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.

Leinster edge out Racing 92 to secure fourth Champions Cup title

12 May
Leinster edge out Racing 92 to secure fourth Champions Cup title
Leinster claimed the Champions Cup

Leinster survived a nail-biting conclusion to win the European Champions Cup for the fourth time, edging out Racing 92 15-12 in a dour battle at Bilbao’s San Mames Stadium.

Isa Nacewa landed the match-winning penalty in the 78th minute, but Leo Cullen’s men had to survive a frantic finish at the end of which Racing replacement fly-half Remi Tales pushed a drop-goal effort wide.

Racing shrugged off injuries to fly-halves Dan Carter and Pat Lambie to lead twice during a cagey first half, Teddy Iribaren’s two penalties being cancelled out by a Jonathan Sexton brace.

The 6-6 scoreline became 9-9 and then 12-12 as Iribaren landed four of his five penalty attempts and Sexton finished with three.

It was left to the retiring captain Nacewa to bring Leinster level, before an offside decision against Tales allowed the 35-year-old winger to boot the Blues to their first European title since 2012.

The Irish province now jointly hold the record for most European Cups won along with Toulouse, while Cullen is the first man to win the tournament as both a player and a coach.

Nacewa, Cian Healy, Sexton and Devin Toner all collected a record-equalling fourth title.

A pre-match hamstring injury spoiled Carter’s European swansong, with Racing’s injury list already including talismanic skipper Maxime Machenaud (knee) and Dimitri Szarzewski (bicep).

Lambie’s final lasted just under three minutes, the South African stand-off damaging his knee on an early break which led to Iribaren’s opening penalty from 45 metres out.

Sexton levelled in the 16th minute following his own loop with Scott Fardy and a penetrating run from Nacewa, but Iribaren, who impressed along with Camille Chat in a composed first quarter from Racing, punished a maul infringement for 6-3.

Although struggling to produce quick ruck ball on the greasy surface, Leinster had the edge under the high ball through Rob Kearney.

James Ryan’s high work-rate launched Leinster forward to win a kickable penalty, only for Sexton’s tap-and-go to end in a relieving breakdown penalty poached by hooker Chat.

Sexton made no mistake with a 38th-minute effort from the tee, following a deliberate knock-on by Leone Nakarawa who narrowly avoided the sin-bin.

Iribaren’s right boot restored Racing’s lead five minutes after the restart, rewarding a bruising set of carries from his pack. Sexton slipped in his attempts to respond with a difficult 48-metre penalty.

The Ireland fly-half nailed his next effort to square things up again in the 53rd minute, the heavy pre-match favourites beginning to find some half-gaps through Robbie Henshaw and Sean Cronin.

Sexton suffered his second miss from long range, following a James Ryan lineout steal, and as the contest became increasingly scrappy, Iribaren’s only penalty miss let Dan Leavy off the hook for a high tackle.

Referee Wayne Barnes’ whistle was far too influential for both sides’ liking, the stop-start fare leading to successful place-kicks from Iribaren and Nacewa late on.

Crucially, it was Racing who blundered when Teddy Thomas was tackled into touch, and Nacewa took full advantage of Tales’ subsequent offside to claim a very hard-earned victory.