New writer at Last Word on Rugby, Aaron Tillyer gives us his thoughts with an European Rugby Quarter Final round-up, covering this weekend’s action.
Top14 leaders La Rochelle kept their hopes of a double winning season alive after surviving a second half fightback from Edinburgh at Murrayfield. France U20’s scrum-half Arthur Retiere put in a near-faultless display in the 32-22 win. The victory secures the French side home advantage in the semi-finals of the Challenge Cup. They will now face Gloucester in the next stage – the only side to have beaten them since December.
Toby Faletau re-ignited his chances of a Lions spot in Bath’s five-try rout against French side Brive at The Rec. Despite some second half resilience from Brive, the home side held out for a 34-20 victory. The Welsh no.8 and wing Semesa Rokoduguni both crossed twice to continue an impressive unbeaten home run in the competition.
Meanwhile, Gloucester had to come from behind twice to overcome a tough Cardiff Blues side at Kingsholm. The hosts ran out six tries in a 46-26 win to set up their semi-final clash with La Rochelle. Despite a couple of tries from Tom Marshall, it was the work of Billy Twelvetrees that stole the show in a man of the match display. Gloucester have now won their second successive game since January in all competitions.
14-man Stade Francais stunned the Ospreys to progress to the semi-finals with a 25-21 victory at the Principality stadium. Stade winger Josaia Raisuqe was sent off after receiving a second yellow in the second half. However, the Welsh side failed to capitalise on the man advantage. A late Tyler Ardron try was little consolation for Ospreys who went into the knockout stage as the standout team. Stade, who only just scraped into the quarter final, will now face Bath in Paris.
The Aviva Stadium played host to both the Pro12 and Premiership leaders, but it was Leinster’s first half dominance that contributed to Wasps’ downfall. Things may have been different had Wasps winger Willie Le Roux placed the ball over the line rather than diving and losing control it following a strong Wasps attack. Leinster never looked like losing and with four tries for the home side in the 32-17 win means they will face Clermont Auvergne in the semi-final in Lyon
Fellow Irish province Munster continued their year unbeaten with a 41-16 win against Toulouse. The Thomond Park fortress looked as solid as ever, but it was the final stages that took the game away from the visitors. Two tries in the final five minutes for Darren Sweetnam and Andrew Conway prevented the most successful side in the competition to progress. A trip to the Aviva stadium beckons with Saracens the opponents for a spot in the final.
Two Chris Ashton tries gave reigning champions Saracens an impressive win against a struggling Glasgow Warriors defence. Two further tries from Brad Barritt and Marcelo Bosch secured their sixth quarter final win in seven attempts in the Champions Cup. The holders showed no let-up in the 38-13 win, with the Sarries bench having a huge impact in the second half. Fly-half Owen Farrell produced another stand-out display with his attacking threat. Saracens will head to Dublin for a semi-final decider against Munster.
Clermont Auvergne will face Leinster in Champions Cup semi-final after beating Toulon 29-9 in the all-French affair in the quarter finals. Despite a closely fought first half, the home side pulled away in the second forty courtesy of Noa Nakaitaci and Damian Penaud tries. Morgan Parra kicked 17 points to deny three-times winners Toulon any chance of winning a record equaling fourth title.
Watch for all the results and analysis of the results from Champions Cup/Challenge Cup for 2017, here with Last Word On Rugby.