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Gloucester, Sale, Worcester and Falcons win


Gloucester were made to work but eventually got the job done as they beat Zebre while Sale, Worcester and Newcastle also won.



Zebre 26-33 Gloucester
Sale Sharks 24-0 Cardiff Blues
Worcester 35-14 Oyonnax
Newcastle 52-24 Bordeaux-Begles
Edinburgh vs London Irish
Brive vs Connacht

Zebre 26-33 Gloucester
Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi

Gloucester consolidated second position in Pool 3 of the Challenge Cup when they claimed a bonus-point win in a thrilling clash in Parma.

Johan Ackermann’s side were made to work, however, and Zebre held a deserved 14-12 lead at the break thanks to tries from Johan Meyer, Renato Giammarioli and Tommaso Boni, with Ruan Ackermann and Ollie Thorley crossing for the visiting outfit during that period.

Gloucester took control of proceedings in the second half and sealed their win courtesy of tries from Thorley, Owen Williams and Richard Hibbard but Zebre added some respectability to the score via Ciaran Gaffney’s try in the 71st minute.

The scorers:

For Zebre:
Meyer, Giammarioli, Boni, Gaffney
Cons: Canna 2, Palazzani

For Gloucester:
Ackermann, Thorley 2, Williams, Hibbard
Cons: Williams 4


Referee: Mike Adamson (Scotland)
Assistant referees: Lloyd Linton (Scotland), Dunx McClement (Scotland)

Sale Sharks 24-0 Cardiff Blues
AJ Bell Stadium

Sale picked up their first victory of the Challenge Cup campaign as they saw off Pool 2 pace-setters Cardiff Blues at the AJ Bell Stadium.

The victory moves the Sharks up to third, one point behind Toulouse and two off the Blues, who of course play host to Sale next weekend.

Sale led 9-0 at the break thanks to three AJ MacGinty penalties and scored the fixture’s first try on the hour through scrum-half Will Cliff.

They wrapped up the four points three minutes from time with a try from replacement hooker Marc Jones adding the gloss to the victory.

The scorers:

For Sale Sharks:
 Cliff, Jones
Con: MacGinty
Pens: MacGinty 4


Worcester 35-14 Oyonnax

Worcester were too good for Oyonnax as they ran out comfortable 35-14 winners at Sixways, picking up the bonus point for good measure.

This win keeps them very much in the hunt for pool qualification, with tries from Tom Howe (2), Luke Baldwin and David Denton carded.

In reply, Oyonnax’s try scorer was Hika Elliot as they suffer a third defeat from three and remain on zero points at the bottom of Pool 5.

The scorers:

For Worcester:
 Howe 2, Baldwin, Denton
Cons: Olver 3
Pens: Olver 3

For Oyonnax:
Pens: Ruiz 3


Newcastle 52-24 Bordeaux-Begles
Kingston Park

Newcastle Falcons won a thrilling Challenge Cup game against Bordeaux-Begles to move back to the top of Pool 1, above the Dragons.

First-half scores from Calum Green, Adam Radwan (2), Mark Wison, Ben Sowrey and Craig Willis gave them a 38-17 half-time cushion. Yann Lesgourgues and Matthieu Jalibert hit back for the visitors in a high-scoring affair.

Geoffrey Cros scored for UBB on 56 minutes to reduce the gap but Alex Tait’s try soon after kept the Frenchmen at arm’s length before Josh Matavesi took the Falcons up to the 50-point mark to cap an impressive home win.

The scorers:

For Newcastle:
 Green, Radwan 2, Wilson, Sowrey, Willis, Tait, Matavesi
Cons: Willis 4, Hodgson 2

For Bordeaux-Begles:
Lesgourgues, Jalibert, Cros
Cons: Jalibert 2, Volavola
Pen: Jalibert


Challenge Cup Wrap


Pau maintained their perfect record in this season’s Challenge Cup while there were also wins for the Dragons and Stade Français.


Agen 21-40 Pau
Dragons 15-0 Enisei-STM
Stade Français 39-24 Krasny Yar

Agen 21-40 Pau
Stade Armandie

Pau secured a third successive victory in the European Challenge Cup to put themselves in control of Pool 3 following a 40-21 triumph over Agen.

Simon Mannix’s men have enjoyed an excellent start in Europe’s second-tier competition and they dominated early on against the Top 14 strugglers.

Three tries in the first quarter from Adrien Planté, Malik Hamadache and Giovanni Habel Kuffner moved the visitors into a 21-0 lead.

It was initially all too easy for the away side but they began to make mistakes, seeing Thibault Daubagna sin-binned, and Valentin Saurs responded for the hosts.

Fabrice Metz then became the second Pau player to be yellow carded and Akapusi Qera reduced the arrears at the interval.

Mannix’s team regained their composure during the break and secured the bonus-point a minute into the half through Planté.

Although Sean Dougall received a yellow card, his team’s third of the contest, and Qera scored once again, Jérémy Hurou and Dougall completed the win for the visitors.

The scorers:

For Agen:
Tries: Saurs, Qera 2
Cons: Verdu 3

For Pau:
Tries: Planté 2, Hamadache, Habel Kuffner, Hurou, Dougall
Cons: Daubagna 4, Hastoy
Yellow Cards: Daubagna, Metz, Dougall


Dragons 15-0 Enisei-STM
Rodney Parade

Dragons moved to the top of Pool 1 in the Challenge Cup after overcoming a stubborn Enisei-STM side 15-0 at Rodney Parade.

In an atrocious first half, which saw the Russians put the hosts under plenty of pressure for little reward, it was Adam Warren’s try that separated the sides at the break.

The second period was not much better as conditions worsened, but Aaron Wainwright did increase the hosts’ advantage 13 minutes into the half.

Warren then crossed the whitewash for his second but the Newport-based outfit failed to gain a potentially crucial try bonus-point.

The scorers:

For Dragons:
Tries: Warren 2, Wainwright


Stade Francais 39-24 Krasny Yar
Stade Jean-Bouin

Defending champions Stade Francais gained a semblance of revenge by producing a better second half display to defeat Krasny Yar 39-24.

The Russian outfit shocked Greg Cooper’s men in round one of the Challenge Cup and they were very competitive in the first half on Friday night.

Just like in the reverse fixture, Lasha Malaguradze kept the scoreboard ticking over and, after Shane Geraghty had given the Parisians the lead, two penalties and a drop-goal from the Krasny centre took them 9-3 up.

Jimmy Yobo’s converted try put the hosts back in front but Malaguradze continued to be accurate from the tee, kicking his fourth three-pointer of the evening.

However, Stade managed to get themselves ahead by the interval when wing Yobo crossed the whitewash for the second time.

From that moment, the hosts should have stepped on the accelerator but it was Krasny that upped the intensity in the early stages of the second period when Giorgi Pruidze touched down.

Another successful effort off the tee by Geraghty regained Stade’s advantage and they then finally started to find their rhythm.

Siegfried Fisiihoi, Romain Martial and Julien Arias duly secured their first win of this year’s competition, despite Sunia Latu’s consolation for the Russian team.

The scorers:

For Stade:
Tries: Yobo 2, Fisiihoi, Martial, Arias
Cons: Geraghty 4
Pens: Geraghty 2

For Krasny Yar:
Tries: Pruidze, Latu
Con: Malaguradze
Pens: Malaguradze 3
Drop-goal: Malaguradze


Edinburgh, Dragons, Connacht, Pau, Falcons and Irish win


Six matches were played in the Challenge Cup on Saturday, with Edinburgh hammering Krasny Yar, the Dragons beating Enisei-STM, Connacht overcoming Worcester, Pau edging Zebre, Newcastle winning at UBB and London Irish defeating Stade Français.

Krasny Yar 14-73 Edinburgh
Fili Stadium

Edinburgh jumped to the top of Pool 4 in the Challenge Cup as they breezed past Krasny Yar at Fili Stadium, running in 10 tries in total.

Edinburgh were flying by half-time and had the try bonus point in the bag thanks to tries from Blair Kinghorn, Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, Lewis Carmichael and Neil Cochrane, putting them into a 31-0 lead at the interval. Jason Tovey and Hidalgo-Clyne slotted the points off the tee.

Murray McCallum kept the scoreboard ticking over soon after the break with Edinburgh’s fifth try and then added the sixth on 50 minutes.

Evgeni Kolomiytsev hit back for Krasny Yar with Lasha Malaguradze slotting the extras, but Kinghorn added his second before Edinburgh’s Fraser McKenzie went over to make it 66-7. Stuart McInally then scored Edinburgh’s 10th try with Andrei Kondakov adding a late consolation for the hosts, who are now second in the pool with one win from two.

The scorers:

For Krasny Yar:
Tries: Kolomiytsev, Kondakov
Cons: Malaguradze 2

For Edinburgh:
Tries: Kinghorn 2, Hidalgo-Clyne, Carmichael, Cochrane, McCallum 2, Penalty try, McKenzie, McInally
Cons: Tovey 3, Hidalgo-Clyne 3, Kinghorn 3
Pen: Hidalgo-Clyne


Enisei-STM 21-28 Dragons
Slava Stadium

Dragons got their Challenge Cup pool campaign off the ground as they bounced back from last week to beat Enisei-STM 28-21 at Slava Stadium.

Crossings from Cory Hill and Jared Rosser put them 14-0 up at the break and halfway towards picking up a maximum points haul on the road.

And after the breather Hallam Amos and Charlie Davies finished the job, with Stanislav Selskiy having gone over for Enisei-STM in between.

The hosts were then awarded a penalty try with 11 minutes left to make it 28-14 and with Anton Rudoy’s late crossing, they got a losing bonus-point, but it was all too little too late as the Dragons held on for five points.

The scorers:

For Enisei-STM:
Tries: Selskiy, Penalty try, Rudoy
Cons: Kushnarev 2

For Dragons:
Tries: Hill, Rosser, Amos, Davies
Cons: O’Brien 3, Henson


Connacht 15-5 Worcester

Connacht claimed a 15-5 victory over Worcester in a low-scoring European Challenge Cup encounter at the Sportsground in Galway on Saturday.

Eoghan Masterson’s sixth minute try gave Connacht the early lead after a wonderful break from Tiernan O’Halloran. Connacht fly-half Jack Carty missed the conversion.

Carty made no such mistake from a penalty in the 21st minute as the only other significant action of the first half as Connacht took an 8-0 lead in to the interval after a cagey opening half.

Worcester responded with a try of their own in the 52nd minute. GJ van Velze made the break, Chris Pennell was in support and he teed up Josh Adams who gassed to the line. The conversion was missed so Connacht still led 8-5.

And the hosts extended their lead when Matt Healy charged down a Worcester kick to dot down in the 59th minute. Carty added the extras to make it 15-5.

Jono Lance made things interesting with a penalty in the 75th minute but Connacht ran out 15-8 winners.

The scorers:

For Connacht:
Tries: Masterson, Healy
Con: Carty
Pen: Carty

For Worcester:
Try: Adams


Zebre 33-38 Pau
Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi

Pau claimed a remarkable 38-33 comeback victory over Zebre in European Challenge Cup action on Saturday.

Carlo Canna opened the scoring for Zebre with a penalty after five minutes.

Giovanni Licata got the home side’s first try converted by Canna to make it a 10-0 lead.

Zebre’s early dominance continued when Tomasso Boni dotted down in the 10th minute.

Watisoni Votu scored for the visitors in the 23rd minute with his try converted by Brandon Fajardo to make it 17-7.

But Tomasso Castello increased the lead for the home side when he crossed the whitewash just four minutes later to make it 24-7 after Canna added the extras.

A further two penalty goals from Canna in the 33rd and 40th minute meant Zebre took a 30-7 lead in to the interval.

Pau scored first after the break in the 53rd minute when Peter Saili dived over. Zebre’s troubles started in the 63rd minute when Eduardo Bello was yellow-carded and they conceded a penalty try.

Pau capitalised on their numerical advantage with another penalty try in the 68th minute to get themselves right back in the game trailing by six at 24-30

A penalty goal from Tom Taylor clawed them even further in to contention making the deficit just three at 30-27 with seven minutes remaining.

Lekima Tagitagivalu proved to be the match-winner as his converted try capped off a remarkable comeback for Pau who ran out 34-33 winners after a late Canna penalty for Zebre.

The scorers:

For Zebre:
Tries: Licata, Boni, Castello
Cons: Canna 3
Pens: Canna 4
Yellow Card: Bello

For Pau:
Tries: Votu, Saili, Tagitagivalu, Penalty try 2
Cons: Fajardo 2, Taylor
Pen: Taylor


Bordeaux-Bègles 20-21 Newcastle Falcons
Stade Chaban-Delmas

Newcastle Falcons defeated Bordeaux-Bègles 21-20 in their European Rugby Challenge Cup clash in France on Saturday.

Toby Flood’s conversion of Jon Welsh’s try with 20 minutes remaining was enough to clinch victory for the away side.

The hosts opened the scoring through a Simon Hickey penalty before Marco Tauleigne scored five minutes later to give Bordeaux a quick-fire, 10 point lead. The away side didn’t wait too long to hit back as Ryan Burrows went in for Newcastle.

Sebastien Taofifenua scored a try two minutes before half-time to give the home side a morale-boosting, 17-7 lead at the break.

Newcastle came out all guns blazing in the second, and fly-half Flood scored and converted his own try four minutes after play resumed.

Hickey slotted another penalty to extend Bordeaux’s buffer before Welsh crossed for Newcastle and Flood’s conversion gave them a one-point advantage. Newcastle held onto this lead to claim a narrow 21-20 win.

The scorers:

For Bordeaux-Bègles:
Tries: Tauleigne, Taofifenua
Cons: Hickey 2
Pens: Hickey 2

For Newcastle Falcons:
Tries: Burrows, Flood, Welsh
Cons: Flood 3


Stade Francais 7-44 London Irish
Stade Jean-Bouin

London Irish bounced back from last week’s defeat to thump Stade Français 44-7 in Paris in the late game.

First-half tries from Conor Gilsenan, Topsy Ojo (2) and Ben Meehan took them into the break leading 24-7, with Bakary Meïte crossing for Stade.

And after the break it was all the Exiles as Lovejoy Chawatama, Ben Ransom and Scott Steele wrapped up a comprehensive win over the French side.

The result lifts them up to second spot in Pool 4, five points behind pace-setters Edinburgh.

The scorers:

For Stade Français:
Try: Meite
Con: Plisson

For London Irish:
Tries: Gilsenan, Ojo 2, Meehan, Chawatama, Ransom, Steele
Cons: Brophy Clews 2, Atkins
Pen: Brophy Clews

Wins for Brive, Lyon and Cardiff Blues


Brive, Lyon and Cardiff Blues claimed wins over Oyonnax, Sale and Toulouse respectively in European Challenge Cup action on Friday.

Brive 38-13 Oyonnax

Brive claimed a comprehensive 38-13 victory over Oyonnax in European Challenge Cup action at Stade Amédée-Domenech on Friday.

A Julien Audy penalty gave Oyonnax an early 3-0 lead but from then on it was all Brive as Petrus Hauman broke the deadlock in the 14th minute for the hosts.

Damien Jourdain grabbed his brace in the 21st and 30th minute respectively before Thomas Laranjeira scored in the 38th minute. Gaetan Germain slotted four conversions and a penalty in the first-half as Brive took a 31-3 lead in to the interval.

Anthony Fuertes and Ulupano Seuteni responded with second-half tries for Oyonnax but Arnaud Mignardi got in on the act for Brive adding a late try to rub salt in to the wounds of Oyonnax who were soundly beaten 38-13.

The scorers:

For Brive:
Tries: Hauman, Jourdain, Laranjeira, Mignardi
Cons: Germain 4, Laranjeira
Pen: Germain

For Oyonnax:
Tries: Fuertes, Seuteni
Pen: Audy


Lyon 27-24 Sale

Lyon secured a dramatic last-gasp 27-24 victory over Sale Sharks in European Challenge Cup action at Stade de Gerland on Friday.

A Lionel Beauxis penalty gave Lyon a 3-0 lead after seven minutes but Denny Solomona responded for Sale with a try three minutes later.

A Sam James score in the 15th minute extended Sale’s lead to 14-3 with both tries having been converted by Faf de Klerk.

But in the 33rd minute Delon Armitage hit back for the hosts before the interval to cut the deficit to four points with the try converted by Beauxis.

The first points of the second half came in the 57th minute when James dotted down for Sale. De Klerk added the extras to extend the lead to 21-10.

De Klerk added another penalty in the 62nd minute before Liam Gill’s try, converted by Frederic Michalak, made it a seven-point game at 24-17.

Theo Belan dotted down and Michalak converted to level the scores and Lyon’s comeback was completed when Michalak slotted a penalty to secure a precious 27-24 win for Lyon.

The scorers:

For Lyon:
Tries: Armitage, Gill, Belan
Cons: Beauxis, Michalak 2
Pens: Beauxis, Michalak

For Sale:
Tries: Solomona, James
Cons: De Klerk 3
Pen: De Klerk


Toulouse 15-17 Cardiff Blues

Cardiff Blues claimed a narrow 17-15 victory over Toulouse at Stade Ernest-Wallon in European Challenge Cup action on Friday evening.

Toulouse fly-half Romain Ntamack gave the hosts a 3-0 lead after 12 minutes with a well-struck penalty goal.

Soon after, Cardiff Blues snatched the lead with a try from Nick Williams converted by Jarrod Evans to make it 7-3.

Evans made it 10-3 before Ntamack hit back with a try that he converted himself to level matters at 10-10 after 29 minutes.

Cardiff Blues winger Alex Cuthbert was then yellow-carded and Toulouse capitalised on their numerical advantage as Antoine Dupont dotted down to give the hosts a 15-10 lead at the interval.

But Cardiff hit back in the 52nd minute with Macauley Cook crossing the whitewash as Evans’ conversion wrestled back the lead at 17-15.

Toulouse flank Rynhardt Elstadt and Cardiff Blues centre Steve Shingler were yellow-carded after an altercation in the 67th minute.

Cardiff Blues didn’t concede in the second half while scoring eight unanswered points to run out 17-15 victors.

The scorers:

For Toulouse:
Tries: Ntamack, Dupont
Con: Ntamack
Pen: Ntamack

For Cardiff:
Tries: Williams, Cook
Cons: Evans 2
Pen: Evans

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Ackermann’s Gloucester demolish Agen


There was some similarities in the way Gloucester demolished Agen on Thursday night with how the Lions have done in Super Rugby under the coaching of Johan Ackermann.

The final score was 61-16 with Gloucester scoring 9 tries to the 1 of Agen in which they led 29-9 at the break.

Branden Holder was the only one that crossed for Agen late on with a mistake from Gloucester in the wet.

Gloucester had a try bonus-point in the bag by half-time in front of their home fans as Vellacott, Trinder, Morgan and Savage all crossed. Burns kicked well off the tee too with Agen scrum-half Hugo Verdu contributing their only points, via three well hit penalties to make it 28-9.

It took Gloucester five minutes to open their account as Morgan’s peel blind off a maul led to Vellacott finishing well after a nice step.

Verdu though hit back with a long-range penalty to make it 7-3 on 13 minutes before Gloucester were over again, this time it was in-form centre Trinder going in on the left for a 14-3 advantage. The Cherry and Whites were looking dangerous every time they touched the ball.

Morgan was their next try scorer on 22 minutes, but Verdu responded again off the tee with two further penalties, meaning it was now 21-9.

But Savage’s solid carry to the whitewash made it 28-9 with Burns’ conversion as Gloucester went in with the job all but done at Kinghsolm.

Gloucester thought they had extended their lead on 42 minutes but wing David Halaifonua had a foot in touch in-goal in the act of scoring.

However, Halaifonua turned provider on 49 minutes with a good break from halfway leading to Purdy getting the offload en route to the posts.

That opened the floodgates as Williams was next to score after Burns’ smart grubber led to Purdy putting the ball inside to his team-mate.

42-9 became 47-9 on 56 minutes when Halaifonua’s strong carry saw the ball come loose and Vellacott was quickest to dive on the loose ball.

Agen were now wishing for the final whistle and a yellow card for prop Corentin Chabeaudie didn’t help their cause, with Hibbard the Cherry and Whites’ eighth try scorer before the visitors finally crossed, Holder grubbering ahead a loose ball before diving on it over the line.

But Gloucester would have the final say through young flanker Polledri to put the seal on a handsome victory that saw Vellacott named man of the match.

The scorers:

For Gloucester:
Tries: Vellacott 2, Trinder, Morgan, Savage, Purdy, Williams, Hibbard, Polledri
Cons: Burns 6, Williams 2

For Agen:
Try: Holder
Con: Russell
Pens: Verdu 3
Yellow Card: Chabeaudie

Sale draw with Toulouse, wins for Cardiff, Agen and UBB


Sale Sharks and Toulouse played out a 20-20 draw in their Challenge Cup opener and there were wins for Bordeaux-Bègles, Cardiff Blues and Agen.

Sale Sharks 20-20 Toulouse

Sale and Toulouse could not be separated in an entertaining Pool Two encounter at the AJ Bell Stadium in Salford and sides scored two tries apiece.

Semi Kunatani gave Toulouse an early lead when he scored the opening try in the 15th minute and Sébastien Bézy added the extras to give the visitors a 7-0 lead before Faf de Klerk reduced the deficit courtesy of a 24th minute penalty.

Bezy then crossed the whitewash before Denny Solomona scored a try on the stroke of half-time which meant Toulouse led 14-10 at the break. Bryn Evans scored Sale’s second try in the 50th minute which gave his side the lead for the first time.

Bezy and de Klerk traded penalties before the Springbok added a three-pointer off the tee which gave Sale a 20-17 lead by the 67th minute. Toulouse finished stronger though and a Bezy penalty five minutes before full-time secured them a share of the spoils.

The scorers:

For Sale Sharks:
 Solomona, Evans
Cons: De Klerk 2
Pens: De Klerk 2

For Toulouse:
Kunatani, Bezy
Cons: Bezy 2
Pens: Bezy 2


Cardiff Blues 29-19 Lyon

Cardiff Blues moved to the top of Pool Two after securing a 29-19 bonus-point win over Lyon at Cardiff Arms Park.

Tries from George Earle, Tomos Williams in the first half and further five-pointers from Macauley Cook and Reynold Lee-Lo after half-time secured the Blues’ win.

Lyon were competitive, however, especially during the second half and Virgile Bruni, Pierre-Louis Barassi and Jone Tuva scored their tries during this period.

Jarrod Evans kicked three conversions for the Blues and Steven Shingler sealed their win with a late penalty.

The scorers:

For Cardiff Blues:
Earle, Williams, Cook, Lee-Lo
Cons: Evans 3
Pen: Shingler

For Lyon:
Bruni, Barassi, Tuva
Cons: Dominguez, Pelissie


Agen 45-10 Zebre

Agen moved to the top of Pool Three after proving much too strong for Zebre in their opener at Stade Armandie.

The Top 14 outfit were full value for their win and outscored their visitors five tries to one and they led 18-3 at half-time.

Mathieu Lamoulie finished with an 18-point haul courtesy of a brace of tries a conversion and two penalties and Paula Ngauamo, Antoine Miquel, Johann Sadie, Pierre Fouyssac and Alban Conduche scored Agen’s tries.

Zebre’s points came via a Johan Meyer try which Guglielmo Palazzani converted and Palazzani also slotted a penalty.

The scorers:

For Agen:
Ngauamo, Miquel, Sadie, Fouyssac, Conduche, Lamoulie 2
Cons: Lamoulie, Russell
Pens: Lamoulie 2

For Zebre:
Cons: Palazzani
Pens: Palazzani
Yellow Card: Palazzani, Meyer


Enisei-STM 17-57 Bordeaux-Bègles

Bordeaux-Bègles opened their Challenge Cup pool account with a comfortable 57-17 victory over Enisei-STM at Krasny Yar Stadium on Friday.

The French side went over for eight tries in all against their Russian opponents in the bonus-point success, with Alexandre Roumat, Peni Ravai, Cyril Cazeaux, Jean-Baptiste Dubie (2), Matthieu Jalibert, Yann Lesgourgues and Kitione Kamikamica all crossing Enisei-STM’s line.

Jurijs Baranovs and Stanislav Selskiy replied for the hosts but they were no match for their Top 14 opponents, who will head home happy.

The scorers:

For Enisei-STM:
Tries: Baranovs, Selskiy
Cons: Kushnarev 2
Pen: Gaisin

For Bordeaux-Bègles:
Tries: Roumat, Ravai, Cazeaux, Dubie 2, Jalibert, Lesgourgues, Kamikamica
Cons: Jalibert 4, Schoeman 3
Pen: Jalibert


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Preview Challenge Cup: Pau v Gloucester


The European season really kicks into overdrive tonight when the Challenge Cup kicks of with Pau and Gloucester starting it all. This weekend sees the start of the European Challenge and Champions Cup.

It’s a much-changed Gloucester starting line-up for Thursday’s Challenge Cup opener away at Pau, with a couple of youngsters making their first European appearances for the club.

Only half a dozen players remain from the starting line-up from last Saturday’s 29-24 victory over Northampton – Tom Savage, Jacob Rowan, Owen Williams, David Halaifonua, Billy Twelvetrees and Henry Purdy. Savage will skipper the side.

There is a full debut for flanker Jake Polledri, while Tom Hudson will make his first European appearance for the club.

However, there is still an experienced spine to the side and a strong group of replacements which sees Australian international hooker James Hanson named in the first team squad for the first time.

Gloucester head coach Johan Ackermann admitted that European competition is a bit of a step into the unknown for him personally but one that he is looking forward to.

“I obviously don’t know much about the competition, but I watched it last year with Gloucester going all the way to the final,” he said.

“I know we’ve got a good record in the competition. But I’m excited as it’s bringing a new challenge and going to new places that you haven’t seen.

“We will have a lot of good spirit and positive energy after Saturday, as well as confidence I hope. As I say, it’s a new challenge for me personally as I haven’t coached in France before, and we’re also looking to change a few players but we’ll go with a positive mindset.

“It’s up to us. We have to recover well after Saturday, travel down there and play to our standards and look after ourselves before we worry about them too much.

“They’re a big side but also have some quality internationals, the likes of Conrad Smith etc. We may change some personnel but we have to get better in the style we play. Having analysed Saturday, there are still areas where we can improve.”

Meanwhile, home side Pau have also made several alterations to their run-on side after beating Oyonnax in the Top 14 at the weekend. Scrum-half Thibault Daubagna retains his position in the starting line-up and he will form a half-back combination with Colin Slade, who replaces fellow New Zealander Tom Taylor at fly-half.

Julien Fumat and Benson Stanley take over from Conrad Smith and Jale Vatubua as the starting centres while Romain Buros replaces Charly Malie at full-back.

Bastien Pourailly shifts from the right wing to the other flank, where he is preferred to Watisoni Votu while Frank Halai comes into the side to wear the number 14 jersey.

In the forwards, Paddy Butler shifts from openside flank to number eight, where he comes in for Steffon Armitage, while Ben Mowen takes over from Butler in the number seven jersey and Daniel Ramsay moves from lock to the blindside flank where he replaces Pierrick Gunther.

Ramsay’s spot in the second row is taken by Masalosalo Tutaia and he packs down alongside Dave Foley, who takes over from Fabrice Metz.

There’s also a brand new front row with Lourens Adriaanse and Geoffrey Moise taking over from Malik Hamadache and Thomas Domingo as the starting props, while Lucas Rey comes in for Quentin Lespiaucq at hooker.

The teams: 

Pau: 15 Romain Buros, 14 Frank Halai, 13 Julien Fumat, 12 Benson Stanley, 11 Bastien Pourailly, 10 Colin Slade, 9 Thibault Daubagna, 8 Paddy Butler, 7 Ben Mowen, 6 Daniel Ramsay, 5 Masalosalo Tutaia, 4 Dave Foley, 3 Lourens Adriaanse, 2 Lucas Rey, 1 Geoffrey Moise
Replacements: 16 Laurent Bouchet, 17 Jérémy Hurou, 18 Malik Hamadache, 19 Fabrice Metz, 20 Sean Dougall, 21 Clovis Lebail, 22 Brandon Fajardo, 23 Florian Nicot

Gloucester: 15 Tom Hudson, 14 Henry Purdy, 13 Billy Twelvetrees, 12 Mark Atkinson, 11 David Halaifonua, 10 Owen Williams, 9 Callum Braley, 8 Freddie Clarke, 7 Jacob Rowan, 6 Jake Polledri, 5 Tom Denton, 4 Tom Savage (c), 3 Josh Hohneck, 2 Motu Matu’u, 1 Paddy McAllister
Replacements: 16 James Hanson, 17 Val Rapava Ruskin, 18 Gareth Denman, 19 Ruan Ackermann, 20 Lewis Ludlow, 21 Ben Vellacott, 22 Billy Burns, 23 Henry Trinder

Get ready for Europe’s elite


Preview: Challenge Cup 2017/18


Ahead of the first round of this season’s Challenge Cup, we cast our eye over the 20 teams involved who are looking to lift the title.

Stade Français were last year’s champions after beating Gloucester in the Murrayfield final, but who are the contenders this time around?

Let’s take a closer look at the teams.

Pool 1

Bordeaux-Bègles, Dragons, Enisei-STM, Newcastle Falcons

Bordeaux-Bègles have made a solid start to the Top 14 and are amongst the early front-runners in that competition. They have already made their presence felt in France after claiming a convincing win over table-toppers Montpellier and should be involved in a tight tussle with Newcastle to top this pool. The Falcons have been the surprise package in the Premiership this season and are also currently flying high and could go a long way in this competition if they can replicate that form.

The Dragons are amongst the also-rans in Conference B of the PRO14, despite showing flashes of decent rugby. They should be competitive at home but have too little firepower to mount a serious challenge, so third place looks like the position they will have to be satisfied with.

Rounding out the pool are Russian side Enisei-STM, who are playing in the competition for the third straight year. Despite sealing home wins over the Dragons and Worcester last year, they still finished bottom of the pool. They should prove tough at home but expect them to again finish last.

One to watch: Canadian flyer DTH van der Merwe is one of the best finishers in the game and his move to Newcastle from the Scarlets was a good piece of business from Falcons boss Dean Richards. Although 31, Van der Merwe possesses plenty of pace and has an astute rugby brain which makes him a threat on attack. Don’t be surprised if he is amongst the tournament’s top try-scorers.

Pool 2

Cardiff Blues, Lyon, Sale Sharks, Toulouse

Lyon will be hoping to improve on last season’s effort when they finished second in their pool. They were a whopping 14 points behind the Ospreys, however, and eventually missed out on a quarter-final berth. However, they’ve made great strides under the guidance of head coach Pierre Mignoni and are much improved this season. They and Sale will be favourites to top the pool along with another French side, Toulouse, who are making their debut in this competition following 22 successive seasons in the European Cup, a tournament which they won four times.

Sale Sharks have delivered a mixed bag of results in the Premiership despite signing a plethora of players during the off-season. Included amongst those are Wallaby utility back James O’Connor, Springbok scrum-half Faf de Klerk and Scotland back-row Josh Strauss, proven internationals who should give them much needed impetus while try-scoring machine Denny Solomona will provide opposing defences problems.

Meanwhile, Cardiff Blues are struggling in the PRO14 and with head coach Danny Wilson set to leave the region at the end of this campaign, there is plenty of uncertainty in their ranks. They are prime contenders for the wooden spoon in this pool behind the aforementioned trio.

One to watch: Former Stormers and Springbok Sevens stalwart Cheslin Kolbe has made an impressive start to life in Toulouse and has already crossed the whitewash on several occasions. The 23-year-old might be small in stature but has a big heart and possesses one of the best side-steps in the business which makes him dangerous with ball in hand.

Pool 3

Agen, Gloucester, Pau, Zebre

Gloucester, finalists last year and winners of 2014/15’s Challenge Cup, should have no problem topping Pool 3. They possess a wealth of talent and a brilliant coach in Johan Ackermann.

Pau meanwhile have punched above their weight in the Top 14 so far this season and are currently mid-table, showing they’re difficult to break down as well as possessing a resilience on defence. We expect the Frenchmen to finish in second spot behind the Cherry and Whites.

Zebre have claimed comprehensive wins over the Dragons and Kings in PRO14 action this season and sit in fourth place in Conference A. On current form they should have too much for Agen and finish in third but, despite improvements in their game, qualification is a big ask.

Agen are in second-last position of the Top 14 on six points, just above Brive, who have five. Points have been hard to come by with just the sole win from seven fixtures in that division. We might find they swiftly switch their focus to Top 14 survival if they start poorly.

Gloucester, the only side to lift the Challenge Cup in the group, have the best record in the competition and will be happy with their draw.

One to watch: Gloucester centre Henry Trinder‘s class has never been in doubt. But the injuries that have disrupted his career have been ill-timed and cruel. So, to see him gliding around Kingsholm on Saturday, tormenting the Northampton Saints defence with his sleight of hand and quick feet was heart-warming as he grabbed two tries.

Pool 4

Edinburgh, Krasny Yar, London Irish, Stade Français

Edinburgh may surprise many this season. Richard Cockerill has improved things at the club and they are on the rise and could well face a shootout with last year’s winners Stade Français to top this pool. They showed great character against Zebre to end a run of three straight PRO14 defeats and will use this confidence boost going into this competition.

The Russians enter the competition meaning business. Krasny Yar’s squad is made up of Russian, Eastern European, Romanian, and Georgian players mostly, along with two Tongans. This side will be tough and not easy to defeat on home turf. The fact that they are a totally unknown entity could also work in their favour, as many teams may underestimate them.

London Irish don’t boast too many star names, with former All Blacks prop Ben Franks and giant winger Napolioni Nalaga being their highest profile players and even then, the Fijian broke his arm last weekend. The Exiles may face an uphill battle to attain any success in this competition this season, as their defence is also poor at the moment. Their focus, like others in this competition, may well switch to domestic matters.

Stade of course won the title last year, beating Gloucester 25-17 in what was a thrilling final. They did not have a great domestic season though and only finished seventh. However, the prestigious club still boasts some of world rugby’s biggest and most experienced names such as Sergio Parisse, Jules Plisson and Willem Alberts. They will feel confident of progressing out of this pool if they bring their A game.

One to watch: Former Crusaders centre Robbie Fruean was one of the most exciting talents in world rugby before a heart condition hindered his progress. He is now settled in and happy at Edinburgh and is totally focused on having a great Challenge Cup season. Keep an eye on this man known for his speed and power.

Pool 5

Brive, Connacht, Oyonnax, Worcester Warriors

Two of the bottom three teams in the Top 14, the Premiership basement outfit and a struggling Connacht side make up this Challenge Cup pool.

It is fair to say that after just one win apiece in France after the opening seven rounds of competition, Brive and Oyonnax’s focus could be elsewhere if things don’t go their way. Perhaps even from round one we could see second teams named, with the Top 14 taking precedent.

Worcester are also in a similar predicament as they desperately need to break their duck in the Premiership after six losses to start their season. They have accrued just one bonus-point in those games and are currently five points from safety, with their director of rugby also announcing he will be departing at the end of 2017/18. The Challenge Cup though could be the ideal tonic in order to gain some confidence.

Connacht meanwhile struggled to hit the heights of their outstanding PRO14 title winning season last year but despite just missing out on Champions Cup quarter-final qualification, they could hold their heads high after their European effort with four pool wins to their name. This year they return to the Challenge Cup and will fancy their chances of topping this pool as they have plenty of quality in their side.

One to watch: A consistent performer on the wing for Connacht, Matt Healy is set to cause Brive, Oyonnax and Worcester plenty of problems during the pool stage. If he can feed off the likes of centre Bundee Aki and full-back Tiernan O’Halloran, expect this wing to cut loose.

Thanks to

Stade Français win Challenge Cup


Stade Français won the European Challenge Cup with a 25-17 victory over Gloucester at Murrayfield on Friday night.

With both Gloucester and Stade Français finishing poor domestic campaigns last weekend, the allure of silverware to cap off the season was a brilliant opportunity.

A win would mean a play-off fixture against either Connacht or Northampton Saints with a place in the Champions Cup on the line, so there was plenty to play for.

The game started off at a rapid pace, with both Jules Plisson and Billy Burns kicking for territory early on.

Gloucester’s defence was tested early on with a period of Stade Français pressure, but it would be the Cherry and Whites who opened the scoring.

A loose pass in the Stade back line was intercepted by Jonny May, and the West Country speedster showed a clean pair of heels to dot down under the posts.

Burns added to his conversion with a 41-metre penalty on 20 minutes to open up a ten-point lead.

The French side finally opened their account for the evening, Plisson knocking over a huge penalty in testing conditions. The Parisians continued to press and grabbed their first try just after the half hour mark.

Veteran Sergio Parisse pounced on a loose ball after a smart kick from Will Genia, the Italian captain looking to sign off on a high after 12 seasons at Stade.

David Humphrey’s side were reduced to ten men for the remainder of the first half when scrum half and skipper Willi Heinz was shown yellow for a late challenge on Plisson.

Stade weren’t able to take advantage of the extra man, meaning the sides went into the break level at ten points a piece.

After a potential try for Gloucester’s Tom Marshall was chalked off, Stade responded with a score of their own. Camara stole possession in midfield, the ball made its way through the hands of Bonneval to Danty and the centre had a free run in to the line.

The Parisians continued to pile on the pressure heading into the final ten minutes and were rewarded with their third try. A wonderful individual break from Geoffrey Doumarou saw him power past the Gloucester defence to finish under the posts, Morne Steyn’s conversion took his side 12 points clear with nine minutes to play.

Gonzalo Quesada’s men closed out the game with a penalty from the boot of Steyn to seal the win in front of the near 25,000 strong crowd at Murrayfield.

Gloucester managed to salvage a consolation try through Ross Moriarty, looking to finish in style before he jets off to New Zealand with the British and Irish Lions.

But the Cherry and Whites were unable to overcome the deficit in the final minutes. The win is huge for a Stade team that have been shrouded in uncertainty all season, for Gloucester, they must go back to the drawing board as they look ahead to another season of Challenge Cup rugby.

The scorers:

For Gloucester:
Tries: May, Moriarty
Cons: Burns 2
Pen: Burns
Yellow Card: Heinz

For Stade Français:
Tries: Parisse, Danty, Dumayrou
Cons: Plisson, Steyn
Pens: Plisson, Steyn

Thanks to

Update: “Hero’s…urr Europe in a Nutshell”


European rugby is heating up with the Championship Cup and Challenge Cup trophies being the focus now and we had some great matches over the weekend.


Clermont knock out Toulon

Clermont will face Leinster in the Champions Cup semi-finals after they saw off Toulon 29-9 in a gritty quarter-final win on Sunday.

Two tries were scored and they went to Noa Nakaitaci and Damien Penaud, with Morgan Parra and Camille Lopez’s boots also helping to set up a last-four clash with the Irish province in Lyon over the weekend of April 22-23.

Europe’s top-tier has generally produced an excellent spectacle at the last eight stage. The teams have opted for verve and ambition over conservatism, but these sides proceeded to serve up a dire contest.

Even accounting for the sodden conditions, in an opening period which ended locked at 6-6, try-scoring openings were in short supply. They had to be content with two penalties apiece for Parra and Leigh Halfpenny before the Clermont scrum-half edged the hosts ahead after the interval.

Halfpenny once again equalised from the tee before Auvergne finally broke through when Nakaitaci crossed the whitewash. After that try Toulon seemed to lose heart and Damian Penaud’s final minute effort confirmed their passage into the last four, where they will face Leinster.

It is an encounter which will not live long in the memory. With the inclement weather forcing errors, these Top 14 outfits looked to the power game early on and never altered those tactics.

Clermont were the first to display their physicality, forcing an infringement after four minutes from which Parra took them ahead.

They had a further opportunity to increase that buffer but, after the scrum-half skewed his effort wide, the visitors managed to gain some much needed territory.

Like Toulon, Auvergne also struggled to maintain their discipline without the ball and Halfpenny was more than happy to line up shots at goal. He missed his first attempt at the uprights but was on target soon after as the three-time champions levelled matters.

As the half wore on, continuity remained an issue with both teams lacking any sort of attacking structure. That was demonstrated by Laurent Delboulbès’ rather comical intervention after the prop got in the way of team-mate Éric Escande’s pass.

He knocked on and then compounded the mistake by conceding a penalty in attempting to win the ball back – an effort Parra easily converted.

That advantage was soon cancelled out, however, when Halfpenny kicked his second three-pointer as the teams went into the break level.

The second half produced much the same fare. Both outfits relied on their packs and the kicking game of their half-backs to find field position, but neither could really assert any control.

Parra and Halfpenny continued the pattern of the match by trading penalties in the third quarter before Clermont finally broke the deadlock.

For one of the few times in the match, they managed to keep possession, forcing Toulon to commit bodies to the ruck. That opened the space on the outside and Nakaitaci benefited, touching down for the decisive score.

Toulon were rudderless and, after Lopez’s drop-goal and Parra’s penalty ended the game as a contest, Penaud went over late on to seal Clermont semi-final berth.

The scorers:

For Clermont:
Tries: Nakaitaci, Penaud
Cons: Parra 2
Pens: Parra 4
Drop Goal: Lopez

For Toulon:
Pens: Halfpenny 3

Saracens set up Munster showdown

Saracens put on a masterclass of knockout rugby against Glasgow on Sunday as they won 38-8 to book a Champions Cup semi-final spot.

The victory sets up a mouth-watering clash with Munster at the Aviva Stadium as tries from Chris Ashton (2), Marcelo Bosch and Brad Barritt scored their tries. Owen Farrell was man-of-the-match after an 18-point haul.

Mark McCall’s men were outstanding before the break, opening up an 11-point buffer through Ashton’s first try and three Farrell penalties.

Finn Russell did get the Scottish outfit on the scoreboard in the first-half and Lee Jones’ effort reduced the arrears seven minutes into the second period, but Sarries were ultimately too strong.

Bosch ended the game as a contest with a score 20 minutes from time before Barritt and Ashton rubber-stamped the win with a three-pointer, despite a late Ryan Wilson consolation.

Glasgow have come a long way under the stewardship of Gregor Townsend but they struggled to handle the sheer ferocity of the defending champions.

After making the quarter-finals for the first time, this proved to be a step too far, despite their battling qualities keeping the scoreline close in the early exchanges.

Sarries created opportunities at will in the opening 10 minutes and could have scored two tries when Ashton and Sean Maitland crossed the whitewash out wide.

However, following some excellent cover defence by the visitors, both were adjudged to be in touch and the Englishmen had to be content with a single Farrell penalty.

The Warriors’ rearguard excellence was then rewarded with a Russell three-pointer, but the pressure was unrelenting and successive efforts off the tee by the hosts’ stand-off took Saracens 9-3 in front.

Townsend’s men were failing to stop the Premiership outfit on the gainline and they were finally breached after another flowing move.

Forwards and backs combined before Barritt’s superb offload found Ashton and the Toulon-bound wing did the rest, weaving inside one attempted tackle and touching down.

Farrell’s missed conversion meant that the damage was not quite as severe as it could have been at the interval, but their head coach required a response in the second period.

It was one he duly received. Russell almost scampered away after a rare Sarries’ error but they were not to be denied for long as the fly-half’s cross-field kick was collected by Jones, who handed off Ashton and went over.

Glasgow knew that there would be a response from the home side and once again they failed to cope. To their credit, the Warriors were gallant in defence but they had to break at some point and Bosch took advantage when the hole opened for him.

Farrell then made it a three-score game from the tee and it was the lead Saracens needed to open up. They displayed some wonderful hands in the last few minutes and deservedly touched down twice more via Barritt and Ashton to complete a fine performance.

Townsend’s side did have the final word through Wilson but it was very much Sarries’ day.

The scorers:

For Saracens:
Tries: Ashton 2, Bosch, Barritt
Cons: Farrell 3
Pens: Farrell 4

For Glasgow:
Tries: Jones, Wilson
Pen: Russell


14-man Stade knock out top seeds Ospreys

Despite two yellow cards for wing Josaia Raisuqe, Stade Français advanced to the Challenge Cup semi-finals after defeating the Ospreys 25-21.

The Welsh region finished the pool stages with a perfect 30 out of 30 points to qualify as top seeds, but they were stunned in the second half at the Principality Stadium after two quick tries for Stade Français from Raphaël Lakafia and Julien Arias.

This despite having Raisuqe receive two yellow cards, one in each half, the first for a stamp on Ospreys wing Keelan Giles that deserved a straight red.

Raisuqe’s actions aside Stade showed great heart on the road to a rare away victory, one week on from defeating Toulon at home, with key figures in the pack including France prop Rabah Slimani, Wallaby lock Hugh Pyle and workhorse Antoine Burban all impressing.

Expected to dominate proceedings given Stade’s poor form and away record, the Ospreys opened the scoring through a Dan Biggar penalty in the 12th minute.

Biggar thought he had scored a try soon after only for Keelan Giles’ pass to be ruled as forward by the TMO, before Raisuqe’s first yellow card. Instead it the was the visitors who scored next, through a Jules Plisson penalty.

Zurabi Zhvania was an unlikely first try scorer, powering his way over out wide for Stade, who led at the break 8-6 after Bigger knocked over a second penalty – with a third effort coming back off the post right before the interval.

Plisson was on-point with his second penalty, stretching the lead to five points, but a Josh Matavesi try pulled the Ospreys back into the contest.

Raisuqe’s second yellow card allowed Biggar to restore the Ospreys lead with a third penalty, making it 14-11, but Stade then turned the game thanks to Lakafia collecting Plisson’s well-weighted cross-field kick to score.

And all of a sudden Stade were then in the box seat after Pyle broke clear, chased down by Biggar before offloading to Julien Arias for the Top 14 outfit’s third score.

Ospreys were then left chasing the game, despite having dominated large portions of the match, and even with Tyler Ardron’s late effort the visitors clung on for a surprising victory.

The scorers:

For Ospreys:
Tries: Matavesi, Ardron
Con: Biggar
Pens: Biggar 3

For Stade Français:
Tries: Zhvania, Lakafia, Arias
Cons: Plisson 2
Pens: Plisson 2
Red Card: Raisuqe

Young guns star for Leinster


A superb first half showing laid the platform as Leinster moved into the semi-finals of the European Champions Cup following an excellent 32-17 triumph over Wasps in the last eight.

Leo Cullen’s men dominated the opening period and appeared to have the game won by half-time after Isa Nacewa, Jack Conan and Robbie Henshaw all crossed the whitewash.

Jimmy Gopperth’s penalty was the English outfit’s only score before the break and they also struggled at the start of the second half.

Johnny Sexton kicked another three-pointer to extend their buffer and at that point the match was effectively over. Christian Wade and Gopperth went over to give Wasps hope but Fergus McFadden’s touchdown completed the victory.

Knockout rugby is meant to be a tight contest but the opening half-hour, between two attack-orientated teams, proved to be a free-flowing affair.

It was mainly the hosts that showed their hand, though, and their big runners were causing problems for the small Wasps backline.

Conan and Sean O’Brien were magnificent and the Irish province deserved the 8-0 advantage given to them by Sexton’s penalty and Nacewa’s try. Joey Carbery was another to enjoy the wide open spaces and the full-back’s superb cut-out pass set up the winger’s score.

The visitors were struggling to find their fluency and when they did – after a Kurtley Beale break sent Willie le Roux clear – the South African international inexplicably dropped the ball across the whitewash.

That was a costly error, despite Gopperth reducing the arrears from the tee soon after, as Leinster scored their second try. Once again Carbery was the instigator, finding space on the right hand side for McFadden to break clear before good support play by Conan saw the number eight scamper over.

Henshaw then touched down following a stolen lineout and a 22-3 buffer at the interval was what Cullen’s side deserved for their dominance.

The Irish province maintained their momentum in the early stages of the second period and a Sexton penalty made the task even harder for the Premiership outfit.

To their credit, Wasps improved and a piece of individual brilliance by Wade got them back into the contest before another solo effort, this time from Gopperth, made it an eight-point game with 20 minutes remaining.

Questions were now being asked of the three-time European champions but they answered them magnificently and McFadden’s late try sealed their semi-final place.

The scorers:

For Leinster:
Tries: Nacewa, Conan, Henshaw, McFadden
Cons: Sexton 3
Pens: Sexton 2

For Wasps:
Tries: Wade, Gopperth
Cons: Gopperth 2
Pens: Gopperth

A conversation this week with respected French television pundit Thomas Lombard ended on a note about money, and to be more specific, how now having millions of Euros is no longer enough to succeed in the Top 14.

Not when you are up against clubs backed by billions of Euros.

Toulon’s spending spree on top internationals at the start of the decade propelled them to a trio of European titles and one domestic trophy in three years. Yet even having made the Top 14 final last season, losing out to Racing 92, their outlook has changed.

Mourad Boudjellal’s fortune of €40 million is no longer enough to compete with Racing, owned by Jacky Lorenzetti whose total worth is about €1 billion, and Montpellier, who are owned by Mohad Altrad, worth €2 billion. Europe’s most successful big spenders are now being comprehensively outspent.

The model that has given Toulon so much success has died, something which both Boudjellal and Diego Dominguez, the coach sacked earlier in the season, have acknowledged in a stuttering season.

Without question the retirements of Carl Hayman and Ali Williams weakened a commanding pack, but too much time has passed to keep falling back on that excuse.

Toulon and Boudjellal’s mindset with the appointment of Fabien Galthié is to restart and rebuild.

Munster seal semi-final spot

Munster booked their place in the Champions Cup semi-finals after they beat Toulouse 41-16 in a deserved victory at Thomond Park.

The Irish province began the encounter on the front foot and went 13-3 ahead through John Ryan’s converted try and a pair Tyler Bleyendaal penalties.

Jean-Marc Doussain, who had earlier kicked a three-pointer, added two more as the French side kept themselves in contention at the interval.

CJ Stander’s score and successive Bleyendaal efforts off the tee maintained the hosts’ control on the encounter, but Toulouse refused to go away and Paul Perez’s touchdown reduced the deficit.

Munster, however, had done enough and, after their fly-half kicked a fifth penalty, Darren Sweetnam and Andrew Conway finished off an excellent day for Irish rugby.

Toulouse, once the giants of French rugby, are struggling in the lower reaches of the Top 14 and are now out of Europe. They reside in 10th position in the table and, despite making it to the quarter-final stage, were not at all convincing in the Champions Cup.

That lack of form was duly exposed by an high-tempo home side early on, who took advantage of Francois Cros’ rash attempt at a charge down to build a 10-0 lead.

The number eight was yellow carded after just one minute for elbowing replacement scrum-half Duncan Williams, an act of recklessness which allowed Munster to kick deep into the opposition’s 22.

Williams, starting in place of the injured Conor Murray, dusted himself off and set about inching the hosts towards the line. The forwards battered away before the dam eventually burst when Ryan crossed the whitewash next to the left upright.

Bleyendaal kicked the conversion and then added a penalty, but the visitors gradually grew into the contest and reduced the arrears via Doussain’s effort off the tee.

Munster’s fly-half restored the 10-point buffer before the French outfit’s gargantuan forwards exerted their influence and forced Rassie Erasmus’ men to infringe.

Successive penalties by Toulouse’s stand-off in the final eight minutes of the half duly enabled them to go into the break with a genuine chance of upsetting the odds.

However, another blitz by the Irishmen kept the visitors on the back foot. Bleyendaal was on target from the tee before Stander, a man that typifies the province’s spirit this season, touched down from close range.

Following another penalty from the home side’s fly-half, Munster’s pathway to the last four appeared set, but Perez’s controversial try – where Yoann Maestri’s forward-looking pass to the wing was deemed flat – set up a nervous final quarter.

Munster responded well to that setback, though, and Bleyendaal took them 11 points in front. With Toulouse now overplaying, Sweetnam and Conway took advantage of some loose play by the visitors to complete a fine win.

The scorers:

For Munster:
Tries: Ryan, Stander, Sweetnam, Conway
Cons: Bleyendaal 3
Pens: Bleyendaal 5

For Toulouse:
Try: Perez
Con: Doussain
Pens: Doussain 3
Yellow Card: Cros

Challenge Cup Wrap

Bath and Gloucester reached the Challenge Cup semi-finals following respective victories over Brive and Cardiff Blues on Saturday.

Bath 34-20 Brive
Recreation Ground

In a thrilling first 40, it was Bath who had the lead by half-time after tries from Taulupe Faletau, Tom Homer and Semesa Rokoduguni put Bath 20-6 up at the break.

Faletau’s second threatened to open the floodgates but two tries from Fabien Sanconnie made it a much tighter scoreline than it looked like it could be at half-time.

A breathtaking late Rokoduguni try ensured the hosts secured the 34-20 win and booked their spot in the final four of the Challenge Cup.

With a semi-final spot on the line, Rhys Priestland kicked Bath to an early lead inside the opening 10 minutes with a penalty, making the most of the hosts strong start at The Rec. Gaetan Germain levelled soon after though, with Brive getting themselves back into the game after a strong rebuild from the restart.

Germain gave the visitors their first and only lead of the afternoon with a second penalty, his kick cannoning off the right side of the posts to make it a 6-3 advantage. That didn’t last for long though.

Priestland had the Brive back line running in circles before offloading to Kahn Fotuali’i, whose quick hands fed Faletau and allowed the number eight to go sailing over the line for the opening try. Priestland’s extras took Bath to double figures and more was to come in the remaining 15 minutes of the half.

An attacking line-out on 22 for the hosts saw Bath combine superbly as they bore down on the line, with Rokoduguni instrumental in the build up. Possession was given to Jonathan Joseph and his flick helped to get Homer over the line, a nice birthday present for the now 27-year-old. The conversion was wide but try number three followed barely a minute after the restart.

Zach Mercer’s quick break again saw the ball move into the arms of Joseph, and he was again provider to set Rokoduguni up for his 50th try in Bath colours, making it a 20-6 lead at the break.

Try four came just three minutes into the second half and Faletau was at the double to increase the advantage. He found the space to break in between the middle of the defence who seemed to part open for him, and Priestland added the two.

But things weren’t rosy for the hosts after that, with the expected victory put very much in doubt due to a resurgent Brive side.

A pick and go from Sanconnie caught Bath napping, and he crossed the line to get the French side back into it. And a second Brive try really made the home crowd pay attention. They used the maul perfectly to cause panic in the Bath defence and Sarconnie got his second in 10 minutes as the conversion took Brive back to within seven points as the score stood at 27-20.

The game threatened to go either way from then on with neither side dominant at one end or the other, but the longer the half wore on, the more it looked like Bath would be able to see the victory out.

And when in doubt, there’s always that man Rokoduguni to call upon. He had the sleekness to evade seven challenges on the way through, handing defenders away and grounding to remove any doubts and finish the scoring, booking Bath’s semi-final spot in the process.

For Bath:
Tries: Faletau 2, Homer, Rokoduguni 2
Con: Priestland
Pens: Priestland 3

For Brive:
Tries: Sanconnie 2
Cons: Germain 2
Pens: Germain 2

Bath: 15 Anthony Watson, 14 Semesa Rokoduguni, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Matt Banahan, 11 Tom Homer, 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Kahn Fotuali’i, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Tom Ellis, 6 Zach Mercer, 5 Luke Charteris, 4 Charlie Ewels, 3 Kane Palma Newport, 2 Nathan Charles, 1 Nathan Catt
Replacements: 16 Joe Graham, 17 Beno Obano, 18 Shaun Knight, 19 Levi Douglas, 20 Paul Grant, 21 Chris Cook, 22 Adam Hastings, 23 Ben Tapuai

Brive: 15 Gaetan Germain, 14 Taku Ngwenya, 13 Arnaud Mignardi, 12 Seremaia Burotu, 11 Benito Masilevu, 10 Matthieu Ugalde, 9 Teddy Iribaren, 8 Fabien Sanconnie 7 Poutasi Luafutu, 6 Said Hireche, 5 Arnaud Mela, 4 Johan Snyman, 3 Kevin Buys, 2 Francois Da Ros, 1 Vivien Devisme
Replacements: 16 Thomas Acquier, 17 Karlen Asieshvili, 18 Soso Bekoshvili, 19 Julien Le Devedec, 20 Dominiko Waqaniborutu, 21 Vasil Lobzhanidze, 22 Thomas Laranjeira, 23 Sevanaia Galala

Referee: Marius Mitrea (Italy)
Assistant Referees: Matteo Liperini (Italy), Simone Boaretto (Italy)
TMO: Stefano Pennè (Italy)

Gloucester 46-26 Cardiff Blues

In the third of four semi-finals, the Kingsholm faithful were treated to an exhilarating first 40 as the sides went into the break with Cardiff Blues 23-20 up.

Alex Cuthbert opened the scoring for the visitors before Ross Moriarty levelled. Tom Marshall and another from Cuthbert sent the sides level, with a Gareth Anscombe drop goal putting Cardiff slightly in front.

Jonny May gave Gloucester a one point lead after the break and tries from Marshall and Mark Atkinson wrote the hosts into the final four. Henry Purdy went over at the end to finish it at 46-26.

The visitors started well on top and after running close three minutes in, they didn’t have much longer to wait for the opening try. Coming just five minutes into the evening, Tau Filise carried the ball through the centre before it eventually found Cuthbert, who batted Billy Burns away to go over for the opener. It didn’t last long though as Moriarty levelled from the next attack. Richard Hibbard spilled possession seconds before but a one handed pick up and go saw him slam down.

Cardiff Blues’ lead was restored from a penalty via Steven Shingler, but Burns kicked level again from in front of the posts to make it 10 apiece. Neither side were able to take a firm grip of the tie though, with three pointers following for each within a couple of minutes of each other. And by the time half-time came around, two tries ensured they were still inseparable.

Shingler was caught napping at the back and failed to hold off Billy Twelvetrees’ run through the middle, which provided the opportunity to feed it through to Marshall who ran over to put Gloucester in charge. But a yellow card changed things again, as Gloucester lost Josh Hohneck for failing to roll away five minutes before half-time. And the man advantage saw Anscombe use the dummy run of Shingler to feed Cuthbert who grabbed his second. A drop goal on the brink of half-time gave the visitors a slender lead as Anscombe kicked through from 40 metres.

A perfectly set second 40 didn’t start with the same tempo and free flowing points scoring as the first, but it was a perfect situation for Cardiff Blues as they stretched their lead to six points. Shingler kicked through after Blues had the better of the second half, and the loss of Hohneck gave Cardiff a perfect platform with half an hour to go.

Gloucester burst back into the game though and went ahead courtesy of May. He had plenty of space to move into after Twelvetrees’ intelligent kick found him on the other side, and a step inside bamboozled Matthew Morgan. Twelvetrees two made it 27-26 to the hosts and that lead increased.

Cardiff Blues’ well set lead was dismantled with a fourth Gloucester try with less than 20 to play. A gap at the back of the line-out gave Willi Heinz an age to decide what to do with it, and it was eventually presented to Marshall who span inside a challenge to extend the advantage, with Twelvetrees making it an eight point lead.

And the dream quickly turned into a nightmare as try five arrived for the rejuvenated hosts. With the ball taken up to the five yard line, replacement Atkinson threw a big dummy Rey Lee-Lo’s way to just wander over and kill off the contest with 10 to play. And right at the death, a sixth try put the icing on the cake for the Cherry and Whites. A floated ball from Henry Trinder fell into the arms of Purdy and he finished the evening off in style as Gloucester sealed a spot in the final four with a 46-26 win.

The scorers:

For Gloucester:
Tries: Moriarty, Marshall 2, May, Atkinson, Purdy
Cons: Burns, Twelvetrees 4
Pens: Burns, Twelvetrees
Yellow Card: Hohneck

For Cardiff Blues:
Tries: Cuthbert 2
Cons: Shingler 2
Pens: Shingler 3
Drop-Goal: Anscombe

Gloucester: 15 Tom Marshall, 14 Charlie Sharples, 13 Henry Trinder, 12 Billy Twelvetrees, 11 Jonny May, 10 Billy Burns, 9 Willi Heinz, 8 Ben Morgan 7 Jacob Rowan, 6 Ross Moriarty, 5 Jeremy Thrush, 4 Tom Savage, 3 Josh Hohneck, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Paddy McAllister
Replacements: 16 Motu Matu’u, 17 Yann Thomas, 18 John Afoa, 19 Mariano Galarza, 20 Lewis Ludlow, 21 Callum Braley, 22 Mark Atkinson, 23 Henry Purdy

Cardiff Blues: 15 Matthew Morgan , 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Rey Lee-Lo, 12 Steven Shingler, 11 Blaine Scully, 10 Gareth Anscombe, 9 Lloyd Williams, 8 Nick Williams 7 Josh Navidi, 6 Sam Warburton, 5 Jarrad Hoeata, 4 George Earle, 3 Tau Filise, 2 Kristian Dacey, 1 Gethin Jenkins,
Replacements: 16 Matthew Rees, 17 Corey Domachowski, 18 Kieron Assiratti, 19 Macauley Cook, 20 Sion Bennett, 21 Tomos Williams, 22 Willis Halaholo, 23 Aled Summerhill

Referee: Pascal Gauzère (France)
Assistant Referees: Alexandre Ruiz (France), Pierre Brousset (France)
TMO: Philippe Bonhoure (France)

A Jérémie Maurouard brace helped La Rochelle claim a 32-22 victory over Edinburgh at Murrayfield on Friday.

La Rochelle made it into the Challenge Cup semi-finals after their impressive away win over the Scottish side.

Edinburgh were poor in the first half conceding four tries in the first 35 minutes with Jérémie Maurouard scoring two, Arthur Retiere and Steeve Barry also crossing to set up their victory before the half-time whistle went. While Brock James penalties kept the score board ticking in his side’s favour.

Tries from the home side came through Scotland Internationals Ross Ford and Hamish Watson but it was not enough to overturn La Rochelle’s powerful early start.

Maurouard’s tries were both in the first 12 minutes with the French side revealing the power in their forward pack. James’s conversions made the score 14 points and quite imposing 13 minutes into the fixture.

Edinburgh got their first points of the game when inside centre Phil Burleigh dotted down making the score 14-5 before Jason Tovey kicked over the conversion.

The away side hit back quickly though as Scrum-half Retiere then crossed the line for his side’s third try of the game with James missing the extras.

Ford scored just before the end of the half after a strong maul to barge over and Watson scored seven minutes later after Viliame Mata off loaded to the flank which would be the last try of the match.

James and Weir traded penalties for the rest of the game but the damage was done in the first half for La Rochelle claiming the win.

The scorers:

For Edinburgh:
Burleigh, Ford, Watson
Cons: Tovey, Hidalgo-Clyne
Pen: Weir

La Rochelle:
Maurouard 2, Retiere, Barry
Cons: James 3
Pens: James 2

Edinburgh: 15 Blair Kinghorn, 14 Damien Hoyland, 13 Chris Dean, 12 Phil Burleigh, 11 Tom Brown, 10 Jason Tovey, 9 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, 8 Cornell du Preez, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 Viliame Mata, 5 Grant Gilchrist, 4 Anton Bresler, 3 Simon Berghan, 2 Ross Ford (c), 1 Murray McCallum
Replacements: 16 Stuart McInally, 17 Kyle Whyte, 18 Kevin Bryce, 19 Fraser McKenzie, 20 Viliami Fihaki, 21 Nathan Fowles, 22 Duncan Weir, 23 Glenn Bryce

La Rochelle: 15 Kini Murimurivalu, 14 Steeve Barry, 13 Paul Jordaan, 12 Pierre Aguillon, 11 Eliott Roudil, 10 Zack Holmes, 9 Arthur Retière, 8 Kévin Gourdon, 7 Levani Botia, 6 Romain Sazy, 5 Mathieu Tanguy, 4 Jason Eaton (c), 3 Mohamed Boughanmi, 2 Jérémie Maurouard, 1 Mike Corbel
Replacements: 16 Hikairo Forbes, 17 Dany Priso, 18 Lekso Kaulashvili, 19 Jone Qovu, 20 Victor Vito, 21 Alexi Bales, 22 Brock James, 23 Benjamin Noble

Thanks to Planet Rugby

Challenge Cup Week 5 Wrap


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.


Challenge Cup wrap


Ospreys and Harlequins both scored 70 points in their respective big wins while La Rochelle saw off Gloucester in the Challenge Cup.

Newport Dragons 22 – 7 Worcester Warriors 

Pau 18 – 28 Bristol 

Treviso 21-17 Bayonne

Treviso picked up their second win of the pool stage in the first of four Challenge Cup games on Saturday, with a 21-17 victory over Bayonne.

Raphael Lagarde got Bayonne on the board first with a penalty before Julien Tisseron scored their first try which Lagarde promptly converted.

Treviso hit back straight after through David Odiete with Tommaso Allan adding the extras to reduce the deficit to three points.

Treviso took the lead through Luca Bigi’s try shortly after before a penalty try allowed the hosts to pull away with a 21-10 half-time lead.

The Italian outfit were twice reduced to 14 men in the second 40 and the yellow cards to Braam Steyn and Luca Sperandio even overlapped for four minutes, forcing them to defend with just 13 men.

Bayonne were able to take advantage when Thibault Lacroix touched down right after the second yellow, but in the end it wasn’t enough as Treviso held on to achieve the double over Bayonne.

The scorers:

For Treviso:
Odiete, Bigi, Penalty Try
Cons: Allan 3
Yellow Card: Steyn, Sperandio

For Bayonne:
Tisseron, Lacroix
Cons: Lagarde 2
Pen: Lagarde

Treviso: 15 David Odiete, 14 Angelo Esposito, 13 Luca Morisi, 12 Luke McLean, 11 Luca Sperandio, 10 Tommy Allan, 9 Tito Tebaldi, 8 Robert Barbieri, 7 Marco Lazzaroni, 6 Braam Steyn, 5 Dean Budd, 4 Marco Fuser, 3 Simone Ferrari, 2 Luca Bigi, 1 Nicola Quaglio
Replacements: 16 Roberto Saantamaria, 17 Alberto de Marchi, 18 Matteo Zanusso, 19 Jean-François Montauriol, 20 Andrea Pratichetti, 21 Giorgio Bronzini, 22 Ian McKinley, 23 Alberto Sgarbi

Bayonne: 15 Benjamin Thiery, 14 Ryan Tongia, 13 Bastien Fuster, 12 Thibault Lacroix, 11 Julien Tisseron, 10 Raphael Lagarde, 9 Bastien Duhalde, 8 Jean-Blaise Lespinasse 7 Dion Evrard Oulai, 6 Arnaud Duputs, 5 Pelu Ian Taele, 4 Guillaume Ducat, 3 Ben Broster, 2 David Menage, 1 Davit Khinchagishvili
Replacements: 16 Jose Ramon Ayarza, 17 Jérôme Schuster, 18 Jon Zabala Arrieta, 19 Pablo Huete, 20 Lucas Meret, 21 Maka Polutele, 22 Tanerau Latimer, 23 Maile Mamao

Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys (England)
Assistant Referees: Greg Macdonald (England), Phil Watters (England)

Ospreys 71-3 Grenoble

The Ospreys followed up their heavy away win last weekend by putting Grenoble to the sword in a one-sided contest in Swansea.

In the end Steve Tandy’s men finished with eleven tries, eight converted by Wales fly-half Dan Biggar, as they put away an appalling effort from the visitors.

Wing Daniel Evans, hooker Scott Baldwin and replacement back Hanno Dirksen all finished with two tries apiece.

The contest was all over at half-time, with the Ospreys up 31-3 and Grenoble finishing the half with 14 men after second-row Mathias Marie was sent to the bin.

And there was no let-up in the second half either, with Biggar among the try scorers as the PRO12 side topped the 70-point mark once Dirksen’s second try had rounded off the rout.

The scorers:

For Ospreys:
Tries: Cracknell, Beck, Baldwin 2, D Evans 2, Leonard, Biggar, Dirksen 2, Otten
Cons: Biggar 8

For Grenoble:
Yellow Card: Marie

Ospreys: 15 Sam Davies, 14 Daf Howells, 13 Kieron Fonotia, 12 Ashley Beck, 11 Daniel Evans, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Brendon Leonard, 8 James King, 7 Sam Underhill, 6 Olly Cracknell, 5 Rory Thornton, 4 Lloyd Ashley, 3 Rhodri Jones, 2 Scott Baldwin, 1 Nicky Smith
Replacements: 16 Scott Otten, 17 Gareth Thomas, 18 Ma’afu Fia, 19 Adam Beard, 20 Rob McCusker, 21 Thomas Habberfield, 22 Josh Matavesi, 23 Hanno Dirksen

Grenoble: 15 Clement Gelin, 14 Pierre Mignot, 13 Edward Dratai Sawailau, 12 Nigel Hunt, 11 Bastien Guillemin, 10 Gilles Bosch, 9 David Mele, 8 Fabien Alexandre, 7 Kevin Kornath, 6 Ben Hand, 5 Thomas Jolmes, 4 Mathias Marie, 3 Walter Desmaison, 2 Etienne Fourcade, 1 Alexandre Dardet
Replacements: 16 Paulin Mas, 17 Denis Coulson, 18 Dayna Edwards, 19 Mickael Capelli, 20 Loic Baradel, 21 Lilian Saseras, 22 Xavier Mignot, 23 Chris Farrell

Referee: Luke Pearce (England)
Assistant Referees: Dean Richards (England), Roger Baileff (England)

Harlequins 75-3 Timisoara Saracens

Wales centre Jamie Roberts scored a hat-trick as both Harlequins and visitors Timisoara Saracens finished with 14 men having had a player red carded.

Unfortunately for the visitors flanker Randall Morrison was shown red by referee Thomas Charabas after just two minutes for a dangerous high tackle.

Harlequins cruised from there, with Tim Visser, Roberts and Mike Brown among the scorers in the first half as the hosts romped to a 35-0 lead.

Gabriel Conache’s penalty meant that Timisoara Saracens avoided being nilled on their travels, as Harlequins added to their tally with England wing Marland Yarde scoring twice in the second half.

Harlequins also finished with 14 men following a red card to replacement back-row Mat Luamanu late on.

The scorers:

For Harlequins:
Tries: Wallace, Visser, Roberts 3, Brown 2, Yarde 2, Clifford, Swiel
Cons: Jackson 5, Swiel 5
Red Card: Luamanu,

For Timisoara Saracens:
Red Card: Morrison

Harlequins: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Marland Yarde, 13 Joe Marchant, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Tim Visser, 10 Ruaridh Jackson, 9 Danny Care, 8 Jack Clifford, 7 Luke Wallace, 6 James Chisholm, 5 Charlie Matthews, 4 George Merrick, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 2 Rob Buchanan, 1 Joe Marler
Replacements: 16 Dave Ward, 17 Owen Evans, 18 Adam Jones, 19 Stan South, 20 Mat Luamanu, 21 Karl Dickson, 22 Tim Swiel, 23 Alofa Alofa

Timisoara Saracens: 15 Stephen Shennan, 14 Madalin Lemnaru, 13 Brian Sefanaia, 12 Paula Kinikinilau, 11 Fonovai Tangimana, 10 Jack Umaga, 9 Gabriel Conache, 8 Sandu Stelian Burcea, 7 Daniel Gabriel Ianus, 6 Randall Morrison, 5 Marian Drenceanu, 4 Valentin Popirlan, 3 Horatiu Pungea, 2 Andrei Radoi, 1 Edmund Aholelei
Replacements: 16 Eugen Capatana, 17 Gigi Militaru, 18 Samuel Maris, 19 Ionut Muresan, 20 Victor Dumitru, 21 Marius Simionescu, 22 Florin Popa, 23 Dorin Lazar

Referee: Thomas Charabas (France)
Assistant Referees: Luc Ramos (France), Thomas Déjean (France)

La Rochelle 42-13 Gloucester

La Rochelle moved to the top of Pool 1 in the Challenge Cup as they saw off a disappointing Gloucester side at Stade Marcel Deflandre.

They jump above the Cherry and Whites on points difference as crossings from Gabriel Lacroix (2),  Kini Murimurivalu, Hikairo Forbes and Levani Botia were followed by a late penalty try as they cruised home.

La Rochelle led 23-6 at half-time and continued their dominance after the break as Gloucester were well beaten, setting up a fascinating two-horse race to win this pool when the action resumes in January.

The scorers:

For La Rochelle:
Tries: Lacroix 2, Murimurivalu, Forbes, Botia, Penalty Try
Cons: James 2, Holmes
Pens: James 2

For Gloucester:
Try: Afoa
Con: Burns
Pens: Burns 2

La Rochelle: 15 Kini Murimurivalu, 14 Gabriel Lacroix, 13 Paul Jordaan, 12 Pierre Aguillon, 11 Vincent Rattez, 10 Brock James, 9 Alexi Bales, 8 Victor Vito, 7 Jason Eaton, 6 Romain Sazy, 5 Mathieu Tanguy, 4 Jone Qovu Nailiko, 3 Uini Atonio, 2 Hikairo Forbes, 1 Mike Corbel
Replacements: 16 Jeremie Maurouard, 17 Dany Priso, 18 Mohamed Boughanmi, 19 Leo Cedaro, 20 Charlie Francoz, 21 Arthur Retiere, 22 Zack Holmes, 23 Levani Botia

Gloucester: 15 James Hook, 14 Charlie Sharples, 13 Matt Scott, 12 Mark Atkinson, 11 Jonny May, 10 Billy Burns, 9 Callum Braley, 8 Ben Morgan, 7 Jacob Rowan, 6 Lewis Ludlow, 5 Jeremy Thrush, 4 Tom Savage, 3 John Afoa, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Josh Hohneck
Replacements: 16 Motu Matu’u, 17 Yann Thomas, 18 Paul Doran-Jones, 19 Joe Latta, 20 Mariano Galarza, 21 Willi Heinz, 22 Henry Purdy, 23 Matt Kvesic

Referee: Ian Davies (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Dan Jones (Wales), Simon Rees (Wales)
TMO: Jon Mason (Wales)

Bath moved top of Pool 4 in the Challenge Cup as they beat Cardiff Blues 38-3 while Stade Français edged Edinburgh 26-20 but stay third in Pool 5.

Bath 38-3 Cardiff Blues

Bath capitalised on George Earle’s red card as they claimed a bonus-point victory over Cardiff Blues at the Recreation Ground on Thursday.

 It was an even first 40 as both sides knew the importance of the result, which possibly played a part in making it a low-scoring opening.

George Ford, back in Bath colours for the first time since October, missed with his first shot at goal which allowed opposing fly-half Steven Shingler to push Cardiff Blues in front on 22 minutes. Bath might have wondered how they were behind but errors cost them in the 22.

They eventually unlocked the Blues defence on 27 minutes when a lovely delayed pass from centre Jonathan Joseph found Ross Batty, who went over from 15 metres out for the first try. Ford slotted the simple kick and suddenly Bath were 7-3 to the good on home soil.

Cardiff Blues possibly should have crossed themselves five minutes after Ford had made it 10-3 off the tee, but a great tackle from centre Ben Tapuai dislodged the ball out of Shingler’s grasp on the right wing. The fly-half had the line in his sights and will lament that miss.

Bath struck first after the interval when Jack Wilson finished nicely on the right wing after he was found by Ford, who then made it 17-3. That came in between a yellow card for Kirby Myhill (tip tackle) and red card for Earle (alleged eye gouge), as the Blues were down to 13.

The hosts sensed blood and the third try came on 52 minutes when Kahn Fotuali’i’s pass found Aled Brew for a score that made it 24-3.

The bonus-point was the next task for Bath and it came in style as Batty raced in from over halfway on 64 minutes. The margin was now 31-3 and there was still time for one more try, with replacement second-row Elliott Stooke going over to put the seal on a much-needed win.

The scorers:

For Bath:
Tries: Batty 2, Wilson, Brew, Stooke
Cons: Ford 4, Homer
Pen: Ford

For Cardiff Blues:
Pen: Shingler
Yellow Card: Myhill (41 min)
Red Card: Earle (44 min)

Bath: 15 Tom Homer, 14 Jack Wilson, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Ben Tapuai, 11 Aled Brew, 10 George Ford (cc), 9 Kahn Fotuali’i, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Francois Louw, 6 Tom Ellis, 5 Dave Attwood, 4 Charlie Ewels (cc), 3 Max Lahiff, 2 Ross Batty, 1 Nick Auterac
Replacements: 16 Michael van Vuuren, 17 Beno Obano, 18 Shaun Knight, 19 Elliott Stooke, 20 Zach Mercer, 21 Darren Allinson, 22 Adam Hastings, 23 Max Clark

Cardiff Blues: 15 Matthew Morgan, 14 Cory Allen, 13 Rey Lee-Lo, 12 Willis Halaholo, 11 Blaine Scully, 10 Steven Shingler, 9 Lloyd Williams, 8 Josh Navidi, 7 Sam Warburton (c), 6 Macauley Cook, 5 James Down, 4 George Earle, 3 Taufa’ao Filise, 2 Kirby Myhill, 1 Rhys Gill
Replacements: 16 Matthew Rees, 17 Brad Thyer, 18 Scott Andrews, 19 Jarrad Hoeata, 20 Seb Davies, 21 Ellis Jenkins, 22 Tomos Williams, 23 Nicky Robinson

Referee: Alexandre Ruiz (France)
Assistant Referees: Laurent Cardona (France), Jonathan Gasnier (France)
TMO: Arnaud Blondel (France)

Stade Français 26-20 Edinburgh

Stade Français reduced the gap on Edinburgh to four points as they claimed a bonus-point win in their Challenge Cup clash on Thursday.

It was an impressive opening half from the Parisians as they went in 26-3 to the good, thanks to four tries and Jules Plisson’s boot.

The French side’s scorers were hooker Remi Bonfils, full-back Hugo Bonneval and outside centre Geoffrey Doumayrou, whose score came following a penalty try as the bonus-point was secured in quick time.

Edinburgh needed to regroup at the break, knowing a defeat would open the door to Harlequins to go top if they beat Timisoara Saracens.

That they did as the Scots looked a different team in the second period, with tries from lock Fraser McKenzie and replacement Viliame Mata in the 46th and 62nd minute reducing the arrears down to 26-15. Suddenly it was game on at Stade Jean Bouin as Edinburgh pushed hard.

But as time ticked on an incredible win seemed unlikely with only a try from scrum-half Sam Hidalgo-Clyne with a minute to play managing to give a gutsy Edinburgh side a losing bonus-point for their efforts, which could well come in handy at the conclusion of the pool stages.

The scorers:

For Stade Français:
Tries: Bonfils, Bonneval, Penalty Try, Doumayrou
Cons: Plisson 3

For Edinburgh:
Tries: McKenzie, Mata, Hidalgo-Clyne
Con: Tovey
Pen: Tovey

Stade Français: 15 Hugo Bonneval, 14 Jérémy Sinzelle, 13 Geoffrey Doumayrou, 12 Jonathan Danty, 11 Josaia Raisuqe, 10 Jules Plisson, 9 Clement Daguin, 8 Sergio Parisse, 7 Sekou Macalou, 6 Jonathan Ross, 5 Pascal Papé, 4 Hugh Pyle, 3 Rabah Slimani, 2 Remi Bonfils, 1 Emmanuel Felsina
Replacements: 16 Craig Burden, 17 Zurabi Zhvania, 18 Giorgi Melikidze, 19 Mathieu De Giovanni, 20 Sylvain Nicolas, 21 Arthur Coville, 22 Morné Steyn, 23 Julien Arias

Edinburgh: 15 Blair Kinghorn, 14 Damien Hoyland, 13 Michael Allen, 12 Chris Dean, 11 Tom Brown, 10 Jason Tovey 9 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, 8 Nasi Manu, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 Cornell Du Preez, 5 Ben Toolis, 4 Fraser McKenzie, 3 Simon Berghan, 2 Ross Ford, 1 Alasdair Dickinson
Replacements: 16 Neil Cochrane, 17 Allan Dell, 18 Murray McCallum, 19 Lewis Carmichael, 20 Viliame Mata, 21 Sean Kennedy, 22 Duncan Weir, 23 Glenn Bryce

Referee: Dudley Phillips (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: Sean Gallagher (Ireland), Helen O’Reilly (Ireland)
TMO: Kevin Beggs (Ireland)

Challenge Cup Wrap Week 3



The European Championship continued this weekend again and here is the Wrap of the weekends Challenge Cup.

Gloucester overcame La Rochelle 35-14 while the Grenoble and Ospreys fixture was postponed in the Challenge Cup on Thursday.

Gloucester 35-14 La Rochelle

Gloucester took the initiative in Pool 1 of the Challenge Cup as they claimed a bonus-point win over La Rochelle at Kingsholm.

 The Cherry and Whites were leading 22-7 at half-time after bouncing back well from being 0-7 adrift following an eighth minute score from flank Kevin Gourdan. It came from sustained pressure on the Gloucester try-line with Zack Holmes knocking over the relatively simple extras.

Centre Mark Atkinson got them level with a converted try and then Greig Laidlaw slotted a penalty on 24 minutes to push them 10-7 ahead.

Loosehead prop Josh Hohneck and wing Ollie Thorley then crossed in the next 10 minutes before Laidlaw extended the cushion to 15 points.

Hope came for La Rochelle when wing David Raikuna scored three minutes into the second period, but Laidlaw was on-target again soon after, making it 25-14 until the 66th minute when the Scotland international scrum-half called for the tee once again to push his side 28-14 up.

At that point it seemed more likely Gloucester would extend their lead rather than La Rochelle set up a grandstand finish and so it proved as a late score from centre Matt Scott secured the bonus-point that moves the Cherry and Whites five points clear of the French outfit in Pool 1.

The scorers:

For Gloucester:
Tries: Atkinson, Hohneck, Thorley, Scott
Cons: Laidlaw 3
Pens: Laidlaw 3

For La Rochelle:
Tries: Gourdon, Raikuna
Cons: Holmes 2

Gloucester: 15 David Halaifonua, 14 Ollie Thorley, 13 Matt Scott, 12 Mark Atkinson, 11 Henry Purdy, 10 Billy Burns, 9 Greig Laidlaw, 8 Gareth Evans, 7 Matt Kvesic, 6 Ross Moriarty, 5 Joe Latta, 4 Tom Savage, 3 Salesi Ma’afu, 2 Motu Matu’u, 1 Josh Hohneck
Replacements: 16 Richard Hibbard, 17 Yann Thomas, 18 Paul Doran-Jones, 19 Tom Denton, 20 Freddie Clarke, 21 Callum Braley, 22 Charlie Sharples, 23 Lewis Ludlow

La Rochelle: 15 Vincent Rattez, 14 Gabriel Lacroix, 13 Steve Barry, 12 Botia Veivuke, 11 David Raikuna, 10 Zack Holmes, 9 Ricky Januarie, 8 Jone Qovu Nailiko, 7 Victor Vito, 6 Kevin Gourdon, 5 Mathieu Tanguy, 4 Jason Eaton, 3 Uini Atonio, 2 Hikairo Forbes, 1 Mike Corbel
Replacements: 16 Maxime Gau, 17 Dany Priso, 18 Mohamed Boughanmi, 19 Damien Lagrange, 20 Romain Sazy, 21 Alexi Bales, 22 Brock James, 23 Elliot Roudil

Referee: Andrew Brace (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: Leo Colgan (Ireland), Joy Neville (Ireland)
TMO: Peter Fitzgibbon (Ireland)

Grenoble P-P Ospreys

The match between Grenoble and Ospreys at Stade des Alpes was postponed due to a frozen pitch.

After consultation with the respective head coaches, referee Marius Mitrea decided that certain parts of the playing surface were not fit for the fixture to go ahead as scheduled.

It is envisaged that the Pool 2 match will be played on Friday at the same venue with EPCR set to communicate further details as soon as practicable.

Worcester slayed Dragons 33-20, Cardiff Blues thumped Bath 28-3 and Edinburgh edged Stade Francais 28-23 in the Challenge Cup action on Saturday.

Enisei-STM 8-43 Brive

Nicolas Bezy set the tone early on with a try in the second minute of the match before Gaetan Germain added the extras and a penalty for Brive.

Anton Rudoi got Enisei on the board with his side’s only try before Iurii Kushnarev added their only other points of the entire game with a penalty before half time.

Brive ran in a further three tries after that from Guillaume Namy, Guillaume Ribes and Benito Masilevu to secure a comfortable bonus-point victory away from home.

The scorers:

For Enisei-STM:
Try: Rudoy
Pen: Kushnarev

For Brive:
Tries: Bezy, Namy, Ribes, Masilevu
Cons: Germain 3, Bezy
Pens: Germain 5

Enisei-STM: 15 Thomas Halse, 14 Igor Kurashov, 13 Jurijs Baranovs, 12 Dmitrii Gerasimov, 11 Denis Simplikevich, 10 Iurii Kushnarev, 9 Alexey Shcherban, 8 Anton Rudoi, 7 Vitalii Orlov, 6 Mikheil Gachechiladze, 5 Maxim Gargalic, 4 Uldis Saulite, 3 Innokentiy Zykov, 2 Stanislav Selskii, 1 Andrei Polivalov
Replacements: 16 Shamil Magomedov, 17 Valery Morozov, 18 Evgenii Pronenko, 19 Andrey Temnov, 20 Aleksandr Budychenko, 21 Konstantin Uzunov, 22 Aleksei Mikhaltsov, 23 Viacheslav Krasylnyk

Brive: 15 Gaetan Germain, 14 Takudzwa Ngwenya, 13 Arnaud Mignardi, 12 Sevanaia Galala, 11 Guillaume Namy, 10 Nicolas Bézy, 9 Vasil Lobzhanidze, 8 Dominiko Waqaniborutu 7 Said Hireche, 6 Péniami Narisia, 5 Jan Uys, 4 Johan Snyman, 3 Damien Jourdain, 2 Guillaume Ribes, 1 Vivien Devisme
Replacements: 16 Francois Da Ros, 17 Damien Lavergne, 18 Patrick Toetu, 19 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 20 William Whetton, 21 Jean-Baptiste Pejoine, 22 Christopher Tuatara, 23 Benito Masilevu

Referee: Ian Tempest (England)
Assistant Referees: Tim Wigglesworth (England), Simon McConnell (England)

Timisoara Saracens 3-42 Harlequins

It took 20 minutes before any points were scored when Valentin Calafeteanu got things underway with a penalty.

It turned out to be the only points his team managed to score as Quins took control of the game with three tries inside eight minutes, all of them before the break.

Charlie Walker scored a brace in the first seven minutes of the second half before Joe Marchant added the sixth try to add to the firdt-half contributions from Dave Ward, George Merrick and Aaron Morris.

The scorers:

For Timisoara Saracens:
Pen: Calafeteanu

For Harlequins:
Tries: Ward, Merrick, Morris, Walker 2, Marchant
Cons: Jackson 6

Timisoara Saracens: 15 Catalin Fercu, 14 Stephen Shennan, 13 Brian Sefanaia, 12 Paula Kinikinilau, 11 Fonovai Tangimana, 10 Jack Umaga, 9 Valentin Calafeteanu, 8 Sandu Stelian Burcea, 7 Daniel Gabriel Ianus, 6 Randall Morrison, 5 Marian Drenceanu, 4 Valentin Popirlan, 3 Horatiu Pungea, 2 Eugen Capatana, 1 Edmund Aholelei
Replacements: 16 Andrei Radoi, 17 Gigi Militaru, 18 Samuel Maris, 19 Ionut Muresan, 20 Dorin Lazar, 21 Gabriel Conache, 22 Tevita Manumua, 23 Madalin Lemnaru

Harlequins: 15 Aaron Morris, 14 Charlie Walker, 13 Joe Marchant, 12 Winston Stanley, 11 Alofa Alofa, 10 Ruaridh Jackson, 9 Danny Care, 8 Jack Clifford, 7 James Chisholm, 6 George Naoupu, 5 Charlie Matthews, 4 George Merrick, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 2 Dave Ward, 1 Joe Marler
Replacements: 16 Rob Buchanan, 17 Owen Evans, 18 Adam Jones, 19 Stan South, 20 Matt Shields, 21 Charlie Mulchrone, 22 Tim Swiel, 23 Matt Hopper

Referee: Lloyd Linton (Scotland)
Assistant Referees: Sam Grove-White (Scotland), Bob Nevins (Scotland)

Cardiff Blues 28-3 Bath

Two penalties from Steve Shingler gave the Blues a early 6-0 lead before Tom Homer pulled one back with a penalty for Bath.

The rest of the first half was quiet and fairly even with Shingler’s third penalty the only other points scored in the first half.

Cardiff Blues stepped up their efforts in the second stanza and were rewarded with two quick tries in the space of five minutes when Matthew Morgan and Alex Cuthbert opened up the Bath defence,

Scott Andrews scored his try two minutes from time to put the cherry on top of a dominant performance for the hosts.

The scorers:

For Cardiff Blues:
Tries: Morgan, Cuthbert, Andrews
Cons: Shingler 2
Pens: Shingler 3

For Bath:
Pen: Homer

Cardiff Blues: 15 Matthew Morgan, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Rey Lee-Lo, 12 Willis Halaholo, 11 Blaine Scully, 10 Steven Shingler, 9 Lloyd Williams, 8 Josh Navidi, 7 Sam Warburton, 6 Seb Davies, 5 James Down, 4 George Earle, 3 Tau Filise, 2 Kristian Dacey, 1 Rhys Gill
Replacements: 16 Matthew Rees, 17 Brad Thyer, 18 Scott Andrews, 19 Jarrad Hoeata, 20 Kirby Myhill, 21 Tomos Williams, 22 Nicky Robinson, 23 Cory Allen

Bath: 15 Tom Homer, 14 Semesa Rokoduguni, 13 Max Clark, 12 Ben Tapuai, 11 Jack Wilson, 10 Dan Bowden, 9 Darren Allinson, 8 Paul Grant, 7 Tom Ellis, 6 Matt Garvey, 5 Elliott Stooke, 4 Charlie Ewels, 3 Max Lahiff, 2 Ross Batty, 1 Beno Obano
Replacements: 16 Jack Walker, 17 Nick Auterac, 18 Kane Palma Newport, 19 Guy Mercer, 20 Michael Van Vuuren, 21 Will Homer, 22 Adam Hastings, 23 Jeff Williams

Referee: George Clancy (Ireland) Assistant
Referees: Gary Conway (Ireland), Eddie Hogan-O’Connell (Ireland)

Worcester 33-20 Dragons

Amazingly, all of Worcester’s points were scored in the second half as the Dragons took a 6-0 half-time lead thanks to a penalty and drop goal from Angus O’Brien.

The Warriors opened their account right after the break when Val Rapava Ruskin went over for a five-pointer. Dean Hammond scored a second just two minutes later and suddenly the home side were 10-6 ahead.

Worcester were awarded two penalty tries which Connor Braid both converted which further extended their lead and when Max Stelling scored in the 73rd minute the writing was on the wall.

But the Dragons weren’t finished as Ashton Hewitt scored a brace in the space of two minutes to add some respectability to the score.

The scorers:

For Worcester:
Tries: Ruskin, Hammond, Stelling, Penalty Try 2
Cons: Braid 4

For Dragons:
Tries: Hewitt 2
Cons: O’Brien 2
Pen: O’Brien
Drop Goal: O’Brien

Worcester: 15 Josh Adams, 14 Ben Howard, 13 Max Stelling, 12 Ryan Mills, 11 Dean Hammond, 10 Connor Braid, 9 George DeCothi, 8 Matt Cox, 7 Carl Kirwan, 6 Sam Betty, 5 Christian Scotland-Williamson, 4 Will Spencer, 3 Bi Alo, 2 Jack Singleton, 1 Val Rapava Ruskin
Replacements: 16 Matti Williams, 17 Ryan Bower, 18 Mike Daniels, 19 Andrew Kitchener, 20 Huw Taylor, 21 Charlie Hewitt, 22 Jamie Shillcock, 23 Andy Short

Dragons: 15 Tom Prydie, 14 Tyler Morgan, 13 Sam Beard, 12 Adam Warren, 11 Ashton Hewitt, 10 Angus O’Brien, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Lewis Evans, 7 Nic Cudd, 6 James Thomas, 5 Cory Hill, 4 Matthew Screech, 3 Brok Harris, 2 Rhys Buckley, 1 Phil Price
Replacements: 16 Elliot Dee, 17 Sam Hobbs, 18 Leon Brown, 19 Rynard Landman, 20 Harrison Keddie, 21 Tavis Knoyle, 22 Rhys Jones, 23 Jack Dixon

Referee: Thomas Charabas (France)
Assistant Referees: Sébastien Minery (France), Luc Ramos (France)

Edinburgh 28-23 Stade Français

This was in impressive performance from Edinburgh, who struggled in the first half and played the majority of the second half with just 14 men after Phil Burleigh received a red card in the 56th minute.

Stade has the upper hand in the first 40. Waisea Nayacalevu scored after just four minutes. Morne Steyn added the extras and four minutes later kicked a drop goal to give his side a 10-0 lead early on.

Sekou Macalou extending their lead even further with his own five-pointer before Steyn and Duncan Weir exchanged penalties before half time as Stade took a 20-3 lead into the second half.

But Edinburgh fought back in the second 40, starting with a try from Damien Hoylan. Ben Toolis followed suit shortly after to reduce the deficit to just five points.

Steyn kicked another penalty in the 59th minute right after Burleigh has been sent off, but the hosts hit back almost immediately through Sam Hidalgo-Clyne. Weir’s extras made it a one-point game before he added two more penalties to complete the comeback and seal the result.

The scorers:

For Edinburgh:
Tries: Hoyland, Tooliss, Hidalgo-Clyne
Cons: Weir 2
Pens: Weir 2
Red Card: Burleigh

For Stade Français:
Tries: Nayacalevu, Macalou
Cons: Steyn 2
Pens: Steyn 2
Drop Goal: Steyn

Edinburgh: 15 Blair Kinghorn, 14 Damien Hoyland, 13 Michael Allen, 12 Phil Burleigh, 11 William Helu, 10 Duncan Weir, 9 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, 8 Magnus Bradbury, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 Viliame Mata, 5 Grant Gilchrist, 4 Ben Toolis, 3 Murray McCallum, 2 Stuart McInally, 1 Alasdair Dickinson
Replacements: 16 Ross Ford, 17 Allan Dell, 18 Simon Berghan, 19 Fraser McKenzie, 20 Cornell Du Preez, 21 Sean Kennedy, 22 Jason Tovey, 23 Glenn Bryce

Stade Français: 15 Jérémy Sinzelle, 14 Julien Arias, 13 Waisea Vuidarvuwalu, 12 Paul Williams, 11 Josaia Raisuqe, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Will Genia, 8 Willem Alberts, 7 Mathieu De Giovanni, 6 Sekou Macalou, 5 Pascal Papé, 4 Paul Gabrillagues, 3 Giorgi Melikidze, 2 Laurent Panis, 1 Heinke van der Merwe
Replacements: 16 Remi Bonfils, 17 Zurabi Zhvania, 18 Emmanuel Felsina, 19 Hugh Pyle, 20 Patrick Sio, 21 Clement Daguin, 22 Jules Plisson, 23 Théo Millet

Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys (England)
Assistant Referees: Dean Richards (England), Andrew Pearce (England)
TMO: David Sainsbury (England)

Challenge Cup Wrap


Gloucester overcame La Rochelle 35-14 while the Grenoble and Ospreys fixture was postponed in the Challenge Cup on Thursday, reports Planet Rugby

Gloucester 35-14 La Rochelle

Gloucester took the initiative in Pool 1 of the Challenge Cup as they claimed a bonus-point win over La Rochelle at Kingsholm.

The Cherry and Whites were leading 22-7 at half-time after bouncing back well from being 0-7 adrift following an eighth minute score from flank Kevin Gourdan. It came from sustained pressure on the Gloucester try-line with Zack Holmes knocking over the relatively simple extras.

Centre Mark Atkinson got them level with a converted try and then Greig Laidlaw slotted a penalty on 24 minutes to push them 10-7 ahead.

Loosehead prop Josh Hohneck and wing Ollie Thorley then crossed in the next 10 minutes before Laidlaw extended the cushion to 15 points.

Hope came for La Rochelle when wing David Raikuna scored three minutes into the second period, but Laidlaw was on-target again soon after, making it 25-14 until the 66th minute when the Scotland international scrum-half called for the tee once again to push his side 28-14 up.

At that point it seemed more likely Gloucester would extend their lead rather than La Rochelle set up a grandstand finish and so it proved as a late score from centre Matt Scott secured the bonus-point that moves the Cherry and Whites five points clear of the French outfit in Pool 1

The scorers:

For Gloucester:
Tries: Atkinson, Hohneck, Thorley, Scott
Cons: Laidlaw 3
Pens: Laidlaw 3

For La Rochelle:
Tries: Gourdon, Raikuna
Cons: Holmes 2

Gloucester: 15 David Halaifonua, 14 Ollie Thorley, 13 Matt Scott, 12 Mark Atkinson, 11 Henry Purdy, 10 Billy Burns, 9 Greig Laidlaw, 8 Gareth Evans, 7 Matt Kvesic, 6 Ross Moriarty, 5 Joe Latta, 4 Tom Savage, 3 Salesi Ma’afu, 2 Motu Matu’u, 1 Josh Hohneck
Replacements: 16 Richard Hibbard, 17 Yann Thomas, 18 Paul Doran-Jones, 19 Tom Denton, 20 Freddie Clarke, 21 Callum Braley, 22 Charlie Sharples, 23 Lewis Ludlow

La Rochelle: 15 Vincent Rattez, 14 Gabriel Lacroix, 13 Steve Barry, 12 Botia Veivuke, 11 David Raikuna, 10 Zack Holmes, 9 Ricky Januarie, 8 Jone Qovu Nailiko, 7 Victor Vito, 6 Kevin Gourdon, 5 Mathieu Tanguy, 4 Jason Eaton, 3 Uini Atonio, 2 Hikairo Forbes, 1 Mike Corbel
Replacements: 16 Maxime Gau, 17 Dany Priso, 18 Mohamed Boughanmi, 19 Damien Lagrange, 20 Romain Sazy, 21 Alexi Bales, 22 Brock James, 23 Elliot Roudil

Referee: Andrew Brace (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: Leo Colgan (Ireland), Joy Neville (Ireland)
TMO: Peter Fitzgibbon (Ireland)

Grenoble P-P Ospreys

The match between Grenoble and Ospreys at Stade des Alpes was postponed due to a frozen pitch.

After consultation with the respective head coaches, referee Marius Mitrea decided that certain parts of the playing surface were not fit for the fixture to go ahead as scheduled.

It is envisaged that the Pool 2 match will be played on Friday at the same venue with EPCR set to communicate further details as soon as practicable.

Taute stars on Euro debut

1 looks back at the past weekend’s European Champions Cup and European Challenge Cup matches, involving South African players.



Pool 1

– The Leicester Tigers withstood a late onslaught to beat Racing 27-17 at Welford Road on Sunday. JP Pietersenstarted for the Tigers after a one-game absence, and the Bok winger made five carries and ran 36m upon his return to action. Johan Goosen played outside centre for the visitors, running 57m from five carries and two clean breaks.

– Munster, featuring inside centre Jaco Taute and eighthman CJ Stander, secured an emotional 38-17 bonus-point victory over the Glasgow Warriors. Stander started at the back of the scrum, but wore the No 28 on his back after Munster decided to retire the No 8 shirt for this game in honour of late coach Anthony Foley, who was buried on Friday. Taute starred for Munster and scored a try on his Champions Cup debut. Josh Straussstarted for the Warriors.

Pool 2

– A late try saw flank Ashley Johnson and his Wasps teammates snatch a dramatic 20-20 draw with hosts Toulouse. Former Bok prop Gurthrö Steenkamp was on the Toulouse bench.

–  Forwards Quintin Geldenhuys, Johan Meyer and Dries van Schalkwyk were in the Zebre team that lost 52-7 to Connacht. In the most one-sided game in round two, Connacht, with lock Quinn Roux and wing Danie Poolman in their ranks, ran riot against their hosts.

Pool 3

– Toulon battled to a 15-5 win over the 14-man Sale Sharks at the AJ Bell Stadium. Boks Bryan Habana and No 8 Duane Vermeulen started for Toulon, while compatriot Marcel van der Merwewas named on the bench. Prop Brian Mujati earned a starting berth for Sale.

– Saracens continued to set the tone in European rugby with a 44-26 triumph over the Scarlets in London. Hooker Schalk Brits and flanks Schalk Burger and Michael Rhodes were starters for Sarries and prop Petrus du Plessis was among the reserves. Rhodes burrowed over for a try in the 74th minute. Winger DTH van der Merwe, lock David Bulbring and prop Werner Krugerwere on duty for Scarlets.

Pool 4

– Centre Robert Ebersohn, scurmhalf Rory Kockott, prop Dan Kotzé and hooker Jody Jenneker were part of the Castres side that smashed the Northampton Saints 41-7 at home. Former Stormers scrumhalf Nic Groom represented the Saints.

– Montpellier clinched an exciting 22-16 win against Leinster at the Altrad Stadium. Frans Steyn(inside centre), Pierre Spies (No 8), Paul Willemse (lock), Jacques du Plessis (lock) and Jannie du Plessis (prop) were in Montpellier’s run-on XV, while Nicolaas van Rensburg and Wiaan Liebenberg were used as impact players. Steyn kicked two crucial conversions and a penalty for the winners. Ex-Bok Zane Kirchner was at fullback for Leinster.

Pool 5

– Ulster, with Ruan Pienaar, Franco van der Merwe and Rob Herring in their ranks, claimed an enthralling 19-18 win against the Exeter Chiefs thanks to a 77th-minute drop goal. The winners are still in third position in the pool standings.

– Ex-Stormers duo Kobus can Wyk and Steven Kitshoff were in the Bordeaux team that suffered a 49-33 defeat at the hands of Clermont. The Bordeaux players were ill-disciplined throughout the game and the team paid the price with two yellow cards, including one for Van Wyk.


Pool 1

– Treviso, with Braam Steyn at No 8, slumped to a 37-8 loss against Gloucester at Kingsholm Stadium. The result had no impact on the pool standings, as Gloucester remain second and Treviso fourth.

Pool 2

– Jacques-Louis Potgieter kicked one penalty but it was in vain as captain Deon Fourie and his Lyon charges lost 31-13 against Ospreys. Prop BJ Botha was on the bench for Lyon, but failed to make an appearance.

– Lock Mouritz Botha and his Newcastle Falcons teammates smashed beleaguered Grenoble 50-7 at Kingston Park. The result sees the two teams swap positions on the log, with the Falcons moving to third and Grenoble dropping to fourth.

Pool 3

– Enisei continued to defy the odds when they claimed another big scalp to make it two wins from as many games. The Russian qualifiers beat the Newport Gwent Dragons 38-18. Fullback Carl Meyer, wing Pat Howard and lock Ligtoring Landman turned out for the Dragons, who are now second in the standings. Enisei are top of the pool log. Howard scored the Dragons’ opening try in the 19th minute.

– Locks Jan Uys and Johan Snyman and prop Kevin Buys did service for Brive, who clinched a 25-25 win over hosts the Worcester Warriors at Sixways Stadium.

Pool 4

– Bath ousted bitter rivals Bristol 22-6 at The Rec. Hooker Michael van Vuuren earned a rare spot in Bath’s starting lineup.

Pool 5

WP Nel‘s Edinburgh edged Tim Swiel‘s Harlequins 36-35 in an instant classic at Murrayfield on Saturday. Swiel came on as a replacement and kicked two conversions, but it was in vain. The result keeps Edinburgh top of the standings, three points clear of Quins.

– Morné Steyn, Jono Ross, Craig Burden, Willem Alberts and Meyer Bosman were part of the Stade Français outfit that battled to a 27-0 win against Timisoara Saracens in Paris. Steyn slotted two conversions and a penalty. Flyhalf Jody Rose and flank Randall Morrison started for the Romanian qualifiers.

Champions Cup Wrap Round 2




Challenge Cup Wrap Round 2




Challenge Cup wrap Round 1


RC Enisei made a superb start to their Challenge Cup campaign when they claimed a shock 19-12 win over Worcester Warriors in Moscow on Saturday.


There were also impressive wins on the road for Edinburgh, La Rochelle and Gloucester.

RC Enisei 19-12 Worcester Warriors

RC Enisei were full value for this win over their more fancied opponents despite being outscored by two tries to one.

Yury Kushnarev was the home side’s hero as he finished with an 11-point haul courtesy of three penalties and a conversion.

RC Enisei made a superb start when Davit Kacharav scored the opening try in the sixth minute after Kushnarev had opened the scoring from the kicking tee three minutes earlier.

Worcester struck back via a Josh Adams try which Jamie Shillcock converted which meant the hosts led 10-7 at the interval.

The second half saw Kushnarev add two further penalties before the Warriors narrowed the gap via a late Derrick Appia try, but RC Enisei clinched victory when Ramil Gaisin landed a drop goal in the 74th minute.

The scorers:

For RC Enisei:
Con: Kushnarev
Pens: Kushnarev 3
Drop Goal: Gisin

For Worcester Warriors:
Adams, Appiah
Con: Shillcock

Enisei-STM: 15 Thomas Halse, 14 Igor Kurashov, 13 David Kacharava, 12 Dmitrii Gerasimov, 11 Denis Simplikevich, 10 Iurii Kushnarev, 9 Alexey Shcherban, 8 Anton Rudoi, 7 Vitalii Orlov, 6 Mikheil Gachechiladze, 5 Maxim Gargalic, 4 Uldis Saulite, 3 Innokentiy Zykov, 2 Stanislav Selskii, 1 Alexey Volkov
Replacements:: 16 Shamil Magomedov, 17 Valery Morozov, 18 Evgenii Pronenko, 19 Andrey Temnov, 20 Ramil Gaisin, 21 Konstantin Uzunov, 22 Aleksei Mikhaltsov, 23 Viacheslav Krasylnyk

Worcester Warriors: 15 Josh Adams, 14 Andy Short, 13 Max Stelling, 12 Will Butler, 11 Dean Hammond, 10 Jamie Shillcock, 9 Luke Baldwin, 8 Matt Cox, 7 Sam Betty, 6 Huw Taylor, 5 Christian Scotland-Williamson, 4 Charlie Hewitt, 3 Mike Daniels, 2 Matti Williams, 1 Ryan Bower
Replacements: 16 Jack Singleton, 17 Derrick Appiah, 18 Bi Alo, 19 Andrew Kitchener, 20 Zac Xiourouppa, 21 George DeCothi, 22 Tiff Eden, 23 Ryan Lamb

Referee: Marius Mitrea (Italy)

Timisoara Saracens 17-59 Edinburgh

Edinburgh made an emphatic start to the Challenge Cup with a 59-17 rout of Timsoara Saracens on Saturday.

For Timsoara Saracens it’s a tough start to their debut Challenge Cup campaign having been outscored nine tries to two at the Dan Paltinisanu Stadium.

Edinburgh re-wrote their Challenge Cup record book as they notched their highest points tally (59), registered their biggest win (42), scored their most tries (9) and kicked most conversions (7). There were also try hat-tricks for skipper Stuart McInally and Nasi Manu.

It took only two minutes for Edinburgh, the 2015 finalists, to get the scoreboard moving. Viliame Mata made the initial break before McInally set up wing Mike Allen for his fourth try of the season.

Jason Tovey added his first of seven conversions. Mata’s debut got even better three minutes later when he crossed for a wonderful try to extend Edinburgh’s lead.

Timisoara scrum-half Valentin Calafeteanu kicked a penalty to get his side on the scoresheet, but a hat-trick of tries from hooker McInally in a 20 minute period put the visitors out of sight. Manu then scored two before the break to leave the Saracens, who had a try from wing Stephen Shennan converted by Calafeteanu, trailing 45-10.

The scorers:

For Timisoara Saracens:
Shennan 2
Cons: Calafeteanu 2
Pen: Calafeteanu

For Edinburgh:
Allan, Mata 2, McInally 3, Manu 3
Cons: Tovey 7

Timisoara Saracens: 15 Catalin Fercu, 14 Fonovai Tangimana, 13 Brian Sefanaia, 12 Jack Umaga, 11 Stephen Shennan, 10 Jody Rose, 9 Valentin Calafeteanu, 8 Sandu Stelian Burcea, 7 Vasile Rus, 6 Daniel Ianus, 5 Marian Drenceanu, 4 Valentin Poparlan, 3 Horatiu Pungea, 2 Eugen Capatina, 1 Gigi Militaru
Replacements: 16 Andrei Radoi, 17 Edmund Aholelei, 18 Samuel Maris, 19 Ionut Muresan, 20 Randall Morrison, 21 Gabriel Conache, 22 Tevita Manumua, 23 Daniel Vladut Zaharia

Edinburgh: 15 Rory Scholes, 14 Alexander Northam, 13 Sasa Tofilau, 12 Junior Rasolea, 11 Michael Allen, 10 Jason Tovey, 9 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, 8 Nasi Manu, 7 John Hardie, 6 Viliame Mata, 5 Ben Toolis, 4 Fraser McKenzie, 3 Murray McCallum, 2 Stuart McInally1 Allan Dell
Replacements: 16 Neil Cochrane, 17 Rory Sutherland, 18 Jack Cosgrove, 19 Lewis Carmichael, 20 Vili Fihaki, 21 Nathan Fowles, 22 Blair Kinghorn, 23 Glenn Bryce

Referee: Ian Tempest (England)

Treviso 10-41 La Rochelle

La Rochelle crushed Treviso 41-10 with a comprehensive win away from home for a winning start to their Challenge Cup campaign.

La Rochelle were 10-0 ahead after 18 minites thanks to Uini Atonio’s first try as well as a penalty from Brock James. Treviso’s only response in the first half was a penalty from Ian McKinley.

La Rochelle extended their lead with two tries in the first 10 minutes after the break thanks to a try from Hikairo Forbes before Atonio added his second to effectively end the contest with a 27-3 lead.

Luke McLean scored the home side’s only try of the game with 15 minutes to play, but two tries in the last 10 minutes, one of them a penalty try before Jason Eaton added another five-pointer, put the icing on the cake for La Rochelle while bringing to an end a miserable afternoon for the hosts.

The scorers:

For Treviso:
Con: Allan
Pen: McKinley

For La Rochelle:
Forbes, Atonio 2, Eaton, Penalty Try
Cons: James 3, Holmes
Pens: James 2

Treviso: 15 Luke McLean, 14 Michael Tagicakibau, 13 Tommaso Benvenuti, 12 Alberto Sgarbi, 11 David Odiete, 10 Ian Mc Kinley, 9 Tito Tebaldi, 8 Braam Steyn, 7 Marco Lazzaroni, 6 Francesco Minto, 5 Marco Fuser, 4 Filippo Gerosa, 3 Simone Ferrari, 2 Ornel Gega1 Alberto de Marchi
Replacements: 16 Davide Giazzon, 17 Matteo Zanusso, 18 Tiziano Pasquali, 19 Roberto Santamaria, 20 Dean Budd, 21 Giorgio Bronzini, 22 Tommy Allan, 23 Andrea Pratichetti

La Rochelle: 15 Kini Murimurivalu, 14 David Raikuna, 13 Elliot Roudil, 12 Zack Holmes, 11 Romaric Camou, 10 Brock James, 9 Arthur Retiere, 8 Victor Vito, 7 Afa Amosa, 6 Kevin Gourdon, 5 Damien Lagrange, 4 Jason Eaton, 3 Uini Atonio, 2 Jeremie Maurouard, 1 Dany Priso
Replacements: 16 Hikairo Forbes, 17 Vincent Pelo, 18 Luc Mousset, 19 Mathieu Tanguy, 20 Leo Cedaro, 21 Anthony Fuertes, 22 Botia Veivuke, 23 Charles Bouldoire

Referee: Greg Garner (England)

Bayonne 27-47 Gloucester

Gloucester turned on the style as they claimed an emphatic 47-27 victory over Bayonne at Stade Jean Dauger.

The visitors dominated from the outset and outscored their visitors by six tries to three with Mark Atkinson leading the way with a brace of five-pointers and James Hook contributed 17 points to the Cherry and Whites’ cause thanks to four conversions and three penalties.

Both Atkinson’s tries came inside the opening quarter as Gloucester raced into a 21-6 lead with Matt Scott also getting his name on the scoreboard with a deserved try.

Bayonne’s only points during this period came via two Lucas Meret penalties but the visitors reduced the deficit in the 27th minute when Thibault Lacroix crossed for their opening try.

Hook slotted a penalty shortly afterwards,before Simon Labouyrie narrowed the gap by going over for Bsyonne’s second try. Gloucester extended their lead on the stroke of half-time when Billy Twelvetrees crossed for their fourth try which meant the visitors led 29-20 at the interval.

Bayonne were fastest out of the blocks in the second half when Dion Evrard Oulai scored their third try and when Meret converted, the match was evenly balanced at 29-27 to Gloucester.

Gloucester upped the ante on attack though and tries from Jonny May and Tom Savage, combined with Hook’s goalkicking, sealed their win.

The scorers:

For Bayonne:
Lacroix, Labouyrie, Oulai
Cons: Leret 3
Pens: Leret 2

For Gloucester:
Scott, Atkinson 2, Twelvetrees, May, Savage
Cons: Hook 4
Pens: Hook 3

Bayonne: 15 Julien Jane, 14 Martin Laveau, 13 Adam Whitelock, 12 Thibault Lacroix, 11 Bastien Fuster, 10 Lucas Meret, 9 Bastien Duhalde, 8 Jean-Blaise Lespinasse, 7 Dion Evrard Oulai, 6 Tanerau Latimer, 5 Adam Jaulhac, 4 Guillaume Ducat, 3 Richard Choirat, 2 Simon Labouyrie, 1 Aretz Iguiniz
Replacements: 16 Manu Leiataua, 17 Adrien Bordenave, 18 Toma Taufa, 19 Pablo Huete, 20 Manu Saubusse, 21 Arnaud Duputs, 22 Simon Maillard, 23 Maile Mamao

Gloucester: 15 James Hook, 14 David Halaifonua, 13 Matt Scott, 12 Mark Atkinson, 11 Jonny May, 10 Billy Twelvetrees, 9 Willi Heinz, 8 Ben Morgan, 7 Jacob Rowan, 6 Lewis Ludlow, 5 Joe Latta, 4 Tom Savage, 3 Paul Doran-Jones, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Yann Thomas
Replacements: 16 Motu Matu’u, 17 Cameron Orr, 18 John Afoa, 19 Mariano Galarza, 20 Matt Kvesic, 21 Callum Braley, 22 Ollie Thorley, 23 Charlie Sharples

Referee: Referee: Gary Conway (Ireland)

Pau 22-25 Bath

Rhys Priestland kicked six penalties and a conversion to help Bath overcome Pau 25-22 in their Challenge Cup opener on Saturday.

Pau will be disappointed with their home defeat considering they outscored Bath by three tries to one, but luckily for the visitors Priestland brought his kicking boots along to clinch the victory.

Both teams finished the game with 14 men after first Ben Mowen (70th minute) and then Aled Brew (71st minute) was sent to the sin-bin with yellow cards.

The visitors took a narrow 16-14 lead into the break thanks to three penalties and a conversion from Priestland in answer to tries from Romain Buros and Sean Dougall for the hosts.

The Wales international added two more after the break but Brandon Fajardo scored one of his own reduce the deficit to 22-17. Priestland’s sixth penalty sealed the win before a consolation try from Watisoni Votu.

The scorers:

For Pau:
Buros, Dougall, Votu
Cons: Fajardo 2
Pen: Fajardo

For Bath:
Con: Priestland
Pens: Priestand 6

Pau: 15 Romain Buros, 14 Marvin Lestremeau, 13 Santiago Fernandez, 12 Watisoni Votu, 11 Mosese Ratuvou, 10 Brandon Fajardo, 9 Thibault Daubagna, 8 Ben Mowen, 7 Sean Dougall, 6 Pierrick Gunther, 5 Daniel Ramsay, 4 Abdellatif Boutaty, 3 Matthew Tierney, 2 Quentin Lespiaucq Brettes, 1 Jérémy Hurou
Replacements: 16 Lucas Rey, 17 Geoffrey Moise, 18 Malik Hamadache, 19 Masalosalo Tutaia, 20 Giovanni Habel Kuffner, 21 Thierry Lacrampe, 22 Pierre Dupouy, 23 Bastien Pourailly

Bath: 15 Tom Homer, 14 Semesa Rokoduguni, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Matt Banahan, 11 Aled Brew, 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Kahn Fotuali’i, 8 Leroy Houston, 7 Guy Mercer, 6 Tom Ellis, 5 Elliott Stooke, 4 Luke Charteris, 3 Kane Palma Newport, 2 Tom Dunn, 1 Nick Auterac
Replacements: 16 Michael Van Vuuren, 17 Max Lahiff, 18 Shaun Knight, 19 Charlie Ewels, 20 Matt Garvey, 21 Chris Cook, 22 Dan Bowden, 23 Jeff Williams

Referee: Ian Davies (Wales)