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Leinster end Exeter home streak, La Rochelle shine again

Jonathan Sexton scores for Leinster at Sandy Park

Exeter Chiefs’ year-long unbeaten run at home came to an end as Leinster won a fiercely contested battle between the two front-runners in Pool 3 of the European Champions Cup.

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Jack Conan’s second-half try ultimately secured a deserved 18-8 victory for Leinster on Sunday, condemning Exeter to a first home loss in the Premiership or Champions Cup since they were beaten by Bordeaux-Begles on the corresponding weekend in 2016.

Leinster were dominant in the opening quarter and tries from Jack McGrath and Devin Toner were controversially chalked off before Jonathan Sexton went over in the corner to open the scoring with the Chiefs down to 14 men following the sin-binning of Harry Williams.

After Gareth Steenson and Sexton – with his only successful kick from three first-half attempts – had exchanged penalties, the English champions saw a spell of pressure late in the opening period go unrewarded.

 

James Short surged over to level things up after the break, but Leinster came on strong again and Isa Nacewa kicked them back in front before Conan’s match-clinching score, which came after more than 40 phases of attack.

La Rochelle turned on the style once again, making it three wins out of three in Pool 1 with a 49-29 victory over Wasps that leaves the Premiership side in a position of peril.

Levani Botia and Vincent Rattez each went over twice as La Rochelle crossed six times. Wasps, who had Thomas Young and Juan de Jongh sin-binned in the first half, did at least claim a bonus point thanks to five tries of their own.

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John Cooney kicked four penalties and played a key role in Jacob Stockdale’s first-half try as Ulster beat Harlequins 17-5 on a snowy afternoon at Twickenham Stoop. Ulster now sit second in Pool 1, two points clear of Wasps, while Harlequins have just a solitary point and are staring at an early exit.

 

The much-anticipated Pool 2 clash between last year’s finalists, Saracens and Clermont Auvergne, was postponed due to hazardous conditions on the approach roads to Allianz Park and in the immediate vicinity of the stadium.

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Turlough 4 hours ago
Jean de Villiers' three word response to 'best in the world' debate

This ‘raging’ debate is only happenning in media circles and has never been a topic in Ireland (although SA media are interested). It makes the media companies money I guess. SA are RWC champions and #1 ranked team although Ireland are back within a point there. The facts point to SA. For a lot of 2021 France beat ALL their rivals and Ireland similar in 2022-2023. It is not wrong to say that on such form either can be deemed to be the current best team if they have beaten all their rivals and ranked #1. The ‘have to have won a world cup’ stipulation is nonsense. The world cup draw and scheduling has been tailored to the traditional big teams since the start. The scheduling also which sees the big teams sheltered from playing a hard pool match the week before has also been a constant. It is extraordinary that for example France have made so many finals. Ireland who were realistically only contenders in 2023 were in a Pool with two other top 5 teams and had to play one of them 7 days before a quarter final against France or New Zealand. Always going to be a coin toss. Scotland’s situation was worse. New Zealand had great chances in 1995, 1999, 2007 but they could not win a tight RWC match. The first tight match they ever won was versus France in the 2011 final, literally they lost every other tight match before that. Some of those NZ teams around that era were #1 surely?

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