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Munster, Toulon reach final four

Sun, 07 Apr 2013 15:34
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Toulon advance to first European Cup semi
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Munster and Toulon secured their place in the semifinals of the European Cup on Sunday.

Veteran flyhalf Ronan O’Gara was the hero for Munster as he kicked his team to a 18-12 win over Harlequins at Twickenham Stoop, while Toulon pivot Jonny Wilkinson guided his team to a 21-15 victory over Leicester Tigers at Stade Felix Mayol.

The semifinals are now confirmed and will see Munster clash with Clermont Auvergne in Montpellier and Saracens host Toulon at the end of the month.

We look at all Sunday's action!

Harlequins 12-18 Munster

Ronan O'Gara went back to where it all began for him in the European Cup 16 years ago and gained spectacular revenge on Harlequins for his debut defeat at The Stoop as he kicked Munster into the semifinals.

After two early misses, the 36-year-old flyhalf grabbed all his side's points in a 18-12 victory as they picked up their fourth quarterfinal success on the road to set up a semifinal clash with Clermont Auvergne in Montpellier at the end of the month.

Reigning English champions Harlequins came into the game with a 100 percent record from their Pool campaign and as the No.1 seeds in the last eight. The Twickenham Stoop was packed and the two sets of supporters created a white hot atmosphere.

The Quins scrum did the early damage and Nick Evans gave his side a 6-0 lead in the opening quarter from penalties at scrum time. Evans landed a third penalty before the break, but O'Gara finally hit the mark with his third kick at goal and hauled the scoreline back to 9-6 at the break.

Paul O'Connell put in a commanding performance in his biggest game since returning from surgery and must have raised a smile or two on the faces of on-looking British and Irish Lions coaches Warren Gatland, Graham Rowntree and Andy Farrell.

Munster took control at the start of the second half with some brilliant driving from their forwards that allowed O'Gara to hammer home four penalties in a 15-minute purple patch that not only saw them draw level, but build up a nine-point lead at 18-9.

The work of the Munster forwards at the breakdown totally frustrated Harlequins and they were never able to get any momentum into their game. When they did, they ran into a red wall in which James Downey excelled in defence.

Evans grabbed a penalty back after 66 minutes to give his side a hope of snatching something out of the game, but Munster's passion, pride and experience carried them to another famous away day victory in the European Cup.

The scorers:

For Harlequins:
Pens:
Evans 4

For Munster:
Pens:
O'Gara 6

Teams:

Harlequins:
15 Mike Brown, 14 Tom Williams, 13 George Lowe, 12 Tom Casson, 11 Ugo Monye, 10 Nick Evans, 9 Danny Care, 8 Nick Easter, 7 Chris Robshaw (captain), 6 Maurie Fa'asavalu, 5 George Robson, 4 Ollie Kohn, 3 James Johnston, 2 Rob Buchanan, 1 Joe Marler.
Replacements: 16 Joe Gray, 17 Mark Lambert, 18 Will Collier, 19 Charlie Matthews, 20 Tom Guest, 21 Karl Dickson, 22 Ben Botica, 23 Matt Hopper.

Munster: 15 Felix Jones, 14 Denis Hurley, 13 Casey Laulala, 12 James Downey, 11 Simon Zebo, 10 Ronan O'Gara, 9 Conor Murray, 8 James Coughlan, 7 Tommy O'Donnell, 6 Peter O'Mahony, 5 Paul O'Connell (captain), 4 Donnacha Ryan, 3 BJ Botha, 2 Mike Sherry, 1 Dave Kilcoyne.
Replacements: 16 Damien Varley, 17 Wian Du Preez, 18 Stephen Archer, 19 Donncha O'Callaghan, 20 Patrick Butler, 21 Cathal Sheridan, 22 Ian Keatley, 23 Ivan Dineen.

Referee: Jerome Garces (France)
Assistant referees: Neil Paterson (Scotland), Laurent Cardona (France)

Toulon 21-15 Leicester Tigers

Jonny Wilkinson put the boot into Leicester Tigers to earn Toulon a semifinal showdown with Saracens at Twickenham Stadium on Sunday, 28 April.

The veteran England flyhalf was on target with six penalty goals before sealing Toulon's first semifinal appearance with a trademark drop-goal for a 21-15 victory.

His former Newcastle Falcons clubmate and opposite number Toby Flood landed five penalties but the former champions suffered with yellow cards for Flood and prop Dan Cole that reduced them to 14 men for a quarter of the tie.

The Tigers had come flying out of the blocks at a partisan Stade Felix Mayol and they demonstrated their attacking intent with Anthony Allen and Tom Croft combining early on.

Flood booted the scoreboard into action on 10 minutes after the visitors got the upper hand at the scrum.

Richard Cockerill's men continued to dominate in the opening exchanges and Flood quickly doubled their advantage.

The England flyhalf was once again on target on 18 minutes, with Cole again impressive at the set-piece.

But Leicester were dealt a blow when their deadly marksman was sin-binned for deliberately knocking on a Delon Armitage pass.

Wilkinson slotted the ensuing penalty and the hosts began to find their feet with a sustained period of pressure.

That resulted in Wilkinson's second penalty, after the 14-man Tigers strayed offside.

The visitors were dealt a blow just before half-time as Croft departed with an injury and their woes were compounded as Flood fired a penalty wide.

Within four minutes of the restart the England flyhalf levelled the score after Ed Slater tripped Steffon Armitage without the ball.

Two minutes later he continued his 100 percent strike rate to hand Toulon the lead for the first time.

Toulon twice crossed the line to see their efforts ruled out. First Mathieu Bastareaud was adjudged to have put a foot in touch after bulldozing is way over in the corner.
And minutes later George Clancy ruled that Bakkies Botha crossed with a double movement.

Flood responded but they were dealt a major blow when Cole was shown yellow for a deliberate knock on which was far more cynical than Flood's first-half offence.

Wilkinson dissected the posts from the ensuing penalty and moments later he knocked over his sixth shot from the tee to put his side six points clear.

Flood kept the Tigers in touch, with his fifth penalty, to set up a tense finale but Toulon surged down field in the closing stages and Wilkinson slotted a late drop-goal to seal the win.

The scorers:

For Toulon:
Pens:
Wilkinson 6
DG: Wilkinson

For Leicester Tigers:
Pens:
Flood 5

Yellow cards: Toby Flood (Leicester Tigers, 28), Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers, 58)

Teams:

Toulon: 15 Delon Armitage, 14 Rudi Wulf, 13 Mathieu Bastareaud, 12 Matt Giteau, 11 Alexis Palisson, 10 Jonny Wilkinson (captain), 9 Sébastien Tillous-Borde, 8 Chris Masoe, 7 Steffon Armitage, 6 Juan Fernandez Lobbe, 5 Nick Kennedy, 4 Bakkies Botha, 3 Carl Hayman, 2 Sebastien Bruno, 1 Andrew Sheridan.
Replacements: 16 Mickael Ivaldi, 17 Gethin Jenkins, 18 Levan Chilachava, 19 Jocelino Suta, 20 Vincent Martin, 21 Maxime Mermoz, 22 Nicolas Durand, 23 Joe van Niekerk.

Leicester Tigers: 15 Mathew Tait, 14 Niall Morris, 13 Manu Tuilagi, 12 Anthony Allen, 11 Adam Thompstone, 10 Toby Flood (captain), 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Jordan Crane, 7 Julian Salvi, 6 Tom Croft, 5 Geoff Parling, 4 Ed Slater, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Tom Youngs, 1 Marcos Ayerza.
Replacements: 16 Rob Hawkins, 17 Logovi'i Mulipola, 18 Martin Castrogiovanni, 19 Graham Kitchener, 20 Thomas Waldrom, 21 Sam Harrison, 22 George Ford, 23 Matt Smith.

Referee: George Clancy (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Leo Colgan (Ireland); Peter Fitzgibbon (Ireland)

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