European have just finished the 5th round of this season Challenge Cup over the past weekend and here are a wrap of all the matches that have been played.
La Rochelle miss out on bonus point
The 2015 champions, Gloucester, travel to PRO12 basement side Benetton Treviso in Round 5 before receiving Bayonne at Kingsholm next week. Two bonus point wins will now be enough to win them the pool, even if La Rochelle beat the Italians at Stade Marcel Deflandre in Round 6.
Having run in 10 tries in a 51-24 home win in Round 2, many thought the second placed team in the TOP 14 would be able to pick up another five points on the road. But some stubborn resistance from Bayonne made it anything but easy for the visitors.
Bayonne drew first blood with a third minute penalty from Raphael Lagarde and the boot of the home outside half kept his side in touch for most of the first-half. Opposite number Brock James levelled six minutes later to notch La Rochelle’s 1,000th point in the Challenge Cup in their 42nd match.
But Lagarde made it 6-3 with his second successful strike in the 26th minute as the contest heated up. Then Bayonne lost lock Adam Jaulhac to the sin-bin and La Rochelle moved in for the kill.
A minute later they conjured up the game’s first try for Leo Cedaro before running in a second on the stroke of half-time through Mohamed Boughanmi. James converted them both to give his side a 17-9 interval lead.
When La Rochelle bagged their third try two minutes after the re-start, from Botia Veivuke, it seemed as though the game might turn into a procession of points once again, especially when James knocked over the extras. And things looked like getting far worse for the home side when left wing Julien Jane picked up another yellow card.
But as hard as they tried, and as much as they refreshed their side with replacements, La Rochelle couldn’t find a way to bag the bonus point try. They lost replacement Alexi Bales to the sin-bin just after the hour and that made scoring even harder.
In the end, Bayonne, without a win in the tournament this season, found a way to cross the line and Bastien Fuster claimed the try. Manu Saubusse missed the conversion.
Grenoble clip Falcons’ wings
It was nip and tuck in the first-half, as Newcastle edged into a 10-7 lead thanks to a Chris Harris try, but David Mele kept the hosts in it. The match burst into life in the second-half as the Falcons stormed into a 20-10 lead through Callum Green.
But the hosts turned on the power up front to go ahead for the first time with a penalty try and a Etienne Fourcade drive over score. Scott Wilson edged the visitors back ahead, but Fabrice Estabanez crashed over to earn a bonus-point 31-27 triumph.
Grenoble turned on the heat from the start in frosty conditions at the Stade des Alps, but it was the Falcons who soared into their lead with their first attack. The ball was worked to Will Witty in midfield who combined with Harris, before the centre sold a dummy to crash over. Craig Willis converted to give the Falcons a 7-0 lead after eight minutes.
The hosts levelled things up after a 20 minute arm-wrestle thanks to Mele. The scrum-half sniped home from close range before outside-half Gilles Bosch converted. But the Falcons made sure they went in at half-time with the lead when Willis slotted a penalty from 25 metres out for a 10-7 advantage.
Bosch landed a penalty to draw Grenoble level, one minute into the second-half. But much like the first period, the Falcons struck. Dan Temm took the ball at the back of a lineout before the Newcastle pack shunted Grenoble back over their own line for a try. Green crashed over at the back and Willis converted, before the outside-half added another penalty to take Newcastle 10 points clear.
But a quick fire double from Grenoble put them ahead for the first time. Newcastle pulled down a maul close to their own try line and referee Vlad Iordescu awarded a penalty try, before Fourcade crashed over. However, Wilson ploughed over from close range to send Newcastle back into the ascendancy.
But Estabanez hit a devastating angle to claim the winning score, with Bosch converting to wrap-up their first win in Europe this season.
Dragons get Russian revenge
A stubborn Russian effort made life tough for the hosts but a late push, including two tries from Keddie in the final 10 minutes, sealed a crucial victory.
T Rhys Thomas and Rhys Buckley also crossed for the hosts with Denis Simplikevich and Igor Kurashov going over for the visitors.
Dorian Jones kicked the Dragons into a fourth minute lead, but the Russians were proving to be stubborn opposition.
Yury Kushnarev saw a penalty attempt land way short in what proved to be their only shot at goal of the half.
The Dragons were seemingly struggling up front, but fortuitously found the game’s first try.
Hooker Thomas was on the end of a hard-hitting rolling maul to bruise over, with fly-half Jones – son of head coach Kingsley – adding the extras from out wide.
And 10 minutes later, Jones was on hand to knock over a simple penalty in front of the posts.
But Enisei could count themselves unlucky after persistent pressure went without reward, wing Simplikevich going close with a battling effort in the corner.
The Russians again came knocking in the early minutes of the second half, but lacked the killer instinct needed to penetrate the inspired Gwent wall.
But Mikheil Gachechiliadze found a moment of class to loop the ball to Simplikevich who was able to crash his way over in the corner. Kushnarev’s conversion boomed off the uprights, however, as the visitors trailed by eight.
The outside-half was struggling with the boot as another penalty landed short, and that seemed to kick the Dragons into life.
Buckley crossed from the back of another punishing drive with Angus O’Brien on hand for the conversion.
And it got better nine minutes from time when Keddie went over at the posts as the Dragons pushed for the crucial bonus point.
But with the visitors tiring, Keddie blitzed his way over for the fourth before Kurashov slid over in the corner for a late consolation for the battling Russians.
Edinburgh take charge with Quins double
The narrow success against a below-par Quins was just reward for the visitors as John Kingston’s men were left to regret losing three men to yellow cards at different points throughout the game.
Forwards Fraser McKenzie and Allan Dell scored in either half and with James Chisholm, Kyle Sinckler and Dave Ward spending time in the bin, Edinburgh deserved to come out on top.
Mathew Luamanu and Joe Gray grabbed two late consolations for Quins to ensure they salvaged a losing bonus point, but Duncan Hodge’s men are now a point clear at the summit with only Timisoara Saracens left to play.
Their victory also saw them win at the venue where they lost the 2015 Challenge Cup final to Gloucester Rugby and secure a double over the Quins.
It was visitors Edinburgh who turned around 13-6 ahead, McKenzie’s try proving the difference between the sides.
Scottish fly-half Duncan Weir exchanged early penalties with Harlequins No 10 Tim Swiel before McKenzie came up with the first try of the day. The second row hit a lovely line to break clear and cruise over the line with the home defence barely able to lay a hand on him.
Weir converted and booted another penalty after Mike Brown was pinged for holding on and with Quins forward Chisholm shown a yellow card for a professional foul on the half hour mark, the home side were up against it.
Edinburgh lost Scottish international prop WP Nel to a head injury assessment before the break, but boss Hodge would have been happy with his team’s work.
Swiel responded with a second home penalty and saw another monster kick at goal from the halfway line fall short to leave his team needing to come from behind in the second half.
Quins weren’t helped by losing Sinckler to another yellow card just minutes after the restart, the England man getting a 10-minute rest for striking Magnus Bradbury while being held back.
That proved to be a crucial moment as just minutes after the prop departed, Edinburgh moved further ahead.
From inside their own half numerous phases saw Hodge’s men produce a free-flowing attacking move which ended in the most unlikely of scorers.
Prop Dell was the man to finish it off beneath the posts and with Weir adding the simple extras, Edinburgh were now 14 points clear.
The hour mark saw both teams make a raft of replacements, with Sam Hidalgo-Clyne among the new faces coming on to the field for Edinburgh.
But Quins’ bench failed to make an impact and Ward then became the third home player to see yellow for a professional foul.
Weir kicked the resulting penalty and although Luamanu and Gray helped Wasps score 12 points in the final three minutes, Quins were left to pay the penalty for their ill-discipline as Edinburgh moved into the box seat for a quarter-final spot.
Hibbard drives Gloucester top
The double former tournament champions will host Bayonne in Round 6 with a place in the last eight in their own hands as they top the group a point ahead of La Rochelle after running in six tries in a fine 41-0 victory.
Hibbard – named Heineken man-of-the-match – went over for a try in each half of a contest played on the 4 G surface at the Ghirada Sports Centre after it was called into emergency use when French referee Thomas Charabas deemed parts of Stadio Comunale de Monigo unplayable.
The two-hour delay in kick-off meant things finished in arctic conditions but Gloucester fans were able to warm their hands with half a dozen tries to savour and a defensive display that denied the home side any reward on the board despite a spell early in the second half when they had Gloucester under the hammer.
The first of the 41 points came when Treviso were caught offside and Greig Laidlaw made no mistake with his kick directly in front of the posts for an eighth minute advantage and thensome strong running from Jonny May had the Treviso alarm bells ringing.
A line-out steal by flanker Ross Moriarty initiated a storming break by No 8 Ben Morgan that stretched the home defence and May and Charlie Sharples made sure the pressure stayed fully on.
Wales star James Hook went over for the first try, superbly converted by Laidlaw, as the fog began descending and then flanker Jacob Rowan went close with a barnstorming break.
Treviso reminded Gloucester that they had an attacking threat of their own and they were indebted to Hook for a magnificent clearance as Treviso came again.
But Gloucester forwards Hibbard and Tom Savage carried strongly and Gloucester twice opted for line-outs from kickable penalties.
And it was second time lucky as the forwards drove determinedly and Wales hooker Hibbard was credited with a score that Laidlaw converted for a 17-points advantage with half-time looming, Andrea Buondonno short with a long range penalty chance.
Referee Charabas lectured both teams after a flare-up and then John Afoa needed lengthy treatment as the temperature plummeted, Treviso enjoying far more possession than they achieved in the opening 40 minutes and putting genuine pressure on the visitors.
A powerful Gloucester scrum enabled Morgan and the Savage to test the home defence and Matt Scott powered over for their third try, replacement Billy Burns adding the extra points.
And within minutes the bonus point was in the bank when Hibbard was driven over from a line-out for his second and Gloucester’s fourth that effectively said match done.
But there was still time for wing David Halaifonua first to provide the icing on the cake with their fifth try following a delightful cross field kick from Burns and then Billy Twelvetrees sealing it at the death with try No 6.
Shingler salvages Pau triumph
The outside-half kicked the last of his five penalties right at the death to snatch victory after an error strewn first-half. Converted tries from Louis Dupichot, Julien Tomas and Pierre Dupouy looked to have earned Pau their first victory in this season’s competition.
But Willis Halaholo kept the Blues in it with a jinking second-half score, before Shingler stepped up to win it. Danny Wilson’s men know a win at home to Bristol in the final round will guarantee their place in the last-eight.
Shingler ensured their French mission started with points, as he landed a penalty to give the Welsh region a 3-0 lead after two minutes.
But Pau soon stamped their mark on the match. Irish back-row Paddy Butler sliced through the defensive line on a devastating angle before the ball was recycled to right wing Dupichot, who raced over at the corner.
A second Shingler penalty cut the gap to a single point, but Pau scrum-half Tomas burrowed over from close range for a second converted try to give the Blues an eight point gap to overturn at half-time.
Shingler maintained his 100 percent record to pull his men back to within a converted try of the lead four minutes into the second-half. And the turnaround was complete 10 minutes into the second-period when Halaholo spotted an overlap and switched to the short-side.
He received the ball from Tomos Williams and jinked his way past the defence to score, with Shingler converting for a 16-14 lead. He added his fourth penalty moments later, but outside-centre Dupouy to strolled over after a spell of heavy pressure, and Fajardo converted to edge the home side 21-19 ahead.
But Shingler kicked a fifth penalty to steal an unlikely victory at the death to keep their last-eight hopes alive.
Germain is last gasp hero
It was a pretty familiar saviour, though, in the shape of replacement Gaetan Germain. Last week he kicked six penalties, the last five minutes from time, to secure a 23-22 home win over Grenoble n the TOP 14 and this time he left it even later to snatch victory.
The pack used their power to earn a penalty 40 metres out from the Worcester posts and Germain stepped up to hit the target and move his side four points clear of the Dragons, who they host in Round 6, at the top of Pool 3.
If it was ecstasy for the home players and their fans, it was agony for the Warriors contingent. They had twice taken the lead, played a full part in an exciting contest and looked set to get something more than a losing bonus point out of the game.
A try from Marco Mama after 24 minutes, improved by Conor Braid, were the only points of a tense first-half. The Warriors’ defence was superb and caused so much frustration that the crowd booed both teams off the field at the break.
Brive got the perfect start to the second half when Fabien Sanconnie powered his way over and the conversion from Benjamin Lapeyre levelled the scores. Many thought that would be the signal for the home side to march on, but instead the Warriors hit back and regained the lead.
Braid pushed a penalty kick wide of the posts, but on 56 minutes loose head prop Val Rapava Ruskin powered over for a try that was confirmed after the referee went to the TMO. Ryan Mills converted and the home side were under the cosh once again.
They used their giant pack to get back into it and after two driving line-outs they managed to get Guillaume Ribes over for a try that Germain, who had come on as a replacement five minutes earlier, converted. Now it was a question of who could find the winning score and it looked as though the game was going to end in a draw.
Then up stepped Germain to win it at the death and give his side a four point cushion at the top of the pool.
Ospreys reach Challenge Cup quarters
Steve Tandy’s men went behind early on but didn’t let that worry them as they roared back to cross for seven tries and seal another bonus-point success.
Dan Baker, Kieron Fonotia, Hanno Dirksen, James King, Dan Evans, Justin Tipuric and Adam Beard were the scorers, with Dan Biggar booting 12 points from the tee.
Going into the game on an eight-match unbeaten run, the Ospreys were firm favourites for the Liberty Stadium clash. But despite fielding a full-strength side, things didn’t go to plan for the home side early on.
Lyon are struggling at the wrong end of the Top14 and had left out a number of their star men for the trip to Swansea. That failed to stop them though as their physical defence kept the home side at bay and allowed them to move into a shock lead.
A try under the posts from No 8 Curtis Browning, converted by fly-half Mike Harris, gave them a 7-0 advantage and with tighthead Ma’afu Fia forced off injured, the Ospreys weren’t having things their own way.
Rhodri Jones was Fia’s replacement and his arrival coincided with the Welsh region getting back into things. With their forward pack now matching the Lyon eight, the Ospreys suddenly had a platform and after visiting hooker Ti’l Paulo was yellow carded, they struck.
Baker forced his way over the line from close range, Biggar converting to level the scores.
Baker’s effort gave the Ospreys some momentum and although wing starlet Keelan Giles handed Wales a Six Nations injury scare by hobbling off, Fonatia’s try put them into a 12-7 half-time lead.
Biggar had missed the conversion while Australian Harris had also put a penalty wide, but the second period saw the Ospreys stamp their mark on the game.
Hanno Dirksen and James King crossed for quick-fire scores to seal the bonus point.
That was the queue for Tandy to replace the likes of Alun Wyn Jones and Scott Baldwin but with the game now won, the Ospreys didn’t let up. A yellow card for Jerome Porical didn’t help Lyon and a man light, they soon conceded further tries.
Evans and Tipuric made it five and then six scores for the day, with Biggar once again adding both sets of extras. It took the Ospreys to the 40-point mark and although King saw yellow, there was still time for one more try.
Replacement lock Beard was the man to go over for his try for the region and Biggar’s conversion sealed the rout to leave the Ospreys looking ahead to the last eight.