Rugby

Leinster clinch quarters spot

2015-01-24 18:01
Andy Goode (File)

Paris - Three-time champions Leinster made hard work of qualifying for the last eight of the European Champions Cup on Saturday, allowing a 14-point half-time lead to slip from their grasp as they held Wasps to a 20-20 draw.

An opportunistic try by Wasps' number eight Nathan Hughes 10 minutes from the end and a second conversion of the afternoon from Andy Goode drew Wasps level and set up a nail-biting final period.

Leinster qualify as Pool 2 winners, meaning Ireland avoid suffering the ignominy of being without a team in the knockout stages for the first time in 17 years, after Ulster and two-time champions Munster had fallen by the wayside.

But it was not enough to see Wasps through and they will now have to sweat it out and hope they make it to the knock-out stages as one of the best three runners-up.

Harlequins' 47-19 away win over Castres was not enough to see them overhaul Wasps, finishing level on points but with an inferior points difference.

It was, however, enough to see Racing Metro qualify from Pool 5 even before their match with Northampton, as they already have 19 points, one more than Wasps, and even defeat would see them through as one of the best runners-up.

A vocal 24,000 inside Coventry's Ricoh Arena cheered the in-form English side on, even when they appeared to be chasing a lost cause, going in 6-20 at half-time.

Leinster wing Fergus McFadden opened the scoring with a try after just two minutes, converted by centre Ian Madigan, to give the visitors a 7-0 cushion.

Goode kicked the first of his 10 points with a sixth-minute penalty, only to see Madigan reply and fly-half Jimmy Gopperth kick another on 29 minutes to open up a 10-point lead.

Leinster substitute Isaac Boss stretched the lead with a 37th minute try, again converted by Madigan.

But Wasps took the game by the scruff of the neck in the second half, with Matt Mullan crossing on the hour, Goode converting again, to make it 13-20 before Hughes popped up, leaping over the maul to touch down and make it 18-20.

Goode's conversion attempt hit the post but he was given a second bite of the cherry after an early charge out by Leinster and made no mistake second time round, planting the ball firmly between the posts.

And Goode should have grabbed a deserved victory for Wasps with the final kick of the game, but his drop kick attempt flew well wide of the posts.

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