Heineken Cup: Sky Sports pundits assess wins for Toulon, Munster, Clermont and Saracens
'Thomond Park side sparkled but still have room for improvement'
Last Updated: 14/04/14 4:42pm
And then there were four!
Europe's top rugby competition - won last year by Toulon following crucial scores from English duo Delon Armitage and Jonny Wilkinson - has reached the quarter-final stage, with eight of the finest club sides on the planet locking horns.
On Saturday there was glory for Munster, who produced a six-try salvo to trump Toulouse and maintain their record of never having lost at home to French opposition, while 2013 runner's up Clermont reached the final four by edging a home clash with Richard Cockerill's spirited Leicester.
Saracens, though, shocked Ulster at Ravenhill, to ensure there will be Aviva Premiership interest in the semi-finals, with two touchdowns from Chris Ashton, one from Mouritz Botha and an Owen Farrell conversion downing the hosts, who played for 76 minutes with 14 men.
On Sunday Toulon were just too powerful for Leinster who had no answer to the likes of Mathieu Bastareaud and Danie Roussouw, while Steffon Armitage was once again at his brilliant best.
Here's what Sky Sports pundits SHane Horgan, Alan Quinlan, Paul Wallace and Will Greenwood made of matters...
"Toulon were deserving winners, there is no doubt about that. Their fans played their part - they were a bit quite in the first half but once that try game they burst into excitement. The power game from Toulon was exceptional. every tackle they stopped them dead, Leinster could not get over the gainline. Toulon made line break after line break to Leinster's one.
"Leinster did not perform the way they wanted to today - the slipped of a couple of tackles and did not take some of their opportunities - you only get a few opportunities here so you have to take them."
"Toulon's defence was just immense - Leinster could not get over the gain line and they could not look after the ball. The way Toulon came at them physically by carrying the ball with Roussouw, Smith, Choicci and Bastareaud was just unbelievable. Steffon Armitage was absolutely sensational for me today. Whether he had the ball in hand or over the breakdown he just kept on going and was just fantastic.
"When I looked at Toulouse's team sheet I thought they were very strong and needed convincing Munster could do it. However, the stats were there as Toulouse had lost 11 times away from home in the Top 14, and they were just ambushed by Munster. The intensity was the key and Toulouse never really threatened, had a relentless building of phases or put their opponents under pressure."
"Any number of Munster players could have been Man of the Match. CJ Stander deservedly got it but David Kilcoyne was outstanding and so was Damien Varley with his tackles. Munster were hungry, and their great organisation in the maul was what killed the game off, while the leadership from Conor Murray, in particular, and the skill from Simon Zebo was there, too - but Toulouse threw in the towel quite early."
"Munster weren't perfect but to beat a side of the calibre of Toulouse, irrespective of their terrible run of results, is fantastic. They showed flashes of brilliance and blew Toulouse away in the opening 10 minutes of the second half with a show of power play, and I think Murray would have jumped above Mike Phillips at scrum-half if there was a Lions tour around the corner.
"Leicester can be proud of the way they played in the second half after going 16-0 down but when they had pressure on Clermont and Thomas Waldrom was sin-binned it was just too much for them. It will not be interesting to see if Clermont can go for 80 minutes in the semi-finals."
"There were some superb performances from Leicester - Blaine Scully on the right-hand side, Ed Slater, the captain - and it was fingernails stuff. On the balance of the game, Clermont deserved to go through but Leicester put themselves in with a real chance."
"Ulster put in a great rearguard performance with 14 players but Sarries scored three tries and their defence in the last 10 minutes showed their resilience. Both Aston tries demonstrated great intelligence - they spotted angles and space - and they were better."
"The red card obviously changed the game and Munster didn't have enough composure, but Saracens killed off the game in the first 20 minutes of the second period. Saracens were too good defensively."