European Rugby Round-Up
It was another disappointing weekend for the Irish provinces in Europe.20:00 Sunday 20 December 2015, 20:00 20 Dec 2015
Another weekend of Champions Cup action finally confirmed the inevitable for Munster and Leinster, while Ulster's European adventure lives to fight for another day.
Leinster 16-20 Toulon
Leinster managed to salvage some pride and a nugatory losing bonus point from this game, but little else as three in a row champions Toulon inflicted another crushing home defeat on Leinster.
Leinster started well and led 16-5 at the break thanks to the boot of Johnny Sexton and a well earned penalty try. However, the second half was a different affair as an Anthony Etrillard effort and a penalty try added to Juan Smith's first half score to put the champions in a commanding position.
That result leaves Leinster unfamiliarly propping up the table as Toulon close the gap on Wasps. You can read the full match report here.
Leicester Tigers 17-6 Munster
Munster will join their Eastern neighbours in the alien territory of watching the latter stages of European rugby's premier competition from home after they failed in their efforts to overturn Leicester at Welford Rd. this evening.
Tries from Ed Slater and Vereniki Goneva was enough to move Leicester eight points clear atop of Pool 4 with Munster languishing 13 points of the leaders.
An early Ian Keatley penalty was just reward for Munster after a major effort in the opening exchanges, an effort they sustained for the majority of the half. However, the Tigers grew into the game and captain Slater barged over the line following sustained line pressure from the English side.
Freddie Burns tacked on a penalty before Dom Barrow was sin-binned on 40 minutes for attempting to slap the ball out of Conor Murray's hands from an offside position. Keatley made no mistake having missed an earlier effort.
The two-time champions weren't going down without a fight and crossed early in the second half through James Cronin, only for play to be called back for a forward pass.
For all their endeavour and effort, Munster lacked precision and guile as they failed to control their own set pieces throughout the game.
Kealtey and Burns both missed from the tee before Munster were produced with a guilt edged opportunity to take the lead.
Under pressure on their own line, Francis Sailli pounced on a loose ball to sprint the length of the field only to be caught by the rapid Telusa Veainu.
That seemed to be the turning point as Peter Betham capitalised on some slack defending minutes later to cut through the Munster line and offload for Goneva to ghost under the posts.
Burns converted and Munster never recovered, leaving their European ambitions in tatters.
Toulouse 23-25 Ulster
Ulster continued their resurgence under Les Kiss with an impressive victory against Toulouse at Stade Ernest Wallon this afternoon.
The result keeps the pressure on Saracens with a return fixture to come as well as having a game in hand over the English side.
The Northern province continued where they left off last week with a blistering start to the game, keeping Toulouse on the backfoot and deep in their own half. Paddy Jackson kicked an early score before Ruan Pienaar made Ulster's dominance count on the scoreboard when he burrowed over from close range.
Jackson then handed Toulouse a way back into the game when he was binned for a deliberate knock-on. The resulting penalty was slotted by Sebastian Bezy, the French sides first score in 116 minutes of rugby against Ulster.
A marginal forward pass denied us one of the tries of the tournament prior to the break as Andrew Trimble raced out of his 22' after picking up a loose ball. The Irish wing combined with Ruan Pienaar down the right before the South African spun it wide for Rory Scholes to finish via Franco van der Merwe only for it to be called back.
Ulster didn't have to wait long in the second half for their second try as Trimble finished brilliantly after Stuart McCloskey's sumptuous midfield break brought play toward the line.
Gael Fickou responded with a try of his own to keep Toulouse within range and they then took the lead with another Bezy penalty, but that was short lived as Jackson slotted over another effort from the tee on the hour mark.
The game remained on a knife edge until the 74th minute when Luke Marshall diced through the Toulousaine defence afer taking a great line and dot down under the posts to seal victory.
There was to be another try as Louis Picamoles grounded from the back of a maul but it was too little too late for the French side as Ulster go marching on in Europe.
Newcastle Falcons 29-5 Connacht
Connacht tasted their first European defeat of the season as their injury ravage squad were outmuscled and outplayed by the Falcons in Newcastle.
Danie Poolman first half try was as good as it got for the Westerners as they went in level at the interval. However, four second half tries consigned Connacht to defeat but they still remain in control of the Pool, lying two points ahead of today's opponents.
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