Champions Cup review and results: Northampton beat Benetton

Northampton's Andy Symons scores
Northampton's Andy Symons scores

A review of the weekend's action in the Heineken Champions Cup as Northampton set their sights on a quarter-final spot after beating Benetton.

Sunday's results

  • Leinster 42-14 Lyon
  • Northampton 33-20 Benetton
  • Racing 39-22 Munster

Saturday's results

  • Glasgow 31-31 Exeter
  • Clermont Auvergne 29-13 Ulster
  • Ospreys 15-22 Saracens
  • Connacht 7-21 Toulouse
  • Gloucester 29-6 Montpellier

Friday's results

  • Bath 19-25 Harlequins
  • La Rochelle 30-23 Sale

SUNDAY REVIEW

Northampton will enter the final round of the Heineken Champions Cup group phase with the quarter-finals in their sights after edging out Benetton Rugby 33-20 at Franklin's Gardens.

Centre Fraser Dingwall ran in the critical try in the 72nd minute when his footwork, combined with a hard line, swept him over for Saints' bonus-point fourth try to bolster hopes of qualifying as one of the best runners-up.

Up until that point they had made heavy weather against spirited opponents, who at one point threatened to move eight points clear only for Tommaso Allan to miss a kickable penalty.

Much of Northampton's problems rested with their line-out which malfunctioned alarmingly in the first half, losing five on their own throw.

The victory also appeared to come at the cost of an injury to Courtney Lawes, who failed to appear for the second half with England coach Eddie Jones watching from the stands.

Leinster are within touching distance of a home quarter-final after running out 42-14 bonus point winners over Lyon at the RDS.

A Dave Kearney brace took his season's haul to nine tries in nine games, but Lyon were only 21-14 behind at the break, Virgile Bruni's intercept score cancelling out a Josh van der Flier effort and Hendrik Roodt crossing late on.

The French side, who had Ethan Dumortier and Felix Lambey yellow carded either side of half-time, hung in there until tries from man-of-the-match Max Deegan, Sean Cronin and Andrew Porter sealed another big winning margin for the already-confirmed Pool 1 winners.

It was a historic result for Leinster, who have now won nine Champions Cup pool games in-a-row for the first time ever. They picked up their fourth try-scoring bonus point of the campaign and will target top seeding when visiting Benetton next Saturday.

Munster's Champions Cup hopes are all but over after they were beaten 39-22 by Racing 92 in Paris despite an impressive performance which looked at one stage like it would be rewarded with victory.

The Irish side's forwards impressed throughout against a giant French side. JJ Hanrahan kicked 17 points with Andrew Conway scoring the only Munster try.

But it still was not enough for a win as Racing secured their place in the quarter-finals thanks to a brace from Teddy Thomas, a Virimi Vakatawa effort, and Juan Imhoff's late strike.

Teddy Iribaren added five penalties, but it took until the final 10 minutes for Racing to seal victory and break the back of Munster's hugely committed display.

SATURDAY REVIEW

Stuart Hogg was denied a last-minute winner against former club Glasgow as his 50-metre penalty hit the bar but a pulsating 31-31 draw edged Exeter into the Heineken Champions Cup quarter-finals.

The Aviva Premiership leaders needed only a point to secure top spot in Pool 2 and the teams shared eight tries and six points at Scotstoun.

Glasgow were left to rue yellow cards in each half, to Callum Gibbins and Fraser Brown, and two huge chances for Huw Jones which went begging in the opening five minutes of the second half.

They move on to 12 points ahead of their final game at Sale next weekend and have slim hopes of reaching the last eight as one of the three best runners-up.

Saracens dug deep to overcome prop Rhys Carre's early red card and keep alive their quarter-final hopes by beating Ospreys 22-15.

Wales international Carre was sent off in the fifth minute for a high, shoulder-led challenge on Ospreys full-back Dan Evans at the Liberty Stadium.

It appeared a harsh call by French referee Alexandre Ruiz, who also sin-binned flanker Calum Clark before half-time, briefly reducing Saracens to 13 men.

But despite rugby director Mark McCall resting a host of international stars, resilient Saracens delivered a victory that means they are likely to reach the tournament's last-eight for a ninth successive season if they beat Racing 92 next weekend.

Fly-half Manu Vunipola, the 19-year-old cousin of Billy and Mako Vunipola, kicked 17 points and wing Alex Lewington claimed a 50th-minute try to send Saracens second in Pool Four.

Evans scored two tries while Clark was off, with fly-half Luke Price adding a penalty and conversion, but the Ospreys ultimately suffered a fifth successive European defeat this season.

Gloucester kept their hopes of a quarter-final place alive with a 29-6 victory over Montpellier at Kingsholm.

However, despite the bonus point success they will probably need to secure at least a win in Toulouse in their final group game next Sunday in order to secure qualification.

This will be a daunting task as the unbeaten French side are already guaranteed top spot in Pool Five and beat Gloucester 25-20 at Kingsholm earlier in the season.

A strong second half performance disposed of a much weakened Montpellier, who were already out of the competition so chose not to select any of their France international squad members in their starting line-up.

Gloucester's tries came from Willi Heinz, Louis Rees-Zammit, Ben Morgan and Todd Gleave. Billy Twelvetrees converted three and added a penalty

Francois Steyn and Thomas Darmon kicked penalties for Montpellier.

Clermont Auvergne secured their place in the quarter-finals with a 29-13 victory over Ulster at the Stade Marcel Michelin.

Ulster host Bath next weekend where a win would see Dan McFarland's side join Clermont in the last eight.

Tries from Alivereti Raka, George Moala and 16 points from the boots of Morgan Parra and Greig Laidlaw was enough to secure victory form the French side. John Cooney scored all Ulster's point with a try, conversion and a penalty.

Connacht's slim hopes of qualification for the quarter-finals were ended by a 21-7 defeat to Toulouse at the Sportsground.

The French champions sealed their passage through to the last eight as Pool Five winners, with converted scores from captain Jerome Kaino, Julien Marchand and Pita Ahki cancelling out an early Connacht penalty try.

Leading 14-7 at half-time, former Connacht back Ahki capitalised on Antoine Dupont's charge-down of a Jack Carty kick to put Toulouse out of reach. An increasingly-frustrated Connacht even failed to score late on when the visitors lost Yoann Huget to the sin-bin and Zach Holmes to a red card.

Fly-half Holmes' 73rd-minute dismissal for a high tackle on Tiernan O'Halloran came too late to influence the outcome.

FRIDAY REVIEW

Bath's Heineken Champions Cup campaign took another turn for the worse with a 25-19 home defeat to Harlequins and the loss of star back Anthony Watson.

The England international went off nursing a leg problem 11 minutes into the second half of the Pool Three clash - just three weeks before the start of the 2020 Six Nations Championship.

Bath are now staring at a first top-flight European whitewash after flanker James Chisholm, wing Gabriel Ibitoye and number eight Alex Dombrandt ran in tries for Quins.

Brett Herron kicked two conversions and two penalties for the visitors as Bath managed three touchdowns of their own.

Hooker Jack Walker, wing Gabe Hamer-Webb and centre Jackson Willison were the scorers, while Freddie Burns added two conversions.

Bath - tournament winners in 1998 - have never lost all their pool games in a European campaign.

But a 16th season of European Cup rugby will officially be their worst if they are toppled by Ulster next Saturday and suffer a sixth successive defeat.

Despite both teams already being eliminated there was still enough on show to attract England boss Eddie Jones as he builds towards his Six Nations squad announcement later this month.

Quins prop Kyle Sinckler gave England a pre-Six Nations boost by proving his fitness to start, while front-row colleague Joe Marler made his 200th appearance for the London club.

Bath scored the game's first try and led 14-12 at the break, but the boot of Herron and Dombrandt's sprint to the line put Quins in control.

Sale's quarter-final hopes were extinguished by a 30-23 defeat to La Rochelle in Pool Two.

Jean-Luc du Preez and Curtis Langdon scored Sale's tries at the Stade Marcel-Deflandre, with AJ MacGinty and James Williams kicking 13 points between them.

Du Preez scored the first try of the game and La Rochelle were temporarily reduced to 14 men when blindside flanker Kevin Gourdon was sent to the sin bin for an intentional knock-on.

But tries from Tevita Railevu, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Geoffrey Doumayrou and Gregory Alldritt - the latter after Sale's Valery Morozov was sent off and Chris Ashton was sin-binned - along with 10 points from the boot of Ihaia West secured a bonus-point victory for the Top 14 hosts.

La Rochelle's win saw them leapfrog Glasgow Warriors into second place, nine points behind pool leaders Exeter Chiefs.

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