Rugby round-up: Murphy leads Munster's all-stars past Castres


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The Independent Online

In the Heineken Cup yesterday, Munster wrapped up Pool One and a place in the last eight with a 26-10 victory over Castres at Thomond Park. Johne Murphy and Wian du Preez scored Munster's tries and Ronan O'Gara kicked two conversions and four penalties. Yannick Caballero scored a try for Castres and Pierre Bernard kicked a conversion and a penalty.

The Irish province, very well-placed for a home quarter-final draw having won all their games so far, will conclude the pool stage against Northampton in Milton Keynes on Saturday night.

In Pool Six, Toulouse beat Connacht at home, perhaps the only surprise being that they did so by "only" 24-3. Timoci Matanavou scored two tries and Maxime Médard and Louis Picamoles also scored, wrapping up a bonus point that should come in handy this week. Lionel Beauxis kicked two conversions; Niall O'Connor kicked a penalty for Connacht. The Irish province are in their first Heineken Cup and the severity of the competition has contributed to a run of 14 defeats on the bounce. They conclude with a home game against Harlequins, the leaders of the Aviva Premiership who won away to Toulouse last month. Make that 15.

In Italy, in Pool Four, Clermont Auvergne scored 12 tries in an 82-0 stroll past (and over) Aironi. The French club are thus three points behind the team they will play on Saturday afternoon, Ulster. That match will decide the pool winner; Leicester, who were heavily beaten in Belfast on Friday, are as good as out.

In the Amlin Challenge Cup, Stade Français beat Bucuresti 34-13 in Romania and Exeter and Wasps won in Italy, the Chiefs by 50-10 at Cavalieri Prato and Wasps by 32-11 at Rovigo. Worcester played an Italian team, Crociati Parma, at home and beat them 57-10. Sale won 69-10 against La Vila in Spain. The tastiest match in next week's final round of pool games sees Worcester in Paris to face Stade.

In England the Championship leaders, Bristol, lost for the first time in eight matches, 23-17 at London Welsh. The hosts had five players in their 22 on loan from London Irish, including the props Max Lahiff and Leo Halavatau and the centre Guy Armitage. They also had Collin Osborne, the Harlequins assistant first-team coach and former academy manager, looking on from the coaches' seats. Osborne spends his day off each week assisting the London Welsh head coach, Lyn Jones. Yesterday was a window of opportunity before Quins' evening kick-off.