Paris (AFP)

Mission accomplished for Toulouse and Clermont. The reigning French champion and his runner-up qualified for the quarter-finals of the European Rugby Cup on Saturday after their respective successes against the Irish Connacht (21-7) and Ulster (29- 13).

The two French clubs join Leinster and Exeter, also guaranteed to compete in the final phase.

Toulouse residents, like Clermontois, can also dream of a home quarter. But, for that, we will have to win next week, during the 6th and last day of the group stage.

For the people of Toulouse, sluggish for a few weeks in the league (draw against Toulon then defeat in Paris), Europe represented the opportunity to "get a little head air and start again," to use the expression on the third line François Cros.

The Reds and Blacks have just chained a fifth European success of rank with this victory full of mastery in Ireland. And this, despite a penalty try cashed after ten minutes of play, a lot of wind and rain as well as a double numerical inferiority after the yellow cards by Yoann Huget (72nd) and red by Zack Holmes (74th) at the end match.

Without shining but relying on an XXL pack, the men of Ugo Mola ensured the essential: a ticket for the quarters.

Same observation for the Jaunards, hardly brighter. Drafts, even downright clumsy, the Clermontois scored twenty points in the second period to overthrow an Ulster team which also played qualification.

Deprived of its captain Morgan Parra (yellow card, 21st), the ASM found the resources to return by relying on the precision at the foot of this same Parra (three penalties, a transformation), by Camille Lopez (a drop) and Greig Laidlaw (a penalty, a transformation).

Finally, Montpellier needed a feat to continue believing in the qualification. It did not take place in Gloucester (29-6): without his internationals (Vincent, Houas Bouthier, Ngandebe), all left to rest outside the second line Paul Willemse, entered during the game, the young team of MHR cracked in the second half against the speed and power of the English.

The Héraultais are eliminated but will have the opportunity to finish on a positive note, in a week, with the arrival of the Irish Connacht at GGL Stadium for the last day.

© 2020 AFP