Things you might have missed from Europe
With European action dominating the weekend, three Gallagher Premiership Rugby sides went into their ties hoping to be in a European final come Easter Sunday.
As it turned out, Saracens enjoyed a comprehensive victory over Munster to reach the Champions Cup final two.
But in the Challenge Cup semi-finals, Sale Sharks and Harlequins fell to La Rochelle and ASM Clermont Auvergne respectively after spirited away performances.
Here’s how a thrilling weekend panned out.
Saracens dream of third European triumph
After a disappointing quarter-final exit at the hands of reigning Champions Leinster Rugby last year, another Irish side stood in Saracens’ way of a third Champions Cup final in four years.
Munster – famous for their defensive prowess – vindicated their reputation as they forced Mark McCall’s men into a kicking contest.
But luckily for Sarries, Owen Farrell was on fine form from the tee.
The England fly-half slotted 22 points between the posts as the North London outfit triumphed 32-16 in a dominant performance.
With the score locked at 12-9 come half-time, the visitors will have been confident of stepping up their offensive game in the second period.
But Michael Rhodes drove over after 22 grinding phases before Farrell extended the lead to 26-9 with half an hour left.
Darren Sweetnam then crossed to lift the 8000 Munster fans in attendance at the Ricoh Arena, but when Billy Vunipola burrowed his way over the line with ten minutes to go, McCall’s men could begin the celebrations as they dream of more European glory.
FULL TIME | Saracens 32-16 Munster ⚫️🔴 pic.twitter.com/swdAZdJFvr
— Saracens Rugby Club (@Saracens) April 20, 2019
Gutsy Sharks fall short in France
Steve Diamond’s troops may have dominated the likes of Connacht Rugby in this year’s Challenge Cup, but La Rochelle was always going to be a different challenge.
The French side put away fellow Gallagher Premiership Rugby side Bristol Bears 39-15 in the quarter-finals – and had scored a mammoth 238 points during the pool stages.
And in front of 16,000 fans at the Stade Marcel-Deflandre, La Rochelle flexed their offensive muscles in a narrow 24-20 win.
After the sides swapped penalty tries, Kini Murimurivalu jinked his way into space to score after the ball was wonderfully worked down the line.
Chris Ashton took advantage of a brilliant charge down to notch Sale’s second, but Gregory Alldritt’s try in the second half was the dagger in a tight game.
While it was delirium for La Rochelle, Sale Sharks will be gutted after they fought their way to within metres of the try line with seconds to go – before giving up a needless penalty.
— Sale Sharks🦈 (@SaleSharksRugby) April 20, 2019
Quins’ second-half comeback just falls short
Sitting 32-8 down with just 25 minutes to go, Paul Gustard’s men could have been forgiven for giving up the tie in front of a raucous crowd away at ASM Clermont Auvergne.
A powerful try from Fritz Lee and a piece of magic from Damian Penaud was sandwiched by brilliance from Camille Lopez and Morgan Parra – with only a clever piece of play from Mike Brown in response.
But when skipper Chris Robshaw and replacement James Lang crossed in quick succession, the merry band of travelling Quins supporters found their voice.
The hosts crucially held on for the next quarter of an hour before Alex Dombrandt crossed to put the visitors within five.
It ended up being too little, too late – but Harlequins can certainly take a lot away from this game into the final three Gallagher Premiership Rugby games.
5⃣ Defenders beaten
6⃣th Try of the Season; his best return since the 2013/14 Season
— Harlequins 🃏 (@Harlequins) April 21, 2019