Racing 92 or Exeter Chiefs will be crowned champions of Europe for the first time after beating defending champions Saracens and Toulouse respectively on Saturday.

Juan Imhoff's brilliant late try secured a 19-15 victory for Racing in the first semi-final at La Defense Arena, ending Sarries' hopes of winning the Champions Cup for the fourth time in five seasons.

Five Alex Goode penalties gave Saracens – relegated from the Premiership for salary-cap breaches – a lead of six points with 13 minutes to go in Paris.

Maxime Machenaud struck Racing's fourth penalty of the game following three from Teddy Iribaren to reduce the deficit and Imhoff raced away to score four minutes from time after taking a pass from Virimi Vakatawa, who was picked out by a clever Finn Russell kick.

Machenaud converted and the 2016 and 2018 runners-up held on to dump out Sarries, who lost captain Brad Barritt to injury in the final quarter of a gripping contest.

Exeter will play Racing in their first Champions Cup final on October 17 at Ashton Gate, Bristol after defeating Toulouse 28-18.

The Chiefs kept their Premiership and Champions Cup double dreams alive with a powerful performance, Harry Williams scoring two of their four tries at Sandy Park.

Joe Simmonds scored a try and eight points from the tee, while his brother Sam also crossed to deny four-time European champions a place in an all-Top 14 showdown.

Alban Placines and Matthis Lebel scored Toulouse's tries, the latter coming when the damage had already been done.

The Premiership has been suspended for five weeks and the quarter-finals of the European Champions Cup and Challenge Cup have been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Premiership Rugby's decision followed new guidance from the United Kingdom government on Monday.

British prime minister Boris Johnson encouraged people to avoid mass gatherings and all "non-essential" travel and contact with others.

"The safety of our fans, players and staff is our first priority, and we would like to wish all of those who are affected our heartfelt best wishes and a very speedy recovery," a Premiership Rugby statement read.

"We'll continue to work closely with DCMS [the Departure for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport] and Public Health England, and to follow the advice of medical experts, and work with our clubs to help them to support their own wider communities at this time."

The decision to call off the European rugby season was taken during a conference call on Monday.

It means the matches in the Champions Cup and Challenge Cup scheduled for April 3, 4 and 5 will not now go ahead as planned, although organisers hope to rearrange the fixtures for later dates.

In a statement, the board of European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR) said: "While respecting all further directives by governments and local authorities, EPCR, in conjunction with the relevant leagues and unions, remains committed to trying to find a solution which will enable it to complete the 2019-20 Champions Cup and Challenge Cup tournaments at such a time as that aligns with preventative measures undertaken by an overwhelming majority of sport's governing bodies and tournament organisers in Europe.  

"EPCR's priority is the health and welfare of players and club staff, and an update regarding the knockout stages of the tournaments will be communicated to all stakeholders as soon as practicable."

Geoffrey Cros grabbed a double as Top 14 leaders Bordeaux Begles beat Clermont Auvergne 31-22 to go eight points clear after Toulon were beaten at La Rochelle on Saturday.

Versatile back Cros scored a try in each half at Stade Marcel-Michelin, where Remi Lamerat also crossed in the first half and Jules Gimbert touched down to give Bordeaux breathing space late on.

Seta Tamanivalu's yellow card, which resulted in Morgan Parra slotting over a fifth penalty, set up a tense final but Gimbert's score ensured Bordeaux took maximum points.

Clermont led 19-14 at half-time courtesy of 14 points from the boot of Parra and a Paul Jedrasiak try, yet they were unable to finish off the job and sit in sixth place.

La Rochelle leapfrogged Toulon to go third with a 17-12 victory at Stade Marcel Deflandre.

Struggling Stade Francais had claimed a surprise win over La Rochelle last weekend, but Arthur Retiere scored the only try of the game in the second half and Jules Plisson landed four first-half penalties to get them back on track.

Pau dropped to the foot of the table after slumping to a 26-16 loss at Castres despite Mathieu Babillot's red card, while Loris Tolot claimed a brace of tries as Agen moved off the bottom with a 30-16 win at Brive.

Stade were brought back down to earth after their victory at La Rochelle, going down to a 28-17 defeat at Bayonne to sit second-bottom, with Agen rising two places.

Olivier Klemenczak's last-gasp try snatched a 30-27 victory over Toulouse to move Racing 92 up to third and Castres beat bottom side Agen in the Top 14 on Sunday.

Racing's winning run in the league looked set to end at four matches until Klemenczak nipped in on the blindside to touch down and deny Toulouse with the clock two minutes into the red at Paris La Defense Arena.

Toulouse were pegged back at 17-17 on the stroke of half-time after Dorian Laborde went over, with Fabien Sanconnie also crossing for the capital club either side of scores from Pita Ahki and Lucas Tauzin.

Maxime Machenaud's second penalty of the match put Racing in front, but Sofiane Guitoune finished to put Toulouse ahead again and Cheslin Kolbe took his tally from the tee to 10 points to give them a seven-point advantage.

Racing were not finished yet, though and Teddy Iribaren was on target with a penalty before Klemenczak settled it after Iosefa Tekori was sent to the sin bin with Toulouse under huge pressure right at the end. 

Castres are up to 10th after seeing off Agen 43-24, Martin Leveau scoring two of five tries for the 2018 champions.

Saracens will face Leinster in the European Champions Cup quarter-finals - a repeat of last season's final - after the scandal-hit London club finally found something to smile about.

Breaches of Premiership Rugby's salary cap have seen Saracens hit with a severe punishment, with the club told on Saturday they will be demoted from the top tier of English rugby at the end of the season.

Their domestic achievements and their dominance of the Champions Cup, which they have won in three of the past four seasons, have come in for fresh scrutiny since it emerged Saracens had broken the rules.

Director of rugby Mark McCall told his players to set the off-pitch problems aside on Sunday, and a dramatic 27-24 win over Racing 92 proved enough for Saracens to book a last-eight place after Gloucester lost 35-14 to Toulouse later in the day.

Owen Farrell booted a match-winning late penalty for 14-man Saracens, who had Will Skelton sent off in the first half and lost Billy Vunipola to an arm injury.

Two tries from Maro Itoje and one from Mako Vunipola were countered by Racing, whose five-pointers came from Virimi Vakatawa, who dotted down twice, and Louis Dupichot.

Saracens led 17-7 at one stage but were 21-17 behind at the break, turning the game around with Itoje's second try before England captain Farrell nailed a 75th-minute penalty.

At the final whistle, Saracens were not sure of their place in the quarter-finals, with a two-hour wait until that was confirmed.

Racing beat them to top spot in Pool 4, and to grab one of the three last-eight places allocated to the best runners-up Saracens needed Gloucester to fall short against Toulouse.

The Cherry and Whites were well beaten in France, going down by five converted tries to two at Stade Ernest-Wallon, with Romain Ntamack running in two of the Top 14 side's scores.

It means Saracens face another appointment with Leinster, the team they beat 20-10 at St James' Park last May to be crowned European champions.

This time Saracens must travel to Dublin to tackle the 2018 Champions Cup winners.

During Leinster's run to European glory two years ago, Saracens lost away to the Irish outfit in the quarter-finals.

Sunday's other matches involved teams whose run in this competition is over for another year, with Munster beating Ospreys 33-6 and Montpellier grabbing a thrilling 35-29 success against Connacht.

 

Quarter-final line-up (ties to be played on April 3-5):

Clermont Auvergne v Racing 92
Toulouse v Ulster
Exeter Chiefs v Northampton Saints
Leinster v Saracens

France full-back Thomas Ramos has committed his future to Toulouse in a deal described by the Top 14 club as an "early Christmas present" to supporters.

In a festive boost, club president Didier Lacroix stood with Ramos and a Santa Claus figure as the 24-year-old signed until the end of the 2022-23 season.

Ramos has won nine caps for France since making his debut during this year's Six Nations, coming off the bench against England for his first appearance.

He went with France to the Rugby World Cup in Japan before an ankle injury ended his campaign, although he was able to play for Toulouse against Castres just days later.

That raised eyebrows about France's judgement but coach Jacques Brunel said he felt making a change was "the best solution" given the element of uncertainty over how long Ramos would be absent.

On Tuesday, Toulouse said on Twitter: "Early Christmas [present] for the Stade Toulousain family from @ThomRamos15."

Lacroix, quoted on Toulouse's website, added: "Thomas is a player of great quality, pugnacious and determined, as well as a man who involves himself in the life of the club.

"We are very proud to be able to count on him in our ranks until 2023."

Saracens breathed new life into their European Champions Cup title defence as the Vunipola brothers starred in a 15-6 win over Munster at Allianz Park.

The reigning champions, who have lifted the trophy in three of the past four seasons, had won just one of their opening three games and came into the game trailing Pool 4 leaders Racing 92 by 11 points.

They were 6-3 behind against Munster early in the second half when a melee ensued after Jamie George appeared to be enraged by a conversation with a member of Munster's staff.

The brawl spilled over onto the advertising hoardings and, once it had subsided, Munster got a penalty which JJ Hanrahan missed.

Saracens soon came alive as Billy Vunipola, with three men converging on him, flipped a brilliant pass out to Sean Maitland to score before Mako Vunipola dotted down eight minutes from time to leave Sarries just one point behind second-placed Munster.

Leinster, the side Sarries beat in last season's final, made it four wins from four in Pool 1 with a dominant 50-21 victory over Northampton as Garry Ringrose scored a hat-trick.

The Ireland centre went over twice in the opening six minutes before Tadhg Furlong and Dave Kearney earned Leinster a bonus point prior to half-time.

Ringrose completed his treble after James Lowe had scored, with Caelan Doris crossing for Leinster's seventh and final try.

Premiership leaders Northampton - whose try-scorers were Dan Biggar, Ollie Sleightholme and Ahsee Tuala - now trail Leinster by 10 points with two games remaining.

Robin Copeland's 81st-minute try earned Connacht a 27-24 success over Gloucester, while Marco Lazzaroni's late score proved the difference in Benetton Treviso's 25-22 triumph against Lyon.

Toulouse beat Montpellier 26-18 while La Rochelle edged past Glasgow Warriors 12-7.

 

Top 14 champions Toulouse maintained their 100 per cent home record this season with a dominant 34-8 defeat of Clermont Auvergne.

Toulouse have worryingly lost each of their first five away games this term, but they have been untouchable at home and that trend continued on Saturday.

In the day's late kick-off, a repeat of last season's final, the hosts stormed into a 24-0 half-time lead thanks to tries from Sofiane Guitoune, Maxime Medard and Romain Ntamack.

Clermont failed to cross in the 2018-19 decider and their breakthrough score counted for little here, with Alivereti Raka's 46th-minute try unable to inspire a fightback.

Gillian Galan then secured a bonus point at the other end 10 minutes from time.

Earlier in the day, Bordeaux-Begles moved level on points with Lyon, who play on Sunday, at the top of the table after seeing off Agen at home.

The visitors were held scoreless as Bordeaux stayed patient, building on a 6-0 advantage at the break with tries from Santiago Cordero and Yann Lesgourgues.

Montpellier played out a draw for the second time this season as Anthony Belleau's penalty four minutes from time earned a share of the spoils for Toulon at 19-19.

There was late drama at Castres, too, where Brive were agonisingly denied by an 81st-minute kick from Julien Dumora.

Francois Da Ros' try two minutes earlier looked to have earned Brive an away win, but Dumora kept his nerve in a 28-26 success.

Meanhile, Pau scraped past Bayonne 9-3 in a game of no tries.

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