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Toulouse into last eight, Perpignan smashed by Saints

French former European Cup winners Toulouse qualified for the last eight on Sunday as they won against English side Harlequins 33-21. Elsewhere, 2000 champions Northampton smashed the current champions, French side Perpignan 34-0.


AFP - Three-time European Cup winners Toulouse joined fellow French side Biarritz in the last eight of this season's tournament when they beat English side Harlequins 33-21 on Sunday in their Pool Five match.

Maxime Medard got their all-important fourth try - which gave them a bonus point and means they will top the pool whatever the results next weekend - against opponents that briefly threatened an upset in the first-half before wilting against a remorseless Toulouse side.

Toulouse manager Guy Noves was delighted with his team's performance.

"We really raised our level of play today (Sunday)," said the 55-year-old, who has been in charge at Toulouse since 1993, guiding them to seven national titles as well as their European crowns.

"We owe nothing to anybody and we deserve to have qualified.

"We are third in the championship, in the European Cup quarter-finals and despite outside criticism, I think that a lot of other sides would like to be in our position."

Elsewhere 2000 champions Northampton also secured what could be a crucial bonus point in their crushing 34-0 victory over ailing French champions Perpignan, whose desperate campaign has included defeat to Italian minnows Treviso.

However, the Saints left it late scoring the fourth try in the 81st minute through a wonderful 90 metre move which saw Jon Clarke go over and setting up a mouthwatering clash at two-time champions Munster, the team they beat in the 2000 final, next Friday.

Saints captain Dylan Hartley said that his team would be able to look after themselves against Munster.

"Yes, definitely we can take them on," said Hartley, whose side are on a 10-match winning run. "We can put up a good challenge against Munster. It's our quarter-final."

Saints director of rugby Jim Mallinder conceded that his team had not been at their best, but had improved in the second-half and was eager to emulate Leicester as the only English side to have beaten Munster in Limerick.

"We are on a good run and playing well. You mustn't be intimidated by Munster. What we have to do is go there and stand head to head and toe to toe with them," he said.

Earlier two tries in four minutes from flanker Rob McCusker allowed Welsh side Scarlets to stage a stunning comeback and beat Pool Six rivals London Irish 31-22.

The result did little, however, for either side's hopes of reaching the last eight as reigning champions Leinster, who travel to Twickenham to play London Irish next week, lead the table by five points with one match remaining.

London Irish coach Toby Booth said that his side had not really played well all through the match.

"I thought when we led 22-10 that it was a bit flattering," said Booth, whose side experienced only their second defeat in their last 13 European pool matches - both defeats coming at the hands of the Scarlets.

"We made the same mistakes early on as we did later in the match.

"It is a simple game but we didn't treat it like that and we neither found penetration nor were we able to get it out wide. We are bitterly disappointed with this performance."

Irish had looked to be cruising when they led 22-10 in the second half but McCusker showed electric pace in the 63rd minute to touch down in the corner after visiting fly-half Ryan Lamb had made a poor clearance.

A few minutes later McCusker was on hand again, taking the ball and despite a desperate tackle by former England scrum-half Peter Richards, he turned and twisted his way over the line for a try which was confirmed by the video referee.

Scarlets rubbed it in when impressive young centre Jonathan Davies went over for his second try to give the Welsh side a deserved if surprising bonus point and left Irish requiring the minor miracle of a bonus point victory over Leinster if they are to progress as pool winners.

However, Booth believes that such challenges always bring the best out of his side.

"The good thing about this team is that it likes challenges and being threatened," he said.

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