The revised European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR) Champions Cup delivered one of the most thrilling group stages in the history of European Rugby competition as fortunes fluctuated until the very last minutes of Round 6.
Three French clubs secured home quarter-finals by finishing in the top three places in the final classification. Racing Metro 92 were top of the pile, accumulating 24 points, beating Northampton Saints to the top of Pool 5. They overwhelmed the Saints 8-32 in the final fixture at Franklin’s Gardens to secure their home berth, while Northampton qualified for the last 8 as the best performing runner-up.
The other French pool winners were RC Toulon and Clermont Auvergne, both beating Aviva Premiership Rugby clubs into second place. Saracens were able to qualify despite being bested by Clermont, but Leicester’s haul of 13 points was not enough to extend their stay in the tournament.
Leinster Rugby earned the final home quarter-final, although they were made to work for it as Wasps fought back to draw 20-20 at the Ricoh Arena, with home town man Andy Goode missing a last gasp drop-goal attempt to snatch victory. Wasps will travel to Toulon in the last eight, while Leinster will entertain Bath Rugby, who ensured their path with a 20-15 over Glasgow Warriors.
The semi-final draw also took place, with the winner of Clermont vs Northampton Saints taking on the winner of Racing Metro vs Saracens and the winner of Toulon vs Wasps hosting Leinster or Bath.
George North was the leading try scorer of the Pool stage. The Northampton Saints man went over seven times to help his team reach the quarter finals. Juan Imhoff (Racing Metro 92) and Darren Cave (Ulster Rugby) both touched-down on five occasions.
The leading point scorer from the Pool Stage was Leinster Rugby’s Ian Madigan, who amassed 80 points in six matches. Leigh Halfpenny scored 72 points in five matches for Toulon, while George Ford of Bath claimed 69 points.
#TeamGilbert march on in Challenge Cup
Having been drawn together in Pool 3 of the Challenge Cup, both Newport Gwent Dragons and Newcastle Falcons made it through to the quarter finals of the competition. After claiming a win apiece in the two matches between the two Gilbert Rugby wearing clubs, the Dragons were able to earn top spot and a home quarter final, where they will welcome fellow Welsh club Cardiff Blues. Falcons will be on the road, but won’t need their passports as they make the trip south-west to Sandy Park to play Exeter Chiefs.
The dream of a Gilbert Derby final is still on the cards after they avoided each other in a potential semi-final clash. If the clubs win through their last eight match then Falcons will travel to either Gloucester Rugby or Connacht Rugby, with Dragons going to London Irish or Edinburgh Rugby.