Edinburgh clinch home quarter-final
Duncan Hodge’s side ran in seven tries on their return to Myreside with Neil Cochrane – on his 50th appearance for Edinburgh – going over for a brace and picking up the Heineken Man of the Match award.
After a 15-year absence from their spiritual home, the 2015 Challenge Cup runners-up simply had to record a win against the Romanians to book a home quarter-final berth and stay on course for a dream trip to the home of Scottish rugby at BT Murrayfield on the European Finals Weekend in May.
It took just one minute for Edinburgh to get the first score in Timisoara in Round 1, but the hosts had to show patience to brush off the early nerves. But after a gritty opening captain Cochrane was on hand to crash over at the back of a rolling maul in the 10thminute, with outside-half Duncan Weir spot on with the conversion.
The hosts were up and running and soon took a foothold on the game. Cornell Du Preez found the second after collecting Tom Brown’s set up, with Weir continuing to impress with the tee. Allan Dell departed after a blow to the head, and failed a Head Injury Assessment which put a halt to the Scottish international prop’s night.
But there were no such worries for Blair Kinghorn who intercepted a loose ball from 50 metres to score at the posts for number three, before Michael Allen bagged the bonus-point, three minutes before half-time.
Timisoara got themselves on the board, one minute into the second-half after scrum-half Valentin Calafeteanu slotted a penalty. Edinburgh, however, soon resumed from where they left off with Cochrane going over for his second and his team’s fifth. Weir bowed out with the conversion to seal a perfect record for the evening, and was replaced by Jason Tovey.
Sam Hidalgo-Clyne was sent to the bin by referee Adam Jones, and soon after it was level-pegging when Marian Drenceanu saw yellow for collapsing a maul. Edinburgh were well on top as replacement Tovey carved his way through a gap to score number six, and chipped over with the conversion.
Hidalgo-Clyne returned, and was immediately involved in teeing up Damien Hoyland who wrapped up proceedings 12 minutes from the end.
Hammond stars in Warriors try fest
It was just a second win of the campaign for the Warriors – who went down 19-12 against the Russian club in their Round 1 contest at Slava Stadium Enisei-STM – but this 57-14 romp was some revenge for that defeat while the Russian club also bow out of their debut European campaign with two group wins.
Connor Braid opened proceedings for Carl Hogg’s men with an early penalty goal and then Hammond started making his presence felt with the ball in hand, his work carried on by Matt Cox and Sam Betty for Val Rapava Ruskin to provide the finishing touches with the first try.
Dmitri Gerasimov went close for the visitors but a nice finish from Hammond in the corner notched up try No 2 before Enisei looked to batter their way over the 22 through captain Yury Baranov.
Braid missed a penalty opportunity when he pushed his attempt wide but the Russians promptly gave him another chance and this time he made no mistake with the simpler kick.
Full back Ben Howard then made 50 metres slicing open Enisei and Hammond profited from that searing run with his second and Warriors’ third try.
There was more woe for the Russians when Igor Kurashov was sent to the sin bin by Welsh referee Dan Jones and flanker Sam Betty cashed in against the 14-man opponents by crossing for the bonus point try after 34 minutes, Braid converting.
Enisei did get close with Maxime Gargalik but a nice crossfield kick by Jamie Shillcock bounced kindly for Hammond to collect and pocket his hat-trick.
Braid converted but Enisei had the last word of the half as Mikhail Gachechiladze crashed over and Yuri Kushnarev added the conversion for a 35-7 scoreline at the break.
Warriors were relieved to have midfield powerhouse Te’o back in action and he set up Ben Howard for an easy score and their sixth try but the Russians proved they would not go quietly with Valeri Morozov burrowing over from close range and Kushnarev converting.
But the Russians were reduced to 14 men for the final 12 minutes when – with that man Hammond bearing down on him – Kurashov illegally putting the ball out and referee Jones awarding a penalty try and showing the Russian the red card.
Tiff Eden added the extra points with Sam Ripper-Smith and Max Stelling going over in the dying minutes to wrap matters up in style.
Two-try Bekoshvili is Brive hero
Semi-finalists in the last two seasons, the Welsh region arrived at a sun-bathed Stade Amedee-Domenech knowing they had to in to stand any chance of going into the knock-out phase once again. They got off to a terrible start, clawed their way back into the contest, but then fell away at the death.
Brive, who celebrate the 20th anniversary of their famous European Cup triumph over Leicester in Cardiff on 25 January, got off to a flying start and were 15 points up in as many minutes. Bekoshvili powered his way over for the first of five home tries after only four minutes.
Gaetan Germain couldn’t convert that one, but he kicked a penalty and then added the extras to a second try from Taku Ngwenya with the game only a quarter-of-an-hour old. That gave the Dragons a real mountain to climb, but they quickly began to tackle the task.
Former Wales scrum half Tavis Knoyle scampered over for a try that Angus O’Brien converted and not even a third home try, this time from Damien Lavergne, could dampen the visitors’ spirits. Three minutes after taking over from Knoyle, Sarel Pretorius made sure the Dragons made the most of the yellow card issued to Romain Cabannes by crossing for a second try.
O’Brien added the extras and the gap at the break was only eight points. That was cut even further seven minutes into the second half when Pretorius claimed his second try to make it 22-19.
Now the Dragons were right back in it and had plenty of chances to push for the win. With three tries to their credit, they were only one away from the bonus point they needed, but couldn’t make the most of their chances.
In the end, the power of the home pack triumphed and three of their five tries came from close range, driving line-outs. Bekoshvili was driven over for his second on 64 minutes to bag the bonus-point and then Patrick Toetu put the game beyond doubt with a fifth.
10-try Bath thrash Pau
Paul Grant and Anthony Watson both scored two tries each as Todd Blackadder’s men ran in 10 in total at the Rec to seal a home tie in the last eight.
It did not take long for Bath to get on the board – a minute and 25 seconds to be precise – after Tom Dunn powered his way over in the corner.
Pau were on the back foot and it took just four minutes for the hosts to double their lead. George Ford hopped in as temporary scrum-half and found No 8 Grant who crashed over.
It was not Pau’s day as three injury replacements in one minute hampered their progress and when Bath came knocking once again, Ford had to settle for a simple penalty.
Watson found his first and his team’s third when he collected Jonathan Joseph’s kick, before Pau climbed their way into Bath territory for the first time 28 minutes in.
Pierre Dupouy, however, spilled on the try-line as Tom Homer intercepted a loose pass to run the length of the field to score at the posts.
At that stage the hosts were running riot, averaging a point a minute after Ford’s conversion.
Giovanni Kueffner was sent to the bin for retaliation, but the visitors got themselves on the board courtesy of a Brandon Fajardo penalty.
Grant bagged his second with ease one minute after the interval, but Ford hit the uprights for the second time with his attempt at the extras.
Bath were well on top and Watson soon had his second after diving over at the posts. Rhys Priestland then gathered his own kick to cross six minutes later for Bath’s seventh.
But Pau had their reward for a slightly improved second-half display when Mosese Ratuvou crossed in the 61st minute.
Homer was on hand to tee up Zach Mercer who raced away for try number eight – matching last week’s tally against Bristol.
Ben Tapuai was on hand to surpass that haul as he slid in for the ninth, with Ross Batty securing the tenth at the death.
Morgan sends Blues to quarters
The Blues will face either the Ospreys or Gloucester in the last eight, depending on the result of Sunday’s game between Harlequins and Stade Francais in Paris.
If Quins win the Blues will face fellow Welsh side the Ospreys, but a Stade success would see them visit the Cherry and Whites. Either way, Wales’ capital region will be on the road in the knock-out stages.
Their win over Bristol came thanks to two tries from Matthew Morgan – his second a wonderful solo strike – and first-half efforts from Kristian Dacey and Gareth Anscombe. Sam Warburton, set up by Morgan, completed the victory late on.
A scoreless first quarter had seen Bristol have plenty of ball with centre Tusi Pisi their main threat. Fly-half Adrian Jarvis had also missed with a penalty effort he should have converted and once the Blues got their first score, they continued to dominate.
Hooker Dacey got things going, diving over from close range after repeated bursts from Nick Williams among others. Steve Shingler put the conversion wide, but Bristol’s wastefulness was then shown as Cardiff added their second score.
It was the Ashton Gate outfit who were on the attack but in midfield, a long pass from visiting flanker Nick Koster was picked off by Anscombe. Despite only just returning from a groin operation, the New Zealand-born Welshman sprinted clear from halfway to score under the posts.
Shingler converted that score and then kicked a 31st minute penalty to make it 15-0 but despite boasting a comfortable lead, Danny Wilson’s men then threw it away through two mistakes.
First a superb break from Bristol scrum-half Andy Uren – through some albeit weak Blues tackling – allowed Welshman Jordan Williams to score under the posts and then just seven minutes later, the visitors were over again.
Shingler’s loose pass was hacked on by Jordan Williams, the former Scarlet then finding Jack Tovey who saw a nice bounce of the ball give him another simple finish. Jarvis converted both sets of extras to leave Bristol with just a one-point deficit at the break.
The Blues knew at half time they had already made the last eight, but they started the second half with a bang.
Alex Cuthbert bounced a couple of tacklers and Morgan’s first try, which was unconverted, put them back ahead.
To their credit Wilson’s outfit were playing some nice stuff but as they attempted to push for more tries, another mistake saw Bristol strike back.
The game was following a familiar pattern and with the Blues once again on the attack, Ray Lee-Lo’s pass was intercepted by Jordan Williams who sprinted clear from inside his own half and outpaced Morgan to score.
Jarvis converted and for the first time, Bristol were ahead.
It was ebb and flow in the second half but after Shingler booted another penalty, the Blues finally put the game to bed. Morgan’s arcing run after collecting a clearance kick saw him scythe through the Bristol defence for a bonus-point score which showed the pint-sized full-back at his absolute best.
It came after replacement hooker Max Crumpton had been yellow carded for slowing the ball down at a ruck following a break from Cardiff substitute Tomos Williams.
Morgan was now on fire and with the game won, he allowed Warburton to get the game’s final try.
Shingler converted to leave the Blues with a quarter-final to look forward to.
High flying Ospreys – history makers
That made it six of the very best out of six in the Challenge Cup for the Welsh club – though this time they had to wait until the 70th minute to bank all five points with Scott Otten getting the vital fourth try and finally killing off the Falcons’ faint hopes.
And Steve Tandy’s men did it with 43 tries in all of their Pool 2 contests as they claimed the No 1 seeds spot for the quarter-finals in real style.
The old mark of 29 points in the group stages had been a joint affair, Gloucester Rugby and Stade Francais Paris both achieving that twice while Worcester Warriors, London Irish, Northampton Saints and Bath Rugby all went within a point of the maximum in the Challenge Cup. In the European Cup, the only team to reach 29 points was Biarritz Olympique in 2006/07.
But back to the present and the Falcons, who finished their campaign with just two wins, made the Ospreys work hard for that 30 points record and led 21-7 at the break, despite the Ospreys flying out of the blocks – and no-one flying quicker than Rhys Webb.
The Wales scrum half, playing his first match since October following injury, needed just four minutes of his return to scamper over for the first try, Sam Davies converting.
But the Falcons came back with the perfect response, back rower Dan Temm tearing over for a try that Craig Willis converted to even matters up in a whirlwind opening.
Kieron Fonotia initiated an Ospreys charge and his team-mates carried it on until another knock on spoilt the opportunity against an albeit aggressive Falcons defence.
And that was rewarded when, after a series of pick and drives, temporary replacement Rob Vickers was credited with the score, Willis adding the conversion.
Scrum half Micky Young then created the opening with a chip kick that Chris Harris raced onto and Willis made it three from three from the tee to open up a 14-points advantage that held until the break.
Dan Evans tried to get the Ospreys going again soon after the restart with a superb break but an attempted long pass from Webb to Dafydd Howells did not go to hand and the chance was lost.
It took 15 minutes of the second period for the first points, wing Hanno
Dirksen notching up his 150th point for the Ospreys with a try in the corner that went unconverted to leave them nine points adrift.
But that did not last long as outside half Davies converted his own try with the simple conversion from in front of the posts and than adding the extra points to hooker Scott Otten’s try that earned them the try bonus point – yet again – and a place in the European rugby record books.
Lyon thrash Grenoble
Neither team could qualify from Pool 2 and reach the quarter-finals, but that failed to stop both sides from serving up an entertaining 10-try encounter.
Lyon scored nine of those themselves in what was eventually a one-sided score leaving them to return to Top14 action on a high.
Remarkably, the home side were two tries up inside five minutes with Hemani Paea and Albertus Buckle crossing the whitewash to give them an early advantage.
Romain Loursac converted both of those scores and from then on, it was one-way traffic.
Thibault Regard and Napolioni Nalaga both added further first-half scores, with Loursac adding another conversion for a comfortable half-time advantage.
That lead was one they never looked like relinquishing.
Replacement back Jerome Porical scored in both the 45th and 56th minutes and Paul Bonnefond, Curtis Browning and a penalty try completed the scoring.
Loursac ended up with three conversions, as too did Porical, as Lyon ended their pool stage adventure with a bonus-point success.
Peter Kimlin grabbed Grenoble’s only try just after the half hour mark, with Clement Gelin converting and booting two penalties but it wasn’t enough to get them anywhere near a victory.
Gloucester overwhelm Bayonne
The Cherry and Whites were worthy winners as scrum-half Willi Heinz helped himself to three of his team’s 10 tries in what was a one-sided encounter.
David Humphreys’ men were totally dominant, but the English side saw five tries ruled out so the margin of victory could have been even greater.
Billy Burns booted six conversions and Billy Twelvetrees added another to leave Gloucester to face either Cardiff Blues, Harlequins or Stade Francais in the first knock-out round.
After winning away to Benetton Treviso in Round 5, Humphreys knew his team was already in a good position to continue their European odyssey.
And there was never any danger of them ending the pool stages with a defeat once Lewis Ludlow crossed in just the fourth minute.
Burns kicked the conversion on what was a decent day with the boot before Heinz crossed for two scores within 10 minutes. England wing Jonny May and Darren Dawidiuk also pounced for tries before the half-time whistle and Heinz completed his hat-trick just after the break.
As the second half progressed, Gloucester made changes with the game won but Andy Symons, Henry Purdy, Josh Hohneck, Callum Braley all scored in the second period.
Twelvetrees converted Hohneck’s effort and Burns booted the rest, but there was one Bayonne player who refused to give up on what was a night to forget for his team.
Right wing Martin Laveau had scored in both the 18th and 27th minutes to get the visitors on the board and he made it two trebles for the day in the 50th minute.
Lucas Meret kicked two conversions, but it wasn’t enough.
La Rochelle come through in the end
The home side new they were through to the quarter-finals thanks to results earlier in the day and eventually took the highest ranking of the three best runners-up as they eventually came up with four second half tries.
Home skipper Jason Eaton picked up the first of four yellow cards in the game after only eight minutes, but the next three all went to the visitors. Andrea Buondonno and Ornel Gega both went to the sin-bin in the pace of a minute at the start of the second half and then Samoan lock Filo Paulo followed them midway through the second half.
That put intense pressure on battling Benetton and they eventually cracked after taking the lead through an Eduardo Gori try and an Ian McKinely penalty in a tight first-half. That 8-0 lead last until the end of the third quarter, although La Rochelle made the most of 15 v 13 to notch their first try through Hikairo Forbes that Zach Holmes converted to cut the gap to a single point.
Then it was just a question of time as to how long the Italians could hold out. La Rochelle eventually took the lead through Holmes’ penalty that punished Paulo’s yellow card.
After that Afa Amosa and Arthur Retiere twice crossed the Treviso line and Holmes maintained his 100 per cent conversion rate.
Stade Francais clinch final place in last eight
Harlequins, beaten finalists last season, arrived in Paris knowing they, too, could have gone on to reach the knock-out phase. But they never warmed to a game that had the kick-off delayed to ensure the pitch had been fully thawed out.
When the action eventually began 90 minutes later than scheduled it was the home side who got to grips with the task and built up a 17 point lead. Heineken Man of the Match Waisea Vuidarvuwalu raced to the posts for the first try and then French international wing Julien Arias skipped over for the second.
Jules Plisson converted them both and then added a penalty on the stroke of half-time. But just as the home fans were thinking about getting arm in the interval break, Danny Care took a quck tap penalty conceded at the re-start and gave No 8 Mat Luamanu the chance to show off his power with a storming run the length of the home 22 for a try.
If that score gave Harlequins a bit of hope, a 10 point burst in the opening 12 minutes of the second half from Stade put them firmly in control once again. Plisson kicked a penalty and then converted a try from replacement hooker Craig Burden.
That extended the lead to 22 points and seemed to have put Harlequins out of the game, but England wing Marland Yarde got over for a try that Tim Swiel converted to breathe new life into the visitors. Plisson was wide with another penalty before James Chisholm, on at No 8, barged his way over for a third Quins try with two minutes left to play.
Ruardih Jackson’s conversion hit the upright and it was a case of too little, too late for the Premiership side.