Munster still in the hunt

  • Last Updated: January 13 2013, 17:30 GMT

A review of the weekend's action in the Heineken Cup, as Munster beat Edinburgh on Sunday.

Doug Howlett in action for Munster on Sunday
Doug Howlett in action for Munster on Sunday

Munster remain in the hunt for a place in the knockout stages of the Heineken Cup after a laboured 26-17 win over a lacklustre Edinburgh side that only sprang to life in the final 10 minutes at Murrayfield.

A penalty try and a touchdown by Conor Murray plus 14 points from the boot of Ronan O'Gara sealed the victory for the visitors, while the home side's points came through two tries from Dougie Fife, both converted by Greig Laidlaw, who also landed a penalty.

The win leaves Munster in second place in Pool One on 15 points, three behind leaders Saracens and three ahead of Racing Metro. Edinburgh remain bottom without a point.

Leicester will need to beat four-time European champions Toulouse at Welford Road next Sunday in their quest for a prized quarter-final place.

The Tigers lie two points behind the French heavyweights in Pool Two following an absorbing 15-15 Liberty Stadium stalemate that saw Ospreys substitute Jonathan Spratt score a 77th-minute try to deny Leicester victory.

The visitors looked to have done enough through quickfire second-half touchdowns from scrum-half Ben Youngs and wing Niall Morris after they trailed 10-3 for much of the contest after Ospreys posted a 34th-minute Joe Bearman touchdown.

Dan Biggar and his opposite number, Leicester's Toby Flood, each kicked a conversion and penalty, but the Ospreys would have won had Biggar not missed four penalties - three of them either hit the post or bar - and a late conversion.

As mentioned, a bonus-point 35-14 win over Benetton Treviso saw Toulouse leapfrog Leicester to go three points clear in Pool Two.

Tobias Botes' early penalty gave Treviso the lead at the Stade Ernest Wallon but after Gary Botha got over in the sixth minute, Toulouse would not look back.

Tommaso Benvenuti dotted down four minutes later to level the scores but further tries from Patricio Albacete, Vincent Clerc and Florian Fritz sent the hosts well clear.

Harlequins sealed qualification for the quarter-finals of the with a convincing 47-8 win over a stubborn Connacht at the Stoop.

The Quins took some time to subdue an enterprising Irish side and were fortunate to lead 6-3 after the first half an hour.

Their set scrum then emphasised their superiority to ensure there was no way back for the Irish who were briefly reduced to 12 men in the second half as they fell to a heavy defeat.

A penalty try got Quins on their way before Tom Williams (2), Ugo Monye - playing his 200th game - George Lowe and Ben Botica all crossed, with Nick Evans landing six kicks.

The Quins' final Pool Three game is at Biarritz next Friday, on which will depend whether they can secure a home tie in the competition when it resumes in April.

Argentinian centre Marcelo Bosch scored two tries as Biarritz recorded a comfortable bonus-point 32-6 win over Zebre.

Centre Benoit Baby and Fijian Seremaia Burotu scored Biarritz's other tries, Dimitri Yachvili converting three of them and also kicking two penalties.

Zebre's points came from two penalties by outside-half Luciano Orquera.

The win leaves Biarritz second in the group on 14 points, 10 behind leaders Harlequins with one game remaining and needing other results to go their way to qualify, with Zebre bottom and pointless.

Owen Farrell kicked a record 10 penalties in a Heineken Cup tie to clinch a sensational 37-28 victory for Saracens at Racing Metro in Pool One.

The England fly-half was imperious with the boot in the face a partisan French crowd with a perfect 11 kicks from as many attempts in a staggering 32-point haul.

Chris Wyles scored Saracens' only try of a tense clash though the Aviva Premiership side had to cope with two yellow cards, a try deficit of three to one and a worrying injury to David Strettle to pull off a vital victory after they had trailed 22-9 after 25 minutes.

The result leaves Saracens one win away from reaching the quarter-finals for the second year in succession.

Clermont Auvergne ran in six tries to secure their place in the knockout stages with a bonus-point 46-3 victory over Exeter.

The French giants led 20-3 at the break thanks to tries from Wesley Fofana and Jean-Marcellin Buttin.

Exeter fought bravely following the restart, but the pressure eventually told and Clermont ruthlessly completed the job with further touchdowns for Damien Chouly, David Skrela, Buttin and Napolioni Nalaga.

The victory, Clermont's 54th in a row at Stade Marcel Michellin, secures their place in the quarter-finals as Pool Five winners and they can ensure a home draw in their final group-stage match against the Scarlets.

Leinster rediscovered their try-scoring touch with a bonus point 33-14 win over the Scarlets which keeps their qualification hopes alive.

The five-try fillip leaves the reigning champions in contention to reach the quarter-finals, ahead of the second part of their rescue mission away to Exeter next Saturday.

The home side had only scored three tries in their four previous pool games, and the loss of Sean O'Brien to illness before kick-off did not bode well.

But first half touchdowns from Cian Healy, Shane Jennings and man-of-the-match Luke Fitzgerald saw Leinster sweep into a 19-6 lead at the RDS.

Scarlets full-back Liam Williams snuck in for a five-pointer before the break, only for his opposite number Rob Kearney to reply with the all-important bonus point score.

Ian Madigan came off the bench to grab a fifth try in the final minute, as the Irish province's focus switches to that decisive clash in Devon where they need another bonus point victory.

Toulon demolished Cardiff Blues 45-25 in Pool Six to march into the knockout stages.

The Blues made a bright start at Stade Felix Mayol and surged into an 8-0 lead thanks to Leigh Halfpenny's early try.

But Toulon fought back and ran riot with seven tries through Rudi Wulf, Xavier Chiocci, Jean-Charles Orioli, Maxi Mermoz, Alexis Palisson, Mathieu Bastareaud and Florian Fresia.

The bonus-point victory sees Toulon restore their five-point lead at the top and while they are already through, they can secure a home quarter-final in next week's trip to Montpellier.

The Blues fought back with tries from Alex Cuthbert, Dafydd Hewitt and Halfpenny but it was a mere consolation.

Northampton battled hard for an 18-12 victory over Castres on Friday night that keeps them in the hunt for quarter-final qualification.

Ulster were confirmed as Pool Four winners following their victory over Glasgow, but Northampton could still reach the knockout stages as one of the best group stage runners-up.

In bitterly cold temperatures and through thickening fog at Franklin's Gardens, Northampton ground out the victory they needed with three penalties each from Stephen Myler and Ryan Lamb.

The Saints will now go in search of a bonus-point victory over Glasgow next weekend and hope that is enough to secure a berth in the quarter-finals.

Ulster reached the quarter-finals for the third successive year with an expected 23-6 victory over Glasgow.

Another triumph next week against Castres will secure a home quarter-final for Mark Anscombe's side.

A first-half try from Nick Williams along with late second-half scores by Jared Payne and Darren Cave secured the four points and with Northampton beating Castres, Ulster progressed after a scrappy game played in difficult conditions at Ravenhill.

The match left the injury-hit Warriors - who were unable to have two prop replacements on their bench - without a win in a miserable season in Europe.

Aviva Premiership strugglers Sale suffered a fourth consecutive defeat by French opposition in the Heineken Cup as Montpellier kept alive their qualification hopes with a bonus-point 27-6 win at the City of Salford Stadium.

With their quarter-final hopes sunk in December by back-to-back defeats by Toulon, Sharks director of rugby Steve Diamond opted to give run-outs to several fringe players and, as expected, they proved no match for their star-studded visitors.

It proved to be a testing debut for number eight Josh Beaumont, the 20-year-old son of former England captain Bill Beaumont, who found himself up against man-of-the-match Johnnie Beattie.

He was a try scorer along with Benoit Paillaugue and Pierre Perard, while the hosts also conceded a penalty try as they could only muster two first-half penalties from Danny Cipriani.


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