Leinster were the big winners of the Irish Provinces in the European Champions Cup as they trashed Castres at the RDS. Munster were annihilated by Saracens in their do or die game and Ulster were given a lesson by the titans of Toulon in France. Connacht lost out to the Exeter Chiefs in the Challenge Cup. Here is the Irish Provinces Review after Round 5 in Europe.
Munster’s performance against Saracens last Saturday was just about as bad as it got. Saracens deservedly won by 23 points and it could have been a lot worse if they had taken their second half chances.
The omens were bad for Munster before they even left for London with the news that Conor Murray was ruled out of the game due to a neck injury. Munster were beaten all over the park but the area that caused most of the damage was in the scrum.
BJ Botha was hammered by his opponent Mako Vunipola and on the other side James Cronin was beaten by Petrus Du Plessis. Billy Vunipola thrived off the dominance his forwards afforded him and took full advantage with a truly destructive and devastating performance.
There were no positives for Munster. Denis Hurley’s second half try was scant consolation for a team that did not perform on the day. The inquest into what went wrong for Anthony Foley’s side will last long after this weekend’s final Champions Cup game at home to Sale Sharks but it is clear that Munster are no longer at the top table in the flagship European competition.
Leinster are the last Irish Province standing in the Champions Cup thanks to their stunning 42 point win against Castres. An away win next weekend against Wasps will guarantee top placing in the pool. Wasps beat Harlequins to keep their qualification hopes alive.
Matt O’Connor made some big selection calls going into the Castres games namely dropping Mike Ross and relegating Gordon Darcy to the bench. The gamble worked as his side saved their best performance of the season for their biggest game.
The try bonus point was secured by half time thanks to tries from Dave Kearney, Marty Moore, Eoin Reddan and Sean Cronin. The second half saw two further tries from subs Darragh Fanning and Tadhg Furlong.
Leinster go into the Wasps game full of confidence after the demolition of Castres but face a Wasps side who are also in great form. Ian Madigan was once again on fire at the weekend as were the Kearney brothers in the back three. They need to up their game even more to come away from Coventry with the win.
Ulster suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of the final Heineken champions Toulon by a scoreline of 60-22 at the Stade Felix Mayol. The French side tries ran in eight tries to Ulster’s four. To compound the already difficult task, Ulster lost Paddy Jackson, Louis Ludik and Stuart Olding to injury in the first half leaving them with three scrum halves in their backline.
Toulon took full advantage in the second half to ensure that Ulster were left with no hope of reversing the half time score of 27-10. Neil Doak’s side never shrunk from their task but Toulon’s all-star cast were too strong and skilful for Ulster.
It’s been a tough campaign for Ulster who have now lost all five games in their pool. They welcome Leicester Tigers to the Kingspan Stadium in their final game of the Champions Cup season and despite the injury issues, Ulster’s fans will expect a performance from their team.
Connacht came out second best in the top of pool 2 clash against Exeter Chiefs last Sunday at the Sportsground. Pat Lam’s side were better than their opponents in a lot of aspects of this game but ultimately their inability to cope at scrum time cost them the game.
The home side started the game with a bang thanks to Matt Healy’s 5th minute try but that was soon cancelled out by the scrum power of Exeter and the awarding of a penalty try. Connacht did manage to get a try bonus point but ultimately lost the game by nine points.
Connacht can still qualify for the quarter finals as a best runner up if they can overcome bottom of the pool La Rochelle. Pat Lam will expect a big performance from his charges, but his side will have to work on their scrummaging to have any hope of winning in the west of France.
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