Our season review of the Heineken Champions Cup steps up a gear now as we look at the quarter-final stage, with French dominance the theme throughout as they claimed three victories across the weekend.
Ntamack strikes to send Toulouse through
Toulouse fly-half Romain Ntamack kicked all of his side’s points as they claimed a 21-12 away success over ASM Clermont Auvergne to secure a spot in the Heineken Champions Cup semi-finals for the third successive season.
The four-time European champions pulled away in the final 20 minutes as Clermont’s lack of discipline proved costly, allowing Ntamack to send his side into the last four with a string of accurate penalty kicks.
Ntamack didn’t start at his precise best though, missing two kicks whilst his opposite kicker, Morgan Parra, made no mistake to nudge Clermont six points ahead.
In a tactical opening 40 minutes, Toulouse edged their way back into proceedings and ended up level at the break before pulling clear in the second half.
La Rochelle cruise into maiden semi-final
La Rochelle scored six tries in a dominant display to defeat Sale Sharks 45-21 and secure a spot in the Heineken Champions Cup semi-finals for the first time.
The hosts pulled away in the early stages of the second half to secure their maiden spot in the last four, having led 18-16 at the break.
Braces from Raymond Rhule and Geoffrey Doumayrou put further gloss on the score, whilst Byron McGuigan crossed for a late consolation for Sale.
Exeter dumped out by Leinster in epic clash
Leinster Rugby put in a commanding display to fight back from 14-0 down to defeat Heineken Champions Cup holders Exeter Chiefs 34-22 in a classic quarter-final clash at Sandy Park.
A brace from Jordan Larmour as well as a try from James Lowe and 17 points from the boot of Ross Byrne proved enough for the four-time winners to dethrone the defending champions who led 14-0 inside ten minutes through a pair of Tom O’Flaherty tries.
It was a vintage Leinster display after the opening blitz from Exeter, with the Irish province refusing to panic despite looking in trouble against the English outfit.
Johnny Sexton – who went off injured – also slotted over his side’s first conversion.
Jalibert kicks Bordeaux into the last four
Matthieu Jalibert kicked all 24 of Bordeaux-Begles’ points – including a last-minute 55-metre penalty kick – to send his side into the Heineken Champions Cup semi-finals for the first time.
They defeated a stubborn Racing 92 side 24-21 to set up a last four clash with Toulouse at Stade Ernest Wallon.
In a kicking feast, Antoine Gibert landed a drop goal for the Parisians as well as 12 points slotted over by Maxime Machenaud and a further six from Teddy Iribaren in the final 15 minutes.
But it was France international fly-half Jalibert who had the final say to put Bordeaux into the last four for the first time.