Gloucester defy the odds
A review of the weekend's action in the Heineken Cup as Gloucester ensured they survived in Europe this season.
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Gloucester grabbed a surprise place in the Amlin Challenge Cup quarter-finals with a stunning 36-18 success against Perpignan at the Stade Aime Giral.
Gloucester looked dead and buried in Pool Six after back-to-back home defeats to Edinburgh and Munster but they will now be playing knockout rugby in April after they bagged a bonus point inside 54 minutes in southern France.
Shane Monahan scored twice for the visitors, with England trio Jonny May, Charlie Sharples and Ben Morgan also touching down and Freddie Burns kicking 11 points through four conversions and a drop-goal as he missed just once from the tee.
Munster motored their way to a home quarter-final as they brushed Edinburgh aside 38-6 at Thomond Park.
Rob Penney's men gained revenge for their first-round defeat at Murrayfield, comfortably securing the bonus point which gives them home advantage in the last-eight in April.
Man-of-the-match James Coughlan and Johne Murphy touched down in a first half which ended 12-6 in Munster's favour, with Edinburgh flanker Cornell du Preez seeing yellow in injury-time.
Two Greig Laidlaw penalties kept Edinburgh in the hunt for an Amlin Challenge Cup quarter-final place, but those hopes faded as the Irish province registered their bonus point by the 57th minute.
Captain Peter O'Mahony followed Conor Murray over the try-line and further efforts from Simon Zebo and Felix Jones made for a stylish six-try romp.
Clermont Auvergne booked a home quarter-final against Leicester thanks to a hard-fought 28-3 bonus-point win over Racing Metro at Parc des Sports Marcel Michelin.
Tries for Fritz Lee, Gerhard Vosloo's double and Vincent Debaty's late score with four conversions by fly-half Mike Delany were enough to secure the win, with Maxime Machenaud scoring Racing's only points from a first-half penalty.
Substitute Ben Botica kicked a 78th-minute penalty to keep alive Harlequins' European campaign and give them a consolation prize of an Amlin Challenge Cup quarter-final place.
Quins, already out of Heineken Cup last-eight contention, moved into the Amlin knockout phase along with Northampton and Gloucester by prevailing in west Wales 22-20 against Scarlets.
They secured the final Amlin spot for three Heineken runners-up when Botica rifled over the winning kick just two minutes from time.
Saracens crushed Connacht 64-6 to make sure of their place in the last eight.
However, Toulouse finished top of Pool Three - leaving Saracens qualifying as one of the best two runners-up and facing a difficult away tie in the next round.
Saracens scored 11 tries through David Strettle (3), Chris Ashton (2), Alex Goode, Chris Wyles, Jackson Wray, George Kruis, Neil De Kock, and Schalk Brits. Had Charlie Hodgson not missed eight difficult kicks, the hosts would have won by an even bigger margin
South African Ruan Pienaar was the hero as Ulster clinched a quarter-final home tie with a brilliant 22-19 victory at Leicester.
The scrum-half scored all Ulster's points in an epic battle at Welford Road to ensure his side finished top of Pool Five with six wins from six matches.
Pienaar scored a try, kicked the conversion and landed five penalties, including two monsters from inside his own half, in the final pool match.
The Tigers, who will have to travel in the quarter-finals after their first home defeat in the competition since 2006-07, scored a try through winger Niall Morris and fly-half Toby Flood converted and also slotted four penalties.
Toulouse wrapped up their pool campaign with an unconvincing 16-6 victory over whipping-boys Zebre.
Already assured of a place in the last eight going into the match at the Stadio XXV Aprile, Toulouse needed a win and the bonus point to guarantee an April date in front of their own fans.
The visitors, however, could only manage one try against Zebre who had conceded 194 points in losing all five of their previous pool matches.
An all-star Toulon side spearheaded by Jonny Wilkinson rocketed into the quarter-finals with a 15-8 victory over a resolute Glasgow outfit.
The French team led 6-3 at half-time thanks to two penalties from their captain, and Wilkinson slotted over three more times after the interval to see the visitors over the line.
Glasgow, whose only first-half points came courtesy of a Ruaridh Jackson penalty, attempted a late comeback and scored a try through Chris Fusaro, but failed to capitalise on their pressure in the closing stages.
Cardiff Blues wound up their campaign in losing fashion at the Arms Park as Exeter claimed a European home and away double over them this season 19-13.
Gareth Steenson booted the already-eliminated Chiefs to a 19-13 victory kicking 14 points, including the conversion of lock Dave Armand's early try.
Wales wing Alex Cuthbert touched down for the Blues with Leigh Halfpenny kicking two penalties and a conversion.
Montpellier completed their campaign with a comfortable 24-6 victory over Benetton Treviso in the battle between the bottom two sides in Pool Five at the Stade Yves-du-Manoir.
Leinster advanced to the quarter-finals as Pool One winners after seeing off 14-man Ospreys with a bonus point 36-3 win at the RDS.
Wales lock Ian Evans was sent-off for reckless use of the boot in the 20th minute when the scores were tied at 3-3 - a moment of madness that leaves his Six Nations involvement in real doubt - and the Ospreys also had to cope with first half injuries to Ben John and Ryan Jones.
Two penalty tries and scores from Cian Healy, Jordi Murphy and Isaac Boss, with fly-half Jimmy Gopperth kicking11 points, saw Leinster progress, as Dan Biggar's early penalty remained Ospreys' only score.
Northampton also won - 13-3 at home to Castres.
George Pisi scored the only try in the final minute of a clash where Northampton's power game suffered an outage against Castres' muscle-bound blue line.
Stephen Myler kicked to make it 3-0 on the half-time whistle before Rory Kockott levelled the scores after the break. Myler then slotted an easy penalty to make it 6-3 with just four minutes left.
Pisi's late try was converted by Glenn Dickson to complete the scoring.