Jacques Vermeulen scored as the Exeter Chiefs went through to the quarter-finals of the European Champions Cup after a thrilling 31-31 draw with the Glasgow Warriors.
In one of the games of the weekend, the Exeter Chiefs ensured that they would top their pool despite being held to a dramatic draw with the Glasgow Warriors.
In a first half that ended 24-24, flank Jacques Vermeulen got in on the action when he powered over to extend the Chiefs’ lead, before the Warriors fought their way back into the match. Kyle Steyn started on the left wing for Glasgow and also enjoyed a fruitful game as he made three clean breaks and a total of 48 running metres while assisting one of their four tries. The Chiefs had a late opportunity to win the match, but fullback Stuart Hogg’s 60m penalty hit the post. Jannes Kirsten was at lock for the Chiefs, while Oli Kebble started at loosehead prop for the Warriors and made 13 tackles.
It was a good weekend for Springboks as Cobus Reinach played the role of a super-sub as he made a solid impact off the bench to help the Northampton Saints claim a 33-20 win over Benetton.
After being brought into the game in the second half, Reinach assisted three tries, including one by loosehead prop Frans van Wyk. To go with this Reinach also made 34m from three carries and 41 passes in the 25 minutes he was on the field. The result kept Northampton in second place in their pool with 14 points. Benneton, who are bottom of the pool, had Dewaldt Duvenage at scrumhalf while former Vodacom Bulls lock Eli Snyman was a substitute.
Fellow Springbok Marcell Coetzee’s one-man-wrecking-ball job was not enough for Ulster as Clermont secured their place in the playoffs with a 29-13 win thanks to a terrific second-half display. Playing at No 8, Coetzee made a massive 62m from 19 carries while making 10 tackles and winning two turnovers. Ulster still have a good chance of progressing as they currently sit second in their pool with 17 points.
Meanwhile, Toulouse also reached the last eight with a 21-7 away win against Connacht after conceding an early try. Cheslin Kolbe was in the No 11 jersey for Toulouse and made three clean breaks for 60 running metres while also making one offload. The Springbok wing also produced a wonderful bit of skill where he juggled the ball over an opponent before regathering possession. Rynhard Elstadt was at flank and made 16 carries and six tackles.
Gloucester boosted their hopes of qualifying by beating a South African-filled Montpellier side 29-6 to claim a bonus point. The English side had three South Africans in their pack with Ruan Ackermann at blindside flank and a lock pairing of Springbok Franco Mostert and Gerbrant Grobler. Ackermann was the pick of the pack on attack as he made 14 carries and one clean break, while Mostert defended impressively, making 13 tackles and missing only one. Montpellier, meanwhile, had Frans Steyn at fullback, a midfield of Johan Goosen and Jan Serfontein, Henry Immelman at left wing and Jacques du Plessis at No 8. Goosen struggled as he made just one carry and no passes while his centre partner Serfontein made six carries and 13 tackles. The result knocked Montpellier out of the Champions Cup playoffs race.
La Rochelle climbed above the Sale Sharks into third place in Pool 2 with a come-from-behind bonus-point win over their opponents on Friday night. Sale took an initial lead when Jean-Luc du Preez muscled over from close range after which American flyhalf AJ MacGinty added two penalties and a conversion to help the visitors into a 16-15 lead at half time.
However, in a disastrous second half the Sharks were reduced to 13 men in the final 20 minutes as wing Chris Ashton was yellow-carded before replacement prop Valery Morozov was shown red for a shoulder charge.Wiaan Liebenberg was at openside flank for the French side and made 20 tackles, missing one while winning a turnover. No 8 Dan du Preez was also in the Sharks’ loose trio and made 12 carries while also being credited with a try assist.
The defeat ended the Sharks’ hopes of qualifying for the playoffs as they currently sit bottom of their pool on seven points, with just one round of fixtures left before the quarter-finals.
Saracens kept their quarters hopes alive by overcoming an early red card to claim a hard-fought 22-15 victory over the Ospreys in Swansea. The defending champions lost loosehead Rhys Carre to a red card for a dangerous tackle but kept their cool with flyhalf Manu Vunipola slotting five penalties. Vincent Koch played off the bench for Saracens and made two tackles and two carries after coming on to the field. Wing Hanno Dirksen and scrumhalf Shaun Venter both started for the Ospreys.
In the final two results of the weekend, Leinster, who were the first team through to the playoffs last weekend, thrashed Lyon 42-14 while Racing 92 piled more misery on to Munster with a 39-22 win on Sunday.
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