Toulon, Clermont, Munster in European Cup quarter-finals
January 13, 2014 - 10:46:04 am
PARIS: Defending champions Toulon, heavyweight French rivals Clermont, and former winners Munster all secured places in the quarter-finals of the European Cup on Saturday.
The day’s results also ensured Ulster and Leicester advance into the last eight.
A Jonny Wilkinson-skippered Toulon side had too much power for Cardiff Blues in Pool 2, running out 43-20 winners thanks largely to a completely dominant scrum.
A bonus point for a fourth try at the death — unusually a third penalty try, set Toulon atop their pool on 20 points, with the Blues in second on 13.
“We had a big point to prove after last week,” said Toulon No 8 Steffon Armitage in reference to last week’s 22-21 Top 14 loss to Grenoble which had incensed coach Bernard Laporte.
“All the boys were really up for it today and hopefully we’ll come back better next week.”
Winger David Smith scored Toulon’s other try, with Wilkinson booting four penalties and four conversions.
The Blues scored tries through Filo Paulo and Sam Hobbs, with British Lions full-back Leigh Halfpenny hitting two penalties and two conversions, but they paid for four yellow cards.
Clermont overcame a 10-point half-time deficit to claim a narrow 16-13 away victory over Harlequins.
The win meant the French giants will top Pool 4, having already amassed 19 points from their five games, seven ahead of second-placed Quins with a game in hand.
“We got the result and qualification as well, it’s a very good thing. It wasn’t a perfect match but what mattered was the four points,” said Clermont coach Vern Cotter, immediately turning his sights on the team’s final pool encounter against Racing-Metro.
“If we play well, we could have a home quarter-final, which is not negligible.”
Clermont came out firing and a frantic start saw fly-half Brock James notching up his first penalty in the third minute.
After No. 8 Fritz Lee broke away, James landed an inch-perfect crosskick but Fijian winger Napolioni Nalaga couldn’t hold it with the line begging, Lee then putting down a try-scoring pass from the resulting line-out.
A piece of individual brilliance from Quins’ England scrum-half Danny Care then lit up the Stoop.
Care latched on to an unlikely chip ahead from skipper Chris Robshaw but found himself bound for touch at a lick.
Carefully avoiding the whitewash, Care managed a blind one-handed pass behind him, which Matt Hooper caught for a clear run-in.
The momentum swung the way of the London club, Evans booting a penalty after his own slick break, with Clermont left to rue their missed chances.
The French club opened the second-half just as they wanted, a cruel bounce from a Morgan Parra chip leaving Quins full-back Mike Brown stranded and Nalaga free to hack through and dot down for a try.
Clermont’s pressing paid off when former All Black winger Sitiveni Sivivatu crossed with eight minutes to play, to draw the scores level, James unable to nail the tricky conversion.
The Australian made amends shortly after with a simpler penalty shot to hand the French giants a hard-fought victory.
Munster, meanwhile, booked their 15th appearance in the last eight as Pool 6 winners after an impressive 20-7 win at Gloucester.