The drama of the European Champions and Challenge Cup is in full swing, with the quarter-finals matches now announced. We round up some of last weekend’s action and look ahead to what promises to be an exciting Easter weekend in the Champions Cup…
Saracens vs Northampton Saints 62-14
Saracens win over Northampton Saints places them in second place of Pool 2 with 18 points and this is their third win over the Saints this season – they hold a +123 points difference against them. Northampton director of rugby Alan Gaffney gave credit to his side’s opponents admitting that ‘they got off the line and put pressure on us, we just didn’t handle it at all’. Saracens’ next battle will be vs Leinster away.
Scarlets vs Toulon 30-27
Scarlets victory over three-time winners Toulon makes them the first Welsh region to reach the quarter-finals stage in 6 years. After having (only narrowly) defeated Treviso in December 2017, Scarlets have convincingly won their forth successive European match against Toulon, placing them in the last 8 of Europe’s top tier for the first time in 11 years. Toulon will now play away to Munster and Scarlets will host La Rochelle over the Easter weekend.
Montpellier vs Leinster 14-23
After their 23-14 win over Montpellier, Leinster secured their first win in France in 3 years and are the highest seeded team in the last eight of the European Champions Cup. The winning side had already secured the top position in Pool 3 and now sit a comfortable 12 points ahead of second place side, Exeter.
Wasps vs Ulster – 26-7
Both sides had to endure tough conditions at the Rioch Arena to no avail, as neither managed to qualify for the quarter finals of the competition. Wasps did however manage to secure a bonus-point win over Ulster putting them into second place in their group but are not one of the best three runners-up. Consequently, this win makes way for Premiership rivals Saracens (as the third-best second-placed side) to advance into the quarter-finals.
Champions Cup quarter-finals: predictions for the Easter weekend clashes….
With an exciting Easter weekend of ties to come, take a look at some of our predictions for the action yet to come.
Leinster vs Saracens – Sunday 1st April
Since 2013 current title holders Saracens have had to endure a string of near misses in the Challenge Cup – take a look at their chronology below….
- 2013 – defeated by Toulon in the semi-final.
- 2014 – defeated by Toulon in the final.
- 2015 – defeated by Clermont-Auvergne in the semi-final.
- 2016 – victory over Racing 92 in the final.
- 2017 – victory over Clermont to secure the title for a second time in a row.
We are yet to know whether key player Billy Vunipola will play, having fractured his forearm and this could be a weakness Leinster latch on to. Saracens will be looking to equal Toulon’s recording breaking hat-trick of Champions Cup titles though they will have to face what has been a convincing Leinster side on their home turf.
Scarlets vs La Rochelle – Friday 30th March
Despite this being La Rochelle’s first year in the tournament, they have proved that they can pack a punch. Its eleven years since Scarlets reached this stage of the competition, the last occasion being against Munster in the 2007 quarter-final – the home advantage may give them a little extra fire, but La Rochelle are looking like the hungrier side.
Munster vs Toulon – Saturday 31st March
Last to take their place in the quarter-final, Munster put in a convincing performance against Castres in Limerick, with a final score of 48-3 and topping Pool 4. They may not have maintained the brilliance of their glory years (winning in 2006 and 2008) but their solid attacking players and display of resilience following Anthony Foley’s death last year is not to be underestimated. Similarly, 3 time champions Toulon’s golden years may be behind them (for now), but star players like Chris Ashton and Josua Tuisova could make all the difference to the score line at this stage in the competition – we may not have seen the best rugby they can offer so far…
Clermont Auvergne v Racing 92 – Sunday 1st April
It took Clermont ten finals before finally winning the Top 14 championship in France and it is starting to feel the same where Europe is concerned as they are yet to win the title. Both sides have a dominant presence up front which should make for a drama-filled 80 minutes.
Challenge Cup Quarter-finals fixtures
Pau v Stade Francais, 30/03/18, 8:00pm, FR 4/beIN Sports/BT Sports
Newcastle v Brive, 30/03/18, 8:00pm, Sky Sports/beIN Sports
Connacht v Gloucester 31/03/18, 1pm, BT Sports/beIN Sports
Edinburgh v CARDIFF BLUES , 31/03/18, 5:45pm, Sky Sports/beIN Sports
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