European Champions Cup: Castres 24-24 Leinster
|European Champions Cup Pool Four|
|Castres (17) 24|
|Tries: Dupont, Smith 2 Cons: Dumora 3 Pens: Dumora|
|Leinster (10) 24|
|Tries: Henshaw 2, Leavy Cons: Sexton, R Byrne 2 Pens: Sexton|
Leinster boosted their chances of securing a home Champions Cup quarter-final with a 24-24 draw with Castres.
The Irish province had already topped Pool 4 and only a massive win for Connacht away to Toulouse on Sunday would deprive them of home advantage.
Leinster came back from seven points down at half-time to earn two points.
Robbie Henshaw (two) and Dan Leavy scored tries for Leinster, with David Smith (two) and Antoine Dupont crossing for the hosts in a keenly fought game.
Johnny Sexton landed a penalty and a conversion before going off injured with a tight calf in the first half, replacement Ross Byrne then contributing four points with the boot. Julien Dumora kicked nine points for Castres.
The result left Leinster on 23 points and top of the Champions Cup rankings as provisional top seeds ahead of the weekend's fixtures.
Montpellier moved into second in Pool 4 on 16 points thanks to their 26-17 victory over Northampton.
Clermont Auvergne, Saracens and Munster, who have all already qualified for the last eight, could overtake Leinster in the standings, as could their Irish interprovincial rivals Connacht.
The top four teams after the final round of fixtures in all five pools will enjoy crucial home advantage in the knockout stages, the hosts having come out on top in more than 75% of quarter-finals over the last 20 seasons.
Castres went into the game with a formidable record at the Stade Pierre Antoine, having won their last eight games at home this season, and the French outfit proved stubborn opposition for Leo Cullen's charges.
Henshaw capitalised on indecision from the home side by picking up a loose ball and racing 50 yards to dot down the first of his tries in the 10th minute.
Dupont took possession from an off-load, jinked round a couple of Leinster players and touched down to respond midway through the first half.
Winger Smith's eighth try in European competition helped the French team to a seven-point interval lead but Henshaw scored under the posts after accepting Adam Byrne's offload three minutes after the interval to draw his side level.
Smith dived over at the base of the post to nudge Castres in front again but replacement Leavy took advantage of the sin-binning of Pierre Berard for chopping down Jack McGrath a metre from the line by barging over from two yards.
Another replacement, Mike McCarthy, was yellow-carded for an infringement with less than four minutes remaining but Leinster would be relatively happy to come away from a bruising physical contest with a draw.
What they said
Leinster number eight Jamie Heaslip: "If you had said we would be where we are before the start of the competition we would probably have taken it but it's out of our hands now as regards a potential home quarter-final.
"We wanted to get the win but we were sloppy at times and they are a good side - they turned over a lot of ball - but we showed a lot of heart to keep ourselves in the game.
"We were not up to the standard we want at times and we have to work on that. Connacht are not going to do us any favours and they have won at Toulouse before so they could go there and do it again."
Castres: P Berard; J Caminati, A Taumoepeau, F Vialelle, D Smith; J Dumora, A Dupont; A Tichit, B Mach, D Kotze, V Moreaux, R Capo Ortega, Y Caballero, A Bias, S Mafi
Replacements: J Jenneker, M Lazar, D Tussac, L Jacquet, A Jelonch, J Seron, B Urdapilleta, T Combezou
Leinster: I Nacewa (capt); A Byrne, G Ringrose, R Henshaw, R O'Loughlin; J Sexton, L McGrath; C Healy, R Strauss, T Furlong; R Molony, D Toner; J Conan, J van der Flier, J Heaslip
Replacements: J Tracy, J McGrath, M Bent, M McCarthy, D Leavy, J Gibson-Park, R Byrne, R Kearney
Referee: Greg Garner (England)
Touch Judge 1: Tom Foley (England)
Touch Judge 2: Paul Dix (England)
TMO: David Rose (England)
Citing Commissioner: Steve Savage (England)