All the Irish provinces put in impressive performances in the first round of the Heineken Champions Cup but ultimately came away with two wins from four.
Leinster showed they are still title contenders for European club rugby’s most coveted prize, clinching a bonus point win away to Montpellier, putting themselves in the driving seat for Pool A.
Here’s how it stands in Pool A after the opening round of #HeinekenChampionsCup action ?
Which four teams do you expect to qualify for the quarters? pic.twitter.com/jkeZf1EJ8S
— Heineken Champions Cup (@ChampionsCup) December 14, 2020
Ulster’s hopes of progression now hang by a thread following a home loss to Toulouse, but by no means played poorly against the reigning French champions.
Munster ground out a tense win over Harlequins at Thomond Park but currently find themselves outside of the qualification places for the quarter-finals.
Connacht looked dead and buried after trailing by 16 points to Racing 92 25 minutes into the game but staged an impressive comeback to salvage a losing bonus point in Paris.
Below is the best XV from the Irish provinces from the first round of Heineken Champions Cup action.
15. Jimmy O’Brien (Leinster)
14. Alex Wooton (Connacht)
13. Robbie Henshaw (Leinster)
12. Ciaran Frawley (Leinster)
11. Jacob Stockdale (Ulster)
10. Jack Carty (Connacht)
9. Luke McGrath (Leinster)
8. Paul Boyle (Connacht)
7. Josh van der Flier (Leinster)
6. Gavin Coombes (Munster)
5. Tadhg Beirne (Munster)
4. Ultan Dillane (Connacht)
3. Stephen Archer (Munster)
2. Rob Herring (Ulster)
1. Peter Dooley (Leinster)
Alex Wooton was particularly impressive on the wing for Connacht, scoring a brilliant intercept try from 95 metres out and preventing a certain try for Racing 92 in the corner.
Connacht fly half Jack Carty also put in a decent shift against the Parisians, executing a perfect cross-field kick for Matt Healy for the western province’s first try.
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That’s a sensational take from the @connachtrugby winger! ?
— Rugby on BT Sport (@btsportrugby) December 13, 2020
For Leinster, Luke McGrath continued his fine form for his province and has responded well to being left out of the Ireland squad for the autumn campaign by Andy Farrell.
Rob Herring scored two tries on his return to the Ulster starting lineup after a period away with Ireland and remains the front-runner to lock down the green no. 2 shirt.
Meanwhile, young Munster back rower Gavin Coombes proved he can step up to European rugby with ease, putting in another bruising shift and scoring a try in the process.