An astonishing array of results in Europe at the weekend saw three teams progress and a French giant knocked out.
Richards: visibly delighted to qualify
Defending champions Munster were as ruthless as ever against Sale on Friday night, constantly turning the ball over and stifling any momentum that the visitors could muster. Scoring six tries and a bonus point in the process, the Irish side guaranteed first place with 37-14 win.
In the shock of the round, an under-strength Scarlets recorded their first win of the campaign against former champions Stade Francais. The defeat knocked the French side out of the competition, and ensured that Dean Richards’ Harlequins will win the pool despite losing to Ulster.
Despite their defeat at the weekend, progressing to the quaters is fully-deserved for Quins, whose performances against Stade before Christmas still send shivers down the spine of even the neutral supporters.
Cardiff Blues were the other team to guarantee survival with an away victory over Gloucester, despite being reduced to 14 men. The European dreams of the cherry and whites now hang by a bootlace – they need a bonus-point victory against Biarritz next week, and will rely on favourable results in Pools 3 and 5 so that qualify as one of the two best runners-up.
Toulouse were also on the wrong end of a surprise defeat at the hands of Glasgow. Having run Bath close last year, the Scots earned this scalp, and it means that the French side will also struggle to qualify as they travel to The Rec for a winner-takes-all contest with Bath.
Meanwhile, Wasps defeated Leinster at Twickenham but could not extend their lead to more than 7 points, which means they need Edinburgh to do them a favour next week whilst they need a bonus-point win in Castres. Phil Vickery’s decision to kick for goal with a minute to go could cost them dear.
So five places remain, with nine teams still in the running. Leicester play the Ospreys and Bath face Toulouse in top of the table clashes next week and that’s enough to set the pulse racing on this damp Monday morning.