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Harlequins Stun Toulouse, Saints Thump Castres
Premiership sides teach French an English lesson
Posted Dec 19, 2011 by Chris White
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It was a fantastic weekend for the Aviva Premiership clubs in round four of this season’s Heineken Cup, with Harlequins, Northampton and Leicester all beating French opposition, with Quins’ victory on French soil possibly the standout result of the season so far.
Having lost at home to Toulouse last weekend, the Premiership leaders bounced back to win in style in the south west of France, with Mike Brown scoring two tries in the 31-24 victory. Luke McAlister struggled off the tee for Toulouse, landing just one of four penalty attempts in the first twenty minutes of the match, and Quins made them pay. Nick Evans responded with a penalty of his own, making it 3-3, before Brown burst through to reach Evans’ grubber kick to touch down for his first try of the game. Joe Gray went over soon after, taking over from an offload by Matt Hopper to score, making it 15-3 to Quins after 25 minutes.
Yoann Maestri went over for Toulouse just before the break to reduce the deficit, and two penalties from Jean Marc Doussain soon after the break put the home side back in front. But Quins came back again, clearly learning from their defeat the week before, with Tom Williams winning the restart, and Brown dashed through to score his second try. Evans converted and kicked a penalty, making it 25-19. Doussain found a way over the line late on but he couldn’t convert his own try, and two more penalties from Evans secured the victory, putting Quins second in Pool Six.
The win for Harlequins threw the Pool wide open again, and Gloucester kept their hopes of qualification alive with a 23-19 win at home to Connacht. A superb late try from Jonny May gave his side the win after the Irish side seemingly had the game wrapped up. Tiernan O’Halloran went over for the first try of the game for Connacht, only for it to be cancelled out by a Tim Taylor try soon after, but the visitors went in ahead at the break. Niall O’Connor kicked 14 points in the game, and leading 19-16 with eight minutes to go, Connacht seemed to be in control, but May burst past two defenders to touch down for the match winning try, leaving Gloucester four points behind leaders Toulouse.
Northampton ran in five tries in a crushing display against Castres, finally recording their first victory of the 2011/12 Heineken Cup campaign. Last year’s beaten finalists have already been eliminated from Pool One, and Stephen Myler’s penalty was the only score of a quiet first half. However, two second half tries from England full back Ben Foden, and one apiece from Vasily Artemyev, Mikey Haywood and Greig Tonks sealed a bonus point victory. Myler converted four of the five tries, kicking 20 points in total, as the French side were left shell-shocked. The Saints can remain in Europe if they hang on to third place in the Pool from Castres.
Munster moved five points clear at the top of Pool One after a 19-13 victory at home to Scarlets. Similarly to the match at Franklin’s Gardens, it was a quiet first half, with just nine points being registered, the Irish side leading 6-3 courtesy of two Ronan O’Gara penalties. James Coughlan extended that lead in the second half, taking advantage of their man advantage with Scarlets’ Jonathan Edwards sin-binned to score the first try of the match, converted by O’Gara, whose boot extended the lead to thirteen points. Ken Owens touched down for the Welsh side, and his try was converted by Rhys Priestland as the visitors fought back strongly, but they had to settle for a losing bonus point.
In Pool Four, Leicester Tigers had to come back from a nine-point deficit to beat Clermont Auvergne at Welford Road. The French side led 16-7 at half time, thanks to drop goals from David Skrela and then Morgan Parra, and a converted try scored by Sitiveni Sivivatu. The Tigers had reduced the deficit through a brilliant Manu Tuilagi try, which was converted by England team-mate Toby Flood, but Parra made sure the visitors led at the break. Flood closed the gap with a penalty straight after the interval, and when Ben Youngs intercepted, the Tigers move resulted in Julian Salvi crossing for their second try, giving his side the lead. Flood kicked the extras, and Parra responded almost immediately with a penalty, but the Tigers were not to be denied their victory. Another Flood penalty restored the lead, and then kicked a third to seal the win.
In the other fixture in Pool Four, Ulster ran in six tries in a convincing 46-20 win away at Aironi, securing the bonus point win they needed to hold the gap over Leicester. Andrew Trimble set the tone for the match in just the sixth minute, touching down underneath the posts, and Ian Humphreys had the easiest of conversions. Both sides traded penalties before Ulster were awarded a penalty try after Aironi dragged down the rolling maul just short of their own line, with Humphreys converting. Tom Court crossed for the third try of the half, and Humphreys kept up his 100% record with the extras, giving Ulster a 27-3 lead at half time. Sinoti Sinoti scored a converted try for Aironi, who came out well in the second half, and Roberto Quartaroli ran home from 70 yards for his side’s second try. With Ulster looking unlikely to record the bonus point they came for, Craig Gilroy got in in the left corner with ten minutes left on the clock. George Biagi scored a consolation try for Aironi with minutes remaining, but they then shut off, allowing first Robbie Diack and then Adam Macklin to score tries in the dying seconds.
Edinburgh threw a spanner in Cardiff Blues’ hopes of topping Pool Two by beating the Welsh side 19-12, with all of the Scottish sides’ points coming in a dominant first half. A break from Nick De Luca resulted in the first try of the game, with Tim Visser touching down for Edinburgh in the corner with Greig Laidlaw scoring the conversion, and adding another 12 points before the half time whistle with the boot. With the Blues particularly off colour, their only points came from the boot, with Dan Parks kicking three penalties and Leigh Halfpenny adding a fourth late on to secure a losing bonus point, keeping them top of the Pool on points difference from their opponents.
The win for Edinburgh gave London Irish the chance to close the gap on the runaway leading duo in their clash with Racing Metro. However, fly half Jonathan Wisniewski was in fine form with the boot, converting a Sereli Bobo try, as well as kicking three drop goals and three penalties in a 25-19 victory for the French side. Tom Homer was in almost as fine form for the Exiles, kicking 14 of his side’s points, with David Paice scoring a try with the final move of the game to reduce the arrears.
Saracens have one foot in the quarter finals after beating Ospreys 16-13 at the Liberty Stadium in a fiery clash in Pool Five. Ernst Joubert capitalised on Charlie Hodgson’s charge down to score, and England hopeful Owen Farrell kicked the conversion and three penalties, giving the Premiership champions a 16-3 lead at the break. Ian Gough scored a try for the home side to give them hope of a comeback, with Dan Bigger converting and adding a penalty for the losing bonus point, but the defeat leaves them unlikely to qualify for the next round, with them currently four points adrift of the top two.
Sarries are currently top of the Pool, two points clear of Biarritz who beat Treviso 29-12 thanks to two tries in the final ten minutes. Treviso were reduced to 14-men after 24 minutes, when Francesco Minto was sent off with his team 6-0 in front courtesy of two penalties from Kris Burton, he kicked another two before Biarritz got onto the scoreboard, with Julien Peyrelongue splitting the posts. Iain Balshaw scored the game’s first try in the 44th minute to bring Biarritz back into the match, and Dane Haylett-Petty’s try put the French side in front for the first time. At that stage, the game was anyone’s for the taking, but Wenceslas Lauret and Arnaud Heguy both crossed the try line in the last ten minutes to wrap up the win.
Holders Leinster moved six points clear at the top of Pool Three after a crushing 52-27 victory against Bath. Leinster had secured the bonus point for scoring four tries after just 41 minutes, with Rob Kearney and Jonathan Sexton – who scored 20 points in the match – bagging a try apiece, and Luke Fitzgerald helping himself to two. Eoin Reddan also crossed the try line, as did Rhys Ruddock and finally Ian Madigan in a commanding performance from the holders. Bath kept fighting throughout, with Stephen Donald, Dave Attwood and Ben Williams all touching down in the second half, and Olly Barkley kicked 12 points, but the West Country side are now out of the competition.
In the other game in Pool Three, Montpellier missed a last minute penalty as they had to settle for a 13-13 draw with Glasgow. Yoan Audrin scored the first points of the match for the French side, and Ilian Perraux converted, giving Montpellier a 7-0 lead at half time. Shortly after the break, Ruaridh Jackson got Glasgow on the board, only to see Montpellier extend their lead with two penalties from Perraux. Rory Lamont gave the Warriors hope with a converted try, and Duncan Weir kicked the visitors level. Then, as the clock ticked over into added time, Montpellier were awarded a penalty, but Francois Trinh-Duc saw his effort go wide of the right hand upright.