Saturday 20 January 2018

Euro dreams go to the wire

Leinster's Brian O'Driscoll runs in to secure the bonus point against Brive in the RDS last night. Photo: Billy Stickland
Leinster's Brian O'Driscoll runs in to secure the bonus point against Brive in the RDS last night. Photo: Billy Stickland

Leinster completed another good weekend for Ireland in Europe with a bonus-point win over Brive at the RDS last night, which leaves them well positioned to qualify from Pool 6 of the Heineken Cup. They await today's result from Llanelli where, London Irish travel to play Scarlets needing to win to stay in touch.

"They came and really presented themselves physically and it was a good thing," Leinster coach Michael Cheika said. "We needed it."

And London Irish? "They probably thought they got rid of us after round one but we're still around. We'll see if we can make a game of it next week."

Earlier in the day Munster got the optimum result in Treviso where previously in the competition the Italians had beaten Perpignan and lost narrowly to Northampton. Yesterday Munster were virtually out of sight by the end of the first quarter, and had the bonus point secured before half time. They finished with six touchdowns.

Pool 1 should be a straight shoot between Tony McGahan's team and Northampton Saints -- who play Perpignan in their fifth-round tie at Franklin's Gardens this afternoon -- at Thomond Park on Friday night.

Ulster's hopes of qualifying from their pool for the first time since winning the competition in 1999 looked more cheerful after Stade Francais failed to put away Bath with a bonus point.

Ulster need to win in Bath on Saturday and possibly with a bonus point depending on what happens at Murrayfield, where Edinburgh play Stade. It's conceivable that both Ulster and Stade will finish level on pool points, in which case Ulster would lose out on the head-to-head. Neither side picked up any bonus points over the two games against each other but Stade lead 42-39 on aggregate.

Even if qualification doesn't work out for them they are still in the running for a place in the quarter-finals of the Amlin Challenge Cup. While the best two pool runners up in the Heineken Cup stay in that competition, the next three move over to the secondary competition.

On Friday night Connacht secured their place in the quarter-final of the Amlin when they completed their home and away wins over Montpellier. It leaves them with a trip to Madrid, where a win will secure a home draw for Michael Bradley's team in the next phase.

Sunday Independent

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