European Rugby Round-Up: Ulster's hopes dented while Munster and Leinster salvage pride.

Saracens became the first team to secure a home quarter-final in the ECC

European Rugby Round-Up: Ulster's hopes dented while Munster and Leinster salvage pride.

©INPHO/Gary Carr

Munster, Leinster and Ulster were all involved in Saturday's European Champions Cup action, with Leinster and Munster earning their first and second wins of the European campaign respectively. 

Munster 26-13 Stade Francais

After last weeks humiliation in Paris, a CJ Stander led Munster battered and bruised Stade Francais in Thomond Park on Saturday afternoon. 

With nothing to play for but pride, Munster produced a performance more in line with what the Thomond faithful are traditionally used to seeing with Mike Sherry, Keith Earls, Simon Zebo and Stander all touching down. 

After falling behind immediately to a Morne Steyn penalty, Munster came out of the blocks and trenched themselves in the Stade half, with multiple assaults on the try line before they finally breached the defence via a rolling maul which saw Sherry touch down.

Steyn slotted another penalty but then Earls produced a moment of magic to scythe through the defensive line and race under the posts as the first half ended. 


Munster began the second half as they ended the first as Zebo collected Ian Keatley's clever chip to glide under the posts. 

Munster began playing with a swagger with a vociferous Thomond crowd in support but they handed Stade a lifeline when an overthrown line-out was scooped up by openside Jono Ross to score.

However, any hopes of a comeback were quickly extinguished as Stander burrowed over after Conor Murray's quick penalty in the French sides 22'. 

The result dents Stade's hopes of progressing to the next round while Munster have salvaged some pride fromt his European campaign. 

Saracens 33-17 Ulster

Ulster were outclassed by an impressive and brutal Saracens side at Allianz Park on Saturday, who secured a home quarter final berth in the process. 

An early Luke Marshall try following an electrifying Stuart McCloskey break had Ulster leading, but two Owen Farrell penalties and a Billy Vunipola try from the back of a maul gave the Aviva Premiership leaders a narrow lead at half-time. 

Saracens then cut loose in the second half with their defensive line speed and dominant pack the sources of much joy against a static Ulster attack. 

Duncan Taylor crossed first after an incisive Farrell break and accurate spin pass before promising lock Mario Itoje dived over after multiple phases on the Ulster line.

 

Craig Gilroy spent ten minutes in the bin after he took a man out in the air when competing for an aerial ball and Sarries made the extra man count with Itoje's try coming in that period.

Schalk Brits then showed the Ulster defence a clean pair of heels to race home from 25m, sealing the bonus point in the process. 

Ian Humphrey's did grab a late consolation try from an intercept on his own 22', but at that stage it was too little too late and now Ulster's European hopes hang on by a thread. 

Leinster 25-11 Bath

Leinster secured their first European of the season with their youthful looking side impressing at the RDS. 

Garry Ringrose, James Tracy and Ross Molony along with Ben Teo'o were the star performers as they brushed aside qualification chasing Bath at home. 

Four first half penalties from Ian Madigan gave Leinster a 12-3 lead at the break, with George Ford scoring for the visitors. 

However, Leinster were somewhat fortunate not to concede a try towards the tail end of the first half after Johnathan Joseph's reverse kick was touched down by the covering Dave Kearney rather than Leroy Houston.

The centre partnership of Teo'o and Ringrose blossomed as both players beat defenders on a consistent basis, giving Leinster the platform for go forward ball. 


Madigan tacked on another penalty before Houston did get his try to leave it at 15-8, but Leinster any hopes of a fightback were dented as Sean Cronin rumbled over. Madigan's conversion left it at 22-11 before he and Rhys Priestland exchanged penalties before the game was brought to a close. 

European Challenge Cup:

Brive 21-18 Connacht

For the second week running Connacht lost the game to a last minute penalty moments after the put themselves into a winning position. 

Thomas Laranjeira bisected the posts with the last kick of the game two minutes after John Muldoon drew Connacht level with a try. Jack Carty missed the ensuing conversion and Connacht's slump continues with a fifth defeat on the spin.

Rory Parata got Connacht off the mark after 40 seconds when he crossed for a try but three Laranjeira penalties had it 9-5 to Brive at the break. 

AJ McGinty and Laranjeira traded penalties before Muldoon got over for his first try on the hour mark and two further Laranjeira penalties had the score at 18-13 until the late drama.

The result puts Brive top of the pool with one game remaining.