And Then There Were Eight

Heineken Review – last pool rounds

HeinekenandERC_logoPredicting the last 8 for the Cup this season wasn’t too difficult last week – five teams had already qualified for the April quarter finals and the outsiders needed a number of results to go their way.

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In the end it all places were confirmed by Saturday night – with just the pairings in doubt before the last few Sunday matches.

Toulouse, Saracens and Leinster duly took up the final three spots and despite winning against the Castres, Northampton will only go forward to the second tier Amlin quarters. They will be joined by Gloucester and Harlequins both of whom finished with good wins on the road. Gloucester in particular deserve a mention – after a largely disappointing season they finally came alive to beat Perpignan at Stade Aime Giral by 36 – 18. Better late than never, as they say.

Leicester surprisingly lost at Welford Road to Ruan Pienaar’s impressive performance for Ulster who claimed top seeding after the pool stages. Leicester have been hampered all season by injuries and this was not helped on Saturday when Graham Kitchener and Jordan Crane had to leave the contest at an early stage. The Tigers face a tough trip to second seeds Clermont in April and will be hoping that players like Geoff Parling, Tom Croft and Manu Tuilagi will be fit and available for that match.

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Toulouse were off the pace at Zebre and failed to pick up a much needed bonus point – that, together with the home defeat to Connacht has landed them with a very difficult draw – away to Munster at Thomond park. It’s not an easy place to go as Edinburgh found to their cost on Sunday – Munster getting the try bonus to guarantee the home draw.

There was little doubt that Leinster would see off the Ospreys – but despite the convincing win they have to travel in the quarter final – down to current champions Toulon. How they will be cursing losing at home to the Saints – just seven days after putting them top the sword at Franklin’s Gardens!

The Quarter Final draw is over the weekend of 4-6th April –

Ulster Rugby v Saracens

ASM Clermont Auvergne v Leicester Tigers

Toulon v Leinster Rugby

Munster Rugby v Toulouse

 

No major shocks at the weekend but some pretty decent rugby.

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