Domestic dramas set up European thrillers

Mon, 04 Dec 2017 13:46
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CHAMPIONS CUP: A dramatic weekend of domestic competition has set up the European Rugby Champions Cup doubleheaders in Rounds 3 and 4 perfectly, with thrills aplenty possible from first to last.

The next programme opens with runaway Pro14 Conference A leaders Glasgow Warriors entertaining second-placed TOP 14 side Montpellier on Friday and closes with Premiership front-runners Exeter Chiefs hosting PRO14 Conference B challengers Leinster Rugby on Sunday, both in Pool 3.

The Warriors still await their first point in Pool 3, but they approach their game against Montpellier in deadly domestic form, after a six-try, 40-16 victory over Cardiff Blues gave them a 10th win from 10 Pro14 games.

Reigning English champions Exeter also warmed up for their potential Pool decider against Leinster with a six-try show, stretching eight points clear at the top of the Premiership thanks to a 42-29 success against West Country rivals and Pool 5 leaders Bath Rugby at Sandy Park.

Leinster are in equally lethal form, having triumphed 36-10 at Pool 5 side Benetton Rugby, where new signing James Lowe marked his debut for the Irish province with two of their five tries as they closed to within three points of Conference B table-toppers Scarlets.

As well as Pool 3, Pool 1 boasts three in-form teams, with Harlequins and Wasps snatching nail-biting victories at the weekend, and leaders La Rochelle leapfrogging Montpellier to move to the head of the TOP 14 table after beating them 26-14.

Former England flyhalf Danny Cipriani celebrated his return from a knee injury a month early by inspiring Wasps to 32-25 victory over Pool 4 front runners Leicester Tigers with the pass that set up Kearnan Myall's last-minute try.

And it was an England international who was at the centre of Quins' last-gasp 20-19 home win over European champions Saracens, scrumhalf Danny Care displaying his kicking skills from hand as he created two tries for Charlie Walker and the 79th-minute match-winner for fellow wing Tim Visser.

Elsewhere, Pool 4 province Munster Rugby consolidated second place in PRO14 Conference A with a 36-10 home triumph against Pool 2 region Ospreys, which sets the Irish province up nicely for their doubleheader with Leicester, Johann van Graan's first European games in charge of Munster.

In the TOP 14, ASM Clermont Auvergne warmed up for their two 2017 Champions Cup final rematches against Saracens with a 35-26 home win over Agen and RC Toulon were even more convincing prior to their doubleheader against Bath, beating Lyon 39-11 at home.

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FIXTURE GMT VENUE
Fri, 23 February 2018
Highlanders v Blues 06h35 Dunedin
Rebels v Reds 08h45 Melbourne
Munster v Glasgow Warriors 19h00 Irish Independent Park
Dragons v Edinburgh 19h30 Rodney Parade
Leinster v Kings 19h35 RDS
Scarlets v Ulster 19h35 Parc y Scarlets
France v Italy 20h00 Paris
Sat, 24 February 2018
Sunwolves v Brumbies 04h15 Tokyo
Crusaders v Chiefs 06h35 Christchurch
Waratahs v Stormers 08h45 Allianz Park
Treviso v Connacht 12h00 Stadio Monigo
Bath v Sale Sharks 12h30 Recreation Ground
Lions v Jaguares 13h05 Johannesburg
Exeter Chiefs v Northampton Saints 14h00 Sandy Park
Ireland v Wales 14h15 Aviva Stadium
Gloucester v Wasps 14h30 Kingsholm
Harlequins v Newcastle Falcons 15h00 Twickenham Stoop
Bulls v Hurricanes 15h15 Loftus Versfeld
Scotland v England 16h45 BT Murrayfield
Ospreys v Cheetahs 17h30 Liberty Stadium
Sun, 25 February 2018
Zebre v Cardiff Blues 13h00 Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi
London Irish v Worcester Warriors 13h00 Madejski Stadium
Saracens v Leicester Tigers 15h30 Allianz Park
EUROPEAN CUP
MORE LOGS
Pool 1
Team P W D L Pts
La Rochelle 6 4 0 2 20
Wasps 6 3 0 3 17
Ulster 6 4 0 2 17
Harlequins 6 1 0 5 7
Pool 2
Team P W D L Pts
Clermont Auvergne 6 5 0 1 22
Saracens 6 3 1 2 18
Ospreys 6 2 1 3 15
Northampton Saints 6 1 0 5 6
Pool 3
Team P W D L Pts
Leinster 6 6 0 0 27
Exeter Chiefs 6 3 0 3 15
Montpellier 6 2 0 4 13
Glasgow Warriors 6 1 0 5 7
Pool 4
Team P W D L Pts
Munster 6 4 1 1 21
Racing Metro 6 4 0 2 19
Castres 6 2 1 3 12
Leicester Tigers 6 1 0 5 7
Pool 5
Team P W D L Pts
Scarlets 6 4 0 2 21
Toulon 6 4 0 2 19
Bath 6 4 0 2 18
Treviso 6 0 0 5 4