Munster join Leinster in securing home quarter final - but Ulster are out
After a weekend of permutations, permutations and some more permutations, the results are in and the line-up for the 2018 Champions Cup are confirmed.
Delight for Leinster and Munster who could meet in an all-Irish final, but there’s plenty of rugby still to be played.
Leinster are to host the two-in-a-row champions Saracens, while Munster will welcome Toulon – who won the previous three titles – at Thomond Park.
Leinster were already assured of their top seed after yesterday’s 23-14 win away to Montpellier, Leo Cullen’s side dominating Pool 3 with six wins from six.
That left Munster and Ulster looking to secure quarter final places.
Munster’s task appeared to be the easier; win at home against Castres and they were through, a bonus point or results elsewhere would dictate whether it was home or away.
Ulster had qualification in their own hands, but an away trip to Wasps presented a far greater challenge. Ultimately, the challenge proved to be too difficult. A tight first half saw Wasps go in with a 14-7 lead, but the English side were dominant after the break, completing a bonus point 26-7 win. It was all in vain for them though, La Rochelle topping the group after a 16-7 victory against Harlequins.
Heavy rain and a puddle-filled pitch at Thomond Park meant Munster had to wait until 4pm before they could kick off against Castres, a delay of three hours.
And despite a slow start they began to settle. Keith Earls dived over in the corner for the game’s first try, with eight points from the boot of Ian Keatley leaving them 13-3 in front at half time.
By that stage, it was clear that a win of any kind would be enough for a home quarter final, after La Rochelle failed to get a bonus point against Quins. A bonus point win for Munster would leave Toulon as the opposition, a standard win would welcome La Rochelle to Limerick.
By the 60th minute, we knew it would be Toulon. Rhys Marshall, Simon Zebo and a penalty try brought up the bonus point, with Alex Wooton and James Cronin crossing late on to seal a 48-3 victory.
- Leinster v Saracens
- Scarlets v La Rochelle
- Munster v Toulon
- Clermont Auvergne v Racing 92
Connacht secured home advantage for their Challenge Cup quarter final yesterday, with an eight try demolition of Oyonnax.
Niyi Adeolokun scored a hattrick of tries, with Bundee Aki, Tiernan O’Halloran, Matt Healy, Tom Farrell and a penalty try completing the rout.
It sets up a quarter final against Gloucester in the quarter finals, and should Kieran Keane’s side get past that they would take on either Newcastle or Brive in the last four.
- Pau v Stade Francais
- Edinburgh v Cardiff Blues
- Connacht v Gloucester
- Newcastle Falcons v Brive
Quarter final ties in both competitions will be played between March 29 and April 1