European Cup record smashed
European Cup record smashedSHARE
The European Cup set a new pool stage attendance record as quarterfinal qualification went down to the wire once again at the weekend.
As Europe's premier club tournament was delivering another rollercoaster Round Six full of intrigue, spectators were voting with their feet to set a new European Cup pool stage attendance record.
The total for the six rounds went through the 900,000 barrier for the first time in history, rising to an impressive 921,196, an increase of six percent on the 2012/13 season.
There were sell-outs at Thomond Park, Welford Road and the RDS, along with record crowds at Cardiff Arms Park (12,125) and Scotstoun (6,541) at the weekend.
The top four seedings for the quarterfinals were only confirmed during the very last tension-packed games of Round Six.
Clermont grabbed the No.2 seed spot behind front-runners Ulster with a hard-fought bonus-point victory over Racing Metro at Stade Marcel-Michelin, while Harlequins managed to book their place in the European Challenge Cup last eight with a win in the dying minutes at Parc y Scarlets.
When the dust settled, a truly heavyweight European Cup quarterfinal line-up emerged with six former champions, and a total of 16 European titles, among the eight qualifiers.
The ties in early April will positively bristle with atmosphere and quality as Ulster host Saracens, Clermont take on Leicester Tigers, holders Toulon clash with European specialists, Leinster and Toulouse go to fortress Thomond Park for the first time in their history.
Ulster go into the knockout stage with six wins from six. No club have won the European Cup in the same season that they had a 100 percent record from the pool stage.
Ulster's one previous quarterfinal at home was their victory over Toulouse at Ravenhill in their tournament-winning season of 1998/99.
The Ulster-Saracens quarterfinal is a repeat of last season's game which Saracens won 27-16 at Twickenham Stadium.
Toulon have won all seven of their European Cup games at Stade Mayol, including last season's quarterfinal win over Leicester Tigers.
Munster have won six out of their seven home quarterfinals. The one defeat was by Ulster at Thomond Park in 2012.
Clermont, who take on Leicester Tigers, are now unbeaten in 71 games at Stade Marcel-Michelin.
The last time Leinster played a quarterfinal in France, they famously defeated Toulouse 41-35 in 2006.
Saracens' visit to Ravenhill will be their first away quarterfinal while Toulon and Leinster will be meeting for the first time in the European Cup.
Meanwhile, Northampton Saints, Harlequins and Gloucester qualified for the European Challenge Cup quarterfinals as the third, fourth and fifth best pool runners-up where they will join European Challenge Cup pool winners Bath, London Wasps, Stade Francais, Sale Sharks and Brive.