Leinster to meet Saracens in Europe, Corofin and Ballyhale make history

The Morning Sports Briefing: Keep ahead of the game with ‘The Irish Times’ sports team

Serena Williams won her first round tie at the Australian Open in straight sets. Photograph: Mark Kolbe/Getty

Serena Williams won her first round tie at the Australian Open in straight sets. Photograph: Mark Kolbe/Getty

Leinster’s reward for winning all six of their Heineken Champions Cup pool fixtures and earning top-seeding in the tournament is a quarter-final date with Saracens in Dublin. The defending champions started yesterday by issuing an apology after accepting relegation from the English Premiership for breaking salary cap rules. Later they defied Will Skelton’s red card and a serious injury to Billy Vunipola to edge past Racing 92 27-24 at Allianz Park, scraping into the Champions Cup last-eight and setting up a date with Leo Cullen’s side - a repeat of last year’s final in Newcastle. As Gerry Thornley writes this morning, the beleaguered European champions were: “the team nobody else wanted to face, or probably even see, in the knockout stages.” Elsewhere Ulster are also faced with a daunting assignment in the knockouts, with Dan McFarland’s side travelling to play four-times winners Toulouse, after they booked their place in the quarters with a hard-fought 22-15 win over bath in Belfast on Saturday. The other two quarter-final clashes will see Clermont Auvergne take on Racing 92 and Northampton face Exeter at Sandy Park. All the last-eight ties will take place on the weekend of April 3rd-5th. Munster and Connacht were also in action in their closing pool fixtures yesterday. Johann van Graan’s side beat the Ospreys 33-6 at Thomond Park, while Connacht were pipped 35-29 by Montpellier in a thriller in France.

Corofin made history yesterday, as they pulled away from Kilcoo in extra-time to be crowned All-Ireland Senior club football champions for the third-consecutive year - the Galway champions running out 1-12 to 0-7 in Croke Park. Down challengers Kilcoo made life difficult for Corofin and the two sides were all square at the full-time whistle, with Paul Devlin’s free making it 0-7 to 0-7. However they were then blitzed in extra-time, Corofin quickly pulling clear as they reeled off 1-5 without reply to retain their title. Earlier in the day Ballyhale Shamrocks also made it back-to-back titles, as they held off a late Borris-Ilegh surge to take the hurling final 0-18 to 0-15. Henry Shefflin’s side made history of their own, with the Kilkenny champions becoming the first club to win the All-Ireland title on eight occasions, the Tipperary challengers falling just short.

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