Upsets for Ospreys, Munster and Oyonnax; Toulon leave it late
Clermont Auvergne squandered their chance to extend the lead at the top of Pool 2. The French side’s indiscipline saw Ospreys kick their way to victory, 21-13, despite Clermont scoring the only try of the game through Wesley Fofana. The hero of the day was replacement fly-half Sam Davies who kicked 15 second half points to keep Ospreys ahead, after Dan Biggar left the field with an injury. Ospreys are now two points clear at the top of the group, with a visit to Sandy Park looming.
Munster also bounced back after last week’s miserable performance, earning an unlikely bonus point against Stade Francais with a 26-13 victory. Keith Earls, Mike Sherry, Simon Zebo and CJ Stander crossed the whitewash for Munster while Jonathan Ross was the lone scorer for Stade.
The second clash in Pool 2 saw Bordeaux Begles and Exeter put on a try-fest at Stade Chaban-Delmas, with Bordeaux edging the encounter 34-27. The teams combined to score eight times, with the French grabbing five from Adam Ashley-Cooper, Blair Connor, Louis Madaule, Benat Auzqui and Marco Tauleigne. Exeter scored three through Byron Mcguigan, Dave Lewis and Max Bodilly but shouldn’t feel too disappointed with the result, having played a second-string squad.
As anticipated, Saracens strode past Ulster, winning 33-17 with a bonus point for good measure. It all started so well for Ulster with Jared Payne grubbering through for Luke Marshall to score after four minutes, but once Saracens gained a foothold in the game there was no way back for the Irishmen. Billy Vunipola, Schalk Brits, Maro Itoje and Duncan Taylor scored to secure Saracens a home tie in the first round of the knockouts.
Toulouse received a sign 26 seconds into their game with Oyonnax that their 150th appearance in European rugby might be an unpleasant one. Winger Silvere Tian scored Oyonnax’s first try virtually from the kickoff and set the stage for the French strugglers’ famous victory by 32-14. Oyonnax added an Uwa Tawalo try and a Nicky Robinson before half-time and in the second period, captain Fabien Cibray and Eamonn Sheridan compounded Toulouse’s misery. The visitors did manage to score twice, both times through Gillian Galan, but finish the group stages at the bottom of Pool 1.
Bath entered their final pool game against Leinster facing elimination should they stumble, and stumble they did. An early sin-binning of lock Dominic Day made things difficult for Bath but Leinster looked in control as they ended Bath’s campaign with a 25-11 victory. The game’s two tries came within 3 minutes of each other, with Leroy Houston bundling over for Bath and Sean Cronin replying straight away with a crafty effort of his own. The difference maker however was Ian Madigan who kicked 20 points to ensure Leinster’s final blow of the tournament would leave its mark.
Leicester and Racing 92 both had impressive victories in Round 5. The Tigers ran seven tries past Benetton Treviso winning 47-7; Mike Fitzgerald, Veroniki Goneva, Ben Youngs, Freddie Burns, Adam Thompstone and Laurence Pearce crossing the line for Leicester to go with an early penalty try. Racing’s 64-14 victory over Scarlets was no less convincing, as the Frenchmen outdid Leicester by scoring nine tries. Casey Laulala (3), Juan Imhoff (2), Louis Dupichot, Antonie Claassen and Johannes Goosen provided the scores, and they added a penalty try to boot.
In the Sunday matches, Wasps failed to do the double over Toulon but my, was it a close run thing. Toulon struck first in a match they seemed to dominate, and it was Quade Cooper who dotted down after a Josua Tuisova break. Jimmy Gopperth kept Wasps in touch with two penalties, the second of which brought the score to 8-6 in favour of Toulon. It fell to Guy Thompson to show his uncanny try-scoring knack, beating 5 defenders to put Wasps ahead with less than 10 minutes to go, and strike dumb the partisan crowd at the Stade Felix de Mayol. Gopperth missed his first spot kick of the tournament to leave the scores at 11-8. With the game all but won for Wasps, Toulon struck in the 81st minute, Ma’a Nonu putting a weighted pass into the path of Drew Mitchell who sliced through from 5 metres out and secured a hard-fought Toulon victory.
The final top-tier game of the weekend saw Northampton snatch a 19-15 victory from Glasgow Warriors at the death, with Jim Mallinder’s son Harry scoring the winning try and taking home Man of the Match in his Champions Cup debut. Teimana Harrison scored for the second week running to give Saints the edge after 10 minutes, but Glasgow and Finn Russell were tireless in their punishment of Northampton’s ill-discipline. The Scotland No10 kicked four penalties, with Stuart Hogg adding a fifth. It was Steven Myler’s quick thinking turned a routine ‘kick-to-the-corner’ into a try-scoring cross-field bomb. George North leapt highest and batted the ball down to the waiting Mallinder who crossed on the left hand side, serving Glasgow their second defeat of the Champions Cup.
Champions Cup Star Man: Sam Davies
Harlequins and Gloucester safely through
Edinburgh recorded their fourth win, but only their first try bonus point, of the Challenge Cup pool stages when they shut out Agen 23-0 on Friday evening. The French side kept Edinburgh to a solitary Greig Tonks penalty until they lost Nicolas Chocou to the sin bin on 30 minutes, and the home side quickly capitalised on the personnel advantage scoring through Magnus Bradbury before half time. Tries after the break came from Mike Coman, Tonks and Hamish Watson, turning the win into a five-pointer.
There were also bonus point wins for Newport Gwent Dragons and Sale, the Dragons winning 31-18 over Castres. Hallam Amos, Nic Cudd, Lewis Evans and Ashton Hewitt scored to put the Welsh side top of Pool 2. Sale stay two points behind NG Dragons with their 27-3 victory over Pau, with three of their tries coming before half-time through Andrei Ostrikov, Nev Edwards and Will Addison. With the victory secured, Johnny Leota delivered the bonus point, keeping the Sharks in touch in Pool 2.
Enisei-STM continued their promising first campaign in European rugby by avenging their earlier loss to Newcastle, winning 24-7 at Yug Stadium. Denis Simplikevich scored first for Enisei before Georgian international David Kacharava added a pair of scores. Newcastle were nowhere to be seen for much of the match, despite the apparent gulf in class between the sides. Their one try was a beauty though with hooker George McGuigan showing an impressive burst of place to set up Calum Green.
Rounding up the remainder of the Premiership sides in action sees a mixed bag of results. Gloucester beat La Rochelle 20-10 after weathering a second-half comeback. Rob Cook and Billy Twelvetrees scored the tries to give Gloucester the lead before Benjamin Lapeyre brought La Rochelle back into the game. Harlequins were the other English side to taste victory, winning 34-26 against Cardiff Blues in a true ‘game of two halves’. Quins scored all four of their tries and 28 of their 34 points in the first half, through Marland Yarde, Ross Chisholm, Rob Buchanan and Jack Clifford. Cardiff then rallied scoring four of their own tries after half time, Cory Allen, Lloyd Williams and Dan Fish (2) providing the finishes. Quins held on to deny the Blues a bonus point in defeat.
Worcester and London Irish both found themselves on the wrong side of their respective fixtures. Zebre bested the Warriors 22-15 for the second time in the tournament, with tries from Kayle van Zyl adding to 15 points from the boots of Kelly Haimona, Edoardo Padovani and Ulrich Beyers. London Irish couldn’t even manage a losing bonus point in their 28-18 loss against Grenoble which confirmed the Exiles elimination. The French side saw Charl Mcleod, Nigel Hunt and Armand Batlle score before 45 minutes, while Irish left it late for their two tries from Dom Waldouck and Alex Lewington.
Montpellier and Brive saved some face for the French Challenge Cup sides, winning their matches against Calvisano and Connacht respectively. Montpellier’s was easily the more convincing of the two victories, winning 47-7 thanks to braces from Marvin O’Connor and Benjamin Fall, to go with tries from Jesse Mogg, Jacques Du Plessis and Akapusi Qera. Brive had to rely on a last minute kick from Thomas Laranjeira to win 21-18 over Connacht. It was a fitting end to the game, as Laranjeira had kicked all 18 of Brive’s points up until then. Connacht skipper John Muldoon scored twice and Rory Parata also crossed, as they secured a bonus point and remain one point behind Brive in Pool 1.
Challenge Cup Star Man: David Kacharava
Try of the Week: I am going to take this opportunity to nominate the entire of the Bordeaux v Exeter match as a must-see for some lovely running rugby. Along similar lines, Racing scored some beautiful tries against Scarlets. Honourable mentions also go to Keith Earls and Simon Zebo for their scores. I’m actually going to give the award to Guy Thompson for his almost game-winning effort against Toulon. Although from close-range this score offers a good combination of build-up play and finishing ability, plus some big-moment significance.
Hero of the Week: Harry Mallinder wins the award, for obvious reasons. Making his European Champions Cup debut, he scored the winning try and got Man of the Match. Quite the baptism of fire for the coach’s son but he was fantastic. Coming in at a close second though is Clermont’s Viktor Koleshvili for pushing Wayne Barnes out of the way for no apparent reason. It was a piece of beautiful, splendid idiocy. Conversely the Georgian also found himself sin-binned later in the game.
Villain of the Week: Referee Ben Whitehouse who showed his true colours as a proud Treviso supporter, intercepting Freddie Burns’ pass in a clear attempt to sabotage Leicester’s gameplan. Cunning, but ultimately fruitless.
By Fraser Kay (@fraserkay)
Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images