Belfast Telegraph

Monday 14 July 2014

Heineken Cup: Ulster through to quarter-finals as Connacht stun Harlequins

Ulster are through to the quarter-finals of the Heineken Cup after Harlequins suffered a shock defeat to Connacht - leaving Brian McLaughlin's men assured of a spot in thte last eight.

Ulster face a tough match against Clermont Auvergne in France today but following last night's result in Galway, even defeat will leave them with a best runners-up spot berth.

Harlequins' quarter-final chances are hanging by the smallest of threads after the 9-8 defeat at a wet and windy Sportsground means Quins finished second in the pool, just a point behind four-time champions Toulouse, who suffered a surprise defeat at Gloucester.

But director of rugby Conor O'Shea was not holding out much hope of reaching the last eight as one of the best runners-up from the group stage.

"We are out of it," he said. "We needed to win tonight and I didn't look at the permutations.

"It's just one of those things. You will look back and see opportunities, you will question various things that happened in the second half, but we lost.

"We just have to take it on the chin. We cannot describe just how disappointed we are as a group to let a lot of good work in this Heineken Cup go to waste, but that's life and you get on with it and we have to focus on the LV= Cup next week."

Connacht head coach Eric Elwood was left to savour a historic first victory in the tournament for his native province.

"To defend like we did with the discipline we did, the commitment was excellent," he said. "Our tackle count was two or three times (what theirs was), but that's nothing new for us."

The Irish side's win was a major boost for Toulouse, who lost 34-24 to Gloucester at Kingsholm but progress as a result of Quins' defeat.

Cherry and Whites boss Bryan Redpath said: "We knew they had picked a big, physical side and we showed them a lot of respect.

"I thought numbers one to 23 - our substitutes that came on made a big difference as well - were great.

"I am delighted for the boys because we finished off the Heineken Cup in style.

"The Premiership is now our main goal because we lose 11 players on Monday to international duties in different teams, and that has a knock-on with a small squad.

"Northampton here in three weeks' time is a massive game for us now because the Premiership is so important and to get in that top six.

"We are up in the top four try-scorers in the Premiership, but we are not playing with as much freedom as we did out there today."

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