Champions Cup: Leinster top the play-off seedings, Gloucester progress to last 16

Leinster came alive in the second half of their final Champions Cup pool stage match to thrash Racing 92 36-10 at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday, while Gloucester secured their place in the last 16 by defeating Bordeaux. Credit: Alamy
Leinster came alive in the second half of their final Champions Cup pool stage match to thrash Racing 92 36-10 at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday, while Gloucester secured their place in the last 16 by defeating Bordeaux. Credit: Alamy

Leinster came alive in the second half of their final Champions Cup pool stage match to thrash Racing 92 36-10 at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday.

The Irish Province now qualifies as the top seed for the play-offs and will have a home run to the final if they make it that far, with the showpiece hosted at the Aviva Stadium.

Leo Cullen’s side held a narrow 7-5 advantage at half-time thanks to a try in the 14th minute for Jimmy O’Brien, with Ross Byrne adding the conversion. Hooker Jannick Tarrit scored Racing 92‘s first-half try.

Christian Wade scored in the 48th minute for Racing, but from there, it was one-way traffic with fullback Hugo Keenan scoring twice for Leinster along with tries for flanker Josh van der Flier, a second for O’Brien and Garry Ringrose grabbing the side’s sixth. Ross Byrne added two conversions throughout the match, with Harry Bryne converting Ringrose’s score.

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Racing were under pressure early on from a blocked Russell kick, but Jack Conan lost the ball forward as Leinster’s phase-building went unrewarded.

Racing’s captain Gael Fickou also won a turnover penalty to repel the home side, but the Leinster attack clicked on the quarter-hour mark.

Using quick line-out ball, Jamie Osborne and Ross Byrne worked an opening in midfield for Ringrose who took a lovely line to burst through and send O’Brien over on the left.

The well-struck conversion from Byrne was the difference at the break, with Leinster regularly conceding penalties.

Despite James Ryan stealing a crucial line-out, Jordan Larmour’s sin-binning for a deliberate knock-on invited the French outfit forward again.

Hooker Tarrit duly wriggled through a line-out maul to touch down, and although Russell pushed the conversion wide, Leinster’s decision to turn down a couple of kickable penalties backfired as the deficit remained at two points.

Russell missed a long-range penalty early in the second half, yet the Scottish star soon broke the defensive line, firing a pinpoint pass wide for Wade to finish off. The try’s creator was off target from the tee, though.

Barely four minutes later, Leinster were back in front. Ringrose put Byrne through a gap, replacement Dan Sheehan carried and slipped a deft offload away for Keenan to wrestle his way over the whitewash.

A cleverly-worked short line-out saw Van der Flier driven over for try number three, and O’Brien turned provider for the bonus-point try. He weaved through from a Byrne pass before offloading for Keenan to complete his brace.

Fly-half Byrne flung over the conversion for a 24-10 scoreline, and Ringrose sparked a strong finish from Leo Cullen’s men. He followed up his own kick through with a brilliant flicked pass for O’Brien to double his tally.

Deservedly getting on the scoresheet himself in the dying embers, the Leinster skipper dived over in the left corner from a pass from Byrne, whose younger brother Harry supplied the extras.

George McGuigan shines as Gloucester beat Bordeaux

Two tries from George McGuigan proved vital as Gloucester moved into the knockout stages of the Champions Cup with a sensational 26-17 victory over Bordeaux-Begles.The hooker, who has been named in England’s Six Nations squad by new head coach Steve Borthwick, crossed twice from driving line-outs as Gloucester completed the double over the French outfit to be the final qualifier from Pool A in the last 16.

Bordeaux knew they could not progress to the knockout stages of the showpiece club tournament but would have been able to qualify for the latter rounds of the second-tier Heineken Challenge Cup with a win, and made a breakneck start in front of a noisy crowd of 25,000 at Stade Chaban-Delmas.

France international outside-half Matthieu Jalibert fired them into the lead with a penalty inside three minutes and Gloucester had to withstand more pressure before steadying themselves.

The west country club mounted a couple of promising attacks as playmaker Billy Twelvetrees pulled the strings, but they were caught by a sucker punch after Jalibert fielded a kick, beat a chaser and found Santiago Cordero.

The Argentina star escaped and drew the cover defence before supplying a scoring pass to scrum-half Jules Gimbert, who was in support, on his inside. Jalibert hit the target with the conversion and Bordeaux were 10 points to the good.

Gloucester responded after Twelvetrees opted to kick a penalty into a corner, with McGuigan going over from the line-out which followed.

A late and reckless challenge on Gloucester scrum-half Stephen Varney saw Bordeaux captain Mahamadou Diaby sin-binned by Irish referee Frank Murphy for foul play.

Diaby was quickly followed to the cooler by prop Ugo Boniface, who had deliberately beat down a Gloucester pass with a hand.

Gloucester had a two-man advantage for eight minutes either side of half-time but failed to score a point.

However, Albert Tuisue was unstoppable off the back of a scrum to touch down seconds after Diaby had returned to the field. Full-back George Barton converted and Gloucester snatched the lead.

It lasted seconds, however, as Boniface atoned for his sin-binning by being on the end of a sweeping attack, Jalibert converting for a 17-12 advantage.

Yet Bordeaux proved to be their own worst enemies, with Jalibert becoming their third player to be shown the yellow card for a cynical offence.

Barton stroked back-to-back penalties for Gloucester to move ahead for a second time, albeit by a point. However, another penalty from Barton extended the lead to four points and it became nine when McGuigan produced a copycat try of his first-half effort.

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