Toulon sneak into European Cup last eight

2017-01-21 21:09
Saracens v Toulon (Getty Images)

Paris - Three-time winners Toulon sneaked into the European Cup quarter-finals on Saturday despite slipping to a 10-3 defeat at defending champions Saracens.

The French giants made sure of a last-eight spot when Welsh fullback Leigh Halfpenny fired over a monster 50m penalty after 63 minutes to assure his team of a losing bonus point in the Pool 3 game.

Toulon finished on 16 points, the same as Montpellier in Pool 4, but with a better points difference allowing them to grab qualification as one of three best runners-up.

Saracens' only try came from wing Chris Ashton, who will join Toulon next season, with the win giving the English side a home quarter-final.

In the other concluding Pool 3 game, Sale edged Scarlets 25-23 but their first win of the tournament was not enough to lift them off the foot of the table.

Clermont, already assured of a place in the quarter-finals, launched a first-half blitz to overcome Exeter 48-26 in Pool 5 and take top seeding in the last eight.

The home side went on a five-try rampage in the first period, as they led 34-0, and added two more after the break.

However, Clermont's joy was tempered by French international centre Wesley Fofana suffering an Achilles tendon rupture which is likely to rule him out of the Six Nations, which starts in two weeks' time.

The 29-year-old Fofana, who has 44 caps for France, suffered the injury late in the first half just after scoring one of his team's seven tries.

"He injured his Achilles tendon and we are worried," said Clermont coach Franck Azema. "We don't know if it's a partial or total rupture."

France start their Six Nations campaign on February 4 against England at Twickenham.

French Top 14 league leaders Clermont finished their pool campaign with 26 points after five wins.

As well as Fofana and a penalty try, Clermont triumphed through scores from Benjamin Kayser, Fijian wing Noa Nakaitaci, fullback Nick Abendanon, Peceli Yato and Alexandre Lapandry.

Exeter, to their credit, battled hard after the interval with four tries from James Short, Ollie Devoto, Olly Woodburn and Michele Campagnaro.

Bordeaux-Begles beat Ulster 26-22 in Saturday's other Pool 5 game in Belfast with both sides already ruled out of a place in the knock-out phase.

On Friday three-time former champions Leinster, already assured of a spot in the knock-out round, were held 24-24 by Castres.

Read more on:    toulon  |  leigh halfpenny  |  rugby


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