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Munster already chasing as Leinster take control of European pool

Three of the Irish provinces are already playing catch up in the new Champions Cup format.

Keith Earls competes for a high ball against Harlequins.
Keith Earls competes for a high ball against Harlequins.
Image: Gary Carr/INPHO

THE DIFFICULTY OF this season’s Champions Cup is underlined by Munster already looking like they’re playing catch-up despite opening their campaign with a home win against Harlequins yesterday evening.

They sit sixth out of 12 teams in Pool B of the competition with just three pool games remaining, and with only the top four clubs in the pool qualifying for the quarter-finals. 

Lyon, Exeter, Clermont, Toulouse, and Racing 92 all recorded bonus-point wins on the opening weekend, meaning Munster’s failure to score four tries could prove costly.

Harlequins played 30 minutes of yesterday’s game at Thomond Park with only 14 players due to three yellow cards, but Johann van Graan’s side couldn’t muster more than two tries in the wet weather.

PoolB

That their next game is away to Clermont on Saturday after the Top 14 outfit scored seven tries in a 51-38 victory away to Pat Lam’s Bristol on the opening weekend underlines just how tough a task Munster are facing in Europe.

“It’s a very difficult pool that we’re in if you look at the teams in it,” said van Graan last night. “Unfortunately, you can only play what’s in front of you.

“We did leave one or two chances out there, the most important thing is to win and get the bonus second. We tried to get the bonus but it’s something we couldn’t get tonight.

“So, look, we can only control next week and see where we’re at after two rounds.”

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dan-leavy-celebrates-after-scoring-a-try-with-james-ryan-and-ronan-kelleher Leinster are top of Pool A after their bonus-point win. Source: Dave Winter/INPHO

Missing out on a bonus point yesterday could prove costly for Munster in their bid to be one of the top four teams. That said, an away win against Clermont could completely transform their fortunes.

Connacht and Ulster are the next two teams behind Munster in Pool B after their opening-round defeats to Racing and Toulouse, respectively, again underlining the difficult challenge the Irish provinces face in that pool.

Next up for Connacht is a tough home clash against Bristol on Sunday, while Ulster are under pressure to win away to Gloucester – who were hammered by Lyon yesterday – on Saturday.

Meanwhile, Leinster sit top of Pool A after their bonus-point win away to Montpellier and can now look forward to a home tie against Northampton on Saturday, with the English outfit on a miserable losing streak.

Leo Cullen’s men will be targeting another bonus-point victory.

PoolA

- This article was updated at 7.45am to correct ’50 minutes’ to ’30 minutes’ in the fourth paragraph.

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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