Irish provinces have all to play for in second legs of Champions Cup last-16

Feelings are combined on the deserves of the two-legged Round of 16 ties within the Heineken Champions Cup however the first legs have set issues up intriguingly for subsequent weekend’s return conferences. Irish venues host three video games that are all one-score affairs and really a lot within the steadiness.

Yet emotions had been additionally combined as whether or not first leg outcomes had been passable or not.

Leinster would in all probability have taken a five-point lead into subsequent Friday’s return assembly with Connacht on the Aviva (kick-off 5pm) following final Friday’s absorbing first leg 26-21 win on the Sportsground however Leo Cullen wasn’t so certain afterwards.

“It’s a really onerous query, isn’t it, since you at all times need extra. It’s your pure greed, significantly once you’re 23-11 forward and enjoying down the slope, you’re hoping you’ll kick on at that time.

“It doesn’t quite play out like that as we know, but our noses are just about in front. It’s better than behind five points behind,” he mentioned laughing.

“Whatever the situation was, it was always going to be a tricky dynamic. The big thing is it’s a great contest and I think it’s a positive celebration of Irish provincial rugby when you see how much it means to the two teams.”

For Connacht, as with the primary leg, it’s one other free shot. “No one gives us a chance,” mentioned Andy Friend. “No one gave us an opportunity within the first leg and doubtless nobody will give us an opportunity subsequent week, which is ‘beaut’, as a result of they’re the video games that you just simply go and play, simply go and do what you’re meant to do.

“And I know and we know that if we do that we can beat any team. And as good as Leinster are, with all the quality they’ve got, we caused them some issues. Now they’ll be better next week but we will too. So we go up there with nothing to lose and everything to gain.”

When Jacques Vermeulen scored Exeter’s second attempt on half-time to place the house facet 10-0 up, with Alex Kendellen their newest damage casualty and his substitute Jack O’Sullivan within the bin, Munster would have been content material to come back away with only a 13-8 defeat.

The tie is now arrange properly for subsequent Saturday’s second leg at Thomond Park (kick-off 3pm), with each Peter O’Mahony and Joey Carbery anticipated to return.

Robert Baloucoune celebrates Ulster’s win away to Toulouse. Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho
Robert Baloucoune celebrates Ulster’s win away to Toulouse. Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho

The winners of the Munster-Exeter tie will face both Ulster or Toulouse within the quarter-finals. Before kick-off in Saturday’s thriller at Le Stadium, Ulster would have been greater than content material to take a 26-20 lead again to Belfast for subsequent Saturday’s second leg towards Toulouse (kick-off 8pm). But they weren’t shouting from the rooftops given Toulouse had winger Juan Cruz Mallia despatched off within the eleventh minute and so they lead 26-13 towards the top.

“At the back of my mind is always our performance and we could have been taking a larger points difference going back to Belfast,” Dan McFarland admitted. “But obviously if you’d offered me six points and winning in Toulouse before, I’m not sure anybody wouldn’t take it.”

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