Wednesday 22 January 2020

Leinster leaders remain top of the pile in latest Champions Cup power rankings

Leinster’s Dave Kearney scores his side’s first try against Lyon at the RDS. Photo: Sportsfile
Leinster’s Dave Kearney scores his side’s first try against Lyon at the RDS. Photo: Sportsfile

Des Berry

Leinster lead the way in the dogfight for a home quarter-final as Munster's hopes hang by a thread at the conclusion of the fifth round of the Champions Cup.

The Blues will be guaranteed the comfort of hometown advantage for the quarters and, beyond that, the semis as long as they can take care of Benetton on Saturday.

Johann van Graan will preach the necessity of Munster running up a score against The Ospreys before they will be at the mercy of how Racing fare at Saracens and relying on Gloucester, Northampton and Glasgow losing out.

RANK 1: LEINSTER 5-0 (24 points).

Last Round: 1

Leo Cullen could afford to take a generous view of what was, by his own admission, a "stop-start" affair.

Leinster continued on their merry way with six tries, two from Dave Kearney, and a further three disallowed, in an uneven 42-14 dismissal of a resolute Lyon.

Round 6: v Benetton, Stadio Monigo, Sat Jan 18.

Racing benefited from two contentious TMO decisions during their win over Munster. (Photo by Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP)

RANK 2: RACING 92 3-0-1 (22 points)

Last round: 4

Munster did all they could to stay in the hunt until Virimi Vakatawa pounced in the 76th minute to place their campaign in grave danger of failing at the Pool stage for the first time since 2016.

The French were not content with that, pushing on for the bonus try by Juan Imhoff in the last minute, as they turn towards clinching a home quarter against the champions next Sunday.

Round 6: v Saracens, Allianz Park, Sun Jan 19.

RANK 3: EXETER CHIEFS 4-1-0 (22 points)

Last round: 2

The first crack in Exeter's exterior came in the last minute at Scotstoun when Stuart Hogg could not turn the knife in his old club.

The man primarily employed to take the Chiefs over their European hump could not convert a monster 60-metre penalty, the ball bouncing back off the crossbar in a 31-all thriller.

Round 6: v La Rochelle, Sandy Park, Sat Jan 18.

RANK 4: TOULOUSE 5-0 (22 points)

Last round: 3

There is still a question mark hanging over Ugo Mola's men, despite making it five-from-five against Connacht (21-7) in Pool Five.

They had moved 14 points clear of the Westerners by the 44th minute with a strong wind at their backs before running aground on poor discipline losing Yoann Huget to the bin and Zach Holmes to a red card.

Round 6: v Gloucester, Stade Ernest Wallon, Sun Jan 19.

RANK 5: CLERMONT-AUVERGNE 4-1 (20 points)

Last round: 6

It is doubtful Clermont would have beaten Ulster anywhere else but the Stade Michelin on Saturday.

They managed to survive an early onslaught, the loss of Morgan Parra to the bin and many miscues to find the scrum platform to subdue the Ulstermen (29-13) with 10 points in the last 10 minutes.

Round 6: v Harlequins, The Stoop, Sat Jan 18

Iain Henderson talks to his players after the Heineken Champions Cup Pool 3 Round 5 match against ASM Clermont Auvergne and Ulster at Stade Marcel-Michelin in Clermont-Ferrand, France.

RANK 6: ULSTER 4-1 (17 points)

Last round: 5

Ulster looked on course to retain their unbeaten record when John Cooney struck and they enjoyed by far the better of the argument against Clermont in the first half-hour.

It was their inability to take advantage of the extra man, when Parra was carded, that eventually came back to haunt them, despite the heroics of the magnificent Marcell Coetzee.

Round 6: v Bath, Kingspan Stadium, Sat Jan 18

RANK 7: SARACENS 3-2 (14 points)

Last round: 8

Mark McCall's men have always found motivation from the animosity they arouse in just about everyone else in the game.

Sarries drew on their champion character to overcome the fourth-minute loss of Rhys Carre to a red card in a 22-15 defeat of The Ospreys, Alex Lewington claiming the vital try.

Round 6: v Racing 92, Allianz Park, Sat Jan 18.

RANK 8: NORTHAMPTON SAINTS 3-2 (14 points)

Last round: Not Ranked

Leinster know what Northampton found out at Franklin's Gardens, that is what a tough nut Benetton is to crack.

The Saints recouped a see-saw 33-20 victory, the bonus-point reserved for Fraser Dingwall's 72nd minute try to keep their quarter-final hopes alive.

Round 6: v Lyon, Matmut Stadium, Sat Jan 18.

RANK 9: GLOUCESTER 2-3 (13 points)

Last round: 9

The Cherry and Whites are the only club with three losses to still hold a reasonable chance of making it to the last eight.

They were good value for their 29-6 mauling of Montpellier at Kingsholm with Todd Gleave's 65th minute try sealing the precious bonus-point.

Round 6: v Toulouse, Stade Ernest Wallon, Sun Jan 9.

RANK 10: GLASGOW WARRIORS 2-2 (12 points)

Last round: 9

Coach Dave Rennie must have been in dreamland when the Warriors got off to a hot start in Scotstoun, Tommy Seymour and Huw Jones striking for two tries in the opening eight minutes.

They had enough chances to be out of sight before salvaging a draw that keeps them in the final round shake-up for the quarter-finals.

Round 6: v Sale Sharks, AJ Bell Stadium, Sat Jan 18.

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