Euro big guns in fine fettle
ROUND THREE SPOTLIGHT: It is with great excitement that the spotlight shifts from the domestic stage to Europe’s premier competition.
Four of the five European Champions Cup Pool leaders will approach this week’s resumption of the competition in top form.
The Euro big guns registered impressive victories in their final domestic games at the weekend.
Toulouse, Munster and Saracens all cruised to comfortable victories over Stade Français Paris (49-20), Edinburgh (44-14) and Wasps (29-6) respectively, while Newcastle Falcons scored a dramatic 16-14 success at Northampton Saints.
Newcastle, two points clear of Edinburgh at the head of Pool Five, secured their late Premiership triumph at Franklin’s Gardens at the weekend, courtesy of an 86th minute try from in-form England back row forward Mark Wilson and Toby Flood’s subsequent conversion.
The Falcons now travel to Murrayfield this Friday to take on Edinburgh, who were the victims of a stunning first-half performance from Munster last Friday at Irish Independent Park in their Pro14 match.
Munster, who will be defending a two-point lead at the top of Pool Two when they entertain Castres Olympique on Sunday at Thomond Park, opened up a 34-7 interval lead thanks to an eight-minute hat-trick of tries from Keith Earls and a four-minute brace from fellow wing Andrew Conway.
Centre Chris Farrell, making his first start of the season, also notched a try double for the Irish province – as did Edinburgh wing Duhan van der Merwe.
Pool One front-runners Toulouse were only two behind Munster in the try count at Stade Ernest Wallon, crossing six times through Romain Ntamack (two), Yoann Huget, Julien Marchand, Francois Cros and Maxime Mermoz as they tuned up for their trip to Wasps Saturday in style in the Top 14.
They will find the English club seeking to shake off a Premiership battering at Allianz Park last Saturday, when centre Alex Lozowski was Saracens’ match-winner with 19 points from five penalties and the conversions of Jamie George’s and Nick Isiekwe’s tries.
The Pool Three front-runners will enter their home tie with Cardiff Blues Sunday as the Premiership’s outright leaders and the only unbeaten team in the competition after their ninth victory from nine games.
The sole Champions Cup Pool table-toppers not to taste victory at the weekend were Racing 92, of Pool Four, who lost 16-11 at La Rochelle in the Top 14 on Saturday.