|Photo The New Age|
The final ever Heineken Cup played under the existing format is heading towards its conclusion. The Quarter Finals round was played over the weekend with teams from England, France and Ireland fighting for the right to be the final four. French clubs did the best with two of the three clubs from the Top 14 winning. England had a one out of two performance while Ireland won one and lost two matches. Involved were players from Argentina, Canada and the USA - the three leading countries from the Americas. All three will be playing at next year´s Rugby World Cup. The region of the Americas, as defined by the IRB, is the last one to be allocated a Rugby World Cup. This ought to change with Argentina hosting in 2023.
Munster 47-23 Toulouse
Southern Irish province Munster played host to traditional French powerhouses Toulouse in Limerick on Saturday. Based on reputation it was an even match but the form of Toulouse this season has been far from peak as the club has struggled in the Top 14 and even dropped a match against Connacht in the Heineken Cup. After a even first half Munster was too strong in the second half and some poor play from Toulouse gifted Munster multiple tries. Involved for the French side was veteran Puma second-rower Patricio Albacete who played the full 80 minutes.
Clermont Auvergne 22-16 Leicester Tigers
Clermont Auvergne was on track to win last year´s Heineken Cup final but was defeated 16-15 by Toulon in the final in Dublin after Argentina´s Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe completed a turnover to set-up a try which saw Toulon take the lead and win the title. Clermont will be looking to go one better and in order to do so it may well have to defeat Toulon in the 2014 final. Clermont´s home victory over the Leicester Tigers extended the five year undefeated run at home to seventy-five matches and saw Clermont secure a spot in the first Semi Final. Starting for Clermont was veteran Canadian international Jamie Cudmore who started in the second-row. Leicester had USA winger Blaine Scully starting on the right wing and Argentine front-rower Marcos Ayerza playing loosehead prop.
Ulster 15-17 Saracens
Irish rugby was looking like having a perfect Saturday as Ulster played host to Saracens in Belfast. The Northern Irish province had everything in its favor to reach the final four but was given the worst start as fullback Jared Payne was red carded for a dangerous tackle. With a man down Ulster was caught out twice by former English winger Chris Ashton. Ulster failed to scored a try but played well and fell short by just two points. USA test fullback Chris Wyles came off the bench for Saracens.
Toulon 29-14 Leinster
The fairy tale ending of the career of Brian O´Driscoll in the Six Nations was not repeated in the Heineken Cup. The most capped international player of all time did not have a match to remember as the Irish province Leinster was humbled by Toulon on Sunday. Toulon was far too strong for Leinster on the day and scored two tries to one. The defending champions will now host Munster in Marseilles in the Semi Finals. Pumas captain Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe started at openside flanker and played 70 minutes for the winning team.