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Champions Cup

Munster Scrape Past Benetton to Reach Pro 14 Semis

Munster just about got over the line against Benetton to reach the last four of the Pro 14

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(Photo By Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Munster survived a scare from Benetton to reach the semi-finals of the Pro 14 as they defeated the Italians 15-13 at Thomond Park on Saturday afternoon.

The win means Munster will now face a trip to rivals Leinster in the semi-finals with a place the showpiece up for grabs.

Munster dominated the majority of the match and started brightly. However, malfunctioning line-outs, knock-ons and just simple unforced errors meant they could not make the most of their early chances.

It took until the 23rd minute for them to register their first points when Tyler Bleyendaal converted a penalty, having turned down the three-point opportunity earlier in the game.

That score kicked Benetton into action as they went up the other end of the pitch straight after the kick-off and went through the phases. Munster captain Peter O’Mahony conceded a penalty at the breakdown and Tomasso Allan made no mistake with his kick to tie things up at 3-3.

Munster’s lack of attacking efficiency was punished by the visitors a minute before time when Bleyendaal sent a kicked towards touch but Monty Ioane’s quick line-out allowed full-back Jayden Hayward to run at the defence.

Following a couple of phases Marco Zanon sent Ratuva Tavunyara over in the corner for a try. Allan converted and that sent Benetton in with a 10-3 half-time lead.

Munster again started well in the second-half, with Bleyendaal knocking over a penalty early on to make it 10-6.

Benetton almost sprung another surprise on 48 minutes only for Braam Steyn to knock-on an offload that would have sent them over for a second try.

With 20 minutes remaining Benetton pushed themselves further ahead as JJ Hanrahan was caught offside. Again, Allan was perfect from the tee to make it 13-6 and an upset looked on the cards.

Hanrahan made up for his error two minutes later when he kicked a penalty to cut the lead to four.

Hanrahan made up for his error two minutes later when he kicked a penalty to cut the lead to four.

Benetton defended well right up until the 77th minute when they conceded a penalty on half-way which Hanrahan kept his nerve to kick straight through the uprights.

Benetton pushed late on and missed a couple of drop-kicks before the full-time whistle was blown and Munster’s blushes were saved.

Munster will now head to the RDS in two weeks’ time to face Leinster and will need a much-improved performance if they are to topple the reigning champions. Although Benetton couldn’t go any further, they are still the first Italian side to reach the play-off phase of the competition and have Champions Cup rugby to look forward to next season.

Challenge Cup

Ulster name team for Northampton Quarter-Final trip

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Photo By Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile via Getty Images

The Ulster coaching team has named the match-day squad for the trip to face Northampton Saints at Franklin’s Gardens on Saturday (kick-off 8pm).

Michael Lowry is named to start at full-back, and is joined in the back three by Jacob Stockdale and Robert Baloucoune. Stuart McCloskey and James Hume will form the midfield duo, and Billy Burns and John Cooney are the starting half-backs.

In the front row, Eric O’Sullivan, Rob Herring and Marty Moore retain their starting berths. Alan O’Connor will partner Kieran Treadwell in the second row. Last week’s Player of the Match, Sean Reidy, will start at blindside flanker, with Jordi Murphy skippering the team at openside and Nick Timoney at Number Eight.

John Andrew, Andrew Warwick, Tom O’Toole, Matty Rea and Greg Jones will provide the forward reinforcements from the bench, with Alby Mathewson, Ian Madigan and Ethan McIlroy named as the back line options.

Ulster team to play Northampton Saints, Challenge Cup Quarter-Final, Saturday 10 April at Franklin’s Gardens (kick-off 8pm, live on BT Sport):

(15-9) Michael Lowry, Robert Baloucoune, James Hume, Stuart McCloskey, Jacob Stockdale, Billy Burns, John Cooney;

(1-8) Eric O’Sullivan, Rob Herring, Marty Moore, Alan O’Connor, Kieran Treadwell, Sean Reidy, Jordi Murphy (Capt.), Nick Timoney.

Replacements: John Andrew, Andrew Warwick, Tom O’Toole, Matty Rea, Greg Jones, Alby Mathewson, Ian Madigan, Ethan McIlroy.

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Champions Cup

Big names miss out for Ulster

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(Photo By Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

The Ulster match-day squad to face Gloucester tomorrow afternoon in Round 2 of the Heineken Champions Cup has been named (Kingsholm Stadium, kick-off 3.15pm).  

The back line sees just one change from the side that played Toulouse last Friday. Michael Lowry, Jacob Stockdale and Matt Faddes all retain their positions in the back three. Stuart McCloskey and James Hume are the starting midfield duo. Billy Burns returns at fly-half and will captain the side; he will partner John Cooney at scrum-half.  

The front row remains unchanged for this game. Rob Herring is named at hooker, with Eric O’Sullivan and Marty Moore packing down at loosehead and tighthead prop. Alan O’Connor will partner with his brother David – who will make his first Heineken Champions Cup start with Sam Carter missing out through concussion. Sean Reidy has been selected at blindside, with Jordi Murphy returning at openside. Nick Timoney comes in to start at Number Eight to replace the injured Marcel Coetzee.

John Andrew, Kyle McCall, Tom O’Toole, Matty Rea, and Greg Jones are the forward bench options. Academy player, Ethan McIlroy could make his European debut if called upon from the bench, and is named alongside Alby Mathewson and Ian Madigan in the back line replacements.    

Ulster team to play Gloucester, Heineken Champions Cup Round 2, Saturday 19 December 2020 at Kingsholm Stadium, kick-off 3.15pm, live on BT Sport / beIN Sport:  

(15-9) Michael Lowry, Matt Faddes, James Hume, Stuart McCloskey, Jacob Stockdale, Billy Burns (Capt.), John Cooney; 

(1-8) Eric O’Sullivan, Rob Herring, Marty Moore, Alan O’Connor, David O’Connor, Sean Reidy, Jordi Murphy, Nick Timoney. 

Replacements: John Andrew, Kyle McCall, Tom O’Toole, Matty Rea, Greg Jones, Alby Mathewson, Ian Madigan, Ethan McIlroy.  

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Champions Cup

Ulster name strong side to face Toulouse

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(Photo By Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

The Ulster coaching team has named the match-day squad for the province’s opening Pool game of the 2020-21 Heineken Champions Cup against Toulouse on Friday (kick-off 8pm, Kingspan Stadium). 

In the back three, Jacob Stockdale returns from international duty to the left wing, joining Michael Lowry at full-back and Matt Faddes on the right wing. In midfield, Stuart McCloskey also returns from the Ireland squad to partner with James Hume. Ian Madigan has been named at fly-half alongside John Cooney at scrum-half. 

Having made his international debut against Scotland last week, Eric O’Sullivan, comes in to take the starting berth at loosehead prop. Rob Herring also returns from Ireland duties and is named at hooker, with Marty Moore retaining his position at tighthead. Alan O’Connor will partner with Sam Carter, who will lead the side from the second row. Sean Reidy and Jordi Murphy are named at blindside and openside, with Marcell Coetzee completing the pack at Number Eight. 

John Andrew, Andrew Warwick, Tom O’Toole, David O’Connor, and Matty Rea provide the forward options, with Alby Mathewson, Stewart Moore and Craig Gilroy offering back line cover from the bench. 

Ulster team to play Toulouse, Heineken Champions Cup Round 1, Friday 11 December 2020 at Kingspan Stadium, kick-off 8pm, live on BT Sport / beIN Sport:

(15-9) Michael Lowry, Matt Faddes, James Hume, Stuart McCloskey, Jacob Stockdale, Ian Madigan, John Cooney; 

(1-8) Eric O’Sullivan, Rob Herring, Marty Moore, Alan O’Connor, Sam Carter (Capt.), Sean Reidy, Jordi Murphy, Marcell Coetzee. 

Replacements: John Andrew, Andrew Warwick, Tom O’Toole, David O’Connor, Matty Rea, Alby Mathewson, Stewart Moore, Craig Gilroy.

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