While English rugby supporters are smarting after their last two representatives in the Champions Cup were comprehensively ousted on Saturday, the quality of rugby produced will have been an eye-opener for South Africa’s four leading franchises.
The Irish side Leinster, recently crowned as the 2020/21 PRO14 winners after comprehensively beating fellow Irishmen Munster in that competition’s final, on Saturday threw down the PRO16 gauntlet: We are the PRO16 benchmark for you newcomers from South Africa.
Playing with a near full side, Leinster overturned a 14-0 deficit inside ten minutes to take control of proceedings and eventually oust England’s Exeter Chiefs comprehensively, 34-22.
After the initial shock of conceding two Exeter tries, Leinster scored 34 points to only six by last year’s champions.
Abrasive forwards who concentrated on their function of subduing defending champions Exeter’s pack, and a backline that had more cohesion and thrived on straight running, brought Leinster a well-deserved victory.
▲ Exeter was the only remaining side from the Premiership after Sale had earlier found the class of La Rochelle too much and never really looked like progressing to the semi-finals. The score against Sale, laden with six South Africans starting and two on the bench, mounted to a six-try drubbing of 45-21 after they trailed by only two points, 18-16, at the break – but even then they didn’t look likely winners.
Ironically, it was the two South African wings, discarded former Springbok Raymond Rhule and Stormers wing and sometimes fullback Dillyn Leyds, who helped their side to victory against a team full of Saffas with three tries between them, Rhule touching down twice.
▲ In the Challenge Cup, four Premiership sides contested the quarterfinals, with Bath beating London Irish 26-13 and Leicester Tigers giving Newcastle Falcons a 39-15 hiding.
Montpellier had to work hard for a tough home win against Italian side Benetton (31-25) and Northampton Saints lost their home draw against Ulster 27-35.
Sunday’s Champion Cup quarterfinals –
13:30 Bordeaux Beglès vs Racing 92
16:00 Clermont Auvergne vs Toulouse