams before gliding through a gap and diving over for his side’s second try.
Halfpenny dusted himself off and added the extras which meant the match was evenly poised with Touon leading 18-17. And on the hour-mark, the former Toulon stalwart slotted his second penalty – after another Rebbadj infringement – which gave his side the lead for the first time.
They surrendered their lead three minutes later, however, when Francois Trinh-Duc kicked a penalty after Tadhg Beirne was blown up for entering a ruck illegally.
That set up a tense finish but although Toulon spent most of the closing stages camped inside the visitors’ 22 – and after the Scarlets were reduced to 14 men shortly before the end when Beirne was sent to the sin bin for a cynical foul on defence – they could not extend their lead.
Exeter Chiefs began their European Champions Cup campaign with a 24-15 victory over Glasgow Warriors at Sandy Park on Saturday evening.
Tries from Harry Williams, Jonny Hill and Sam Simmonds proved too much for Glasgow who scored through Tommy Seymour and Lee Jones.
Finn Russell gave Glasgow the early 3-0 lead after Exeter were pinged at the scrum. Tommy Seymour then scored the game’s opening try in the ninth minute after he was found with a beautiful cross-kick out on the right wing. Russell added the extras to make it 10-0.
Exeter hit back in the 17th minute when Williams went over after a series of powerful carries from the Chiefs’ forwards. Steenson added the extras to cut the deficit to three.
In the 26th minute, Exeter had wrestled the lead back when Jonny Hill went over at the back of the five metre lineout driving maul. Steenson slotted the conversion to make it 14-10 to the hosts which is how stayed until the half-time break.
Steenson extended the lead to 17-10 with his penalty shortly after the interval.
Soon after, Glasgow stormed back in to the tie with an opportunistic try as Jones pounced on the grubber kick through from Russell that wasn’t well dealt with at all by Exeter scrum-half Nic White. Russell missed the conversion but the deficit was still only two at 17-15.
With three minutes to go, Exeter were finally rewarded for their persistent pressure in the face of staunch Glasgow defence which was finally penetrated when Sam Simmonds burst over after a number of phases and a series of powerful carries from the Chiefs’ forwards to give the hosts a 24-15 victory.
For Exeter: Tries: Williams, Hill, Simmonds Cons: Steenson 3 Pen: Steenson
For Glasgow: Tries: Seymour, Jones Con: Russell Pen: Russell
La Rochelle opened their European Champions Cup account with a 34-27 victory over Harlequins at Twickenham Stoop on Saturday evening.
Tries from Hikairo Forbes, Dany Priso and a Geoffrey Dumayrou brace proved too much for Harlequins who scored through Charlie Matthews, Joe Marchant and Will Collier.
Forbes opened the scoring with a well-taken try converted by Ryan Lamb as La Rochelle took an early 7-0 lead.
Harlequins fly-half Marcus Smith and Lamb then traded penalties before Matthews hit back with a converted try to level matters at 10-10 after 16 minutes.
La Rochelle’s second try came after slick interchange between centre Dumayrou and lock Jason Eaton with Dumayrou’s score converted by Lamb to make it 17-10 after 26 minutes.
Priso got La Rochelle’s third bashing over with his low body position after good build-up down the left flank from the visitors.
Harlequins hit back with a try in the 32nd minute when Marchant crosses the whitewash after a clean break from Mike Brown and good leg strength to go over from 15 metres out. Smith converted to cut the deficit to seven points at 24-17.
Five minutes after the restart, Dumayrou had his brace after Lamb sliced through the defence. Lamb converted the try he created to give the visitors a 31-17 lead.
Cynical play from Kevin Gourdon meant he saw yellow for a deliberate knockdown after 55 minutes as La Rochelle were temporarily reduced to fourteen men.
Harlequins capitalised on their numerical advantage after good interplay and hands between forwards and backs ensured Will Collier dotted down. Smith converted to make the deficit 10 at 34-24.
Smith added a penalty to late on to make it a nervous final few minutes for La Rochelle who managed to hold on for the 34-27 victory.
For Harlequins: Tries: Matthews, Marchant, Collier Cons: Smith 3 Pens: Smith
For La Rochelle: Tries: Forbes, Dumayrou 2, Priso Cons: Lamb 4 Pens: Lamb 2 Yellow Card: Gourdon
Racing 92 opened their European Champions Cup account with a 22-18 victory over Leicester at Stade Yves du Manoir on Saturday.
Tries from Leone Nakarawa, Dimitri Szarzewski and Teddy Thomas proved too much for Leicester who scored through tries from Luke Hamilton and Jonny May.
Leicester took an early lead when Hamilton bashed over showing good support play after Nick Malouf did exceptionally well to tidy up a loose pass and break.
The hosts responded in the 18th minute from a five metre attacking scrum. The ball was switched to the right and after a few phases Nakarawa showed excellent skills in getting the hands free to dot down between two defenders.
George Ford restored the visitors’ lead but Racing were keen to assert their dominance and grabbed their second try soon afterwards. Once again it was good work from Nakarawa who broke off the back of the maul and passed inside to Baptiste Chozenoux who offloaded timeously for the on-running Szarzewski who was not going to be stopped from that sort of distance.
Another Nakarawa offload allowed Wenceslas Lauret to break before being brought down. However, from the next phase the ball was switched out wide for Thomas who had plenty of space on the overlap to dive over and give the hosts a 19-10 lead.
Virimi Vakatawa was then yellow-carded and the visitors capitalised on their numerical advantage from the resulting penalty when Jonny May made it a four-point deficit after a brilliantly executed set piece from Leicester with Toomua delivering the pinpoint pass as Racing 92 took a 19-15 lead in to the interval.
The first points of the second-half came on the 60-minute mark when Maxime Machenaud slotted the penalty after Leicester were penalised at the breakdown to extend the home side’s lead to 22-15.
Ford responded for the visitors with five minutes to go slotting a penalty after Racing were penalised for a dangerous tackle just outside the 22 but Racing 92 held on for a 22-18 win.
For Racing 92: Tries: Nakarawa, Szarzewski, Thomas Cons: Iribaren 2 Pen: Machenaud Yellow Card: Vakatawa
For Leicester: Tries: Hamilton, May Con: Ford Pens: Ford 2
Leinster made a solid start to their Champions Cup campaign when they secured a 24-17 victory over Montpellier in Dublin on Saturday.
The three-time champions were in control of proceedings for large periods and held a slender 12-7 lead at half-time. The Irish province eventually outscored their visitors four tries to two and although Montpellier were competitive throughout, they had to settle with a losing bonus-point.
The opening quarter was a cagey affair although Montpellier had a chance to open the scoring in the 14th minute when Tadhg Furlong was penalised for illegal scrummaging but Ruan Pienaar’s shot at goal was off target.
Leinster opened the scoring three minutes later courtesy of a well-worked try from Joey Carbery. Leinster’s forwards initially set up a couple of phases inside Montpellier’s 22 before striking out wide with their backs. Carbery joined the line at pace and gathered a long pass from Ross Byrne before gliding through a gap in Leinster’s defence to cross over in the right-hand corner.
The home side continued to attack and were rewarded in the 27th minute when Josh van der Flier showed great determination to burst through a tackle before dotting down on the whitewash.
The next 10 minutes was evenly contested but Montpellier opened their account in the 38th minute when Nemani Nadolo pounced on a loose ball deep inside Leinster’s half before crossing for his side’s opening try which Ruan Pienaar converted.
Leinster made a terrific start to the second half and extended their lead two minutes after the restart when Robbie Henshaw crossed the whitewash after Jesse Mogg failed to deal with a high ball deep inside his 22.
Both sides continued to attack during the next 20 minutes and it was Montpellier who were rewarded when Nadolo shrugged off a couple of defenders before powering over the whitewash for his second try.
Leinster did not panic though and secured their try-scoring bonus point in the 66th minute when Barry Daly went over in the left-hand corner after fine interplay between Henshaw and Carbery in the build-up.
Eight minutes before the end, Pienaar made sure of his side’s bonus point when he added a penalty after Leinster’s forwards went off their feet at a ruck.
There were some nervous moments for the hosts as they finished the match with 14 men after Adam Byrne was yellow carded for a deliberate knock-on in the 74th minute, but they did enough to hold on for a deserved win.
Tries: Carbery, Van dr Flier, Henshaw, Daly Cons: Nacewa, R Byrne Yellow Card: A Byrne
Tries: Nadolo 2 Cons: Pienaar 2 Pen: Pienaar
Ulster made a fine start to their Champions Cup campaign when they claimed a hard-fought 19-9 triumph over Wasps in Belfast on Friday.
The home side were made to work very hard to secure this result but they got the rub of the green in the end and eventually outscored their visitors two tries to none.
Wasps, will be kicking themselves though as they held a six-point lead early in the second half but things went pear-shaped after that and this defeat means they are now on a five-match losing streak in all competitions.
The visitors held a slight edge during the opening exchanges and after Ulster’s pack infringed at a scrum, the Premiership side took the lead in the fourth minute courtesy of a long range penalty from Elliot Daly.
The next 10 minutes was an arm wrestle as both sides tried to gain the ascendancy but Ulster eventually drew level in the 14th minute when John Cooney slotted a penalty after Wasps were blown up for offside play on defence.
The rest of the half saw both sides giving the ball plenty of air but a plethora of unforced errors meant that neither side crossed the whitewash during this period.
On the stroke of half-time, Wasps added their second penalty – Jimmy Gopperth slotting the three-pointer from the kicking tee after Kyle McCall was penalised for illegal scrummaging.
That meant the visitors led 6-3 at the interval but, as the scoreline suggests, the match was still evenly poised with 40 minutes left to play.
Wasps were fastest out of the blocks after the restart and extended their lead in the 47th minute when Gopperth added his second penalty after Stuart McCloskey infringed at the breakdown.
That was the sign for Ulster to step up a few gears on attack and after an extended period camped inside Wasps’ 22, they thought they had scored the game’s opening try in the 53rd when Christian Lealiifano went over the try-line. His effort was disallowed, however, as television replays revealed that he had planted the ball inches short of the try-line before knocking on.
The disappointment in Ulster’s ranks was tangible but two minutes later they had plenty to smile about after Jacob Stockdale scored the game’s opening try. This, after Charles Piutau did well to draw in a couple of defenders before offloading to Stockdale, who dotted down in the left-hand corner.
Cooney failed to convert but two minutes later, the hosts took the lead in superb fashion when Piutau and Stockdale combined brilliantly before Stockdale threw an inside pass to Stuart McCloskey, who powered his way over the try-line with two defenders on his back.
Despite holding a narrow 13-9 lead, Ulster continued to attack and although they did not score more tries, they finished the match stronger. In the 69th minute, Lealiifano extended their lead courtesy of a penalty after Ashley Johnson strayed offside on defence.
Wasps finished the game with 14 men after Josh Bassett was yellow carded for a dangerous tackle on Louis Ludik in the 75th minute and Lealiifano slotted the resulting penalty which sealed Ulster’s win and also denied Wasps a losing bonus point.
Tries: Stockdale, McCloskey Pens: Cooney, Lealiifano 2
Pens: Daly, Gopperth 2 Yellow Card: Bassett
It’s finally upon us! 153 days after Saracens lifted their second consecutive European Rugby Champions Cup trophy in May, Europe’s elite are ready to begin their pursuit of the continent’s top two prizes for 2017/18.
It all gets underway with the Challenge Cup clash between Pau and Gloucester Rugby on Thursday night at the Stade du Hameau, which is live on beIN Sports and Sky Sports.
Then, 24 hours later, attention switches to a mouth-watering Champions Cup opener at Belfast’s Kingspan Stadium between Ulster Rugby and Wasps, which is live on BT Sport and beIN Sports.
The first-round action follows thick and fast until it closes on Sunday evening with the Northampton Saints-Saracens and Ospreys-ASM Clermont Auvergne ties in the Champions Cup.
Here we pick out some highlights ahead of a huge opening weekend.
Saracens will seek to extend their record run of consecutive European victories to 19 as they travel up the M1 to Northampton in Pool 2 on Sunday boosted by their 55-24 win over Saints on the opening day of the Aviva Premiership season.
ASM Clermont Auvergne, finalists three times in the past five years, also begin their bid to banish their ‘bridesmaid’ tag at Ospreys in Pool 2.
Toulon – winners in 2013, 2014 and 2015 – begin their campaign by hosting Guinness PRO14 champions Scarlets in Pool 5 in one of the weekend’s tastiest encounters.
Three-times winners and last year’s semi-finalists Leinster Rugby on Saturday host an all-star Montpellier line-up boasting a world-class trio of new signings in Louis Picamoles, Ruan Pienaar and Aaron Cruden.
Lyon have won six of their opening seven games to lead the TOP 14 table. Their bid to make it to the knockout rounds for the first time begins on Friday night at Cardiff Blues in Pool 2, although they will be without star No. 8 Carl Fearns who picked up a season-ending knee injury last week.
Challenge Cup holders Stade Français Paris, having started their season slowly, picked up two wins in two weeks, but will need to have their wits about them as they visit Russian side Krasny Yar in Pool 4 on Saturday.
Newcastle have enjoyed a strong start domestically and will hope to transfer that into their opening Pool 1 clash at home to Dragons, while Italian side Zebre visit Agen hoping to maintain their promising early-season momentum.
This weekend sees the European Championship and Challenge cup’s kicking off with defending champions Saracens starting their defence against the Saints on Sunday.
It will be a mouthwatering weekend of rugby as the top teams in Europe again start their quest for European glory.
We see last years PRO12 winners traveling to take on French powerhouse Toulon which will see Halfpenny return to the club that shown him the door earlier this year.
Premiership champions, Exeter Chiefs will host Glasgow Warriors on Saturday with last season’s tournament runners-up and Top 14 winners, Clermont, continue their search for ultimate European glory against the Ospreys on Sunday.
Ulster take on Wasp in the opening round and will want to improve from last years results as well as Harlequins who take on La Rochelle
The European season kicks off with the clash of last season’s defeated finalists, Gloucester, and Pau at Stade du Hameau on Thursday.
Saracens made it back-to-back Champions Cup triumphs as they deservedly defeated Clermont 28-17 at Murrayfield on Saturday.
Clermont were making noises before this encounter that this was a much-changed team, one that had overcome the mental lapses that previously encompassed their displays in both domestic and European finals. However, it was not to be for les Jaunards as their opponents displayed greater fitness in the second period.
Even the opening quarter hinted that work still has to be done, with Clermont initially unable to deal with a powerful Sarries side.
Tries for Chris Ashton – his 37th in Europe’s top-tier competition, breaking Vincent Clerc’s record – and George Kruis moved the Premiership club into a dominant 12-0 advantage before the Frenchmen got themselves back into the contest via Remi Lamerat.
Owen Farrell added two penalties after the interval to keep Clermont at arm’s length but a moment of magic, which ended in Nick Abendanon touching down, set up a tense finale.
Sarries were not at their best but Auvergne appeared to tire going into the last 10 minutes and Alex Goode completed the win and sealed a second European trophy.
The last time Saracens and Clermont faced each other in a knockout match on British soil, the visitors were blown away by a superb performance from the Englishman.
Sarries’ start paved the way for their 46-6 victory in 2014 and they began this match with similar intent at Murrayfield. Les Jaunards were evidently tense and Marcelo Bosch benefited, scything through a hole in the French outfit’s midfield.
Ashton, as is typical with the arch try-scorer, was on hand to take the pass and charge towards the line, but Clermont were thankful for the intervention of Abendanon who scrambled well.
Mark McCall’s men continued to dominate the encounter, despite Scott Spedding and Peceli Yato briefly causing panic in a usually impregnable rearguard, and they were rewarded with an early try.
The defending champions initially looked to their forwards, driving into the heart of Clermont, before they were given a penalty advantage. They then moved it wide and an inch-perfect kick from Goode sent Ashton over for his record-breaking score.
French rugby is renowned for its physicality but they were losing every collision and a second touchdown was soon forthcoming.
Once again, the pack created the issues for Franck Azema’s side and with the holes gradually appearing, Richard Wigglesworth fed Goode. The full-back was brought down inches from the left-hand post but Kruis was on hand to barrel across the whitewash and extend Saracens’ buffer.
Clermont had barely fired a shot but they finally gave themselves an opportunity five metres from the opposition line. Although their first attack was held up, a stable scrum allowed them to go through the backs and, after good initial work from Aurelien Rougerie, Lamerat took the ball off his centre partner and burrowed over.
At 12-7 down, the Frenchmen were still in the contest at the interval and they opened the second period impressively, threatening via Spedding after David Strettle had sent him clear.
Clermont failed to add to that on the scoreboard, though, with Camille Lopez missing a drop-goal attempt and almost immediately Saracens made them pay for that profligacy when Farrell kicked a penalty.
At that point, Clermont, particularly with their renowned mental fragilities, could have folded, but they hit back with one of the tries of the season.
It started with Spedding counter-attacking from well inside his own 22 and taking play up to the 10-metre line. Excellent hands gave the outstanding Yato space on the left and a superb offload by the Fijian allowed Abendanon an easy run across the whitewash.
Farrell and Morgan Parra then traded penalties as just one-point separated the sides going into the final quarter.
It was about which team would maintain their composure and the defending champions managed to keep Clermont pinned in their own half.
The pressure was unrelenting and eventually Goode scored to take them eight points clear before Farrell’s three-pointer ended the game as a contest, creating more heartbreak for Clermont.
For Clermont: Tries: Lamerat, Abendanon Cons: Parra 2 Pen: Parra
Saracens produced an outstanding display as they reached their second successive Champions Cup final following an excellent 26-10 triumph over Munster at the Aviva Stadium.
These two sides have arguably been the form teams of this year’s competition and the opening period was an unsurprisingly fierce contest.
It was dominated by the power of the forward packs and the box-kicking prowess of the two scrum-halves. The Irish province arguably shaded those contests but it was Sarries who went into the interval 6-3 ahead thanks to two Owen Farrell penalties.
Tyler Bleyendaal had given the Limerick-based outfit the lead but, having had the better of proceedings in the first half, Munster paid the price for failing to build on that early three-pointer.
Sarries managed the contest impressively in the second half and Mako Vunipola’s try set them on their way before Chris Wyles sealed their place in the showpiece event yet again.
Rassie Erasmus’ men began with the type of vim and vigour they have become renowned for this season, immediately putting the visitors under pressure at the set-piece.
Dave Kilcoyne and John Ryan went to work at the scrum, earning territory and then a penalty as the PRO12 team carved out a chance in the opposition 22.
CJ Stander went close but ferocious defence kept him out and they had to be content with a Bleyendaal three-pointer.
Saracens soon levelled via Farrell but it was Munster who were controlling the field position. Mark McCall’s side were struggling to maintain their discipline and, after they had been warned for two late tackles, Jackson Wray was sin-binned for a high shot on Duncan Williams.
The Irishmen duly continued with their territorial dominance on the encounter but Sarries’ famed rearguard remained firm and, once Wray returned, the defending champions started to assert their authority in the front-row.
Under pressure, Munster infringed and from in front of the posts Farrell was on target to give his team the advantage going into the break.
Play reversed at the start of the second half with Sarries gaining most of the front foot ball but, much like the Irish province in the first 40 minutes, they initially failed to take advantage when George Kruis knocked on with the line a metre away.
They were not to be denied, however, and from close range Vunipola burrowed his way over for a ten-point buffer with a quarter of the match remaining.
Farrell then added a penalty before Wyles latched onto the fly-half’s grubber through to touch down and end the game as a contest.
Saracens could now relax with their place in the final against either Clermont Auvergne or Leinster assured, but they still had time for another score when their number ten kicked a three-pointer.
Munster did have the final word through Stander, but that proved to be just a consolation score, as Saracens advance to the final at Murrayfield.
For Munster: Try: Stander Con: Keatley Pen: Bleyendaal
For Saracens: Tries: M Vunipola, Wyles Cons: Farrell 2 Pens: Farrell 4 Yellow Card: Wray
Dylan Hartley has been omitted from the British and Irish Lions squad for this summer’s tour to New Zealand.
Hartley is the third successive England captain to miss out, following in the footsteps of Chris Robshaw and Steve Borthwick, but the RBS 6 Nations champions still supply the largest contingent, numbering 16 players.
Head coach Warren Gatland has selected a 41-man squad for the 10 fixtures culminating in a three-Test series against New Zealand, including surprise call-ups for Ireland full-back Jared Payne, England wing Jack Nowell and Wales back row Ross Moriarty.
Hartley has lost out to England team-mate Jamie George, who has been selected despite acting as understudy at hooker for his international captain Rory Best and Ken Owens.
Despite reports of his inclusion, there was no place for two-time tourist Jamie Roberts but Jonathan Joseph has made the cut as one of the centres.
There are two Scots present in wing Tommy Seymour and full-back Stuart Hogg, with the remainder of the squad made up of 12 Welshmen and 11 players from Ireland.
Loosehead props: Joe Marler (England); Jack McGrath (Ireland); Mako Vunipola (England)
Hookers: Rory Best (Ireland); Jamie George (England); Ken Owens (Wales)
European rugby is heating up with the Championship Cup and Challenge Cup trophies being the focus now and we had some great matches over the weekend.
Clermont knock out Toulon
Clermont will face Leinster in the Champions Cup semi-finals after they saw off Toulon 29-9 in a gritty quarter-final win on Sunday.
Two tries were scored and they went to Noa Nakaitaci and Damien Penaud, with Morgan Parra and Camille Lopez’s boots also helping to set up a last-four clash with the Irish province in Lyon over the weekend of April 22-23.
Europe’s top-tier has generally produced an excellent spectacle at the last eight stage. The teams have opted for verve and ambition over conservatism, but these sides proceeded to serve up a dire contest.
Even accounting for the sodden conditions, in an opening period which ended locked at 6-6, try-scoring openings were in short supply. They had to be content with two penalties apiece for Parra and Leigh Halfpenny before the Clermont scrum-half edged the hosts ahead after the interval.
Halfpenny once again equalised from the tee before Auvergne finally broke through when Nakaitaci crossed the whitewash. After that try Toulon seemed to lose heart and Damian Penaud’s final minute effort confirmed their passage into the last four, where they will face Leinster.
It is an encounter which will not live long in the memory. With the inclement weather forcing errors, these Top 14 outfits looked to the power game early on and never altered those tactics.
Clermont were the first to display their physicality, forcing an infringement after four minutes from which Parra took them ahead.
They had a further opportunity to increase that buffer but, after the scrum-half skewed his effort wide, the visitors managed to gain some much needed territory.
Like Toulon, Auvergne also struggled to maintain their discipline without the ball and Halfpenny was more than happy to line up shots at goal. He missed his first attempt at the uprights but was on target soon after as the three-time champions levelled matters.
As the half wore on, continuity remained an issue with both teams lacking any sort of attacking structure. That was demonstrated by Laurent Delboulbès’ rather comical intervention after the prop got in the way of team-mate Éric Escande’s pass.
He knocked on and then compounded the mistake by conceding a penalty in attempting to win the ball back – an effort Parra easily converted.
That advantage was soon cancelled out, however, when Halfpenny kicked his second three-pointer as the teams went into the break level.
The second half produced much the same fare. Both outfits relied on their packs and the kicking game of their half-backs to find field position, but neither could really assert any control.
Parra and Halfpenny continued the pattern of the match by trading penalties in the third quarter before Clermont finally broke the deadlock.
For one of the few times in the match, they managed to keep possession, forcing Toulon to commit bodies to the ruck. That opened the space on the outside and Nakaitaci benefited, touching down for the decisive score.
Toulon were rudderless and, after Lopez’s drop-goal and Parra’s penalty ended the game as a contest, Penaud went over late on to seal Clermont semi-final berth.
For Clermont: Tries: Nakaitaci, Penaud Cons: Parra 2 Pens: Parra 4 Drop Goal: Lopez
For Toulon: Pens: Halfpenny 3
Saracens set up Munster showdown
Saracens put on a masterclass of knockout rugby against Glasgow on Sunday as they won 38-8 to book a Champions Cup semi-final spot.
The victory sets up a mouth-watering clash with Munster at the Aviva Stadium as tries from Chris Ashton (2), Marcelo Bosch and Brad Barritt scored their tries. Owen Farrell was man-of-the-match after an 18-point haul.
Mark McCall’s men were outstanding before the break, opening up an 11-point buffer through Ashton’s first try and three Farrell penalties.
Finn Russell did get the Scottish outfit on the scoreboard in the first-half and Lee Jones’ effort reduced the arrears seven minutes into the second period, but Sarries were ultimately too strong.
Bosch ended the game as a contest with a score 20 minutes from time before Barritt and Ashton rubber-stamped the win with a three-pointer, despite a late Ryan Wilson consolation.
Glasgow have come a long way under the stewardship of Gregor Townsend but they struggled to handle the sheer ferocity of the defending champions.
After making the quarter-finals for the first time, this proved to be a step too far, despite their battling qualities keeping the scoreline close in the early exchanges.
Sarries created opportunities at will in the opening 10 minutes and could have scored two tries when Ashton and Sean Maitland crossed the whitewash out wide.
However, following some excellent cover defence by the visitors, both were adjudged to be in touch and the Englishmen had to be content with a single Farrell penalty.
The Warriors’ rearguard excellence was then rewarded with a Russell three-pointer, but the pressure was unrelenting and successive efforts off the tee by the hosts’ stand-off took Saracens 9-3 in front.
Townsend’s men were failing to stop the Premiership outfit on the gainline and they were finally breached after another flowing move.
Forwards and backs combined before Barritt’s superb offload found Ashton and the Toulon-bound wing did the rest, weaving inside one attempted tackle and touching down.
Farrell’s missed conversion meant that the damage was not quite as severe as it could have been at the interval, but their head coach required a response in the second period.
It was one he duly received. Russell almost scampered away after a rare Sarries’ error but they were not to be denied for long as the fly-half’s cross-field kick was collected by Jones, who handed off Ashton and went over.
Glasgow knew that there would be a response from the home side and once again they failed to cope. To their credit, the Warriors were gallant in defence but they had to break at some point and Bosch took advantage when the hole opened for him.
Farrell then made it a three-score game from the tee and it was the lead Saracens needed to open up. They displayed some wonderful hands in the last few minutes and deservedly touched down twice more via Barritt and Ashton to complete a fine performance.
Townsend’s side did have the final word through Wilson but it was very much Sarries’ day.
Despite two yellow cards for wing Josaia Raisuqe, Stade Français advanced to the Challenge Cup semi-finals after defeating the Ospreys 25-21.
The Welsh region finished the pool stages with a perfect 30 out of 30 points to qualify as top seeds, but they were stunned in the second half at the Principality Stadium after two quick tries for Stade Français from Raphaël Lakafia and Julien Arias.
This despite having Raisuqe receive two yellow cards, one in each half, the first for a stamp on Ospreys wing Keelan Giles that deserved a straight red.
Raisuqe’s actions aside Stade showed great heart on the road to a rare away victory, one week on from defeating Toulon at home, with key figures in the pack including France prop Rabah Slimani, Wallaby lock Hugh Pyle and workhorse Antoine Burban all impressing.
Expected to dominate proceedings given Stade’s poor form and away record, the Ospreys opened the scoring through a Dan Biggar penalty in the 12th minute.
Biggar thought he had scored a try soon after only for Keelan Giles’ pass to be ruled as forward by the TMO, before Raisuqe’s first yellow card. Instead it the was the visitors who scored next, through a Jules Plisson penalty.
Zurabi Zhvania was an unlikely first try scorer, powering his way over out wide for Stade, who led at the break 8-6 after Bigger knocked over a second penalty – with a third effort coming back off the post right before the interval.
Plisson was on-point with his second penalty, stretching the lead to five points, but a Josh Matavesi try pulled the Ospreys back into the contest.
Raisuqe’s second yellow card allowed Biggar to restore the Ospreys lead with a third penalty, making it 14-11, but Stade then turned the game thanks to Lakafia collecting Plisson’s well-weighted cross-field kick to score.
And all of a sudden Stade were then in the box seat after Pyle broke clear, chased down by Biggar before offloading to Julien Arias for the Top 14 outfit’s third score.
Ospreys were then left chasing the game, despite having dominated large portions of the match, and even with Tyler Ardron’s late effort the visitors clung on for a surprising victory.
For Ospreys: Tries: Matavesi, Ardron Con: Biggar Pens: Biggar 3
For Stade Français: Tries: Zhvania, Lakafia, Arias Cons: Plisson 2 Pens: Plisson 2 Red Card: Raisuqe
Young guns star for Leinster
A superb first half showing laid the platform as Leinster moved into the semi-finals of the European Champions Cup following an excellent 32-17 triumph over Wasps in the last eight.
Leo Cullen’s men dominated the opening period and appeared to have the game won by half-time after Isa Nacewa, Jack Conan and Robbie Henshaw all crossed the whitewash.
Jimmy Gopperth’s penalty was the English outfit’s only score before the break and they also struggled at the start of the second half.
Johnny Sexton kicked another three-pointer to extend their buffer and at that point the match was effectively over. Christian Wade and Gopperth went over to give Wasps hope but Fergus McFadden’s touchdown completed the victory.
Knockout rugby is meant to be a tight contest but the opening half-hour, between two attack-orientated teams, proved to be a free-flowing affair.
It was mainly the hosts that showed their hand, though, and their big runners were causing problems for the small Wasps backline.
Conan and Sean O’Brien were magnificent and the Irish province deserved the 8-0 advantage given to them by Sexton’s penalty and Nacewa’s try. Joey Carbery was another to enjoy the wide open spaces and the full-back’s superb cut-out pass set up the winger’s score.
The visitors were struggling to find their fluency and when they did – after a Kurtley Beale break sent Willie le Roux clear – the South African international inexplicably dropped the ball across the whitewash.
That was a costly error, despite Gopperth reducing the arrears from the tee soon after, as Leinster scored their second try. Once again Carbery was the instigator, finding space on the right hand side for McFadden to break clear before good support play by Conan saw the number eight scamper over.
Henshaw then touched down following a stolen lineout and a 22-3 buffer at the interval was what Cullen’s side deserved for their dominance.
The Irish province maintained their momentum in the early stages of the second period and a Sexton penalty made the task even harder for the Premiership outfit.
To their credit, Wasps improved and a piece of individual brilliance by Wade got them back into the contest before another solo effort, this time from Gopperth, made it an eight-point game with 20 minutes remaining.
Questions were now being asked of the three-time European champions but they answered them magnificently and McFadden’s late try sealed their semi-final place.
For Wasps: Tries: Wade, Gopperth Cons: Gopperth 2 Pens: Gopperth
A conversation this week with respected French television pundit Thomas Lombard ended on a note about money, and to be more specific, how now having millions of Euros is no longer enough to succeed in the Top 14.
Not when you are up against clubs backed by billions of Euros.
Toulon’s spending spree on top internationals at the start of the decade propelled them to a trio of European titles and one domestic trophy in three years. Yet even having made the Top 14 final last season, losing out to Racing 92, their outlook has changed.
Mourad Boudjellal’s fortune of €40 million is no longer enough to compete with Racing, owned by Jacky Lorenzetti whose total worth is about €1 billion, and Montpellier, who are owned by Mohad Altrad, worth €2 billion. Europe’s most successful big spenders are now being comprehensively outspent.
The model that has given Toulon so much success has died, something which both Boudjellal and Diego Dominguez, the coach sacked earlier in the season, have acknowledged in a stuttering season.
Without question the retirements of Carl Hayman and Ali Williams weakened a commanding pack, but too much time has passed to keep falling back on that excuse.
Toulon and Boudjellal’s mindset with the appointment of Fabien Galthié is to restart and rebuild.
Munster seal semi-final spot
Munster booked their place in the Champions Cup semi-finals after they beat Toulouse 41-16 in a deserved victory at Thomond Park.
The Irish province began the encounter on the front foot and went 13-3 ahead through John Ryan’s converted try and a pair Tyler Bleyendaal penalties.
Jean-Marc Doussain, who had earlier kicked a three-pointer, added two more as the French side kept themselves in contention at the interval.
CJ Stander’s score and successive Bleyendaal efforts off the tee maintained the hosts’ control on the encounter, but Toulouse refused to go away and Paul Perez’s touchdown reduced the deficit.
Munster, however, had done enough and, after their fly-half kicked a fifth penalty, Darren Sweetnam and Andrew Conway finished off an excellent day for Irish rugby.
Toulouse, once the giants of French rugby, are struggling in the lower reaches of the Top 14 and are now out of Europe. They reside in 10th position in the table and, despite making it to the quarter-final stage, were not at all convincing in the Champions Cup.
That lack of form was duly exposed by an high-tempo home side early on, who took advantage of Francois Cros’ rash attempt at a charge down to build a 10-0 lead.
The number eight was yellow carded after just one minute for elbowing replacement scrum-half Duncan Williams, an act of recklessness which allowed Munster to kick deep into the opposition’s 22.
Williams, starting in place of the injured Conor Murray, dusted himself off and set about inching the hosts towards the line. The forwards battered away before the dam eventually burst when Ryan crossed the whitewash next to the left upright.
Bleyendaal kicked the conversion and then added a penalty, but the visitors gradually grew into the contest and reduced the arrears via Doussain’s effort off the tee.
Munster’s fly-half restored the 10-point buffer before the French outfit’s gargantuan forwards exerted their influence and forced Rassie Erasmus’ men to infringe.
Successive penalties by Toulouse’s stand-off in the final eight minutes of the half duly enabled them to go into the break with a genuine chance of upsetting the odds.
However, another blitz by the Irishmen kept the visitors on the back foot. Bleyendaal was on target from the tee before Stander, a man that typifies the province’s spirit this season, touched down from close range.
Following another penalty from the home side’s fly-half, Munster’s pathway to the last four appeared set, but Perez’s controversial try – where Yoann Maestri’s forward-looking pass to the wing was deemed flat – set up a nervous final quarter.
Munster responded well to that setback, though, and Bleyendaal took them 11 points in front. With Toulouse now overplaying, Sweetnam and Conway took advantage of some loose play by the visitors to complete a fine win.
Bath and Gloucester reached the Challenge Cup semi-finals following respective victories over Brive and Cardiff Blues on Saturday.
Bath 34-20 Brive Recreation Ground
In a thrilling first 40, it was Bath who had the lead by half-time after tries from Taulupe Faletau, Tom Homer and Semesa Rokoduguni put Bath 20-6 up at the break.
Faletau’s second threatened to open the floodgates but two tries from Fabien Sanconnie made it a much tighter scoreline than it looked like it could be at half-time.
A breathtaking late Rokoduguni try ensured the hosts secured the 34-20 win and booked their spot in the final four of the Challenge Cup.
With a semi-final spot on the line, Rhys Priestland kicked Bath to an early lead inside the opening 10 minutes with a penalty, making the most of the hosts strong start at The Rec. Gaetan Germain levelled soon after though, with Brive getting themselves back into the game after a strong rebuild from the restart.
Germain gave the visitors their first and only lead of the afternoon with a second penalty, his kick cannoning off the right side of the posts to make it a 6-3 advantage. That didn’t last for long though.
Priestland had the Brive back line running in circles before offloading to Kahn Fotuali’i, whose quick hands fed Faletau and allowed the number eight to go sailing over the line for the opening try. Priestland’s extras took Bath to double figures and more was to come in the remaining 15 minutes of the half.
An attacking line-out on 22 for the hosts saw Bath combine superbly as they bore down on the line, with Rokoduguni instrumental in the build up. Possession was given to Jonathan Joseph and his flick helped to get Homer over the line, a nice birthday present for the now 27-year-old. The conversion was wide but try number three followed barely a minute after the restart.
Zach Mercer’s quick break again saw the ball move into the arms of Joseph, and he was again provider to set Rokoduguni up for his 50th try in Bath colours, making it a 20-6 lead at the break.
Try four came just three minutes into the second half and Faletau was at the double to increase the advantage. He found the space to break in between the middle of the defence who seemed to part open for him, and Priestland added the two.
But things weren’t rosy for the hosts after that, with the expected victory put very much in doubt due to a resurgent Brive side.
A pick and go from Sanconnie caught Bath napping, and he crossed the line to get the French side back into it. And a second Brive try really made the home crowd pay attention. They used the maul perfectly to cause panic in the Bath defence and Sarconnie got his second in 10 minutes as the conversion took Brive back to within seven points as the score stood at 27-20.
The game threatened to go either way from then on with neither side dominant at one end or the other, but the longer the half wore on, the more it looked like Bath would be able to see the victory out.
And when in doubt, there’s always that man Rokoduguni to call upon. He had the sleekness to evade seven challenges on the way through, handing defenders away and grounding to remove any doubts and finish the scoring, booking Bath’s semi-final spot in the process.
Bath: 15 Anthony Watson, 14 Semesa Rokoduguni, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Matt Banahan, 11 Tom Homer, 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Kahn Fotuali’i, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Tom Ellis, 6 Zach Mercer, 5 Luke Charteris, 4 Charlie Ewels, 3 Kane Palma Newport, 2 Nathan Charles, 1 Nathan Catt Replacements: 16 Joe Graham, 17 Beno Obano, 18 Shaun Knight, 19 Levi Douglas, 20 Paul Grant, 21 Chris Cook, 22 Adam Hastings, 23 Ben Tapuai
Brive: 15 Gaetan Germain, 14 Taku Ngwenya, 13 Arnaud Mignardi, 12 Seremaia Burotu, 11 Benito Masilevu, 10 Matthieu Ugalde, 9 Teddy Iribaren, 8 Fabien Sanconnie 7 Poutasi Luafutu, 6 Said Hireche, 5 Arnaud Mela, 4 Johan Snyman, 3 Kevin Buys, 2 Francois Da Ros, 1 Vivien Devisme Replacements: 16 Thomas Acquier, 17 Karlen Asieshvili, 18 Soso Bekoshvili, 19 Julien Le Devedec, 20 Dominiko Waqaniborutu, 21 Vasil Lobzhanidze, 22 Thomas Laranjeira, 23 Sevanaia Galala
In the third of four semi-finals, the Kingsholm faithful were treated to an exhilarating first 40 as the sides went into the break with Cardiff Blues 23-20 up.
Alex Cuthbert opened the scoring for the visitors before Ross Moriarty levelled. Tom Marshall and another from Cuthbert sent the sides level, with a Gareth Anscombe drop goal putting Cardiff slightly in front.
Jonny May gave Gloucester a one point lead after the break and tries from Marshall and Mark Atkinson wrote the hosts into the final four. Henry Purdy went over at the end to finish it at 46-26.
The visitors started well on top and after running close three minutes in, they didn’t have much longer to wait for the opening try. Coming just five minutes into the evening, Tau Filise carried the ball through the centre before it eventually found Cuthbert, who batted Billy Burns away to go over for the opener. It didn’t last long though as Moriarty levelled from the next attack. Richard Hibbard spilled possession seconds before but a one handed pick up and go saw him slam down.
Cardiff Blues’ lead was restored from a penalty via Steven Shingler, but Burns kicked level again from in front of the posts to make it 10 apiece. Neither side were able to take a firm grip of the tie though, with three pointers following for each within a couple of minutes of each other. And by the time half-time came around, two tries ensured they were still inseparable.
Shingler was caught napping at the back and failed to hold off Billy Twelvetrees’ run through the middle, which provided the opportunity to feed it through to Marshall who ran over to put Gloucester in charge. But a yellow card changed things again, as Gloucester lost Josh Hohneck for failing to roll away five minutes before half-time. And the man advantage saw Anscombe use the dummy run of Shingler to feed Cuthbert who grabbed his second. A drop goal on the brink of half-time gave the visitors a slender lead as Anscombe kicked through from 40 metres.
A perfectly set second 40 didn’t start with the same tempo and free flowing points scoring as the first, but it was a perfect situation for Cardiff Blues as they stretched their lead to six points. Shingler kicked through after Blues had the better of the second half, and the loss of Hohneck gave Cardiff a perfect platform with half an hour to go.
Gloucester burst back into the game though and went ahead courtesy of May. He had plenty of space to move into after Twelvetrees’ intelligent kick found him on the other side, and a step inside bamboozled Matthew Morgan. Twelvetrees two made it 27-26 to the hosts and that lead increased.
Cardiff Blues’ well set lead was dismantled with a fourth Gloucester try with less than 20 to play. A gap at the back of the line-out gave Willi Heinz an age to decide what to do with it, and it was eventually presented to Marshall who span inside a challenge to extend the advantage, with Twelvetrees making it an eight point lead.
And the dream quickly turned into a nightmare as try five arrived for the rejuvenated hosts. With the ball taken up to the five yard line, replacement Atkinson threw a big dummy Rey Lee-Lo’s way to just wander over and kill off the contest with 10 to play. And right at the death, a sixth try put the icing on the cake for the Cherry and Whites. A floated ball from Henry Trinder fell into the arms of Purdy and he finished the evening off in style as Gloucester sealed a spot in the final four with a 46-26 win.
For Gloucester: Tries: Moriarty, Marshall 2, May, Atkinson, Purdy Cons: Burns, Twelvetrees 4 Pens: Burns, Twelvetrees Yellow Card: Hohneck
Gloucester: 15 Tom Marshall, 14 Charlie Sharples, 13 Henry Trinder, 12 Billy Twelvetrees, 11 Jonny May, 10 Billy Burns, 9 Willi Heinz, 8 Ben Morgan 7 Jacob Rowan, 6 Ross Moriarty, 5 Jeremy Thrush, 4 Tom Savage, 3 Josh Hohneck, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Paddy McAllister Replacements: 16 Motu Matu’u, 17 Yann Thomas, 18 John Afoa, 19 Mariano Galarza, 20 Lewis Ludlow, 21 Callum Braley, 22 Mark Atkinson, 23 Henry Purdy
Cardiff Blues: 15 Matthew Morgan , 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Rey Lee-Lo, 12 Steven Shingler, 11 Blaine Scully, 10 Gareth Anscombe, 9 Lloyd Williams, 8 Nick Williams 7 Josh Navidi, 6 Sam Warburton, 5 Jarrad Hoeata, 4 George Earle, 3 Tau Filise, 2 Kristian Dacey, 1 Gethin Jenkins, Replacements: 16 Matthew Rees, 17 Corey Domachowski, 18 Kieron Assiratti, 19 Macauley Cook, 20 Sion Bennett, 21 Tomos Williams, 22 Willis Halaholo, 23 Aled Summerhill
Referee: Pascal Gauzère (France) Assistant Referees: Alexandre Ruiz (France), Pierre Brousset (France) TMO: Philippe Bonhoure (France)
A Jérémie Maurouard brace helped La Rochelle claim a 32-22 victory over Edinburgh at Murrayfield on Friday.
La Rochelle made it into the Challenge Cup semi-finals after their impressive away win over the Scottish side.
Edinburgh were poor in the first half conceding four tries in the first 35 minutes with Jérémie Maurouard scoring two, Arthur Retiere and Steeve Barry also crossing to set up their victory before the half-time whistle went. While Brock James penalties kept the score board ticking in his side’s favour.
Tries from the home side came through Scotland Internationals Ross Ford and Hamish Watson but it was not enough to overturn La Rochelle’s powerful early start.
Maurouard’s tries were both in the first 12 minutes with the French side revealing the power in their forward pack. James’s conversions made the score 14 points and quite imposing 13 minutes into the fixture.
Edinburgh got their first points of the game when inside centre Phil Burleigh dotted down making the score 14-5 before Jason Tovey kicked over the conversion.
The away side hit back quickly though as Scrum-half Retiere then crossed the line for his side’s third try of the game with James missing the extras.
Ford scored just before the end of the half after a strong maul to barge over and Watson scored seven minutes later after Viliame Mata off loaded to the flank which would be the last try of the match.
James and Weir traded penalties for the rest of the game but the damage was done in the first half for La Rochelle claiming the win.
South African Francois Steyn will have to sit out for the next four weeks after he was suspended by an independent Disciplinary Hearing in Paris on Wednesday
Steyn was sent off by referee, JP Doyle (England), for a dangerous tackle on the Leinster fly-half, Johnny Sexton, in the 30th minute of the match in contravention of Law 10.4 (e).
Law 10.4 (e) Dangerous tackling
Under World Rugby’s Sanctions for Foul Play, Law 10.4 (e), Dangerous Tackling of an opponent, carries the following sanction entry points – Low End: 2 weeks; Mid-Range: 6 weeks; Top End: 10 to 52 weeks.
An independent Disciplinary Committee consisting of Antony Davies (England), Chairman, Julien Berenger (France) and Pamela Woodman (Scotland), heard submissions from Steyn, who pleaded guilty to the offence, from the Montpellier legal representative, Christian Chevalier, from the Montpellier Chief Executive, Mathieu Charpentier, and from the EPCR Disciplinary Officer, Liam McTiernan.
The Committee upheld the red card decision, and as the dangerous tackle resulted in reckless contact with the head, it was obliged to find that the offence was at the mid-range of the relevant sanctions as now required by World Rugby.
Six weeks was therefore selected as the entry point and taking into account Steyn’s guilty plea and timely expression of remorse, the Committee reduced the sanction by two weeks before imposing a four-week suspension.
Steyn is free to play on Monday, March 6. Both the player and EPCR have the right to appeal the decision.
Meanwhile the Leinster player, Hayden Triggs, has been suspended for three weeks following an independent Disciplinary Hearing in Paris.
Triggs was cited by the match Citing Commissioner, Stefano Marrama (Italy), for making contact with the eye area of the Montpellier scrum-half, Nic White (number nine), in the 44th minute of the match in contravention of Law 10.4 (m).
An independent Disciplinary Committee consisting of Antony Davies (England), Chairman, Julien Berenger (France) and Pamela Woodman (Scotland), heard submissions from Triggs, who pleaded guilty to the offence, from the Leinster Rugby legal representative, Derek Hegarty, from the Leinster Rugby Head of Rugby Operations, Guy Easterby, and from the EPCR Disciplinary Officer, Liam McTiernan.
In upholding the citing complaint, the Committee determined that the charge was specifically for contact with the eye area, and not for contact with the eye(s) which now carries a different set of sanction entry point tariffs.
Law 10.4 (m) Acts contrary to good sportsmanship – contact with the eye area
Under World Rugby’s Sanctions for Foul Play, Law 10.4 (m), contact with the eye area, carries the following sanction entry points – Low End: 4 weeks; Mid-range: 8 weeks; Top end: 12 to 52 weeks.
The Committee then decided that the offence was at the low end of World Rugby’s sanctions and selected four weeks as the appropriate entry point.
Taking into account Triggs’ guilty plea and his expression of remorse, the Committee reduced the sanction by one week before imposing a three-week suspension.
Triggs is free to play on Monday, February 20. Both the player and EPCR have the right to appeal the decision.
Munster moved top of Pool 1 after outclassing Racing 92, running in four tries in a 32-7 win in the rescheduled Champions Cup match.
Before the match there was a minute’s applause to remember Munster coach Anthony Foley. The club legend passed away in the team hotel in Paris the night before the original fixture was due to be played in October.
An emotional atmosphere was punctuated with multiple renditions of Fields of Athenry and the visitors rose to the occasion.
First-half tries from Simon Zebo, CJ Stander and Andrew Conway sent the away side into the break with a convincing 0-25 lead.
Niall Scannell’’s second-half try then secured the bonus point and Matheiu Voisin scored a late consolation for Racing as it finished 7-32.
The win sees the Irish side move top of Pool 1 while the hosts succumbed to their fourth defeat, leaving them rooted to the bottom with no points from four games.
Munster scored the first points of the match in the 14th minute. Racing had been repeatedly infringing at the breakdown and finally paid the price when Tyler Bleyendaal comfortably slotted home an easy penalty attempt.
The visitors extended their lead with a try from Zebo in the 22nd minute, the winger scoring his 50th Munster try. A big carry from captain Peter O’’Mahony rattled the Parisians’ before his full-back seized the ball and evaded the attentions of the defence before touching down to make the score 0-8.
Stander scored the Irish side’’s second try in the 36th minute, the Ireland international charging down Benjamin Dambielle’s kick before running through out wide. Bleyendaal converted to make the lead 0-18.
Conway was the next over for Munster just before the break, the winger seizing upon Conor Murray’’s grubber to touch down in the corner. Bleyendaal converted to make Munster’s half-time lead an impressive 0-25.
Scannell then secured his side’’s fourth try just before the hour mark, the hooker peeling off the back of a rolling maul to secure the bonus point. Bleyendaal added the extras to establish a commanding 32-point lead.
Racing scored a consolation try in the 65th minute when Voisin seized upon a kick through from Juan Imhoff to score. After the TMO ruled that he was on-side the try was awarded, and Dan Carter added the conversion from out wide to make the score 7-32.
The day however was Munster’s, as they produced a performance Foley would have been proud of.
For Racing: Try: Voisin Con: Carter
For Munster: Tries: Zebo, Stander, Conway, N Scannell Cons: Bleyendaal 3 Pens: Bleyendaal 2
Another week of exiting European Rugby as we look back on the results from week 4, provided by EPCRUGBY
Bordeaux – Begles 12 – 20 Chiefs
Slade stars as Chiefs notch first win
Exeter secured what was only their second victory on French soil as they were 20-12 winners over Bordeaux in their European Rugby Champions Cup clash.
A tight encounter saw Thomas Waldrom and Luke Cowan-Dickie score in either half and Henry Slade booted 10 points as Bordeaux wing Nans Ducuing was sent off.
Ducuing saw red for what was deemed a dangerous tackle on Olly Woodburn as the French side failed to back up their win at Sandy Park last Sunday.
Both sides went hell for leather early on, a tight game seeing the first quarter coming to an end with both sides level at 0-0.
There was little between the sides, Lionel Beauxis putting a drop goal wide and Slade just failing to dot down in a foot race to the line following a chip through.
Beauxis was then back on target with a 24th minute penalty and the French side then moved further ahead when the fly-half added his second penalty. The build-up to that score had seen Bordeaux break down the blindside, a flowing team move ending with Exeter’s Mitch Lees seeing yellow for infringing at a ruck.
At that stage you feared for the Chiefs, but they made light work of being a man down.
They went straight back up the other end, Slade creating the space from which Waldrom crashed over. The England man converted for a narrow 7-6 advantage.
The second period started with a third penalty from Beauxis before Ducuing’s red card incident arrived.
Both players went for the ball, but referee John Lacey deemed the tackle dangerous and sent the French player from the field.
Slade’s penalty then put Exeter back ahead before Exeter’s Greg Holmes was yellow carded to make it 14 against 14.
Replacement Baptiste Serin quickly kicked a penalty, but Cowan-Dickie then responded as he crashed over from close range for what proved to be the decisive score.
Slade converted and sealed the win with a late penalty, but Exeter still face a tough ask to qualify for the latter stages.
Leicester Tigers 18 – 16 Munster
Leicester hero Williams downs Munster
Owen Williams was the hero for Leicester Tigers after his long-range penalty snatched a famous 18-16 European Rugby Champions Cup triumph over Munster.
The Irish province had inflicted a record 38-0 defeat on Leicester in round three, but the wounded Tigers came out fighting to earn their second victory in this season’s competition. Munster looked to have snatched a second successive victory when Tyler Bleyendaal converted Niall Scannell’s drive over score to make it 16-15 with three minutes remaining.
But outside-half Williams rose to the occasion to send a penalty through the uprights from 52 metres out to claim a revenge triumph. Glasgow Warriors are now out in-front in Pool 4 after four rounds of Champions Cup action.
It was end-to-end stuff in the opening exchanges at Welford Road, but Munster made the most of their first opportunity to get points on the scoreboard. Simon Zebo chipped ahead but was taken out by George Worth and Bleyendaal made no mistake with the long-range kick.
Bleyendaal added a second penalty to make it 6-0, before Manu Tuilagi opened the door for Munster when he was shown yellow for a shoulder charge on Rory Scannell. But instead, it was the 14-men of the Tigers who roared back into the game.
Ellis Genge and Luke Hamilton combined to take Leicester deep into Munster territory, before Peter O’Mahony gave a penalty away in-front of the posts. And Owen Williams made no mistake from the tee to cut the gap to 6-3. The Welshman added a second penalty moments later to level the scores at 6-6 at half-time.
It was more of the same after the interval as both sides fought to gain the ascendancy. Much like the first-half, it was Munster who hit the front with a Bleyendaal penalty after Brendan O’Connor went off his feet at a ruck.
But Williams levelled once again with his third penalty, before Leicester snatched the lead for the first time. Munster infringed again at a ruck and Williams made no mistake to make it 12-3 with 25 minutes remaining.
Munster looked to be building up a head of steam ten minutes later, but the ball went loose and Adam Thompstone went on the attack. Zebo dragged him down moments after he had put boot-to-ball, and earned a yellow card. Williams landed the resulting penalty to earn a vital six-point lead.
But Munster were not dead and buried. Scannell crashed over at the back of a maul, before Bleyendaal converted, despite a slip, to put the Irish province 16-15 ahead. But Williams showed nerves of steel to land the long-range penalty in the dying moments.
Connacht 20 – 18 Wasp
Cool Carty seals famous Connacht triumph
Jack Carty snatched a dramatic 20-18 victory for Connacht over Wasps with the final kick of the game in a European Rugby Champions Cup classic at the Sportsground.
The PRO12 champions looked dead and buried after Josh Bassett’s late score had given Wasps a five-point lead in the closing moments. But Naulia Dawai was shunted over the try-line from a late lineout maul to level the scores, before Carty landed the conversion from the out-wide to seal a famous triumph.
Joe Simpson had given the English side an early lead, but that was reined in by a Danie Poolman score and the boot of Jack Carty. Connacht have moved level at the top of Pool 2 after their Galway heroics.
Carty fired Connacht ahead with his second penalty attempt after Wasps held-on at a ruck. But it did not take long for last season’s semi-finalists to hit the front. Thomas Young made the initial break in midfield before finding his back-row colleague Nathan Hughes. He charged towards the line but was stopped short by Kieran Marmion, but Simpson scooped up the ball to score.
Jimmy Gopperth landed the conversion to make it 7-3 before Connacht full-back Tiernan O’Halloran was sent to the sin-bin following a build-up of penalties close to their try-line. But Bundee Aki latched onto Matt Healy’s offload to charge 50 metres downfield and put his side on the front-foot.
Ultan Dillane knocked on after a spell of heavy pressure, but referee Jerome Garces brought it back for a penalty, which Carty kicked to pull Connacht back within a point. And it got even better for the hosts on the stroke of half-time. Carty took the ball at first receiver and picked out replacement wing Poolman with a perfectly weighted cross-kick to score. The outside-half then landed the touchline conversion to give his side a 13-7 half-time lead.
Gopperth cut the gap to three points with a penalty 15 minutes into the second period, but missed the chance to level the scores on the hour mark. He made no mistake from right in-front of the posts moments later though to make it 13-13.
And Wasps showed their title credentials six minutes from time. Their powerful pack shunted Connacht off their own ball before Dan Robson picked up the ball and found Bassett with a perfectly weighted cut-out pass, and the wing finished well. But Connacht showed their fighting spirit to drive Dawai over the line to level the scores. And Carty stepped up to dramatically snatch a 20-18 victory at the death.
Leinster 60 – 13 Northampton Saints
Leinster hand out record beating to Saints
Northampton Saints forced Leinster to come from behind at the Aviva Stadium, but they made such a good recovery they had the bonus point in the bag by half-time.
After that the three-time winners marched to a nine try triumph that sent the Saints marching home with a sack full of unwanted records – most points conceded (60), biggest margin of defeat (47), most tries conceded (9) and most conversions conceded (6).
Having been hammered 37-10 in Round 3 at Franklin’s Gardens the previous weekend, a much changed Saints side travelled with a lot of work to do and a lot of pride to restore. They managed to do that and more in the first quarter.
Forced to respond to a fourth minute try by right wing Adam Byrne for the home side, Saints found themselves 6-5 ahead after 16 minutes and then 13-5 to the good midway through the half. Steve Myler made up for an earlier miss, his first in the Champions Cup off the tee this season, to land two penalties and then he converted a near length of the field interception try from Ken Pisi.
That was a 14 point turn around given that Leinster were going in for the kill at the other end and no sooner had Romain Poite award the try than home fans were thinking of what happened three years ago when the Premiership side came to Dublin and won a week after taking a hiding at home.
The greasy pitch was making life difficult for the home runners, but it was the brilliant work at the breakdown by Calum Clark, Jamie Gibson and Teimana Harrison that caused the most difficulties. They slowed the ball down and made it a far more physical contest than a week earlier.
But when Leinster finally got to grips with what was going on they became ruthless. By half-time they had converted six raids in the Saints’ 22 into four tries, with Byrne bagging two of them.
Scrum half Luke McGrath and Sean O’Brien added the other first half tries and skipper Isa Nacewa took his Leinster points tally over the 600 mark with a penalty and here conversions. That made it 29-13 at the interval and the onslaught didn’t stop there.
Front row men Tadhg Furlong and Sean Cronin joined the party with tries in the first six minutes of the second half and then it became a long march to the death for the visitors as Leinster piled on the agony with three more tries, two of them when Gibson was in the sin-bin.
Scarlets 22 – 21 RC Toulon
Scarlets claim famous Toulon scalp
The Scarlets claimed a famous 22-21 win over Toulon in their European Rugby Champions Cup clash in Llanelli.
Against a below par French side, Scott Williams, Hadleigh Parkes, Rhys Patchell and Ken Owens produced stand-out performances as man of the match Williams scored the game’s only try in the first half.
The rest of the home side’s points came from Patchell’s conversion and five penalties as Leigh Halfpenny nailed seven kicks of his own. The Wales full-back kept Toulon in the game and could have won it in the final minute but his long-range effort fell short.
It meant the home side came out on top by the narrowest of margins, the Parc y Scarlets crowd going wild at the final whistle as they celebrated one of the best results of Wayne Pivac’s tenure.
Last Sunday’s fixture between the two sides in France had seen the Scarlets try to move the giant Toulon pack around the field, and they played some more enterprising rugby in the first half.
Toulon, with their star-studded XV, were poor as they barely got started before the break but credit had to go to Pivac’s men for their performance.
With their Welsh front row of Rob Evans, Owens and Samson Lee reunited for the first time this season, the Scarlets more than patched up to the power of their opponents’ pack. Steffan Evans went close to collecting a Patchell kick, before the home fly-half gave his side a 3-0 lead.
It soon got even better. With Toulon still stuck in the changing rooms, Williams scythed his way to the line for a score which sent the home crowd wild and with Patchell converting and adding a penalty, the Welsh region were well on top.
Toulon hadn’t even got started and Ma’a Nonu’s failure to back himself to make the line after intercepting a Williams pass summed up their lethargy.
Toulon then got their first score of the day as Halfpenny landed a monster penalty, but it failed to deter the Scarlets as a searing Patchell break put them on the front foot. DTV Van der Merwe was up in support and he popped the ball up for Gareth Davies who inexplicably dropped the ball over the line.
A bust up following a scrum then saw Samu Manoa – who briefly replaced Duane Vermeulen – lucky to avoid a card for clashing with Davies and Patchell kicked the resulting penalty to make it 16-3.
In attack Toulon had offered next to nothing but their pack remained capable of winning them a penalty and two more efforts from Halfpenny narrowed their deficit to seven at the break.
Patchell and Halfpenny exchanged penalties at the start of the second period, before the latter was short with another effort from range. Toulon were much better after half time – they couldn’t have been worse – but they were hindered when prop Florian Fresia was yellow carded.
A tight encounter ensued as both sides coughed up penalties on a regular basis.
Some of referee Matthew Carley’s decisions were unpopular with the home crowd, and the game turned into a shootout between Wales duo Halfpenny and Patchell.
Two more penalties from Halfpenny – either side of one from Patchell – made it 22-18 and sent the game into the final 10 minutes with all to play for. A seventh kick from Halfpenny in the 72nd minute left one point between the teams and it was Toulon who were doing all the attacking.
Remarkably, the final few minutes saw the visitors have three chances to snatch victory. Halfpenny missed a penalty and Pierre Bernard’s drop goal fell short before Halfpenny had one last shot at goal.
From just inside the opposition half, he stepped up but was off target as the home side celebrated wildly
Castres Olympique 29 – 23 Montpellier
Castres punish Montpellier indiscipline
Castres revived their European Rugby Champions Cup campaign with a revenge 29-23 triumph over Montpellier.
Indiscipline cost the Challenge Cup champions once again, as Paul Willemse became the second Montpellier player in two weeks to be shown a red card. Tries from Akapusi Qera, Jesse Mogg and Nemani Nadolo had put them in commanding position.
But Alexander Bias’ score after Willemse’s shoulder charge snatched victory for Castres, who stayed in the game thanks to a Horacio Agulla score and 19 points from the kicking tee. Castres remain behind Montpellier in Pool 4, but only by a point heading into the final two rounds of pool action.
The home side were out to get back in the Pool 4 race for the quarter-finals with a revenge victory over their TOP14 rivals. And they got off to the perfect start when Benjamin Urdapilleta split the uprights with a penalty after three minutes.
Dimitri Catrikilis levelled the scores before Urdapilleta nudged the hosts back into a three-point lead. But the Challenge Cup holders asserted their dominance when Catrikilis found Qera with a perfectly weighted long pass to put the flanker over after a well worked lineout move. Catrikilis added the extras before Urdapilleta pulled Castres back to within a point with a penalty.
But two Argentinians combined to send the home side into the lead at half-time. Urdapilleta sent an accurate cross-filed kick towards flying Puma, who rose highest to claim the ball and dot down. Urdapilleta landed the touchline conversion to give the hosts a 16-10 advantage at the interval.
But Montpellier made a blistering start to the second-half to retake the initiative. Australia back Mogg raced over two minutes after the restart to move Montpellier back within a point, before Catrikilis landed a penalty to give the visitors the lead. And it got even better for Jake White’s side when giant wing Nadolo intercepted a loose pass in his own 22 to race home for their third score to put Montpellier 23-16 ahead.
Urdapilleta pulled three points back for Castres, before Montpellier opened the door with their second red card in as many weeks. Last time out it was Davit Kubriashvili who was dismissed for charging into a ruck and this time it was replacement second row Willemse.
And Castres made their man advantage count when they sent Bias over to move into a 26-23 lead. It got even worse for the visitors as Jannie du Plessis was shown yellow for offending as the try was scored. And Rory Kockott sealed victory with a late penalty.
Glasgow Warriors 23 – 7 Racing 92
Warriors repeat Racing triumph
Glasgow Warriors moved to the summit of European Rugby Champions Cup Pool 1 after they repeated their famous triumph over last season’s runners-up Racing 92.
Gregor Townsend’s stunned Dan Carter and co. in the first-half with tries from centurion Josh Strauss and hooker Fraser Brown, before scrum-half Ali Price darted over to seal the 23-7 victory. Racing look dead and buried in this season’s competition less than seven months on from reaching last season’s final in Lyon, as they could only conjure a consolation try from Xavier Chauveau.
Glasgow top Pool 1 with 13 points, three clear of quarter-final rivals Munster, who play Leicester Tigers at Welford Road.
The hosts got off to the perfect start in their bid to move top of Pool 1, and it was their new centurion who crashed over. Finn Russell’s delicate chip was collected by Tommy Seymour, who looked to have put Stuart Hogg in at the corner. The full-back was stopped short but offloaded to Strauss, who crashed over on his 100th appearance.
And it did not take long for Gregor Townsend’s men to build on their early advantage. With Russell enjoying a free reign at outside-half, the Warriors moved the ball from left to right. Russell then took the ball at first receiver and sent Brown crashing through a hole in midfield, and the hooker finished in style.
Russell landed the conversion and added two more penalties to take the score to 18-0. Marc Andreu thought he had kicked off the comeback with a try at the end of the half, but Seymour’s leg prevented the wing from grounding the ball.
Things went from bad to worse for last season’s finalists six minutes after the break. Scrum-half Price repeated last week’s heroics to sell a dummy to beat a defender before darting over from five-metres out for a 23-0 advantage. The Warriors chased a bonus-point score but it was Chauveau who bagged a late consolation try.
Toulouse 54 – 15 Zebre
Toby opens the floodgates in an eight try romp
Toulouse made it a full 10 points against Zebre Rugby in the back-to-back matches as they followed up their bonus-point win in Italy with an eight try romp at home.
It means Ugo Mola’s men are level on 13 points with Wasps and Connacht Rugby in Pool 2 and are well in the hunt for a first quarter-final slot since 2014. They face Wasps in the Ricoh Arena in Round 5 and Connacht at home a week later.
The Italians got off to a flying start with a try within two minutes of the kick-off from Italian international hooker Tommaso D’Apice. Carlo Canna converted and the Italian No 10 also added a first-half penalty.
But the Toulouse response was rapid and pretty savage. Having matched that early score with a try from back row man Gillian Galan they put the visitors to the sword in a nine minute purple patch that ended the game as a contest.
The four time champions scored four tries flowed in that period as Paul Perez, Yoann Huget, Arthur Bonneval and Toby Flood crossed to bag the bonus point before half-time. Flood converted three of them and then added the extras to a 38th minute score from Guthro Steenkamp that made it 40-10 at the break.
In the second half the scoring slowed down, although Johan Meyer grabbed a second try for Zebre four minutes after the re-start. Perez got his second try, which Flood converted, before Yann David completed the scoring with an eighth try, Flood’s conversion making it 19 points on the day for the former England outside half.
Sale Sharks 10 – 24 Saracens
Saracens join Munster greats on record 13 wins
Saracens joined the great Munster side of 2005-2007 by equalling their tournament record of 13 successive wins with a 24-10 triumph at the AJ Bell Stadium that included 19 points from Owen Farrell.
After becoming the first team to win nine games in a row on their way to winning the Champions Cup for the first time last season, Mark McCall’s side made it four in a row this season with a double over Premiership rivals Sale.
Having run in six tries in a 50-3 home win over the Sharks in Round 3, life got a lot tougher away from home. They had led 26-3 at the break a week earlier, but only had two Farrell penalties to show for their efforts in the opening 40 minutes.
Sharks director of rugby Steve Diamond had demanded a reaction from his side and their defensive display showed a massive improvement. So much so, in fact, that a penalty from AJ MacGinty meant they were only three points behind at the break.
The second half started poorly for the home side as Rob Webber become the fourth player in the two games against Saracens to pick up a yellow card when he hauled down a driving line-out in his 22. Fortunately for Webber, and his side, Farrell pushed his kick wide of the posts and then the England star proved he can be a mere mortal off the kicking tee by missing a second shot moments later.
Those two misses kept the game in the melting pot until New Zealand lock Bryn Evans picked up another yellow card for a deliberate knock down as Saracens looked to build an attack on the home 10 metre line. This time Farrell hit the mark to make it 9-3 as the game moved into the final quarter.
A third yellow card for Sale No 8 TJ Ioane 12 minutes from time gave Farrell the chance to kick a fourth goal and that made it six yellows in two games and nine in four games in the Champions Cup this season for Sale.
A delightful off-load as he went to ground in a tackle in the shadow of the home posts by giant Australian lock Will Skelton then paved the way for Farrell to cross for the first try of the game. Farrell added the simple conversion to make it 19 points on the night.
There was an quick exchange of tries at the death, with Nathan Earle racing onto a pin-point kick through by Alex Goode and then Bryn Evans cantering over for a try from the re-start, but nothing could unsettle Saracens. They remain the only unbeaten team in the Champions Cup this season.
This weekend saw the third round of this years European Champions Cup being played in Europe. Here is the weekends wrap on all the matches
Hartley sees red as Leinster take points
Northampton’s 100th European game ended in a 37-10 defeat by Leinster as England captain Dylan Hartley was sent off at Franklin’s Gardens.
Hartley, a second-half replacement, saw red for a swinging arm on Sean O’Brien just six minutes after coming on when the Irish side were 10 points ahead.
His dismissal hit Northampton’s hopes of a comeback after Ahsee Tuala had crossed in between Leinster scores in either half from Garry Ringrose and O’Brien. Isa Nacewa had added two conversions and two penalties before Rory O’Loughlin and fellow replacement Jamison Gibson-Park sealed a vital bonus-point.
The Saints ended the game with 13 men after George Pisi’s yellow card and Nacewa completed a night to forget for Jim Mallinder and his men with Leinster’s fifth in the final minute.
With two star-studded teams both boasting a host of internationals, England head coach Eddie Jones was among the crowd watching on.
But there was only one side in the first 10 minutes, Leinster starting the game with the sort of intent which left their English opponents clutching at straws.
Ferocious in the forward exchanges and devastating in wide areas, the Irish province hit their straps from the first minute. It didn’t take long for them to move ahead, either.
Rob Kearney, so impressive for Ireland last month and back following a head bang, received the ball at first receiver and sold the Northampton defence a wonderful dummy. Finding himself in space, the full-back passed to Ringrose inside him to leave the young centre a simple run to the line.
Captain Nacewa converted and added a penalty after a huge Leinster scrum splintered the Northampton eight. It all amounted to a 10-0 lead in as many minutes.
At that stage it looked a question of how many points Leinster wanted to score, but the loss of young fly-half Joey Carbery handed the Saints a lifeline. Carbery was replaced by Ross Byrne and given a quick chance to draw breath, Northampton regrouped.
Some excellent work by prop Paul Hill earned a penalty which Myler slotted from range before the home side lost a man of their own as wing Jamie Elliot limped off.
In a brutally physical encounter, Leinster forwards Tadgh Furlong and Jamie Heaslip were leading the charge for the visitors, Josh van der Flier escaping down the blindside with one break.
But as much as Leinster dominated, Northampton stood tall in defence. England flanker Tom Wood led the charge, helping to repel wave after wave of pressure just before the break.
A 10-3 half-time lead was not what Leinster deserved for their display, and they suffered another blow when they lost Kearney at the start of the second period. Nacewa moved to full-back with O’Loughlin coming on for his European debut on the wing.
As they had done earlier, Northampton sensed blood and it was JJ Hanrahan who came up trumps.
The former Munster man, playing at centre, put his team on the front foot with a half break and when the ball was recycled, his perfect flat pass found Tuala – who had replaced Elliot – out wide.
The substitute dived over and with Myler nailing the touchline conversion, the game was level at 10-10.
Suddenly, it was all action.
Nacewa put Leinster back ahead with a monster penalty, Northampton then surprisingly turning down the chance of three points and turning the ball over after kicking to the corner.
Leinster then moved further ahead. O’Brien’s powerful leg drive saw him crash over to score in the 56thminute, Nacewa adding the extras before Hartley was dismissed for a dangerous tackle.
Down to 14, Northampton’s hopes of a comeback were over and Byrne’s cross-kick found O’Loughlin who outjumped Ben Foden to score.
Nacewa missed the conversion but Gibson-Park and a late fifth from the visiting skipper moved the Irish side top of Pool 4 and all but ended Northampton’s chances of reaching the latter stages.
A reoccurrence of Hanrahan’s ankle injury and Pisi’s yellow was further salt in the wound for those in black, green and gold.
Five star Ulster down Clermont
Ulster delivered a five-star performance to down Pool 5 front-runners ASM Clermont Auvergne 39-32 at the Kingspan Stadium.
First-half scores from Luke Marshall, Iain Henderson and Paddy Jackson gave the hosts a slender advantage. Marshall completed his brace for the bonus-point score before Charles Piutau looked to have sealed the victory in a European Rugby Champions Cup thriller.
But Clermont, who stayed in it thanks to scores from Peceli Yato and Scott Spedding, earned two match points of their own when Nick Abendanon and Damien Chouly crashed over late on. The TOP14 heavyweights are now three points ahead of Ulster in the race for the quarter-finals.
The vocal Kingspan Stadium support were left stunned after just 69 seconds when the Pool 5 front-runners showed all of their Champions Cup credentials.
The kickoff was reclaimed by Clermont before Camille Lopez and Abendanon combined to send the visitors down deep into Ulster territory. Yato then picked up from close range to burrow over the try line, and Morgan Parra added the extras for an early 7-0 lead.
But Ulster were not going toile down and were soon level. Sean Reidy carried hard into the heart of the Clermont defence before Marshall ran a devastating angle to cut through on a short ball from Paddy Jackson to score. The Ulster fly-half levelled the scores with the conversion, before Parra nudged his side ahead again with a penalty.
The crowd did not have to wait long for another try in this Pool 5 thriller. Piutau broke clear downfield but could not find a scoring pass, but the breakthrough soon followed. With a penalty advantage, Ruan Pienaar delivered a perfectly weighted cross-kick to an airborne Tommy Bowe, before the Ireland wing offloaded to Henderson to score.
Jackson and Parra traded penalties to make it 15-13 before it was Clermont’s turn to showcase their deadly attacking skills. Lopez drew a pair of defenders before Yato drove towards the try line. Parra then picked up and found Lamerat, who used his quick hands to send Spedding over at the corner.
But the game swung back Ulster’s way once again when Jackson nudged a clever grubber kick through with his left foot before collecting a right-footed poke ahead to score. He added the conversion to send Ulster in 22-18 at the break.
And it was not long until they secured the four-try bonus-point through Marshall. Stuart McCloskey made some hards years in midfield before his centre partner crashed over. Piutau then gift-wrapped the result when he took the ball in midfield, beat Spedding and Remi Lamerat to dot down at the corner. Jackson was on-target with the touchline conversion and Ulster were causing at 36-18.
Abendanon raced over to give Clermont a glimmer of hope, before Chouly crashed over from close range to earn a try-scoring bonus-point and another point for getting within seven points.
Toulouse back on track
Toulouse ended a run of six Champions Cup games without a win as they overcame the foggy conditions to pile on the tries and points to down Zebre Rugby 36-6 in their Pool 2 contest at Stadio Lanfranchi.
The fog meant that the match was abandoned after 63 minutes but the result stands for the former kings of European rugby to notch up a win after five tournament defeats and a draw.
But needing to get maximum points out of their back-to-back matches against the struggling Italians they were pegged back initially by two penalties from home outside half Carlo Canna.
In between those two kicks Sebastien Bezy got the four-times European champions off the mark with a penalty of his own.
The rest of the first half was pretty much one way traffic as the Top 14 team got into gear – wing Arthur Bonneval the first to cross the Zebre line with a 16th minute try that Bezy converted.
Then came a burst of two tries in five minutes from centre Gael Fickou and lock Joe Tekori, both converted by Bezy, that put Toulouse in total command.
On the stroke of half time wing Yoann Huget secured the bonus point with try No 4 and Bezy’s conversion made it 29-6 at the break.
There was no let up for the home side in the second half as Bonneval raced over for his second try and Bezy’s conversion took the lead out to 30 points.
That was that as the 1996, 2003, 2005 and 2010 champions kept themselves in the mix and will be out for more of the same in the quickfire return in Round 4.
Munster tame Tigers at last
Munster finally broke their Leicester Tigers hoodoo at Thomond Park as they inflicted a record defeat on the two-time European Cup winners.
The home side’s 38 point victory outstripped the 34 point triumph recorded by Ulster in their 41-7 win against the Tigers in Belfast in 2012. With a second away defeat it now looks like an uphill task for last season’s semi-finalists to qualify for the knock-out stages.
The Tigers arrived having won on their two previous visits in the tournament and were looking to do the hat-trick. But the accurate boot of Tyler Bleyendaal, and the brilliant breakdown work of Peter O’Mahony’s pack, guided the Irish province to a second successive home win in Pool 1.
The Tigers were guilty of indiscipline from start to finish and quickly found themselves 12 points behind as Bleyendaal’s deadly accurate boot punished four penalties. Then French referee Romain Poite got fed up with the infringements and sent Ed Slater to the sin-bin.
While the second row was off the field the Irish scrum half Conor Murray conjured up an opening on the fringe of a ruck with a magical inside pass to Simon Zebo. The full break went though the gap and crossed at the pos for a try which Bleyendaal improved to make it 19-0 at the break.
Munster’s pace, power and precision kept the Tigers on the back foot in the second half and it didn’t take long before powerful South African centre Jaco Taute burst over after a great line-out drive in the visitors’ 22. Bleyendaal hit the target once again with the conversion, but couldn’t improve the third try of the game.
This time it was a great break into the Tigers 22 by Darren Sweetnam that paved the way for Taute to score his second try before heading home at the end of his short term contract. That took the score up to 31-0 before Manu Tuilagi followed Slater into the sin-bin for a reckless charge into a ruck.
Taute was only robbed of a hat-trick by an off the ball tackle by Leicester full back George Worth that earned him the third yellow card of the match and Munster a penalty try. Bleyendaal knocked over the simple conversion to take his match tally to 18 points before heading off with six minutes left to play.
A second bonus-point win keeps Munster on top of the table, a point clear of Glasgow Warriors, but with a game in hand.
Glasgow seal famous Racing triumph
Glasgow Warriors look set to fight-it-out with Munster at the top of Pool 1 after claiming famous 23-14 triumph over Racing 92 in Paris.
Gregor Townsend’s men banished the demons of last season, when their quarter-final hopes faded in defeat. But they are in position to qualify this time around thanks to tries from Alex Dunbar and Ali Price secured only their third win on French soil.
Argentina wing Juan Imhoff put the hosts ahead in the opening exchanges before Carter scored late-on, but it was not enough to lift them off the foot of pool one ahead of next week’s return clash at Scotstoun.
The Pool 1 clash began at a frantic pace at Stade Yves-du-Manoir, and it did not take long for last season’s runners-up seven minutes to hit the front. World Rugby Player of the Year Dan Carter sent a long pass to Casey Laulala, who sent Brice Dulin racing away from his own half. The full-back combined with Joe Rococoko, who powered towards the try line. But he was brought down, and the ball was worked back to the blindside, where Imhoff dotted down at the corner for his second try in as many Champions Cup matches.
But Glasgow earned a penalty just inside the Racing 22 metre line moments after the restart, and Finn Russell got his side on the scoreboard. He added another penalty to cut the gap to a single-point, before a spell of heavy Racing pressure.
But Glasgow showed their Warriors spirit to hold-firm, before going down the other end to take control of this crucial fixture through Dunbar. Russell took the ball at first receiver and sent his centre crashing through a hole in the French defence to score, with Russell adding the conversion for a 13-7 lead. Jonny Gray then secured a vital turnover to help his side secure their lead at half-time.
Russell was at the heart of things again as he was brought down just short of the Racing line, but his half-back partner Price spotted a gap and sniped in to score at the base of the posts after 42 minutes. The conversion was duly added by Russell to give Glasgow a 20-7 lead.
Ryan Wilson then got his hands on the ball at a ruck to earn Townsend’s men a crucial penalty deep in Racing territory. And Russell made no mistake to put his side 16 points ahead with just 15 minutes remaining.
Carter then danced through the Warriors defence to score, before converting to bring his side back to within nine points, but it was too little, too late and Glasgow look set to fight-it-out with Munster for top spot.
Saracens blow Sale away
Saracens blew away fellow English side Sale to take control of European Rugby Champions Cup Pool 3 with a convincing 50-3 victory and seal an 11th straight home win.
The defending champions once again look the team to beat this season and served notice of their intentions to make it back-to-back titles with a commanding bonus point success.
Mark McCall’s men simply had too much in attack for their opposition with Sean Maitland scoring twice in a six-try success. In the process, they recorded their 12th straight European victory which is one short of Munster’s record.
Owen Farrell fired Saracens into the lead at a rain-soaked Allianz Park with a penalty after six minutes. It almost got even better for the European champions when Richard Wigglesworth looked to have forced his way over, but looking at the TMO, rugby league convert Josh Charnley had somehow stopped him short.
Farrell added another penalty moments later to pull his side six points clear, before American outside-half AJ McGinty narrowed the gap with a shot of his own. But Marcelo Bosch made the breakthrough after 18 minutes.
Wigglesworth spotted a gap at the side of a ruck and streaked downfield. He passed the ball on to Schalk Burger, who found Bosch in support. And the centre ran-in unopposed to put Sarries 13-3 ahead.
Farrell added a pair of penalties, before it got even better. The England outside-half sent Maitland through a hole in the Sale midfield, and the Scotland wing raced home to score. Bosch added a late penalty to send Saracens into the changing rooms with a 26-3 lead.
The one-sided nature of the contest continued after the break.
With Farrell replaced by Alex Lozowski at the interval, Sale were then dealt another blow when Jonathan Mills was yellow carded for bringing down a line-out.
Down to 14, the visitors were up against it and Saracens quickly added three more scores.
Jamie George powered over, Chris Wyles collected an Alex Goode grubber to dive over in the corner and Maitland added his second following what looked like a questionable forward pass.
Lozowski booted one conversion from those three scores and at 43-3, the game was over.
Sale introduced former Wales scrum-half Mike Phillips in the final quarter but with James Flynn the next to see yellow for a high tackle on Schalk Brits, the away side’s discipline let them down.
There was still time for one more score as the rain came down, Richard Barrington barreling his way over in the final 10 minutes with Lozowski once again adding the extras.
Beale enjoys dream Wasps debut
Kurtley Beale enjoyed a try-scoring European Rugby Champions Cup debut as Wasps beat Connacht 32-17 to take control of Pool 2.
The Australian star stretched to score on his first match for seven months, before Nathan Hughes and Joe Launchbury crossed for tries. Josh Bassett was then put in by Beale to bag the try-scoring bonus-point.
Connacht were right in the Coventry encounter after scores from Kieran Marmion and Rory Parata, but their challenge faded and they are now three points behind Wasps in the race for the quarter-finals.
The Ricoh Arena crowd turned out to see Australia superstar Beale strut his stuff on the European stage. And they did not have to wait long to see him cross the whitewash to give his new side an early lead. Beale received the ball five metres out before he spun out of a collision with Stacey Ili and stretched over the line to score. Gopperth added the extras to give the hosts an early 7-0 lead.
But Beale’s dream debut turned slightly sour when he was sin-binned for a high tackle on Niyi Adeolokun. Carty got his side on the scoreboard from the resulting penalty, before Gopperth landed one of his own.
But Pat Lam’s men fought-back to level the scores through Marmion. The pack shunted Wasps back at a scrum, before captain John Muldoon scooped up the ball and found the Ireland scrum-half, who darted over to score. However, Gopperth landed a penalty to give his men a 13-10 lead at half-time.
Dai Young’s half-time team-talk clearly made a positive impression. Ashley Jonhson powered into the heart of the Connacht defence before England no.8 Hughes barged his way over the line. Gopperth’s conversion is successful, and Wasps lead 20-10.
But replacement Perata made sure the game would not get away from his side when he picked off a pass from Gopperth and raced home to score at the posts. But Launchbury, who had led the defensive effort in the second-half, scored the decisive try after 64 minutes. The skipper received a long pass from Gopperth and charged over the line.
And the bonus-point was wrapped up in the final 10 minutes when Beale showed his class to put Bassett in at the corner with some deft handling.
14 man Montpellier bag bonus point
Montpellier made it back-to-back home wins in the Champions Cup as they overcame losing Davit Kubriachvili to a red card to beat TOP 4 rivals Castres Olympique.
The Georgian tight head prop was given his marching orders by Welsh referee Ben Whitehouse in the 18th minute who charging into a ruck and striking Castres lock Thibault Lassale in the face with his shoulder.
At that stage Castres were leading 8-3 thanks to an early Rory Kockott penalty and a 40 metre interception ruby by the right wing Remi Grosso after he picked off a long, floating pass from Jesse Mogg.
Playing against 14 men for 62 minutes the visitors must have fancied their chances, but they found it difficult to come to terms with the Montpellier scrum and eventually conceded three tries from driving line-outs and saw the home side grab a bonus-point score two minutes from time..
Kockott added a second penalty to make it 11-3, but on the stroke of half-time the home pack drove to the line from a five metre line-out and created an opening on the blindside for Fijian wing Timoci Naguca to barge his way through David Smith for his 11th European Cup try. Francois Steyn converted off the touchline to make it 11-10 to Castres at the break.
The second half belonged almost entirely to the home side, with their seven man pack magnificent in all aspects. Castres changed their half-backs at the break and their Argentinan No 10 Benjamin Urdapilleta kicked them further ahead with a simple penalty a minute after the re-start.
That was it for Castres, however, and three tries flowed from Jake White’s men as they claimed an unlikely bonus-point to stay within one point of Pool 4 leaders Leinster. Tries two and three came from driving line-outs, flanker Kelian Galletier and hooker Shalva Mamukashvili crossing, and then Naguca created the opening for Nic White to score the vital fourth.
Castres lost replacement back row man Alexandre Bias to a yellow card for the final eight minutes and they will need a massive turn-around next week when they host Montpellier in Round 4.
Toulon batter Scarlets into submission
Triple champions RC Toulon picked up a vital bonus-point to stay in touch with Pool 3 leaders Saracens as they over-powered the Scarlets at Stade Mayol.
Mike Ford’s French giants eventually picked up four tries as Mamuka Gorgodze, Leigh Halfpenny and Romain Taofifenua crossed before the break and Guilhem Guirado added the bonus-point score early in the second half.
Wales hooker Ken Owens powered over for the Scarlets in the first half and John Barclay scored in the final few minutes but 11 points from the boot of Halfpenny proved to be the difference between the sides. The game had barely got started before the Scarlets were behind, Gorgodze crashing over after man of the match Mathieu Bastareaud had put a hole in the visiting defence.
Wales full-back Halfpenny converted and then scored a try of his own – Bastareaud again the creator – to extend the lead and while the Scarlets threw the ball wide at every opportunity, the French giants and their dominant pack remained the main threat.
Patchell booted two penalties to keep his team in touch but Taofifenua reached for the line to score Toulon’s third in what was an entertaining encounter.
Halfpenny’s boot kept the Scarlets at bay but Wayne Pivac’s men refused to go away. Against what was a giant Toulon pack, Owens took a flat pass close to the line and his excellent low body position saw him make his way over the line through two opposition tackles. Patchell converted to make it 24-13 to the home side at half time.
At that stage, the Scarlets were well in the game and they started the second period with the sort of intent which showed they believed they could take something back to Llanelli.
Gareth Davies dived for the line but was tackled just short before the game’s crucial moment arrived. Scott Williams looked to have found Steffan Evans with a try scoring pass, the winger running round to dot down near the posts.
The score, though, was ruled out for a knock-on by Williams before he passed to Evans handing Toulon a lifeline at a time when they were up against it.
It was one they took. The home side went straight up the other end and Guirado was the scorer as another huge forward surge from a line-out splintered the visiting pack. Halfpenny once again converted on what was a perfect day with the boot for the Wales ace.
That made the score 31-13 and although the final quarter saw both teams throw the ball around, there was to be just one more score.
Taofifenua was sent to the sin bin for dragging down a line-out and with a man advantage, the Scarlets struck. Barclay powered over late on and Patchell converted but it wasn’t enough.
Bordeaux pick up crucial away win
Bordeaux-Begles stayed in the hunt for the quarter-finals with a smash-and-grab raid at a fog bound Sandy Park.
The TOP 14 side slipped behind to a Jack Maunder try after the game had remained scoreless for the opening 30 minutes. Gareth Steenson added the conversion, but the Chiefs should have been much further ahead by then.
Lachie Turner and Steenson twice went within inches of scoring, but the Bordeaux defence stood firm. Better than that, they created a position for scrum half Baptiste Serin to kick a penalty to reduce the arrear to 7-3 at the break.
The game looked as though it could be in some danger as the fog rolled in even more just before half-time, but it cleared in the second half to allow the game to go the full distance. The home side had the greater possession and territory in the second half, but Bordeaux attacked of the base of a scrum against the head in the 22 and No 8 Marco Tauleigne sent Serin racing clear to the posts for a try that gave the visitors the lead.
Ian Madigan added the simple conversion and then his replacement, Lionel Beauxis, kicked a penalty to leave the Chiefs trailing by six points. It looked as though wing James Short had cut the gap with a wonder run from the 10 metre line, but he just lost control of the ball on the line as he stretched to score.
That summed up Exeter’s evening and, with three successive defeats in Pool 5 their hopes of backing up their trip to the quarter-finals last season are over.
SARugbymag.co.za looks back at the past weekend’s European Champions Cup and European Challenge Cup matches, involving South African players.
– The Leicester Tigers withstood a late onslaught to beat Racing 27-17 at Welford Road on Sunday. JP Pietersenstarted for the Tigers after a one-game absence, and the Bok winger made five carries and ran 36m upon his return to action. Johan Goosen played outside centre for the visitors, running 57m from five carries and two clean breaks.
– Munster, featuring inside centre Jaco Taute and eighthman CJ Stander, secured an emotional 38-17 bonus-point victory over the Glasgow Warriors. Stander started at the back of the scrum, but wore the No 28 on his back after Munster decided to retire the No 8 shirt for this game in honour of late coach Anthony Foley, who was buried on Friday. Taute starred for Munster and scored a try on his Champions Cup debut. Josh Straussstarted for the Warriors.
– A late try saw flank Ashley Johnson and his Wasps teammates snatch a dramatic 20-20 draw with hosts Toulouse. Former Bok prop Gurthrö Steenkamp was on the Toulouse bench.
– Forwards Quintin Geldenhuys, Johan Meyer and Dries van Schalkwyk were in the Zebre team that lost 52-7 to Connacht. In the most one-sided game in round two, Connacht, with lock Quinn Roux and wing Danie Poolman in their ranks, ran riot against their hosts.
– Toulon battled to a 15-5 win over the 14-man Sale Sharks at the AJ Bell Stadium. Boks Bryan Habana and No 8 Duane Vermeulen started for Toulon, while compatriot Marcel van der Merwewas named on the bench. Prop Brian Mujati earned a starting berth for Sale.
– Saracens continued to set the tone in European rugby with a 44-26 triumph over the Scarlets in London. Hooker Schalk Brits and flanks Schalk Burger and Michael Rhodes were starters for Sarries and prop Petrus du Plessis was among the reserves. Rhodes burrowed over for a try in the 74th minute. Winger DTH van der Merwe, lock David Bulbring and prop Werner Krugerwere on duty for Scarlets.
– Centre Robert Ebersohn, scurmhalf Rory Kockott, prop Dan Kotzé and hooker Jody Jenneker were part of the Castres side that smashed the Northampton Saints 41-7 at home. Former Stormers scrumhalf Nic Groom represented the Saints.
– Montpellier clinched an exciting 22-16 win against Leinster at the Altrad Stadium. Frans Steyn(inside centre), Pierre Spies (No 8), Paul Willemse (lock), Jacques du Plessis (lock) and Jannie du Plessis (prop) were in Montpellier’s run-on XV, while Nicolaas van Rensburg and Wiaan Liebenberg were used as impact players. Steyn kicked two crucial conversions and a penalty for the winners. Ex-Bok Zane Kirchner was at fullback for Leinster.
– Ulster, with Ruan Pienaar, Franco van der Merwe and Rob Herring in their ranks, claimed an enthralling 19-18 win against the Exeter Chiefs thanks to a 77th-minute drop goal. The winners are still in third position in the pool standings.
– Ex-Stormers duo Kobus can Wyk and Steven Kitshoff were in the Bordeaux team that suffered a 49-33 defeat at the hands of Clermont. The Bordeaux players were ill-disciplined throughout the game and the team paid the price with two yellow cards, including one for Van Wyk.
– Treviso, with Braam Steyn at No 8, slumped to a 37-8 loss against Gloucester at Kingsholm Stadium. The result had no impact on the pool standings, as Gloucester remain second and Treviso fourth.
– Jacques-Louis Potgieter kicked one penalty but it was in vain as captain Deon Fourie and his Lyon charges lost 31-13 against Ospreys. Prop BJ Botha was on the bench for Lyon, but failed to make an appearance.
– Lock Mouritz Botha and his Newcastle Falcons teammates smashed beleaguered Grenoble 50-7 at Kingston Park. The result sees the two teams swap positions on the log, with the Falcons moving to third and Grenoble dropping to fourth.
– Enisei continued to defy the odds when they claimed another big scalp to make it two wins from as many games. The Russian qualifiers beat the Newport Gwent Dragons 38-18. Fullback Carl Meyer, wing Pat Howard and lock Ligtoring Landman turned out for the Dragons, who are now second in the standings. Enisei are top of the pool log. Howard scored the Dragons’ opening try in the 19th minute.
– Locks Jan Uys and Johan Snyman and prop Kevin Buys did service for Brive, who clinched a 25-25 win over hosts the Worcester Warriors at Sixways Stadium.
– Bath ousted bitter rivals Bristol 22-6 at The Rec. Hooker Michael van Vuuren earned a rare spot in Bath’s starting lineup.
– WP Nel‘s Edinburgh edged Tim Swiel‘s Harlequins 36-35 in an instant classic at Murrayfield on Saturday. Swiel came on as a replacement and kicked two conversions, but it was in vain. The result keeps Edinburgh top of the standings, three points clear of Quins.
– Morné Steyn, Jono Ross, Craig Burden, Willem Alberts and Meyer Bosman were part of the Stade Français outfit that battled to a 27-0 win against Timisoara Saracens in Paris. Steyn slotted two conversions and a penalty. Flyhalf Jody Rose and flank Randall Morrison started for the Romanian qualifiers.
Glasgow Warriors have never broken out of their pool in the European Cup, but after piling on a record score against Leicester Tigers they have given themselves the perfect start to their Pool 3 campaign.
Two interception tries were the icing on the cake for home coach Gregor Townsend, although the truth is there should have been more tries. Thee scrums on the Tigers five metre line were so dominant that Leicester lost a player to the sin-bin, but Glasgow failed to score.
Tigers were on the scoreboard first thanks to the boot of Owen Williams and also grabbed the game’s first try when wing Adam Thomstone got wrapped up in a driving line-out moments after home flanker Ryan Wilson had seen yellow.
Williams nailed the conversion and the visitors’ looked well in control of their destiny. Glasgow were giving away penalties at a rate of knots and they weren’t able to make the most of Matt Toomu’s 10 minute break after he tip-tackled Finn Russell.
But as soon as the home pack got to grips with the pace of the game, and began to dominate the battle of the gain line, there was only going to be one winner. Glasogw attacked close to the fringes of the rucks and Italian wing Leonard Sarto burst over for the first of three first half tries.
Next over the Tigers line was hooker Fraser Brown and scrum half Henry Pyrgos made it three tries in nine minutes with his close range snipe. That made it 22-13 at the break – Williams kicked another penalty just before the interval – but Russell extended the lead with a penalty 15 minutes into the second half.
Glasgow’s set-piece dominance should have yielded them something, but they had to be content with another Russell penalty that made it 28-13 after 67 minutes. The bonus-point arrived moments later thanks to a 70 metre interception try from Olympic sevens silver medallist Mark Bennett.
Then Sarto followed suit to cap off a great night at a sold-out Scotstoun. That was enough to earn the Italian flyer the Heineken Man of the Match award and Russell’s conversion took the score beyond the 41 points notched by Ulster against Leicester in the 2010/11 season.
Ruthless Wasps trounce Zebre
Wasps re-wrote the record books to trounce Zebre 82-14 and get their European Rugby Champions Cup campaign off to a dream start.
Dai Young’s men smashed the winning margin record they set against fellow Italians Benetton Treviso in 2006/07 (66) as they scored a 12 tries to send a statement to their Pool 2 rivals.
The Italians were blown away in the first-half thanks to a Rob Miller brace and tries from Jake Cooper-Woolley, Joe Simpson, Frank Halai and Ashley Johnson. Elliot Daly made sure the second-half started the way the first ended with a score after 10 seconds, and there was more woe for the Italians when Josh Bassett and Joe Launchbury crashed over, before Simpson bagged his brace.
James Gaskell and Dan Robson completed the thumping, as Danny Cipriani took man-of-the-match, as he did back 2006/07.
It did not take long for Wasps to take-flight in this season’s Champions Cup. Kyle Eastmond, who was making his full Wasps debut, sliced through the defensive line in midfield before the ball was worked wide to Rob Miller, who strolled over the try-line unopposed.
Cipriani kicked the conversion to make it 7-0 after four minutes and had the tee out again moments later. This time it was prop Cooper-Woolley who crashed over from close range to give the hosts a 14-0 lead. It got even worse for the Italians when they lost no8 Andries van Schalkwyk to the sin-bin for a dangerous tackle on Launchbury.
Wasps showed their clinical side to use their man advantage to full-effect. They went through a number of high-tempo phases before Cipriani found half-back partner Simpson with a deft offload for the third try.
Zebre showed they were not dead and buried as they shunted replacement Federico Ruzza over the line, but their resurgence did not last long. Miller dived over in the corner for his second and the Wasps’ crucial bonus-point score, before Halai raced around the Zebre defence to get in on the act. But Ruzza got Zebre’s second before the break when he picked off a loose pass from Cooper-Woolley, and Padovani converted.
But Wasps flanker Johnson made sure his side went in at half-time on the front-foot when he crashed over from close-range for Wasps’ sixth. Cipriani maintained his 100 percent record to make it 42-14 at half-time.
It took just 10 seconds of the second period for Daly to race onto the restart and charge over for Wasps’ seventh of the match. Carlo Festuccia had endured a torrid return to his former home and was shown yellow for not rolling away. And once again they were punished when Launchbury wrestled his way over from close-range. But they were not finished there as Josh Bassett, Joe Simpson, James Gaskell and Dan Robson completed the rout.
Bonus-point start for Leinster in Dublin
Sean Cronin’s two first-half tries put Leinster on course for a handsome opening victory in the European Rugby Champions Cup.
The Ireland hooker twice finished devastating lineout drives from the Leinster pack to put the hosts in charge at the RDS Showground. But the biggest cheer was for his front-row partner Jack McGrath, who celebrated his 100th appearance for the province with a try.
A penalty try for Castres just before half-time threatened to disrupt Leinster’s dominance but man of the match Isa Nacewa’s solo-try early in the second half ensured maximum points for the former European champions.
Castres had not tasted success in this competition since 2013, losing their last seven on the road, and facing an uphill task early on in Dublin. Nacewa missed his first effort at goal after a high tackle on Cronin. But the hooker dusted himself off to finish a drive set-up by the towering Devon Toner after just eight minutes.
All eyes were on Jonathan Sexton’s young deputy, Joey Carvery, and the fly-half almost snatched an interception with an acrobatic effort.
Gary Ringrose and Robbie Henshaw went close but Castres defended valiantly while No8 Alex Tulou, the top ball-carrier in the Top 14, proved a threat. Cronin then peeled off another drive on 26 minutes, stepping past one defender and spinning out a challenge for his second try.
Rob Kearney’s high tackle on livewire scrum-half Antoine Dupont enabled Benjamin Urdapilleta to claw back three points. Prop McGrath had his special moment on 32 minutes when he picked up and crashed over after Luke McGrath was stopped short.
The scrum-half was then frustrated at the other try line when he was shown a yellow card and conceded a penalty try after diving in as the Castres pack rumbled over. Urdapilleta’s conversion narrowed the gap to 19-10 on the stroke of half-time.
Yet with just 14 men, Leinster and in particular Nacewa, showed their class as the full-back picked up and brushed off two tackles as he galloped over for the bonus-point score that he converted himself.
Castres then lost Thibault Lassale to the sin bin and Leinster’s scrum, now blostered by a fresh Mike Ross, capitalised, turning the screw until referee Matthew Carley awarded another penalty try.
The 14 men of Castres managed a response as 20-year-old rookie Anthony Jelonch dived over but Leinster were not to be denied.
Brilliant Saracens end Toulon’s home record
Saracens ended Toulon’s proud unbeaten home record in the European Rugby Champions Cup as the defending champions opened their Pool 3 campaign with a 31-23 win at Stade Mayol.
The English champions had looked to be romping to victory when tries from Sean Maitland, Richard Wigglesworth and Chris Wyles – plus 10 points from Owen Farrell on his return from injury – gave Mark McCall’s men a 25-6 half-time lead.
But three-time winners Toulon roared back after the break with tries from Levan Chilachava and Bryan Habana, plus the reliable boot of Leigh Halfpenny.
However, Saracens kept their nerve and a late Farrell penalty put the seal on an historic victory and deny Toulon a losing bonus point.
Saracens could hardly have wished for a better start as they totally dominated the opening 40 minutes. Farrell and Halfpenny exchanged penalties before the English side claimed the opening try through Maitland. Strong forward carries laid the groundwork and the Scotland international finished brilliantly in the corner.
Farrell missed the conversion but he was soon lining up another shot at goal following another Saracens’ try. Richard Wigglesworth was the scorer, going under the posts after hooker Jamie George charged through a gaping hole in the Toulon defence.Farrell added the conversion and then kicked a penalty after a strong carry from George Kruis once again had Toulon in retreat.
They did at least trim the gap through Halfpenny’s second penalty after Maro Itoje was penalised for a high tackle. But Saracens rammed home their ascendency with a third try before the break.
Mako Vunipola’s cute offload allowed Farrell and Marcelo Bosch to make yards, with Wyles finishing the flowing attack on the left and Farrell converting.
Halfpenny got the first points of the second half on the board but Farrell soon replied when Nonu saw red for a tip tackle on Brad Barritt.
But the numbers were soon evened up as Itoje infringed following an extended spell of Toulon pressure and the game suddenly swung in hosts favour.
Chilachava burrowed over from the next passage of play and Habana raced his way over at the end of a flowing attack, with Halfpenny adding both conversions to get his team within five points.
Saracens then lost Schalk Burger to the bin with eight minutes to go for slowing down ruck ball, but Farrell’s penalty got them over the line.
Myler snatches dramatic triumph
Stephen Myler struck an injury time penalty to seal a dramatic 16-14 European Rugby Champions Cup triumph over Montpellier.
Jim Mallinder’s men had led from the fourth minute after Calum Clark crashed over, only to see their lead wiped out by Frans Steyn, who scored a try and kicked two penalties to send the French side into a 14-13 lead after 66 minutes.
But cometh the hour, cometh the man, and it was Myler who had the last laugh as he showed nerves of steel to convert a penalty from 35 metres at the death. The victory leaves Northampton second behind Leinster in Pool 4 ahead of their trip to Castres next Sunday.
Jim Mallinder’s men sent a statement of intent after just four minutes at Franklin’s Gardens. George North cleared up a loose lineout and powered into the heart of the Montpellier defence. Harry Mallinder then made a half break to release former Montpellier star Louis Picamoles, who disguised a deft pass back to Clark for him to crash over.
Myler converted at the second time of asking before he slotted a long-range penalty to put Northampton 10 points ahead. But the Montpellier juggernaut gathered speed and they got their first points thanks to a Ben Botica penalty after some heavy pressure.
And Jake White’s men got right back into it four minutes before half-time. Frans Steyn slung a long pass out-wide to Nemani Nadolo, who slipped a deft offload out the back of his hand to Joffrey Michel. The replacement full-back charged down the wing and fed Steyn – and the Springbok did enough to reach over the line to cut the gap to 10-8 at half-time.
The contest descended into an arm wrestle after the break. Myler landed a penalty but that was cancelled out by Steyn as the clock ticked past the hour mark. But the French side finally hit the front with 13 minutes remaining after Northampton failed to roll away at a ruck.
North had a late chance to win it for Mallinder’s men, but he was beaten by the bounce after chipping over the French defence. But Myler stepped up to clinch it at the death after Montpellier left their hands in a ruck.
Connacht comeback earns famous win
Connacht registered their most famous victory in Europe as they condemned Toulouse to a record fifth successive away defeat in the Champions Cup.
A try from Bundee Aki in the 64th minute, converted by Craig Ronaldson, completed a magnificent fightback after they had fallen 10 points behind at the end of the first-half. The power of the Toulouse front row caused problems for the home side in the early exchanges and saw the visitors race into a nine point lead
But, playing in the top-tier of European rugby for the first time under their own steam after winning the Guinness PRO12 title, Connacht were never going to be overawed and stuck to their systems and, in the end, outscored the TOP 14 side by three tries to two
Sebastien Bezy kicked two of those early penalties for Toulouse and Florian Fritz added a third from long range. But once Connacht managed to get their hands on the ball they caused no end of problems for the four-time European champions.
A brilliant move from their own 22 after stealing a Toulouse line-out led to Niyi Adeolokun scoring in the right corner at the other end and then Jack Carty’s penalty cut the gap to a single point. A second Carty penalty then edged Connacht in front, but Toulouse came up with a big response.
Tries from Yann David in the left corner and Jean-Marc Doussain in the space of three minutes saw them regain control and lead 21-11 at the break. Connacht finished the half knocking on the Toulouse door for another try and they picked up two more in the second half.
Tiernan O’Halloran crossed in the 57th minute and then Heineken Man of the Match Aki burst through the remnants of the visitors defence and crossed in the right corner to level the scores. Ronaldson stepped up to end Connacht’s goalkicking problems to nail the conversion and leave Toulouse with 13 minutes to find a score.
Scarlets end wait for European win
Two tries from DTH van der Merwe helped the Scarlets kick off their European Rugby Champions Cup Pool 3 campaign with a comfortable 28-11 victory over Sale.
The Welsh region lost all six pool games in this competition last term and this was their first win in nine European outings. Canadian international Van der Merwe led the way with his brace, with scrum-half Gareth Davies also dotting down and Rhys Patchell kicking 13 points.
Neil Briggs got Sale’s only try with fly-half Dan Mugford kicking two penalties but the Sharks were made to pay for a first quarter where they gave up a 13-point lead to their hosts.
Mugford had kicked them into an early lead but Patchell levelled matters in the ninth minute before the first Scarlets try arrived four minutes later.
The Sale number 10 took too long to get his kick away and Davies pounced to charge down and regather to score, with Patchell converting.
Sale’s struggles continued as a lost line-out and a ruck infringement gave Patchell two more sights of goal, both of which he put straight between the uprights to make it 16-3.
It looked a long way back for the visitors but they got back into the contest with a well-worked drive. The Scarlets did well to repel one driving maul, but Briggs dotted down when the next effort found the weak spot in the home defence.
However, they were put on the back foot again by Van der Merwe’s first score. Davies made the break from the base of the scrum, and when the ball was recycled Patchell’s cross-kick allowed the Canada winger to pirouette through a tackle to go over in the corner.
Mugford kicked his second penalty shortly before the break but, when Sale lost prop Ross Harrison to the bin for a high tackle on Ken Owens, the hosts killed the game off.
Van der Merwe was again the finisher, doing well to pick up Patchell’s long pass on the tips of his fingertips to dive over in the corner.
Patchell converted and the hosts’ attentions turned to capturing a bonus point but it was not to be during a scrappy final quarter.
Bordeaux-Begles break brave Ulster
Bordeaux-Begles left it late to breakdown a brave Ulster defence and claim a 28-13 European Rugby Champions Cup triumph.
An Andrew Trimble try and eight points from the boot of Paddy Jackson gave Ulster a commanding 13-9 lead with less than 10 minutes remaining. But The hosts stages a late show to steal the spoils and get their Pool 5 campaign of to a flying start.
Sébastien Taofifenua barged over at the corner before a searing break from Metuisela Talebulamaijaina earned a penalty try. And Blair Connor broke free to put the gloss on the hard-fought victory.
Ian Madigan capitalised on some early dominance to kick Bordeaux into a 3-0 lead after just two minutes. But the early scare sparked Les Kiss’s side into life. Ulster battled their way downfield, and made the most of their first foray into enemy territory.
The Ulster pack drove the hosts back at a scrum before Stuart Olding charged into midfield. Scrum-half Ruan Pienaar switched the play to blind-side and found Trimble running a devestating angle to cut-through and score. Jackson converted to give the Irish province a 7-3 lead.
Ulster had two chances to put themselves even further on the front foot but twice knocked on close to the try-line. They had to settle for a Jackson penalty late in the first-half to make it 10-3 at the break.
It was Madigan who struck first in the second period with a penalty to rein Ulster’s lead back to within four points. Lionel Beauxis replaced the Ireland outside-half and his first act was to land a penalty to cut the gap to a single point. But Jackson was on-hand to reply two minutes later with a long-range strike.
Ulster looked to be on their way to a famous Champions Cup win with some heroic defence, but their resolve was finally broken with five minutes remaining. Giant forward Taofifenua rumbled over the Ulster defence and squeezed the ball down at the corner to give the hosts the lead.
Talebulamaijaina then broke clear and charged downfield from the kickoff. He offloaded to Serin, who was tackled early by Sean Reidy, preventing a try. JP Doyle sin-binned Reidy and awarded a penalty try, before Connor streaked home from a turnover.
Five try Clermont gain ample revenge
Top 14 leaders ASM Clermont Auvergne served up a five star performance to avenge their Sandy Park defeat in last season’s Champions Cup and kick-off their Pool 5 campaign with a bonus point victory.
The Chiefs had not only beaten the two-time finalists 31-14 at home last year, but also pipped them to the quarter-final spot from their pool. This time they were never at the races.
Despite taking a seventh minute lead with the wind at their backs through a Gareth Steenson penalty, the Chiefs conceded three tries in the first-half and a further two after the break as they were made to wait 73 minutes before finally adding to their early score.
There were two tries from French centre Wesley Fofana, matching his performance at Sandy Park in his side’s 46-12 triumph, but the physicality of the Clermont pack as the biggest difference between the two teams. They laid the platform and the back line did the rest.
Back row man Julien Bardy scored the first try after 25 minutes as he picked up an inside pas from wing Noa Nakaitaci off his boot laces to score in the left corner. Morgan Parra added a magnificent touchline conversion.
Once they got their noses in front the Frenchmen never looked back. Forwards coach Jonno Gibbes revealed they had opted to play into the wind to try to stop the Chiefs getting ahead in the opening quarter and their plan worked perfectly.
Nakaitaci was next to score as he profited from a break into the home 22 by Camile Lopez and then Fofana grabbed a third try two minutes before the break. Parra converted both tries and Clermont led 21-3 at half-time.
The second half saw former England full back Nick Abendanon bring up the bonus point for the visitors with a thrilling try at the posts after some magnificent off-loading. Parra added the simple conversion and the strength of the French team’s defence kept on squeezing mistakes out of the Chiefs and frustrating them.
It meant Fofana was able to slice through the hoe midfield to cross for his second try at the posts following a scrum five and Pato Fernandez’ conversion made in 35-3. The Chiefs were down, but not quite out.
To their credit they kept on playing and were rewarded with an 80th minute try from Sam Hill. The conversion attempt from Henry Slade summed up the home performance as it headed off somewhere towards the far corner flag.
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Saracens held off a Toulon fightback to secure a 31-23 win in their Champions Cup opener at the Stade Félix Mayol on Saturday reports Planet Rugby
The visitors were full value for their win, outscoring Toulon by three tries to two, and the victory marks the first time Toulon have lost a European game at home.
On his first game back for the European Champions, Owen Farrell slotted an early penalty to give Saracens an early lead in the South of France.
The hosts were quick to hit back with a penalty of their own from the ever-reliable boot of Leigh Halfpenny. It was Saracens who scored the first try of the afternoon on eight minutes with a wonderful finish from Sean Maitland.
The Scotland winger held off the defensive efforts of the Toulon backs to dot down in the corner. Their second was quick to follow. A wonderful runnnig line from Jamie George saw him burst through the Toulon defensive line before offloading to Richard Wigglesworth who scored under the posts.
A second Farrell penalty extended Saracens’ lead to 15 points, before Halfpenny hit back again from the tee. Right on half-time, the visitors scored their third try. Chris Wyles crossed in the corner after some great hands from Itoje and Kruis to give the London side 25-6 lead going into the break.
After half time, Halfpenny kept the scoreboard ticking over for Toulon with his third penalty of the afternoon. Things went from bad to worse for Toulon when Ma’a Nonu was shown yellow for a dangerous tackle for a dangerous tackle on Brad Barritt. Farrell added the three points from the subsequent penalty.
Saracens were unable to take advantage of the extra man, and were soon at a deficit themselves. After a period of heavy Toulon pressure, Sarries talismanic second row Maro Itoje was shown yellow for entering at the side. Toulon scored their first try of the evening from the resulting penalty. Some neat pick and drive from the Toulon forwards ended with Levan Chilachava peering over.
As the Toulon momentum built, the Saracens defence began to crumble. With several players down injured, there were no Sarries defenders to prevent Bryan Habana crossing for Toulon’s third try.
With three minutes left on the clock, Farrell stepped up and slotted a fourth penalty to take Toulon out of losing bonus point territory. The victory marks the first time Toulon have lost a European game at the Stade Mayol.
Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall believes his young squad can deliver once again in both the Premiership and Champions Cup this season.
The Allianz Park giants won both competitions last term, with their young English contingent starring before going on to triumph in Australia.
Maro Itoje, Owen Farrell, George Kruis and the Vunipola brothers all impressed and McCall is confident they can kick on in the coming year.
“We’ve got a pretty impressive young group and I couldn’t speak more highly of them,” he told Premiership Rugby at Thursday’s launch.
“After the Grand Slam last year – they are all 25 and under and are English internationals – to come back and perform the way they did for their club was incredible really.
“The age profile of our group is good, they are highly motivated and hopefully better things are ahead.
“They are unbelievably motivated, there is a Lions Tour and we said at the end of last season that for us it didn’t feel like the culmination of seven years, it felt like the start of something.”
Saracens’ most notable arrival ahead of this season is Springbok flanker Schalk Burger, who McCall says has been an instant hit at the club.
“We have grown as a club and we need to remember the underlying factors which have made us successful over the past couple of years,” he said.
“If we do stay true to those things, then hopefully we will give ourselves a chance.
“We haven’t had too many changes, we have only had three or four new players.
“Schalk Burger has essentially taken the place of two players – Ernst Joubert and Jacques Burger – we thought it was important that we brought in a very experienced player and Schalk has made a great impression over the first couple of weeks.”
Maxime Machenaud’s late penalty ensured that Racing 92 will face Leicester in the Champions Cup semi-finals after beating Toulon 19-16.
Juan Imhoff scored the opener two minutes in but was matched by Charles Ollivon in a closely fought first half.
The sides were level for most of the second half until Maxime Machenaud stepped up with two minutes to go and kicked through the winning points.
With Leicester Tigers qualifying, victory for either side meant they will face Richard Cockerill’’s side in the final four.
The hosts had a three-point lead within the first minute of the tie, Dan Carter slotting a penalty through almost straight from the restart.
Racing burst out of the blocks superbly and they had a 10-point lead after just four minutes. Imhoff nipped in after Maxime Mermoz’’s weak pass was intercepted and there was no stopping the Argentina star as he stormed towards the line. Carter converted and Toulon had been blown away just four minutes into the tie, down 10-0.
But despite the dreadful start, the holders levelled the try scoring from their next attack. Still inside the first 10 minutes, Charles Ollivon went over after a fine break forward from Josua Tuisova. Jonathan Pélissié converted and Toulon dragged themselves back into contention.
After that breathtaking first 10 minutes, the half calmed down as both sides reverted to a more defensive nature.
Pélissié had two opportunities within three minutes to put his side at the very least level, but the first hit the upright whilst the second was off target.
Maxime Machenaud missed a kick for the hosts in the absence of the temporarily injured Carter, and by half-time Toulon were level. Pélissié kicking over seconds before the break and the sides went in 10-10.
The Toulon kicker put the visitors ahead for the first time three minutes into the second half with another penalty.
Machenaud responded to make it 13-all and keep the game finely poised. The scrum-half again kicked another three through to restore the lead they built up early on, with Pélissié missing his third kick of the afternoon a minute later.
But on the hour mark, it was level again thanks to Pélissié’s strike.
Impossible to predict which way the game would go, each side had their moments. In fact, Toulon were defending superbly inside their own 22 for long spells, being pressed back as the hosts probed for a second try.
Toulon did have opportunities to retake the lead, but the pressure was getting to both sides as a place in the final four beckoned.
Machenaud missed another penalty with five to play, a big miss at a crucial time, but he didn’t pass up the opportunity at another with two minutes remaining.
The French international scrum-half held his nerve from a penalty right in front of the posts to snatch the advantage back at a pivotal moment.
And despite a late push, Racing held on to defeat the reigning champions and seal their place in the final four.
For Racing: Try: Imhoff Con: Carter Pens: Carter, Machenaud 3
For Toulon: Try: Ollivon Con: Pélissié Pens: Pélissié 3
This weekend see again the Europeans showing of in the Champions Cup and Challenge Cup as we get closer to the business end of the pool stages.
Ulster v Oyonnax Saturday 23 Jan 2016
Ulster welcomes back centre Cave as he recovered from a shoulder injury since December. McCloskey gets a well-earned rest after playing in all 16 of Ulster’s matches thus far the season, with Nick Williams also back in the fray for Ulster.
New Ireland captain Rory Best will start the game on the bench as he has a minor back problem. That means that Rob Herring, who has been named in Ireland’s squad for Rounds 1 and 2 of the Six Nations, will deputise as both hooker and captain.
Ruan Pienaar has been ruled out by illness, while Wiehahn Herbst has a foot injury, so Paul Marshall and Ricky Lutton come into the side at scrum-half and tighthead prop respectively.
Commenting on his selection, the Director of Rugby, Les Kiss, said: “It’s great to have Darren (Cave) and Nick (Williams) back in the team. We welcomed Jared (Payne) back last week and that was pleasing for us too. With Rory (Best) on the bench it’s another opportunity for Rob (Herring) to show what a great player and what a great leader he is. Ruan (Pienaar) has been struggling with illness all week so he is unavailable, but we know that Paul (Marshall) will come in and do a fantastic job for us.”
Oyonnax have made 14 changes after their win over Toulouse in Round 5.
Geoffrey Fabbri is the only survivor from last weekend as he keeps his place in the second row, partnered this week by Leon Power.
Pedrie Wannenburg, Pierrick Gunther and Valentin Ursache form a new back row as Rory Clegg gets the nod at fly-half.
Ulster: 15 Jared Payne, 14 Andrew Trimble, 13 Darren Cave, 12 Luke Marshall, 11 Craig Gilroy, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Paul Marshall, 8 Nick Williams, 7 Sean Reidy, 6 Robbie Diack, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Alan O’Connor, 3 Ricky Lutton, 2 Rob Herring, 1 Kyle McCall Replacements: 16 Rory Best, 17 Callum Black, 18 Bronson Ross, 19 Clive Ross, 20 Roger Wilson, 21 David Shanahan, 22 Ian Humphreys, 23 Rory Scholes
For Toulouse, they would like to fix the wrongs of last week at home and prevent the English top side to give them back to back defeats at home.
Having already booked a home quarter-final place after their bonus point win over Ulster, Saracens welcome back England centre Brad Barritt to the starting XV, who will also captain the side.
Marcelo Bosch partners Brad Barritt at centre, with Mark McCall rotating his half-backs for the fixture in south-west France, with the experienced duo of Neil De Kock and Charlie Hodgson named at scrum-half and fly-half respectively.
Meanwhile, Toulouse have made multiple changes to the side that lost to Oyonnax last week.
Veteran wing Vincent Clerc returns but Toby Flood continues at 13 while Paul Perez moved from inside centre to will to accomodate the return of Florian Fritz.
Imanol Harinordoquy is added to the loose trio along with rising star Yacouba Camara, who replaces Thierry Dusautoir.
A much-changed tight-five sees Patricio Albacete start ahead of Joe Tekori while internationals Corey Flynn and Gurthro Steenkampbolster the front row.
Toulouse:15 Clément Poitrenaud, 14 Vincent Clerc, 13 Toby Flood, 12 Florian Fritz, 11 Paul Perez, 10 Luke McAlister, 9 Jean-Marc Doussain, 8 Gillian Galan, 7 Imanol Harinordoquy, 6 Yacouba Camara, 5 Patricio Albacete, 4 Romain Millo-Chluski, 3 Nemiah Tialata, 2 Corey Flynn, 1 Gurthro Steenkamp. Replacements: 16 Christopher Tolofua, 17 Cyril Baille, 18 Gert Muller, 19 Joe Tekori, 20 Gregory Lamboley, 21 David Mele, 22 Gael Fickou, 23 Maxime Médard
Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Duncan Taylor, 13 Marcelo Bosch, 12 Brad Barritt, 11 Chris Wyles, 10 Charlie Hodgson, 9 Neil de Kock, 8 Jackson Wray, 7 Jacques Burger, 6 Michael Rhodes, 5 George Kruis, 4 Jim Hamilton, 3 Juan Figallo, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 Richard Barrington. Replacements: 16 Jamie George, 17 Mako Vunipola, 18 Petrus du Plessis, 19 Hayden Smith, 20 Billy Vunipola, 21 Ben Spencer, 22 Owen Farrell, 23 Ben Ransom
Gloucester v Zebre
Gloucester begins the defence of their European Challenge Cup when they face Zebre at Kingsholm on Saturday.
All black front row Jeremey Thrush is finally set to make his Gloucester debut after his Rugby World Cup winning campaign while World Player of the Year nominee Greg Laidlaw is amongst the replacements.
Jacob Rowan will lead the side out in front of the Shed, and is no stranger to the responsibility after skippering Yorkshire Carnegie for several years prior to joining Gloucester. He also for a time led the England U20s.
Gloucester director of rugby David Humprehys told BBC Sport: “The European Rugby Challenge Cup was an important competition for us last year and winning it was due reward for all the hard work that had gone in. For us, this is an opportunity to be the first club to retain the Challenge Cup. That’s what we’re looking to do but, in order to do that, a home quarter-final is important and we have to get off to a winning start.”
Meanwhile, for Zebre, Tommaso D’Apice, Dario Chistolini and Marco Bortolami will all be making their return to their old stomping ground.
Bath has made seven changes to the starting line-up for the club’s first home match of 2016, following three consecutive games on the road.
Nick Auterac, Ross Batty and Henry Thomas make their seventh start of the season together in the front row. In contrast, locks Charlie Ewels and Dominic Day (this week named in Wales’s Six Nations squad) combine for the first time.
A new-look back row comprises blindside David Denton (included in Scotland’s Six Nations squad this week), openside Guy Mercer and last weekend’s try-scorer, number eight Leroy Houston.
Meanwhile, Toulon make four changes to the XV who edged out Wasps last weekend at the Stade Félix Mayol.
James O’Connor takes over from Drew Mitchell at full-back, with Maxime Mermoz in at outside centre for Mathieu Bastareaud.
The two remaining changes see Sébastian Tillous-Borde take over from Eric Escande at scrum-half, while Samu Manoa returns to partner Jocelino Suta in the second row.
Bath: 15 Anthony Watson, 14 Semesa Rokoduguni, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Kyle Eastmond, 11 Horacio Agulla, 10 George Ford (c), 9 Chris Cook, 8 Leroy Houston, 7 Guy Mercer, 6 David Denton, 5 Dominic Day, 4 Charlie Ewels, 3 Henry Thomas, 2 Ross Batty, 1 Nick Auterac Replacements: 16 Tom Dunn, 17 Nathan Catt, 18 David Wilson, 19 Tom Ellis, 20 Matt Garvey, 21 Alafoti Faosiliva, 22 Rhys Priestland, 23 Ollie Devoto
Flanker Will Boyde will make his Champions Cup debut for the Scarlets when they run on to face the Northampton Saints at the Parc on Saturday.
The 21-year-old has made six appearances in the Scarlet jersey, his only starting XV spot coming in the LV= Cup clash against London Irish in January 2015.
The only other change to the pack sees Aaron Shingler returning to his favoured blindside flank.
Head Coach Pivac has made three changes to the backline that faced Racing 92 last Sunday. Steve Shingler moves from outside half to inside centre with Aled Thomas coming in at fly-half. Winger Tom Williams makes a return from injury to line-up alongside DTH van der Merwe and Michael Collins in the back three.
Speaking ahead of the final pool game of the Champions Cup campaign Pivac said: “We’re pleased to be welcoming some boys back this weekend. We’re also playing at home. There has been a huge emphasis on rectifying some of the wrongs from last week because we need a strong and improved performance to take into the Connacht game when the PRO12 gets back underway next weekend.
“Northampton are still in with a chance of qualifying. I would expect them to come here and want to perform. We’re looking for a big performance no matter what side they put out. We’ll be tidying up our defence and trying to get somewhere near parity in terms of possession and territory. You want the players to be hurting after results like last weekend’s so that the next opportunity they have to wear the jersey they right the wrongs.”
Meanwhile, the Saints head to Parc y Scarlets still in contention for a quarter-final spot, and have made five changes to the starting line-up that will run out to face the Scarlets.
In the backs Jamie Elliott, Harry Mallinder, Stephen Myler and Tom Kessell come in, with Sam Dickinson returning to the back row.
Scarlets: 15 Michael Collins, 14 Tom Williams, 13 Regan King, 12 Steven Shingler, 11 DTH van der Merwe, 10 Aled Thomas, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 Morgan Allen, 7 Will Boyde, 6 Aaron Shingler, 5 Maselino Paulino, 4 Tom Price, 3 Samson Lee, 2 Ken Owens (c),1 Phil John Replacements: 16 Kirby Myhill, 17 Dylan Evans, 18 Rhodri Jones, 19 Lewis Rawlins, 20 Tom Phillips, 21 Aled Davies, 22 Josh Lewis, 23 Steff Hughes
Northampton: 15 Ben Foden, 14 Jamie Elliot, 13 George Pisi, 12 Harry Mallinder, 11 George North, 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Tom Kessell, 8 Sam Dickinson, 7 Tom Wood, 6 Jamie Gibson, 5 Christian Day, 4 Courtney Laws, 3 Paul Hill, 2 Dylan Hartley (c), 1 Alex Waller Replacements: 16 Mikey Haywood, 17 Ethan Waller, 18 Gareth Denman, 19 Michael Paterson, 20 Jon Fisher, 21 Lee Dickson, 22 JJ Hanrahan, 23 Luther Burrell
Glasgow Warriors v Racing 92
Scotland winger Tommy Seymour returns to the Glasgow Warriors starting line-up for the Champions Cup match at Rugby Park in Kilmarnock, after recovering from a hamstring injury. Fly-half Duncan Weir could make his 100th appearance for the club from the bench.
The Warriors play Racing 92 in their final pool match, with the Top 14 leaders having already qualified for a home play-off as pool winners.
The Warriors sit third in Pool 3 and would need to take maximum points from tomorrow’s game and hope a host of other results go their way in order to secure a runner-up spot on 15 points.
Meanwhile, Racing 92 make ten changes from the side who won convincingly against the Scarlets last weekend.
Dan Carter is given the week off as Henry Chavancy and Alexandre Dumoulin form a new centre partnership, with Maxime Machenaud taking over from Mike Phillips at scrum-half.
Chris Masoe and Wenceslas Lauret come into the back row while there is an entirely new front row in the shape of Julien Brugnaut, Camille Chat and Luc Ducalcon.
Glasgow Warriors: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Taqele Naiyaravoro, 13 Alex Dunbar, 12 Sam Johnson, 11 Tommy Seymour, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Ali Price, 8 Leone Nakarawa, 7 Simone Favaro, 6 James Eddie, 5 Jonny Gray (c), 4 Greg Peterson, 3 Sila Puafisi, 2 Salva Mamukashvili, 1 Alex Allan Replacements: 16 James Malcolm, 17 Jerry Yanuyanutawa, 18 Zander Fagerson, 19 Scott Cummings, 20 Chris Fusaro, 21 Grayson Hart, 22 Duncan Weir, Lee Jones
Racing 92: 15 Brice Dulin, 14 Louis Dupichot, 13 Henry Chavancy, 12 Alexandre Dumoulin, 11 Marc Andreu, 10 Remi Tales, 9 Maxime Machenaud, 8 Chris Masoe, 7 Bernard Le Roux, 6 Wenceslas Lauret, 5 Francois van der Merwe, 4 Luke Charteris, 3 Luc Ducalcon, 2 Camille Chat, 1 Julien Brugnaut Replacements: 16 Virgile Lacombe, 17 Davit Khinchagishvili, 18 Cedate Gomes Sa, 19 Thibault Dubarry, 20 Juandre Kruger, 21 Xavier Chauveau, 22 Etienne Dussartre, 23 Benjamin Dambielle
Stade Français v Leicester
Leicester have recalled Telusa Veainu, Matt Smith and Lachlan McCaffrey for Sunday’s Champions Cup encounter with Stade Français in Paris.
Tigers are already assured of top spot in Pool 4 after five wins in five games and will be among the top three seeds in the quarter-final. French champions Stade are chasing a quarter-final place as one of the best three pool runners-up.
Jules Plisson takes over from Morné Steyn at fly-half. Raphael Lakafia returns to the loose trio while Hugh Pyle is added to the second row and Laurent Sempéré starts at hooker.
Leicester Tigers: 15 Matthew Tait, 14 Adam Thompstone, 13 Manu Tuilagi, 12 Matt Smith, 11 Telusa Veainu, 10 Freddie Burns, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Lachlan McCaffrey, 7 Tom Croft, 6 Michael Fitzgerald, 5 Graham Kitchener, 4 Dom Barrow, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Tom Youngs, 1 Marcos Ayerza, Replacements: 16 Harry Thacker, 17 Logovii Mulipola, 18 Fraser Balmain, 19 Sebastian De Chaves, 20 Laurence Pearce, 21 Sam Harrison, 22 Thomas Bell, 23 Peter Betham
Physical abuse of any match official will land you into some big trouble in the game of rugby and rightly so, we do not need into our sport as World Rugby shown in suspending Vito Kolelishvili for 14 weeks.
Vito was cited by the match citing commissioner Mike Rafter for pushing the referee Wayne Barnes, in the Championship Cup round 5 ficture against Ospreys over the weekend.
If one look at Law 10.4 the Vito can count himself lucky that he did not get a heavier punishment as the entry point for this sanction start with a low end of 24 weeks, mid-range of 48 weeks and high-end of 96 weeks to life.
Any kind of abuse to any official in rugby should be punished severely as no one will want to see rugby become like football and the abuse referees have to go through on the pitch by players. verbal abuse is one thing but to push a referee is just asking for trouble and Vito unfortunately needs to get what is coming to him.
The independent Judicial Officer, David Martin (Ireland), heard evidence and submissions from Kolelishvili, who pleaded guilty to the offence, from Clermont Team Manager, Neil McIlroy, and from the EPCR Disciplinary Officer, Liam McTiernan.
In upholding the citing complaint, the Judicial Officer found that Kolelishvili had committed an act of foul play that warranted a red card. He determined that the offence was at the low end of World Rugby’s sanctions and selected 24 weeks as the appropriate entry point.
He added two weeks due to the player’s poor disciplinary record before reducing the sanction by half of the entry point taking into account Kolelishvili’s immediate apology to the referee, his subsequent remorse, guilty plea and good conduct at the hearing. He then imposed a suspension of 14 weeks.
Kolelishvili is free to play on Monday, 25 April 2016. Both the player and EPCR have the right to appeal the decision.
With the European championship moving into high gear winning games is becoming more important and that proof on Friday night when Ospreys put in a massive second half performance to come from behind and upset Clermont with a 21-13 win.
Sam Davies scored 15 points for Ospreys coming from them bench but what won the game for Ospreys was the massive defensive effort the players put in the second half to knock Clermont back in every attack they launch.
At the break Clermont was in the lead 13-6 and dominate most parts of the game with Ospreys on the back foot.
Clermont failed to build on the lead in the second half which saw Ospreys jumped to the top of the pool 2 after the win.
Clermont have not been able to find there normal fluent game this season and on Friday night they were out muscled by a determined Ospreys side.
Justin Tipuric was superb and one of his surging runs set up the position for Biggar to kick his first penalty of the evening.
Clermont were under severe pressure and for most of the second half and just could not get into the match.
As conditions worsened, Clermont began to overplay and the Ospreys took advantage with Davies adding successive three-pointers late on to seal the win.
For Ospreys: Pens: Biggar 2, S Davies 4 Drop Goals: S Davies
For Clermont: Try: Fofana Con: Parra Pens: Parra 2 Yellow Cards: Kolelishvili, Ulugia
Stade Francais wing Josaia Raisuqe was sent off but that did not stop the French champions inflicting a heavy defeat on Munster in Paris.
Raisuqe was sent off World Cup Final referee Nigel Owens on the stroke of half-time for gauging Munster captain CJ Stander as the pair wrestled for the ball. Yet despite playing for 40 minutes with just 14 men, it was Stade who ran out comfortable winners at Stade Jean Bouin.
And such was their dominance that only a try by Conor Murray five minutes from time prevented Munster suffering their first shut-out in 21 years of European rugby. Paul Williams, Sekou Macalou and Hugo Bonneval all crossed as Stade halved Leicester Tigers’ lead at the top of Pool 4 to four points.
Munster are now out of the Champions Cup baring a miracle turn of results after suffering three pool defeats in a row for the first time. With their cup hopes on the line in Paris, Anthony Foley’s side were dealt a series of early blows with the loss of two players in the opening eight minutes an and a third before half-time.
BJ Botha, their tight-head prop, failed to recover after he was injured in a tackle in the opening minute. Full-back Andrew Conway then followed moments later after he came off worse from a collision with Stade’s talismanic skipper Sergio Parisse. It only got worse for Munster as Ian Keatley narrowly missed out on a try after Julien Arias was caught ball-watching, before missing the posts with his first penalty attempt.
Francis Saili saved a certain try with a finger-tip tackle to deny Waisea Nayacalevu after the Stade centre benefitted from Simon Zebo’s ill-judged pass. Moments later and Nayacalevu made the burst that produced the game’s first try. Parisse provided support but Williams picked his angle between forwards Dave Kilcoyne and Dave Foley to score under the posts on 32 minutes. Morne Steyn converted and added a penalty for a 10-0 lead.
Munster then lost Tommy O’Donnell despite the flanker initially returning from a head injury assessment. But Stade were reduced to 14 men when Raisuqe was shown by television replays on the stadium’s giant screens to put his hands in the face of Stander as they wrestled for the ball, after Owen had blown his whistle.
The chorus of boos and whistles were deafening as Keatley kicked and missed his penalty and the noise only intensified as Welsh referee Owens walked off at half-time. Steyn added a second penalty before Munster saw Rory Scannell’s try ruled out for a forward pass.
Stade flanker Macalou then tore clear for a try before full-back Bonneval beat Zebo to score a third.
Zebo and Scannell combined for Murray’s consolation try late on but the game had already been lost.
Dan Carter kicked 12 points as Racing 92 maintained their unbeaten run in the Champions Cup against Glasgow Warriors.
The current World Player of the Year kicked five from five as the French league leaders tightened their grip on Pool 3 with a bonus-point win. But defeat at Stade Yves-du-Manoir put a serious dent in Glasgow’s hopes of progressing the quarter-finals.
Leone Nakarawa’s second-half try briefly offered a glimmer of hope. But the power of the Racing pack proved too much as front-row trio Ben Tameifuna, Dimitri Szarzewski and Eddy Ben Arous all crossed before Manuel Carizza injury-time effort clinched the bonus.
That saw Racing take a seven-point lead over Northampton Saints while third-placed Glasgow must now win both of their remaining ties to be in with a chance of progressing as one of three best runners-up. This tie was originally due to be played in November but was postponed following the terrorist attacks in Paris.
Glasgow led on 15 minutes through the boot of Finn Russell, back in the team for the injured Peter Horne.
However the Warriors were made to pay for Russell and Stuart Hogg both narrowly missing further efforts before their hosts had registered a point.
A turnover by Chris Fusaro led to the first chance that Russell pushed wide but a break from lock Leone Nakarawa handed him a second chance soon after that the centre converted. Hogg then narrowly missed from distance before Carter opened his account with a penalty that levelled the scores on 25 minutes.
And the current World Player of the Year was involved twice in the move that led to the game’s opening try.
Full-back Johannes Goosen led the Racing counter-attack from Hogg’s lengthy kick. Carter combined first with Wenceslas Lauret and then Alexandre Dumoulin before sending giant prop Tameifuna crashing over from close range. Carter converted and added a penalty for a 13-3 lead at half-time. And Racing wasted little of the second half to quickly extend that lead with two quick-fire tries in the space of six minutes.
Both were from the same position with a Racing lineout some five metres out from the Glasgow line and both had similar outcomes as captain Szarzewski and then prop Ben Arous applied the finish to impressive collective drives from the French pack. Despite trailing 27-3, Glasgow showed enough conviction to hit back and an opportunist try from Nakarawa offered a glimmer of hope.
In a well-worked move, Nakarawa caught Racing off-guard by taking Fraser Brown’s throw at the front of a lineout before stretching out to score one-handed with 21 minutes remaining. But with 80 minutes up on the clock, the French pack again combined, this time for lock Carizza to touch down to clinch maximum points.
EPCR have confirmed that all this weekend’s Champions Cup and Challenge Cup matches to be held in France have been postponed after Friday’s attacks in Paris.
The games in the Champions Cup include Oyonnax v Ulster, Racing 92 v Glasgow, Bordeaux-Bègles v Clermont and Toulon v Bath.
Pau’s game with Castres in the Challenge Cup has also been postponed.
Our thoughts are with the people of Paris at this tragic time.
A statement from EPCR read: “Due to the tragic events last night in Paris and the current period of national mourning in France, EPCR and the Ligue Nationale de Rugby (LNR) have decided to postpone this weekend’s European Rugby Champions Cup and Challenge Cup matches scheduled to be played in France.
“Therefore, today’s games in the Champions Cup between Oyonnax and Ulster Rugby, and Racing 92 and Glasgow Warriors, as well as this evening’s Challenge Cup fixture between Pau and Castres Olympique have been postponed.
“Tomorrow’s Champions Cup matches between Bordeaux-Bègles and ASM Clermont Auvergne, and RC Toulon and Bath Rugby have also been postponed.
“The matches will be rescheduled for later dates.
“EPCR extends its sincerest sympathies to everyone affected by the Paris attacks and as a mark of respect, all clubs competing in this weekend’s remaining Champions Cup and Challenge Cup fixtures in other territories have been asked to observe a minute’s silence before the games kick-off.”