Hartley sees red as Leinster take points
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.