Munster produced a typically inspired performance at their beloved Thomond Park to overwhelm Toulouse 47-23 in an emotionally charged Heineken Cup quarter-final in Limerick on Saturday.
Clermont Auvergne restored French pride with a gritty 22-16 win over Leicester, and English Premiership leaders Saracens overcame 14-man Ulster 17-15 in an epic battle in Belfast.
Irish side Munster repeated their shock 2008 final victory over the most successful team in the competition’s history thanks to tries by Keith Earls, Dave Kilcoyne, C.J. Stander, Casey Laulala, Simon Zebo and Paul O’Connell.
Four-time Heineken Cup winners Toulouse trailed 27-9 10 minutes after half-time, but a fine try by winger Hosea Gear gave them hope before Munster eased away with three tries in the final quarter.
Munster started fast, and winger Earls crossed in the right corner for the opening try after five minutes.
The hosts continued to batter Toulouse, and two penalties by flyhalf Ian Keatley stretched the lead to 13-3.
Munster suffered a huge blow when captain Peter O’Mahony limped off injured and Luke McAlister cut the half-time deficit to 13-9 with two penalties.
The hosts began the second half as explosively as they did the first and rocked Toulouse with two quick tries.
Prop Kilcoyne burrowed over from close range, and replacement Stander also capitalized on the Munster forwards’ dominance, led by Ireland lock O’Connell, to cross the line.
Former All Black Gear conjured up an excellent long-range try as the mercurial French side briefly flickered into life, but Munster regrouped and Keatley’s penalty stretched the lead before Laulala powered over in the left corner.
Joe Tekori surged over the Munster line for a consolation try for the visitors, but Zebo and O’Connell crossed for rampant Munster in the dying minutes to seal a famous victory.
“It was great to get the win, but the performance was outstanding,” Munster coach Rob Penney told Sky Sports. “It’s not a secret how dangerous Toulouse are and great credit to the lads both sides of the ball. They were terrific and you need to be against a side like that.”
Clermont roared into a 16-0 lead against Leicester thanks to three penalties by scrumhalf Morgan Parra and a typically opportunist try from France center Wesley Fofana.
The English side hit back with a try by number eight Jordan Crane, but Parra’s immaculate boot put the hosts 19-7 ahead at the interval.
Leicester refused to lie down and three penalties by flyhalf Owen Williams cut the deficit to 19-16 midway through the second half.
Leicester replacement forward Thomas Waldrom was sent to the sin bin for an infringement at a ruck, and Parra calmed French nerves with another penalty before the hosts subdued the tiring English pack in the closing 10 minutes to seal their 75th consecutive home win.
Ulster’s game against Saracens got off to a dramatic start when the Irish side’s fullback Jared Payne was sent off in the fourth minute for a dangerous high tackle on his opposite number Alex Goode, who was carried off on a stretcher.
However, Ulster refused to buckle and Ruan Pienaar put them ahead with a penalty, before Saracens winger Chris Ashton sped over for the first try which he celebrated with a swallow dive.
Pienaar kicked two more penalties to put the hosts 9-5 up at the interval, but lock Mouritz Botha took advantage of the tiring Ulster defense to cross for the second try for Saracens.