Thursday 21 February 2019

Permutations: Champions Cup quarter-finals look set to throw up three pool stage rematches

Carberry stars on fine day for provinces

21 October 2018; Jonathan Sexton of Leinster during the Heineken Champions Cup Round Pool 1 Round 2 match between Toulouse and Leinster at Stade Ernest Wallon, in Toulouse, France. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
21 October 2018; Jonathan Sexton of Leinster during the Heineken Champions Cup Round Pool 1 Round 2 match between Toulouse and Leinster at Stade Ernest Wallon, in Toulouse, France. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Brendan Fanning

Brendan Fanning

A late penalty from Joey Carbery squeezed Munster home at the top of Pool 2 in the Champions Cup at Thomond Park last night but their chances of staying at home in the quarter-finals looks very slim.

Munster defeated Exeter Chiefs 9-7 but they will need Bath to win away in Toulouse and Wasps to beat Leinster - denying the defending champions a bonus point - in order to get a home draw.

More likely they will be on the road and the chances are that trip will take them to Edinburgh, if this afternoon's results go as expected. And that expectation is for Leinster to take a win in Coventry and get a home draw as the third best pool winner.

If that comes to pass then the likelihood is they would face Toulouse for the third time this season, assuming the French side beat Bath with a bonus point today, while Ulster are headed to Paris where they will play Racing, who were also in their pool. Ulster had to come from behind in the second half at Welford Road to secure their spot.

Saracens will progress as top seeds after their bonus point win over Glasgow, and are set to host the Scottish side again in the last eight.

Carbery was once again unerring with the boot, scoring all of Munster's points.

"Yeah, I was pretty happy with it," he said, having now kicked 20 out 20 off the tee. "Obviously we wouldn't have been in that position if it wasn't for the work of our team, so happy to get the opportunity and luckily enough they went over.

"I'm delighted with the win. We knew it was going to be a bit of a battle, that this game was what it would come down to and there was a lot on the line. We're absolutely stoked with it."

Ulster head coach Dan McFarland was impressed with his players as they sealed their first quarter-final spot in five years.

"I'm really pleased, and the second-half performance showed everything about what we are," said McFarland. "We had to turn the game around. In the first half we weren't even close to what we're capable of playing but we turned that around to a large extent and some of our defence was magnificent.

"Play-off football is where you want to be. If you want to challenge for championships you have to play play-off football regularly. We've come out of a hard pool with five wins."

In the Challenge Cup Connacht won away at Bordeaux Begles and qualify for the quarter-finals where they will be away to Sale. As with Ulster and Leinster, it would pit them against opposition they already played home and away in the pool stages. This is the first time all four provinces have qualified for the knock-out stages of Europe.

Possible quarter-final line-up:

Saracens vs Glasgow

Racing 92 vs Ulster

Leinster vs Toulouse

Edinburgh vs Munster

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