European Champions Cup: Two mistakes from Freddie Burns costs Bath game against Toulouse, Exeter and Munster play out tense draw plus more

13 Oct

The European Champions Cup is back for another season and it was certainly a day to remember.

Here is the best of Saturday’s action from the competition.

Bath 20-22 Toulouse

Freddie Burns was guilty of two late blunders as Toulouse continued English clubs’ painful start to the Heineken Champions Cup by claiming a 22-20 victory over Bath.

A visibly upset Burns is consoled after the game

Less than 24 hours after European title holders Leinster crushed Wasps under a half-century of points in Dublin, Toulouse clinched a crucial Pool One win at the Recreation Ground.

And they were helped by Bath full-back Burns, who missed an easy 74th minute penalty chance and then blew a try barely 60 seconds later after crossing the Toulouse line before losing control of the ball under pressure from Toulouse defender Maxime Medard.

Centre Sofiane Guitoune scored two tries for Toulouse, including a clincher 17 minutes from time, while wing Medard also touched down and full-back Thomas Ramos kicked two conversions and a penalty.

Exeter 10-10 Munster

Exeter’s European Champions Cup campaign got off to a disappointing start after they were held to a 10-10 draw in a titanic struggle at Sandy Park.

The Gallagher Premiership leaders were unable to get past Munster

Exeter had only lost once in their last 17 games but came perilously close to losing this one as Munster had the lion’s share of possession and territory.

Luke Cowan-Dickie scored Exeter’s only try with Gareth Steenson adding a penalty and a conversion.

CJ Stander scored for Munster with Joey Carbery kicking a penalty and a conversion.

Ulster 24-10 Leicester

Second-half tries from Alan O’Connor, Will Addison and Jacob Stockdale earned Ulster a 24-10 win over Leicester in their Heineken Champions Cup opener.

Ulster’s John Cooney kicked all three conversions and a penalty to complete the Irish province’s scoring in the Pool Four clash at Kingspan Stadium in Belfast.

Manu Tuilagi’s 75th-minute try came too little too late

The Tigers led at half-time thanks to a George Ford penalty but failed to score again until Manu Tuilagi’s 75th-minute converted try.

Montpellier 21-15 Edinburgh

Referee Wayne Barnes ruled out two tries for Edinburgh as they fell just short of a famous Champions Cup victory over Montpellier on French soil.

Montpellier, coached by the former Scottish national coach Vern Cotter, scored three first half tries on the way to a 21-15 victory, but it was Richard Cockerill’s Edinburgh who dominated the final 40 minutes.

Edinburgh crossed for a try in each half and would have won the game if Barnes not ruled out a Hamish Watson try at the posts for offside and another by Magnus Bradbury for obstruction.

It was a brave effort from Edinburgh

In the end they had to settle for a losing bonus-point, although they had to scramble to keep hold of it after home skipper Louis Picamoles intercepted 30 metres out and almost reached the line for what would have been an extra point for the hosts.

Scarlets 13-14 Racing 92

Racing 92 opened their Heineken Champions Cup Pool Four campaign with a dramatic and controversial 14-13 victory over Scarlets.

The French side were trailing 13-7 in the final minutes when referee Matthew Carley awarded Racing a penalty try and also sent scrum-half Gareth Davies to the sin bin, and from there, Racing held on to win.

Racing’s two tries came at the end of the first and second halves with a losing bonus point being little consolation for Scarlets, last year’s semi-finalist’s, who led for most of the match.

Munster 20-19 Toulon: Andrew Conway secures last minute winner in European Champions Cup quarter final

31 Mar
Munster 20-19 Toulon: Andrew Conway secures last minute winner in European Champions Cup quarter final
Munster through to European semi-final after incredible comeback win

Andrew Conway took on the mantle of matchwinner for Munster as his stunning 74th-minute try saw them pip Toulon 20-19 in a titanic European Champions Cup quarter-final at Thomond Park.

Winger Conway’s decisive score from a kick return, which saw him beat four defenders from near halfway, sent the Irish province through to a record 13th European semi-final and a trip to France to face either Clermont Auvergne or Racing 92.

Replacement Francois Trinh-Duc almost inspired a famous Limerick victory for Toulon, kicking two penalties and having a key involvement in Chris Ashton’s converted try as the three-time champions began the final quarter with 13 points in little over seven minutes.

However, Munster – who led 10-6 at half-time thanks to an opportunist Conor Murray try near the half hour mark – used all of their cup nous to pull off a gritty comeback triumph thanks to Conway’s dazzling effort and Ian Keatley’s all-important conversion.

Toulon’s threat was obvious right from the first minute, fortune favouring Munster as Simon Zebo did just enough to prevent Ashton from scoring off Eric Escande’s dangerous kick. Not for the first time, the hosts rode their luck in avoiding a possible penalty try.

Peter O’Mahony’s lineout steal, coupled with Conway’s vital tackle on Josua Tuisova on the opposite wing, kept the visitors scoreless until Anthony Belleau, a late inclusion at fly-half for Trinh-Duc, fired over a well-struck 10th-minute penalty.

After Munster turned down a long-range kick, CJ Stander was squeezed out in the left corner and the covering Ashton beat Conway to a Simon Zebo kick through.

Raphael Lakafia’s hoovering up of Billy Holland’s lineout steal allowed the beefy Toulon pack to get within range for Belleau to score an 18th-minute drop goal for a 6-0 lead.

The injury-enforced withdrawal of Zebo robbed Munster of one of their key attackers but a couple of frenzied kick chases, allied to a strong carry from Jack O’Donoghue, led to Murray’s momentum-changing 27th-minute score. Toulon thought they had covered the danger, only for France captain Guilhem Guirado to knock on at a ruck close to his own line and Murray pounced to ground the ball.

A prolonged deliberation between referee Nigel Owens and TMO Jonathan Mason went Munster’s way, and Keatley converted and then tagged on a 31st-minute penalty, punishing Semi Radradra for tackling replacement Darren Sweetnam without the ball.

Murray was short and wide with a penalty attempt just inside the Toulon half, before the French powerhouses got no reward again from a Dave Attwood break and a threatening late attack that saw Sam Arnold bump Ma’a Nonu into touch.

Defences were on top in the early stages of the second period, Munster getting on the front foot with O’Mahony continuing to cause problems for the Toulon lineout. The excellent Arnold hauled down Tuisova as he threatened from deep, while the consistently well-positioned Ashton covered Sweetnam’s chip-and-chase effort.

Munster’s front row reserves came up trumps in winning a scrum penalty which Keatley turned into three points, but Toulon’s own bench proved hugely influential entering the final quarter.

Radradra just lost control of the ball as he stretched for the line, under pressure from Alex Wootton, before Trinh-Duc punished Jean Kleyn’s side entry at a maul to cut the gap to 13-9.

It got even better for the travelling support when Trinh-Duc’s offload near halfway was adjudged to be flat, releasing Mathieu Bastareaud who charged through and put the supporting Ashton diving in under the posts. Suddenly, Toulon had a grip on proceedings as Trinh-Duc’s pinpoint 48-metre penalty, won by Tuisova, gave them a 19-13 advantage.

It was all hands to the pump for Johann van Graan’s injury-hit side, replacement Niall Scannell being held up by Bastareaud before Munster’s decision to go wide was foiled by the Toulon rearguard.

Conway came to Munster’s rescue, brilliantly keeping a Trinh-Duc clearance in play and, with Tuisova having run infield, the Ireland international expertly slalomed his way through the cover to cross close to the posts. Keatley added the extras and Munster’s defence did the rest, frustrating Toulon into submission.

Chris Farrell expected to miss remainder of 6 Nations as Ireland’s injury list continues to grow

27 Feb
Chris Farrell expected to miss remainder of 6 Nations as Ireland's injury list grows
Farrell was man-of-the-match in Ireland's win over Wales

Ireland have suffered another midfield injury blow with Munster star Chris Farrell expected to miss the rest of the NatWest 6 Nations.

Farrell won the man-of-the-match award in Ireland’s 37-27 win over Wales in Dublin on Saturday, but suffered knee ligament damage in an open training session at the Aviva Stadium on Tuesday, the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) confirmed.

Ireland are already without long-term absentees Jared Payne and Robbie Henshaw for the rest of their bid for a first Grand Slam in nine years, while Garry Ringrose is still seeking full match sharpness after ankle trouble.

Ireland next face Scotland on Saturday March 10th at the Aviva Stadium.