For a place in the final, Racing 92 challenges La Rochelle and Toulouse travels to Leinster.
For the fifth time (after 1998, 1999, 2005 and 2021) three French representatives are among the last four of the most beautiful European cups. A team from the top 14 is guaranteed to play in the final; Racing 92 or La Rochelle, who meet next Sunday (4 p.m.) in Lens. In the other semi-final, a duel of the titans in Dublin (Saturday, 4pm) between the two most successful teams on the Old Continent: Leinster (4 crowns) and Stade Toulousain (5).
Race in two stages
Ciel et Blanc’s mission was clear on Sunday: face off against the might of the Sale players and try to force them at a hell of a pace to exhaust them. On the Nanterre Arena’s artificial turf, which is conducive to movement rugby, it is difficult to rely solely on a frontal game. The suburbs of Manchester therefore tried a few attacks from the start, created the best chances, but lacked accuracy in the last gesture. The crowded residents of Ile-de-France collapsed just before the break and conceded a try from Manu Tuilagi (6:10). Laurent Travers’ players finally woke up when they returned from the dressing room and scored two magnificent tries from Teddy Thomas and Finn Russell. Each time with a devilish footwork. The English will not recover and concede two more attempts (excellent) from Juan Imhoff and Max Spring (41-22 in the end). Racing enters the last Continental Four for the fourth time. A phase of the competition in which he has never lost. In 2016, 2018 and 2020 he failed in the final. Will this year be the right one?
Stunning Stade Toulousain
Finally the tension. Toulouse, the reigning European champions, managed the feat of beating Munster in Dublin
an unbelievable penalty shootout (4 to 2). At the end of regulation time, the two teams were tied (24-24) with three tries each and were forced to play overtime without scoring. Place on penalties, for the first time since 2009 and Leicester’s victory over Cardiff, for a place in the final. In that small game, Toulouse’s goalscorers Thomas Ramos, Romain Ntamack and Antoine Dupont didn’t tremble and scored a clean round.
“It was the whole game that was incredible because we played Munster at the Aviva stadium, there was a big crowd, everyone red and everyone hot the whole game.said Romain Ntamack. Toulouse-Münster is a historic figurehead in the European Cup. There’s a scenario that’s fabulous and smiles at us at the end. We’re proud of that.” Les Rouge et Noir qualified for the fourteenth continental semi-final in their history. To reach the final they will have to defeat Leinster again in Dublin, who was hit hard with a win in Leicester (14-23), leaders of the English Championship. After Ulster in eighth place, Münster in the quarter-finals, Ugo Mola’s players will therefore have to rank with another Irish province on Saturday. A real obstacle course.
La Rochelle is gaining momentum
Confirmation that Stade Rochelais has changed the dimension on the European stage. The Maritimes, the unfortunate finalists of the last edition of the Champions Cup (loss to Toulouse), once again qualified for the last four by dominating Montpellier with composure and championship (31-19) at the Marcel Deflandre stadium. La Rochelle have reached the semi-finals for the second time in their history and meet Racing 92 in Lens. Former All Black Victor Vito was instrumental in that clash, as was New Zealand opener Ihaia West, who on 16 points (6/7) was impeccable in his role as scorer.
“We have some air pockets, we do cap tests. We cannot afford to award points so easily. A quarter of the Champions Cup is never easy, we knew it wasn’t going to be a walk in the park. But I found the team to be very calm and relaxed, and the bank’s contribution was good for us., estimated Grégory Alldritt, number 8 from La Rochelle. For its part, the MHR only has to focus on the top 14, where it leads, and validate its ticket to the semifinals in the last two days. Not exactly a formality for Héraultais, who has been beaten for the fourth consecutive time, all competitions combined.
Toulon and Lyon in the last four of the Challenge Cup
Rugby Club Toulonnais, winners of the London Irish at Mayol (19-18), qualified for the semi-finals of the Challenge Cup and meet the English Saracens in a repeat of the 2014 European Cup final won by the RCT (24- 6). Pushed at home for a long time on Sunday, the Varois still have the edge next Saturday (9 p.m.) against Owen Farrell and his teammates. Before maybe playing a final not far away at the Vélodrome de Marseille (May 27). The RCT was able to find there the other qualified French club, Lyon, who beat Scotland’s Glasgow (35-27) on Saturday. Pierre Mignoni’s players came back from a poor start by going 13:27 down after 50 minutes, after conceding an attempted penalty and a yellow card for Léo Berdeu. But international second-line player Romain Taofifenua and Georgian winger Davit Niniashvili, author of two tries, then started the revolt for the LOU, who, in a bid to win a place in the final, also faced an English club, the Wasps, in Matmut on Saturday will start at the stadium in Gerland (1:30 p.m.).