Munster send out strong statement but Leinster stay top

rugby04 December 2023 07:43| © SuperSport
By:Brenden Nel
article image
Seán O'Brien & Sione Tuipulotu © Getty Images

Defending Vodacom United Rugby Championship champions Munster gave a strong statement in terms of defending their title while fellow Irish side Leinster snatched a win at the death against Connacht that would have given gasps of relief, if not concerns, ahead of a massive opening Investec Champions Cup clash this weekend.

Munster’s 40-29 victory against high-flying Glasgow Warriors on Friday night very much signalled their intent to defend their title in an entertaining and high-pressure game that saw them get the best out of their side.

The Limerick side moved into fourth place on the URC log, as Leinster stayed top - only just - with a late winner against Connacht to grab victory against the odds.

But while it all sets Leinster - with their new World Cup-winning coach Jacques Nienaber as Leo Cullen’s assistant - up for their big opener in the newly named Investec Champions Cup against defending champions La Rochelle - there will be plenty of nerves going into the big match this coming weekend as the Dublin side still have a few chinks in their armour.

Leinster have a three-point lead over Glasgow at the top of the log, with the red-hot Vodacom Bulls moving into third place. That's after they doubled down to show that a host of Springboks means little if you’re not accurate and enjoyed a 44-10 win over the Hollywoodbets Sharks to prepare them for a mouth-watering clash with Premiership champions Saracens at altitude at Loftus Versfeld this coming Saturday.

The Sharks won’t have Champions Cup action this weekend, having failed to qualify despite their extensive budget, but will rather host Section Paloise (Pau) at home in Durban in their EPCR Challenge Cup opening fixture.

Outside the top four though, it was Edinburgh and Benetton, two of the sides who have surprised many this season with their impressive style of play, that both recorded wins to keep themselves in the hunt.

Benetton in particular are having a stellar season and added the Ospreys scalp to their list of accomplishments this season, leaving them sixth, level with the Scottish capital side but just below them on points difference.

Sean Everitt’s tenure at Edinburgh is going well, and he added another victory to his side’s impressive list this season, heading to Belfast to grab a massive away victory against Ulster as Ben Healty kicked 12 points and Pierre Schoeman scored to cap an enjoyable weekend for the Scottish side.

Edinburgh will want to repeat the feat when they head to a tricky Challenge Cup opener against Clermont Auvergne on Friday while Ulster have a tough trip to Bath where Johann van Graan and Finn Russell await them.

The Emirates Lions' 49-24 win over Dragons, despite being down to 14 men, moved them into ninth spot on the log, just behind Connacht. The top eight is a very big possibility for the Lions, who will only play URC rugby in the new year after the shifting of their Christmas and New Year’s fixtures to January.

The Lions travel though to Perpignan in the Challenge Cup where they will face a former teammate in Marvin Orie, who now plays at the club.

Other massive matches in the Champions Cup this weekend include URC finalists, the DHL Stormers, heading to Leicester Tigers, where Handre Pollard and Jasper Wiese await, while Friday night sees Glasgow Warriors face Northampton Saints, the side that ended Saracens’ five-game winning streak this past weekend.

On the same night Connacht face Bordeaux away from home, but possibly the most daunting fixture for a URC side is Cardiff’s trip to Toulouse, especially after they lost to Scarlets in a Welsh derby this weekend.

In Challenge Cup action Zebre host the Toyota Cheetahs, who are one of two invited clubs in that tournament, Scarlets have a tough trip to Castres Olympique, Dragons host Oyannax and URC clubs Benetton and Ospreys face each other.



Munster 40 Glasgow Warriors 29


Vodacom Bulls 44 Hollywoodbets Sharks 10

Cardiff 23 Scarlets 29

Emirates Lions 49 Dragons 24

Ulster 24 Edinburgh 27

DHL Stormers 31 Zebre Parma 7

Connacht 22 Leinster 24

Benetton 18 Ospreys 13

Investec Champions Cup fixtures

Round one


Glasgow Warriors v Northampton Saints (10pm)

Connacht v Union Bordeaux-Begles (10pm)


RC Toulon v Exeter Chiefs (3pm)

Bath v Ulster (5.15pm)

Stade Toulousain v Cardiff (5.15pm)

Vodacom Bulls v Saracens (7.30pm)

Munster v Aviron Bayonnais (7.30pm)

Briston Bears v Lyon (10pm)


Sale Sharks v Stade Francais Paris (3pm)

Stade Rochelais v Leinster (5.15pm)

Leicester Tigers v DHL Stormers (5.15pm)

Racing 92 v Harlequins (7.30pm)

EPCR Challenge Cup fixtures

Round One


ASM Clermont Auvergne v Edinburgh (10pm)


Black Lions (Georgia) v Gloucester (3pm)

Zebre Parma v Toyota Cheetahs (3pm)

Hollywoodbets Sharks v Section Paloise (5.15pm)

Castres Olympique v Scarlets (5.15pm)

Ospreys v Benetton (7.30pm)

Dragons v Oyannax (10pm)


USAP v Emirates Lions (3pm)

Newcastle Falcons v Montepellier (5.15pm)