Sarries, Munster in form ahead of Euro quarters

Mon, 27 Mar 2017 07:23
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IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Saracens and Munster sent an ominous warning sign to their European Champions Cup rivals on a mixed weekend for the continent's top clubs.

Reigning champions Sarries were rampant in running in eight tries as they handed Bath their biggest English Premiership defeat in 15 years with a 53-10 thrashing.

Munster also passed a half century of points in a predictable hammering of Italians Zebre 50-14 in the Pro12.

In next weekend's European Cup quarterfinals, Saracens host Glasgow - who beat Pro12 champions Connacht 35-24 on Saturday - with Director of Rugby Mark McCall feeling confident in his side's strength in depth.

"We just made a lot of little errors in the second quarter which gave them a bit of a foothold, but the last half an hour is the kind of performance we are after," McCall said of the victory over Bath.

"The bench came on and did a fantastic job and we just took our game to a different level in that last half hour. We are going to need that against Glasgow."

There was a lot less to cheer about for many of the other Champions Cup quarterfinalists.

Four-time winners Toulouse slumped to an 11-22 defeat at Bordeaux-Begles that was indicative of their poor form in 2017, in which they have won only one of six league matches.

It was a result that not only leaves them short of confidence and form ahead of a daunting trip to Thomond Park to face Munster but also left them with the prospect of missing out on the French Top 14 play-offs for the first time.

Another French side, Clermont stuttered to a 24-27 loss at last season's Champions Cup finalists Racing 92 ahead of next weekend's all-Top 14 clash with Toulon.

Clermont coach Franck Azema said his side cannot afford to fail to turn up in the first 40 minutes as happened against the Parisians.

"We have to be consistent over 80 minutes, not just one half. Against Toulon we cannot allow ourselves to go down 20-0," he said.

Toulon, though, are in no better form having lost 11-17 at Stade Francais in a dire game on Sunday.

A week after being held to a draw by Grenoble and despite the announcement that Fabian Galthie will replace Mike Ford as head coach next season, Toulon produced yet another poor display - a fourth European crown looks highly unlikely.

Two sides who won unconvincingly will meet in Dublin looking to show a marked improvement.

Leinster stayed top of the Pro12, but laboured to a narrow 21-22 home win over lowly Cardiff Blues.

Head coach Leo Cullen is wary of the pace in the Wasps backline, particularly the likes of wing Christian Wade, whose two tries in a 40-33 win over Worcester took him to the top of the Premiership try-scoring charts with 14.

"They've probably got more pace than anybody. If you think of the back three they have: Christian Wade, Willie le Roux, or Kurtley Beale, you've got Frank Halai and Elliot Daly," said Cullen. 

"They've a lot of pace. It's a good reality-check for us I think."

But Wasps, the English league leaders, looked vulnerable against a side sitting second bottom in the Premiership and who played most of the second half with 14 men.

"It's a win and five points, but there were very few areas of our game that pleased me," admitted Director of Rugby Dai Young.

"It was a big message to us as we will have to be better against Leinster next week as they will match us for quality, so we'll have to prove that we've got the belly for the fight."

AFP

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