Champions Cup review and results: Exeter close in on quarter-finals while tempers flare as Saracens beat Munster

Sam Simmonds: Exeter ace scores a try against Sale in the Champions Cup
Sam Simmonds: Exeter ace scores a try against Sale in the Champions Cup

A review of the weekend's action so far in the Heineken Champions Cup, including wins for Exeter, Saracens, Leinster and Connacht.

Sunday's results

  • Exeter Chiefs 35-10 Sale Sharks
  • Clermont 52-26 Bath

Saturday's results

  • Benetton 25-22 Lyon
  • Leinster 50-21 Northampton
  • Glasgow 7-12 La Rochelle
  • Saracens 15-6 Munster (Investigation launched into brawl)
  • Connacht 27-24 Gloucester
  • Montpellier 18-26 Toulouse

Friday's results

  • Harlequins 10-34 Ulster
  • Racing 92 40-27 Ospreys

Sunday's review

Exeter on brink of last eight after Sale victory

Exeter moved to within a point of reaching the Heineken Champions Cup quarter-finals after beating Sale Sharks 35-10 at Sandy Park.

The Chiefs preserved their 100 per cent record in Pool Two with a fourth successive victory after brothers Sam and Joe Simmonds cut loose.

Number eight Sam scored two tries, while his brother Joe also touched down and kicked three conversions, before prop Ben Moon marked his 250th Exeter appearance by collecting a late touchdown that Gareth Steenson converted.

England wing Jack Nowell completed the scoring, with Steenson converting, as not even a a torrential hailstorm that forced the players off for five second-half minutes could disrupt Exeter's rhythm.

Exeter's bonus point win put them on the verge of a first Champions Cup last-eight appearance since 2016.

Their remaining group fixtures next month are against Glasgow and La Rochelle, and they now lead the group by 10 points.

Sale, though, are effectively out of contention, joining fellow Gallagher Premiership clubs Bath, Harlequins and Gloucester in facing a probable early exit.

Centre Sam James scored a try, while fly-half AJ MacGInty added a penalty and conversion, but Exeter were never seriously troubled as they moved to within touching distance of the last eight.

More European misery for Bath as Clermont complete eight-try rout

Bath's nightmare Heineken Champions Cup campaign continued as Stuart Hooper's men were hammered 52-26 by Clermont Auvergne.

The French side were unstoppable in the first half as they ran in six of their eight tries and recorded a bonus point in just 20 minutes.

Their convincing victory leaves them a point behind Ulster at the top of Pool 3, with Bath bottom after a fourth straight defeat.

Clermont led 40-14 at half-time as Alivereti Raka and George Moala both touched down twice after John Ulugia and Damian Penaud had got the scoreboard moving.

Camille Lopez and Jake McIntyre grabbed Clermont's second-half efforts while Morgan Parra kicked five conversions and Greig Laidlaw added one.

Bath had something to smile about as they claimed a bonus point courtesy of tries from Jack Walker, Ruaridh McConnochie, Tom Dunn and Josh Bayliss.


Saturday's review

Tempers boil over at Allianz Park

Tempers flare between Saracens and Munster
Tempers flare between Saracens and Munster

England hooker Jamie George was the target of an alleged taunt by Munster's chief medic to spark a giant brawl as Saracens kept their Heineken Champions Cup defence alive with a 15-6 victory.

Alex Sanderson, the European holders' assistant coach, claimed during a touchline interview that Dr Jamie Kearns made a remark about George's weight as the tension at Allianz Park ignited.

A host of players were involved with George at the centre until the fight became a seething mass of bodies that split on to the athletics track encircling the stadium and then spread into small pockets of conflict.

Referee Pascal Gauzere appeared to want to speak to Dr Kearns only for his focus to switch to the brawl and tournament organiser EPCR is sure to investigate the incident.

Although the penalty was awarded against Saracens, the hostilities appeared to awaken the reigning champions who at that point trailed 6-3 and were too passive as Munster poured forward.

They responded magnificently by conjuring tries for Sean Maitland and Mako Vunipola to move out of reach, in the process denying their Irish opponents a bonus point. Fielding a matchday 23 containing 20 English qualified players, it was enough to keep them in the hunt for a quarter-final place with two wins from four matches.

Mark McCall condemned the visitors' medic: "Clearly this shouldn't happen, we all know that. I don't think what was said to Jamie was good at all. It started a 30-man brawl.

"Owen Farrell got penalised for running into the melee but from what I saw 29 other people ran into it! It was a strange penalty to give and it was instigated by a member of their staff who said something horrible to one of our players.

"Something pretty bad was said at Jamie. He wouldn't have reacted the way he reacted otherwise. We'll take our time to decide whether we do anything."

Munster head coach Johann Van Graan declined to cast any light on Dr Kearns' involvement.

"I don't know what happened there. There were a lot of people involved which wasn't nice to see," Van Graan said.

"We will look into that, I won't speculate on it. So many things happen in a game of rugby. You don't want to see a fight."

Leinster thrash Northampton

Garry Ringrose's second hat-trick of the European season helped Leinster claim a 50-21 victory over Northampton in their Heineken Champions Cup clash at the Aviva Stadium.

Leo Cullen's men provided plenty of entertainment as they booked their quarter-final place with two rounds still remaining. Adding to last week's 43-16 win at Franklin's Gardens, they are now 10 points clear and guaranteed to finish top of Pool One.

A Ringrose brace inside the opening five minutes set the hosts on their way to a 35th-minute bonus point. Tadhg Furlong and Dave Kearney also touched down, with the twin threats of man-of-the-match Jordan Larmour and James Lowe consistently posing problems for Saints.

Dan Biggar converted his own try and efforts from Ollie Sleightholme and Ahsee Tuala, but Northampton fell short of their bonus point aim. Further scores from Lowe, Ringrose and Caelan Doris, with Ross Byrne and Ciaran Frawley kicking 15 points between them, steered Leinster to a half-century of points.

Dramatic comeback from Connacht

Robin Copeland's last-gasp try rescued a 27-24 win from the jaws of defeat as Connacht pipped Gloucester in a dramatic Heineken Champions Cup clash at the Sportsground.

Despite missing some key men, including Danny Cipriani who was pulled from the bench with a bug, Gloucester were on course to complete a Pool Five double over the Irish province thanks to tries from Gerbrandt Grobler, Mark Atkinson (2) and captain Lewis Ludlow.

Connacht's 10-7 half-time lead was turned into a 24-13 deficit as they stared at a European exit, but with Ludlow in the sin-bin, they delighted the home crowd with converted tries from Shane Delahunt and Copeland during a frantic final six minutes.

The result keeps both sides' quarter-final hopes alive, although defeating both Toulouse and Montpellier next month is a big ask. Failing to pick up a bonus point across the first four rounds, Connacht sit third in the table on eight points, with Gloucester second thanks to last week's home win and their haul of five bonuses.

Warriors hopes almost over

Glasgow Warriors' hopes of reaching the Heineken Champions Cup knockout stages all-but ended following a 12-7 defeat to La Rochelle at Scotstoun

The hosts took an early lead with a smartly executed line-out drive over for hooker Fraser Brown to touch down, with Adam Hastings converting.

La Rochelle kept on their shoulder with a try from winger Jules Favre and took the lead five minutes from the break when centre Levani Botia touched down, with Brock James converting, after good work by scrum-half Alexi Bales.

Glasgow made nothing of second-half pressure and in the final minute referee Wayne Barnes ruled out a score by lock Scott Cummings, the TMO having noted rough play by Warriors number eight Matt Fagerson, who was shown a red card.

Toulouse stay perfect

Toulouse maintained their perfect record in Champions Cup Pool 5 but were made to work hard for a 26-18 victory at Montpellier.

Montpellier, who had won only one of their previous three games in this season's competition, made a bright start and led 13-7 during the first half.

But they were unable to resist their French rivals at the Altrad Stadium.

Montpellier dominated the early stages but Toulouse went ahead after 15 minutes following a flowing move. Six players handled the ball before Sebastien Bezy fed Romain Ntamack, who went over.

Montpellier flanker Fulgence Ouedraogo was awarded a try after a lengthy TMO investigation four minutes later and the hosts went ahead through two Johan Goosen penalties.

However, it was Goosen's mistake after 34 minutes that allowed Toulouse to snatch a 14-13 half-time lead. The fly-half put a foot in touch as he fetched the ball from close to his own line and then failed to prevent a quick lineout which sent Rory Arnold over.

Arnold crossed again seven minutes after the interval and again Montpellier were architects of their own downfall. Bismarck du Plessis' pass was intercepted and Arnold went over from 30 metres unchallenged.

Winger Nemani Nadolo got Montpellier within three points with a try on the hour-mark and Thomas Ramos hit the post with a penalty at the other end moments later, before Lucas Tauzin sealed a bonus point for Toulouse with a last-minute try.

Benetton edge out Lyon

Benetton came from behind to edge out Lyon 25-22 and record their first Heineken Champions Cup victory of the campaign.

The Guinness Pro14 side reversed last weekend's 28-0 Pool One thrashing at Lyon as Ian Keatley's two second-half penalties helped them over the line.

Wingers Leonardo Sarto and Monty Ioane both scored early tries for the hosts, but converted scores for Liam Gill and Rudi Wulf put Lyon 14-12 ahead at half-time.

Former London Irish player Keatley then kept Benetton in touch, before Pierre-Louis Barassi's try gave the French Top 14 leaders hope - but a late converted try from Marco Lazzaroni saw the Italians through to a first Champions Cup win since 2015.

Friday's review

Cooney torments Harlequins again as Ulster ease to victory

John Cooney: Ulster's Irish scrum-half was in form against Harlequins
John Cooney: Ulster's Irish scrum-half was in form against Harlequins

John Cooney was Harlequins' tormentor-in-chief once again as he kept Ulster's Heineken Champions Cup quarter-final prospects firmly on course with a 34-10 bonus-point victory.

Six days on from kicking the late penalty that handed Ulster a crucial 25-24 win in Belfast, the Irish scrum-half was at it again at the Stoop.

Cooney scored two superb tries, denied Quins a certain score with his covering defence early in the second half and kicked three conversions and a penalty.

Luke Marshall, Matt Faddes and Tom O'Toole also crossed for the visitors, with Ulster making it four wins from four and setting up a pool-deciding trip to Clermont Auvergne in round five.

Ospreys suffer second defeat to Racing 92 in six days

Ospreys suffered a second defeat in the space of six days at the hands of Racing 92 as the French side emerged 40-27 winners in their Heineken Champions Cup clash in Paris.

A brace of tries from Juan Imhoff plus Louis Dupichot and Simon Zebo efforts saw Racing secure a bonus point before the break to stay top of Pool 4.

In the second period Georges-Henri Colombe and Yoan Tanga added further scores and scrum-half Maxime Machenaud kicked five conversions.

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