Three late tries from Racing 92 in an exciting game in Paris has condemned Johan van Graan’s Munster team to a backs to the wall must-win scenario in the final round of the pool phase of the Champions Cup this coming weekend.
After losing the plum game of the fifth round of the competition 39-22 on Sunday, Munster have been overtaken by Saracens in Pool 4. That means that Munster need to bank a maximum of five log points from their last Pool game against Ospreys this weekend if they hope to advance to the play-offs.
The good news for their supporters is that they are at home against the Ospreys, who although they did well to keep Saracens in relative check in losing by seven points this past weekend are not among the competition’s top teams. However, even if they do achieve their objective they will have to rely on Racing 92 winning away against Saracens, who have a three point advantage on them in the race for second place in the pool.
And even if that does happen, the way the Champions Cup works is that the five pool winners are joined by the three best runners-up in the quarterfinals. Which means Munster will also have to be hoping for results to go their way in some of the other pools, perhaps most notably the visit to Toulouse by the Gloucester team coached by fellow South African Johan Ackermann.
It was generally a mixed bag for the PRO14 Rugby teams in the Cup in the fifth round, with Leinster retaining their imperious form that has seen them remain unbeaten in both competitions this season by outplaying Lyon 42-14. It is hard to imagine them being stopped by anyone in their current form.
Ulster returned with nothing from their trip to France, where they played ASM Clermont Auvergne, but with 17 points in second position in Pool 3 look well placed to make the quarterfinals. They host Bath, who lost away to Harlequins this week, in their final Pool match on Saturday. The team three points ahead of them, Clermont, travel to London to play Harlequins in their final game, so the pool winner is far from decided.
In keeping with the theme of exciting finishes, another PRO14 team, the Glasgow Warriors, kept alive their slender hopes of making the quarterfinals by flying out of the starting blocks before the heavily fancied Exeter Chiefs fought back to claim a draw. The result was enough to assure the Chiefs of a quarterfinal place as they are now assured winners of the pool but Warriors face an anxious last week as although they are currently second they are not among the best three runners up.
The Warriors visit Sale Sharks for their final game of the phase and will need to win big and hope other results go their way if they are to make it into the quarterfinal round. Another PRO14 team, Connacht, saw their brave bid to make it into the play-offs in Europe for the first time come to an end when they lost 21-7 at home to Toulouse, while Italian team Benetton’s plucky loss to Northampton confirmed that next week’s game against Leinster will be their last in the competition this season.
Weekend Champions Cup results
La Rochelle 30 Sale Sharks 23
Bath 19 Harlequins 25
Ospreys 15 Saracens 22
ASM Clermont Auvergne 29 Ulster 13
Connacht 7 Toulouse 21
Glasgow Warriors 31 Exeter Chiefs 31
Gloucester 29 Montpellier 6
Leinster 42 Lyon 14
Northampton 33 Benetton 20
Racing 92 39 Munster 22