Former European Cup champions Leinster ensured there would be at least one Irish representative in the last eight of the tournament as they crushed English side Saracens 43-20 on Saturday.
Leinster took an offensive bonus point and lead French outfit Clermont by five points going into this weekend’s final pool matches.
Another Irish province, Ulster, also secured a crucial win with a 9-6 home triumph over French outfit Biarritz.
Ian Humphreys kicked a late penalty to grab the points in the Pool 4 match.
Ulster can secure their place in the last eight for the first time since the 1999 success should they beat Italian side Aironi, thrashed 55-16 earlier on Saturday by Bath, with a bonus point this weekend and hope Biarritz slip-up against Bath.
Defending champions Toulouse beat Welsh side Newport 17-3 at home to maintain their lead in Pool 6, but, if the Wasps beat Glasgow yesterday, they would face a pool-topping decider in England this weekend.
Perpignan went to the top of Pool 5 after running out 44-9 winners at Italian outfit Treviso. Perpignan are tied on 17 points with two-time winners Leicester, who ran out 32-18 winners over the Scarlets in Llanelli, but the English side will be confident of overhauling the points difference of two when they host whipping boys Treviso this week.
Saracens were given a way back into their match in the 25th minute, after Leinster had eased into a 12-0 lead, as Irish and Lions international winger Luke Fitzgerald’s wild pass was snapped up by James Short. Although Fitzgerald gave chase, it was too late as the Saracens back ran in under the posts to touch down. Owen Farrell converted to leave the hosts only five points ahead.
Ireland fly-half Jonathan Sexton made it 15-7 three minutes later as he converted a penalty. However, Saracens struck back with a second try just after the half hour mark as a beautifully worked move down the right saw Kelly Brown run the ball in.
Leinster dug deep and scored their third try of the half with the half-time break approaching as Dominic Ryan bundled his way over for his second of the opening period, the try having been set up by a great break by fellow try scorer No. 8 Sean O’Brien.
The Irish province, though, showed their class in the second half to score a try early on through Fergus McFadden to guarantee the all-important bonus point and followed up with further tries by Isa Nacewa and then young replacement Eoin O’Malley.
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