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Champions Cup

Leinster v Ulster: Player Ratings & Match Highlights

Leinster made it through to the Champions Cup semi-finals with a narrow win over rivals Ulster

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Photo By Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images

Leinster came through an incredible game to slip past Ulster 21-18 in the Champions Cup quarter-finals at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday night.

The win now means that the home side will face Toulouse in the semi-finals and leaves the prospect of an all Irish final alive.

Ulster got off to a flying start as they put in a couple of crunching tackles on the hosts and were rewarded for their pressure in first five minutes.

Garry Ringrose took the decision to kick even with Ulstermen chasing him, leading Iain Henderson and Rory Best charging the kick down for Kieran Treadwell to pounce for an easy try.

John Cooney slotted home the conversion and it was 7-0 with six minutes on the clock. A dream opening for the underdogs.

However, Leinster bounced-back almost immediately, going through the phases before Ross Byrne chose not to pass but to carry instead and in the tackle with an outstretched arm touched the ball down.

He missed the conversion to leave matters at 7-5 to the away side with only 11 minutes gone.

The high-intensity continued and Ulster captain Best went off after 16 minutes due to an ankle injury.

Byrne was handed a penalty opportunity in front of the posts 50 metres out midway through the half, only for him to send it wide once more.

Cooney had no such problems from the tee when given his chance from a Cian Healy penalty moments later, and instead of Leinster going ahead four minutes previous they were now 10-5 behind.

Just past the half-hour mark Byrne began to make up for his errors. Landing a penalty following a Nick Timoney infringement.

Another Byrne penalty soon after put Leinster in the lead for the first time.

Although it was the visitors who went in smiling at half-time with Cooney kicking his second penalty of the night to make it 13-11.

The incredible pace of the opening half continued when the sides returned, and Ulster should have stretched their lead five minutes in.

Jacob Stockdale flew down the wing following a pass on the blindside from Billy Burns, leaving Leinster men in his wake. He got to the try-line as Dave Kearney put in a routine tackle past the line as it looked like Stockdale had scored his seventh try of the tournament.

It wasn’t to be though, as replays showed that he had knocked the ball on while trying to place it one handed, and Leinster gasped a huge sigh of relief.

Within minutes that mistake seemed crucial as the host pounded the opposition defence before man of the match Jack Conan decided to have a pick and go from the back of a ruck and sprint forward.

He, much like Stockdale previously, left defenders looking at the back of him, all the while trying to pull up his shorts. He was eventually taken down by Stockdale only to deliver a beautiful offload to Adam Byrne, who finished off the move.

Ross Byrne delivered the extras and it was 18-13 to Leinster.

A long delay followed minutes later as replacement Dan Leavy, who only returned to action last weekend, went down with what seemed to be a very serious knee injury.

During that time Ulster centre Luke Marshall, who himself was returning to action for the first time since last May came on and with only his second touch of the game scored a fine try to bring things level.

Cooney stepped up and uncharacteristically missed the conversion as they went into the final stages at 18 all.

Ross Byrne went down with cramp on more than one occasion over the next few minutes, but when Leinster put the pressure on and earned a penalty, he took responsibility. Sending the kick through the posts to make it a three-point game with seven minutes remaining.

Ulster continued to search for a score, but it was Leinster who ended the game in the opposition 22, as they almost went over for a try, going through 44-phases before Luke McGrath kicked the ball out to confirm the 21-18 win.

After the game, Leinster head coach Leo Cullen admitted his relief at winning and knows his side will have to be better going forward.

“We are relieved to be through to the semi-final. I don’t think we were anywhere near our best. We know we are in two semi-finals, but it’s about how do we build cohesion and our levels of performance so that when it comes to those games, we give a better account of ourselves than we did today,” he said while speaking to RTE Sport.

The win means Leinster are in with a chance of retaining their European crown, but it may have come at a cost with Leavy’s injury and the possibility of losing Byrne to injury also. While Ulster will rue a missed opportunity to dethrone their rivals in what was an epic encounter.

Player Ratings:

Leinster: Jordan Larmour (6), Adam Byrne (7), Garry Ringrose (6), Rory O’Loughlin (5), Dave Kearney (7), Ross Byrne (8), Luke McGrath (7); Cian Healy (6), Sean Cronin (6), Tadhg Furlong (7), Scott Fardy (8), James Ryan (7), Rhys Ruddock (7), Sean O’Brien (6), Jack Conan (9)

Replacements (8)

Ulster: Michael Lowry (6), Rob Baloucoune (7), Darren Cave (7), Stuart McCloskey (7), Jacob Stockdale (7), Billy Burns (6), John Cooney (8); Eric O’Sullivan (6), Rory Best (6), Marty Moore (7), Iain Henderson (8), Kieran Treadwell (9), Nick Timoney (6), Jordi Murphy (7), Marcell Coetzee (7)

Replacements (8)

Match Highlights:

Champions Cup

Leinster v Saracens: Lineups announced.

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(Photo by GLYN KIRK/AFP/Getty Images)

Jackson Wray makes his 250th appearance for Saracens this weekend v Leinster. He is joined the back row by Mike Rhodes, who is closing in on 100 outings for the Men in Black, and Billy Vunipola – a try scorer in last season’s European final.

His brother Mako returns to the front row alongside England teammate Jamie George and South Africa international Vincent Koch, while Maro Itoje is partnered by Tim Swinson in the second row.

Scotland international Swinson will run out for his 50th European match in Dublin.

In the back division, Owen Farrell’s suspension sees Alex Goode switch to fly-half to play outside scrum-half Richard Wigglesworth.

Elliot Daly fills in at full-back with Sean Maitland and Alex Lewington taking spot on the wings. Captain Brad Barritt and Duncan Taylor make up the midfield.

Replacements Alec Clarey and Dom Morris will earn their Champions Cup stripes should they enter the fray.

Saracens team to face Leinster:

15 Elliot Daly (10)
14 Alex Lewington (51)
13 Duncan Taylor (130)
12 Brad Barritt (260)
11 Sean Maitland (77)
10 Alex Goode (300)
9 Richard Wigglesworth (247)
1 Mako Vunipola (169)
2 Jamie George (230)
3 Vincent Koch (85)
4 Maro Itoje (123)
5 Tim Swinson (3)
6 Mike Rhodes (97)
7 Jackson Wray (249)
8 Billy Vunipola (114)

Replacements

16 Tom Woolstencroft (40)
17 Richard Barrington (192)
18 Alec Clarey (5)
19 Callum Hunter-Hill (21)
20 Calum Clark (54)
21 Aled Davies (4)
22 Manu Vunipola (26)
23 Dom Morris (24)

The Leinster Rugby team, as sponsored by Bank of Ireland, to face Saracens in the Quarter-Final of the Heineken Champions Cup tomorrow at Aviva Stadium has been named by Head Coach Leo Cullen (KO 3.00pm, live on BT Sport and RTÉ Radio).

In team news, Johnny Sexton will captain the side with two players, Hugo Keenan and Will Connors, making European debuts from the start and a third, Ryan Baird, from the bench.

Jordan Larmour is selected at full-back and the former St. Andrew’s College man will win his 50th cap for Leinster in the number 15 jersey.

Keenan will make his European debut on the right wing with James Lowe selected on the left.

In the centre once again Cullen has selected Robbie Henshaw and Garry Ringrose as his partnership.

In the half-backs, Luke McGrath starts at scrumhalf alongside captain Sexton.

Cian Healy will become the fourth most-capped Leinster player of all time when he pulls on the number one jersey tomorrow. The Clontarf native is closing in on Jamie Heaslip who is in third place on 229 caps.

Seán Cronin is selected alongside Healy in the front row as is Andrew Porter.

Devin Toner and James Ryan will again form the second-row partnership for Leinster Rugby this week.

Finally, in the back row, Caelan Doris will start at blindside flanker, with Will Connors selected at openside and Jack Conan at number eight.

On the bench, Ryan Baird is another player in line to make his European debut should he be introduced.

Leinster Rugby (caps in brackets)

15. Jordan Larmour (49)
14. Hugo Keenan (17)
13. Garry Ringrose (75)
12. Robbie Henshaw (47)
11. James Lowe (46)
10. Johnny Sexton (166) CAPTAIN
9. Luke McGrath (126)
1. Cian Healy (219)
2. Seán Cronin (184)
3. Andrew Porter (65)
4. Devin Toner (248)
5. James Ryan (38)
6. Caelan Doris (32)
7. Will Connors (19)
8. Jack Conan (92)

16. Rónan Kelleher (14)
17. Ed Byrne (56)
18. Michael Bent (139)
19. Ryan Baird (9)
20. Josh van der Flier (83)
21. Jamison Gibson-Park (92)
22. Ross Byrne (88)
23. Rory O’Loughlin (70)

Referee: Pascal Gaüzère (FFR)

Press Releases from Saracens and Leinster Rugby

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Champions Cup

Big names missing for Ulster v Toulouse

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(Photo By Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

The Ulster coaching group has named the match-day squad for Sunday’s Heineken Champions Cup Quarter-Final versus Toulouse (Stade Ernest-Wallon, kick-off 12:30pm UK/Irish time).

Scrum-half, John Cooney returns to the starting line-up, and is one of four changes to the side that played in the Guinness PRO14 Final versus Leinster last week.

Cooney will be paired with Billy Burns at fly-half, while the rest of the starting backline remains unchanged. Michael Lowry is named at full-back, with Jacob Stockdale and Rob Lyttle on the wings. Midfield duo, Stuart McCloskey and James Hume, will once again start.

In the front row, Jack McGrath comes in at loosehead to join Rob Herring at hooker and Tom O’Toole at tighthead prop. Iain Henderson will lead the side and is joined by Alan O’Connor in the second row. Sean Reidy makes a positional switch to blindside, while Jordi Murphy and Nick Timoney come in to the starting XV at openside and number eight.

Dan McFarland has again gone for a 6-2 split on the bench. John Andrew, Eric O’Sullivan, Marty Moore, Sam Carter, Kieran Treadwell and Matthew Rea will provide forward options, while Alby Mathewson and Matt Faddes offer cover for the backs.

Ulster team to play Toulouse, Heineken Champions Cup Quarter-Final, Sunday 20 September at Stade Ernest-Wallon, kick-off 12.30pm UK/Irish time, live on BT Sport, Channel 4 & Virgin Media:

(15-9) Michael Lowry, Rob Lyttle, James Hume, Stuart McCloskey, Jacob Stockdale, Billy Burns, John Cooney.

(1-8) Jack McGrath, Rob Herring, Tom O’Toole, Alan O’Connor, Iain Henderson (Capt.), Sean Reidy, Jordi Murphy, Nick Timoney.

Replacements (16-23): John Andrew, Eric O’Sullivan, Marty Moore, Sam Carter, Kieran Treadwell, Alby Mathewson, Matt Faddes, Matthew Rea.

Press Release from Ulster Rugby

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Challenge Cup

Champions Cup And Challenge Cup Finals Moved From Marseille

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(Photo by GLYN KIRK/AFP/Getty Images)

Due to the many uncertainties created by the COVID-19 pandemic, it has been decided that the 2020 Heineken Champions Cup and Challenge Cup finals will not now be held in Marseille as planned and the matches will be played at a new venue or venues.

With tens of thousands of fans scheduled to travel to the south of France, the Board of EPCR and the local organising committee have agreed that insufficient safeguards are currently in place during the public health crisis to stage two high-profile matches at the 67,000-capacity Stade Vélodrome.

As a consequence, EPCR is currently working with its shareholder leagues and unions to secure an alternative venue or venues for the two finals which will be played on the weekend of 16/17/18 October, and details will be announced as soon as practicable.

As part of this adjustment to its future planning, EPCR is pleased to announce that Marseille will now host the 2021 Heineken Champions Cup and Challenge Cup finals at the Stade Vélodrome on the weekend of 21/22 May, and that the matches at the 62,000-capacity Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London will be rescheduled for 2022.

Tickets for this season’s finals will be valid for the 2021 weekend with no change to category or seating, and all ticket holders will be contacted by email within the next 48 hours with details of how to avail of a full refund if required.

As previously communicated, the quarter-finals of both tournaments will be played on the weekend of 18/19/20 September with the semi-finals scheduled for the weekend of 25/26/27 September. Exact dates, venues, kick-off times and TV coverage will be announced as soon as possible.

As is now customary during the pandemic, the matches will be subject to government guidelines with the health and welfare of players, club staff, match officials, supporters and the wider rugby community to the fore.

2020 EPCR dates:

  • Quarter-finals: weekend of 18/19/20 September
  • Semi-finals: weekend of 25/26/27 September
  • Heineken Champions Cup final: weekend of 16/17/18 October (venue TBC)
  • Challenge Cup final: weekend of 16/17/18 October (venue TBC)
  • Start of 2020/21 season: weekend of 11/12/13 December.

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