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Champions Cup

WATCH: Munster Beat Chiefs in Hard Fought Battle – Report & Highlights

Exeter Chiefs fall short in their quest for history

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Photo By Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images

Munster came out on top of a Heineken Champions Cup epic encounter against the Exeter Chiefs in Thomond Park on Saturday to progress to the quarter-finals.

The win means they finished top of their pool but have been rewarded with a tough last eight match away to Edinburgh.

Exeter were looking to become the first team to be winless after the first three pool games and still qualify and knew that if they won and denied Munster a bonus point, they would advance.

Munster started well with last weekend’s man of the match Joey Carbery slotting home an early 6th minute penalty to settle the nerves.

However, seven minutes later, and after some great work in the opposition 22, Chiefs back rower Dan Armond bundled his way over from the back of a ruck for the only try of the game.

That was converted and the Chiefs led 7-3 by the 14th minute.

Come the 22nd minute Carbery took stuck another penalty over the bar to make it 7-6 in the Chiefs favour.

Exeter had a couple of opportunities from penalties to take three points and extend their lead before but decided to take their approach from the Premiership and go for full marks, each time failing to score.

It remained a one-point game right up until the 72nd minute when Carbery continued is fine form from the tee and scored a penalty to hand Munster a two-point advantage heading into the final minutes.

The Chiefs continued to fight right to the end, even in the 80th minute they had 22 phases until being tackled into touch resulting in a 9-7 win for Munster and knocking Exeter out.

After the game Munster’s Niall Scannell reflected on one of the toughest games, he has ever played in.

“Probably test match level rugby”, he said in an interview admitting it was tiring even watching from the bench after being substituted.

The win was overshadowed by injuries to Tadhg Beirne, Andrew Conway and Tommy O’Donnell. With man of the match Beirne now set to miss Ireland’s opening two matches of the 6 Nations.

A trip to Edinburgh awaits, in the clubs 18th European Champions Cup quarter-final appearance, but they will hope to have a full squad available before heading to Scotland.

Match Highlights below:

Champions Cup

Ulster Change One for Bath Decider

Ulster have made only one change to their starting line-up for their Champions Cup pool decider against Bath tomorrow

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Ulster head coach Dan McFarland has confirmed that he has made a single change to his starting XV for tomorrow’s crucial Champions Cup game against Bath at the Kingspan Stadium at 15 15.

That change comes in the form of Tom O’Toole, who was selected in Andy Farrell’s 35-man strong Ireland squad this week, but the team is otherwise unchanged from last weekend’s loss to Clermont. 

That means Jack McGrath and Rob Herring join O’Toole in the front-row, with Alan O’Connor joining-up once more with captain Iain Henderson in the engine-room. 

Sean Reidy continues at blindside-flanker, with Jordi Murphy looking to put his Ireland snub behind him when he takes his spot on the openside, while Marcell Coetzee finishes up the pack from No 8. 

Possible Ireland starter John Cooney has another chance to impress from scrum-half, with Billy Burns his half-back partner, while Stuart McCloskey and Luke Marshall link-up in the midfield, with the former in a similar boat to Murphy following a snub from Ireland despite being in a rich vein of form. 

Jacob Stockdale remains on the left-wing, with youngster Robert Baloucoune on the right and Will Addison completes the XV from full-back. 

There is plenty for McFarland to call on from the bench too with the likes of Eric O’Sullivan, Nick Timoney, Bill Johnston and Craig Gilroy among the replacements. 

Speaking ahead of the game Herring is aware of the task at hand is expecting a tough challenge from Bath despite the English side being out of the competition already. 

“Bath are going to come fully-loaded and full of players who can attack, so we need to keep it tight and capitalise on any opportunities,” he said. 

Ulster know a win coupled with a slip up from Clermont would see them seal top spot in the pool, but either way they will want to finish on a high as they prepare for the knock-out stages. 

Check Out the Full 23-Man Squad Below. 

Starting XV:

Will Addison, Robert Baloucoune, Luke Marshall, Stuart McCloskey, Jacob Stockdale, Billy Burns, John Cooney; Jack McGrath, Rob Herring, Tom O’Toole, Alan O’Connor, Iain Henderson (c), Sean Reidy, Jordi Murphy, Marcell Coetzee

Replacements: 

Adam McBurney, Eric O’Sullivan, Ross Kane, Kieran Treadwell, Nick Timoney, David Shanahan, Bill Johnston, Craig Gilroy

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Champions Cup

Leinster Go Strong for Benetton Trip

Leinster have decided not to rest their stars for their final Champions Cup pool game as they seek the top seed spot

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(Photo By Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Leinster head coach Leo Cullen has announced his 23-man squad for tomorrow’s Champions Cup game against Benetton at the Stadio Monigo at 13 00.

Despite already being assured of top spot in the pool Cullen has named an experienced side full of stars in order to try and claim a win which will see them go into the knock-out stages as the top seeded side. 

The only surprises in the team are that both Max Deegan and Caelan Doris have been handed a chance to start the game, while in the backs Luke McGrath has been handed the role of captain. 

Elsewhere, Cian Healy and Andrew Porter are either side of hooker Sean Cronin in the front-row. Cronin will hope to put in a good shift after being snubbed in Ireland’s Six Nations squad announcement this week, while Devin Toner and James Ryan slot in behind them in second-row.

Deegan shifts from No 8 to take up a place as blindside-flanker, with Josh van der Flier remaining on the openside and Doris comes in as the No 8 this time around in what is an exciting back-row. 

McGrath is joined in the half-backs by Ross Byrne, and they have Robbie Henshaw and Garry Ringrose outside them in the centre. 

James Lowe continues on the left-wing, with Dave Kearney hoping to continue his fine form on the right, while Jordan Larmour is once again at full-back to complete the XV. 

There is a huge amount of experience on the bench too for Cullen to call upon if needed with the likes of Tadhg Furlong, Rhys Ruddock, Jamison Gibson-Park and Rob Kearney among the replacements. 

Speaking ahead of the game Lowe is wary of the threat that the Italian outfit have and believes that the results aren’t a fair showing for their performances so far this season. 

“Their results probably don’t reflect the season they’ve had. They’ve been so, so close on so many occasions in the PRO14 and the Champions Cup. We’re under no illusion the threats that they do pose. It’s, for a lot of them the last chance to put their hand up before the Six Nations as well. So there’s a lot of individuals in that environment who will want to prove a point,” he said. 

Leinster head into the game as clear favourites to make it 16 wins on the bounce and know that a win will seal them the top seeding heading into the quarter-finals. However, they will need to overcome a Benetton side that will be hoping to end their European campaign on a high. 

Check Out the Full 23-Man Squad Below.

Starting XV: 

15. Jordan Larmour (45)

14. Dave Kearney (145)

13. Garry Ringrose (71)

12. Robbie Henshaw (43)

11. James Lowe (40)

10. Ross Byrne (83)

9. Luke McGrath (120) (c)

1. Cian Healy (215)

2. Seán Cronin (177)

3. Andrew Porter (61)

4. Devin Toner (243) 

5. James Ryan (36)

6. Max Deegan (59)

7. Josh van der Flier (79)

8. Caelan Doris (28)

Replacements:

16. James Tracy (105)

17. Peter Dooley (72)

18. Tadhg Furlong (107)

19. Ross Molony (92)

20. Rhys Ruddock (168)

21. Jamison Gibson-Park (84)

22. Ciarán Frawley (21)

23. Rob Kearney (216)

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Champions Cup

Leinster Batter Lyon at the RDS

Leinster have made it 15 wins from 15 so far this season with yet another big win

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(Photo By David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Leinster have made it five wins from five in Champions Cup Pool 1 with a comprehensive 42-14 victory over Lyon in the RDS this afternoon.

A brace of tries from Dave Kearney, along with further five-pointers from Josh van der Flier, Max Deegan, Sean Cronin and Andrew Porter saw the boys in blue ease to victory despite not being at their best throughout the game. 

Leinster thought they had got off to the perfect start as Luke McGrath went over for a try after just 40 seconds, but it was chalked off with the scrum-half being offside. 

They went over again moments later but again it again cancelled out as James Lowe knocked on in the build-up. 

However, it was third time lucky with 10 minutes on the clock as Ross Byrne took a quick cross-field kick from a penalty, which Lowe took in before sending it inside to Kearney for the try. Byrne split the posts with the conversion to make it 7-0. 

Four minutes on and they were over again through van der Flier who was fed by McGrath close to the line and he charged over. Byrne made it two kicks from two to push the hosts 14-0 ahead. 

Lyon hit back just after the 20 minute mark as Virgile Bruni intercepted a pass and raced forward to touch down under the posts. Jonathan Pelissie knocked over the extras to cut into the hosts lead. 

Leinster captain Scott Fardy thought he had scored his side’s third try only to have it ruled out for another knock-on. 

However, on 31 minutes Leinster did have their third try and it was Kearney who finished off a period of pressure in the opposition 22 as Lowe unselfishly passed to him when he could have tried to score himself. Byrne hit the post with the conversion, but it still managed to go over to make it 21-7. 

The away side hit back again after some pressure of their own in the Leinster 22 and with a penalty advantage they went over for their second try of the game through second-row Hendrik Roodt. Pelissie converted once again to make it 21-14 come half-time. 

Leinster dominated the opening exchanges of the second-half and thought they had scored their fourth try of the afternoon on 45 minutes through van der Flier, but it was again ruled out, this time due to a forward pass. 

The home side continued to put the pressure on inside the Lyon 22 and after a number of penalties the away side lost Felix Lambey to a yellow-card. 

Leinster made the most of their man advantage and secured the bonus-point try on 50 minutes as Deegan finished off a number of phases in the Lyon 22 by barging under the posts. Byrne chipped over the conversion to give Leinster a 28-14 lead. 

Things only got worse for Lyon on 63 minutes as Xavier Mignot was sent to the sin bin for 10 minutes and again Leinster made their numerical advantage count as substitute Cronin went over off the back of a line-out from the resulting penalty. Byrne made it five from five from the tee to make it 35-14. 

They had their sixth try of the game with nine minutes left on the clock as they made the most of some more time in the Lyon 22 and after a few phases Porter barrelled over for a five-pointer. Replacement fly-half Ciaran Frawley slotted the conversion between the posts. 

The final 10 minutes came to nothing for either side as Leinster ran out 42-14 winners.

The win means that Leinster have claimed 24 points from a possible 25 in the pool stages and have continued their winning streak this season, extending the run to 15 on the bounce. Leinster will hope to finish the pool with a perfect record when they head to Benetton next weekend, while Lyon will hope to end their run in this season’s competition with a positive result against Northampton.

Player Ratings

Starting XV:

Jordan Larmour (7), Dave Kearney (8), Garry Ringrose (7), Robbie Henshaw (7), James Lowe (8), Ross Byrne (8), Luke McGrath (8); Cian Healy (7), James Tracy (7), Tadhg Furlong (8), Devin Toner (7), Scott Fardy (8), Rhys Ruddock (7), Josh van der Flier (8), Max Deegan (9)

Replacements (8)

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