Round-up: Schmidt praises pack as Leinster fight back

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The Independent Online

Leinster coach Joe Schmidt hailed the "immense" impact of the Irish side's pack after they moved five points clear at the top of Pool Two of the Heineken Cup with a 24-8 win against Clermont Auvergne. The Ireland prop Cian Healy scored two tries as the 2009 trophy winners avenged last week's 20-13 defeat in France.

"The win is particularly satisfying because we stopped them getting a bonus point so in the head-to-head we are 5-4 in front," said Schmidt.

Elsewhere in Pool Two, Saracens boosted their hopes of qualifying for the quarter-finals with a 19-14 victory over Racing Metro at a snow-covered Stade Olympique in Paris.

After his bizarre post-match interview last week, the Saracens rugby director, Brendan Venter, was a little more forthcoming as 14 points from the boot of 19-year-old Owen Farrell gave the London club their first win in the competition this season. "It was about who could play the conditions best," said Venter. "That was the main thing and in the first half we were really good at that."

Ulster edged towards qualification in Pool Four – effectively eliminating Bath – as they secured a 26-22 victory at The Rec. Ian Humphreys kicked 16 points for the Northern Irish team, but their head coach, Brian McLaughlin, saw room for improvement ahead of their crunch tie with Biarritz in January. "Actually, I didn't think we played that well today," he said. "Bath put us under ferocious pressure at times."

In the other Pool Four fixture, Biarritz breezed past Aironi 34-3 to banish memories of their humbling defeat against the Italians last week. The Basque side, last season's Heineken Cup runners-up, scored four tries to establish a three-point lead at the summit of Pool Four.

Scarlets chief Nigel Davies praised his young side as they snared top spot in Pool Six with a second successive bonus-point win at Benetton Treviso. There were tries for Dominic Day, Dan Newton, Gareth Maule and Jonny Fa'amatuainu, while fledgling fly-half Rhys Priestland added 15 points to seal a convincing 38-15 victory.

"This result is right up there as one of our best in this competition," said Davies. "Some of our recognised names weren't playing but these young boys are stepping in and taking their opportunities. These boys are the stars of our resurgence and have shown they are worthy of this shirt."

Sunday's fixtures between Toulouse and Glasgow and Edinburgh and Castres were both postponed, with the match at Toulouse rescheduled for tomorrow evening and the latter to be played behind closed doors at Murrayfield this afternoon.

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