Sunday, December 11, 2016

Premiership in Europe review - Week 3

by Kristian Ross


Gloucester 35-14 Atlantique Stade Rochelais (Thu):

Gloucester made it three wins out of three in the Challenge Cup as they comfortably beat Stade Rochelais in the first European tie of the weekend on Thursday evening. David Humphrey’s side got off to a slow start Kevin Gourdon went over for the away side early on, but from there it was one way traffic with Glos leading 22-7 at the break thanks to scores from Mark Atkinson, Josh Hohneck and Ollie Thornley. La Rochelle looked to be back into the contest after David Raikuna got the Top 14’s outfit second try of the game, however a late score from Matt Scott ensured a highly impressive third consecutive European bonus point following two penalties from Scottish international Greig Laidlaw. 

Northampton 10-37 Leinster (Fri):

Northampton suffered another defeat as clinical Leinster took a bonus point win at Franklin’s Gardens in the Champions Cup. In a match that was marred by Dylan Hartley’s sending off after a swing of the arm towards Séan O’Brien, Saints were left to lick their proverbial wounds as the Irish province produced a fine performance that saw Leo Cullen’s team run in five tries. The away team were on the front foot from the get go, an early score from promising centre Garry Ringrose was converted by Isa Nacewa, who also added a first half penalty with the visitors leading 10-3 at the interval. However, Saints were level after the restart with an Ahsee Tuala score before a second half implosion that started with a try for the aforementioned O’Brien and Hartley given his marching orders just minutes after entering the field of play. Saints suffered dearly and were made to pay as Jamison Gibson Park, Nacewa and Rory O’Loughlin all crossed the whitewash for an emphatic victory. 

Lyon Olympique 42-12 Newcastle (Fri):

Newcastle’s run of back to back wins came to an end after they were soundly beaten in the Challenge Cup on Friday night. Dean Richard’s side travelled to the Mamut Stadium having beaten Northampton and Harlequins in the Premiership, but an understrength line up was put to the sword. Despite an early try from Rotorua native Dan Temm, Lyon kicked into high gear and scored three converted tries through Sami Navinga, Paul Bonniford and Felix Lambey. Bonniford added two more of his own in the second half with substitute Augustin Figuerola getting in on the act, with all six tries being expertly coverted by full back Jerome Porical. Rob Vickers try at the start of the second half had given the Falcons some brief hope, but a poor second half saw the Falcons suffer a second European defeat by forty plus points this season.

Cardiff 28-3 Bath (Sat):

Bath were humiliated by Cardiff as they succumbed to a hammering on Saturday afternoon at the Arms Park. Bath could muster only a single score in the first half, a penalty from Tom Homer as the home side led 9-3 at half time, courtesy of three kicks from Aaron Shingler. Alex Cuthbert, Matthew Morgan and Scott Andrews all added salt to the wound as Todd Blackadder’s men were truly outclassed from start to finish. Depsite the result, Bath still sit second in the pool as Cardiff made it three wins from a possible three in the Challenge Cup.

Worcester 33-20 Newport Gwent Dragons (Sat):

Worcester put their Premiership woes behind them as they produced a solid performance beat the Newport Gwent Dragons at Sixways. Two penalty tries helped the Warriors on their way in the second half after the home team led narrowly at half time thanks to a score from Val Rapava-Ruskin. Ashley Hewitt scored twice in the second half for the visitors who tried to keep up with a Worcester team that also saw scores from Dean Hammond and Max Stelling. Angus O’Brien tried his best via the boot to give the Dragons a fighting chance, but the day belonged to a Warriors outfit that was in desperate need of a win.

Timisoara Saracens 3-42 Harlequins (Sat):

Harlequins made short work of Timisoara as their Challenge Cup trip to Romania yielded an easy bonus point win at the Stadionul Dan Păltinișanu. Valentin Calefteanu’s first half penalty was the only mark the home side had to show for their efforts after tries from Aaron Morris, George Merrick and Dave Ward gave Quins total control. It was little contest in the second half either as Charlie Walker crossed twice and Joe Marchant completed the six try rout with a score of his own to keep pressure on Edinburgh at the top of Pool Five.

Munster 38-0 Leicester (Sat):

Munster produced one of the great European Cup hammerings of all time as Leicester were consigned to a worst ever defeat on the continent at Thomond Park. Despite flying high in the Premiership, the Tigers record defeat was a major embarrassment, the home side leading 19-0 after the first forty minutes after tries from after Simon Zebo went over and Tyler Bleyendaal kept the scoreboard ticking over in an exceptional performance with the boot. Jaco Taute added to Leicester’s misery with a brace in the second half that also saw Manu Tuilagi binned as Richard’s Cockerill’s side suffered yet another comprehensive defeat against Irish opposition. 

Saracens 50-3 Sale (Sat):

Saracens extended their formidable Champions Cup record as they demolished Sale in an all Premiership affair at Allianz Park. Incredibly, it means the home side haven’t lost a game since their defeat in the semi-finals of the 2014-15 competition against Clermont Auvergne. The contest was over by half time as Mark McCall’s men led 26-3 after scores from Marcelo Bosch and two from Sean Maitland got the home outfit to within touching distance of a try bonus point. Jamie George secured the extra for Sarries in the second forty and Chris Wyles went in as the tally kept getting higher thanks to Owen Farrell and Alex Lozowksi. Sale could muster very little as they were blown away by what are now the tournament favourites as Saracens look to emulate Munster and make it thirteen consecutive wins in Europe should they beat Sale in the reverse fixture next week.

Wasps 32-17 Connacht (Sun):

Wasps saw off a valiant Connacht as they moved further ahead in their Champions Cup pool with a win at the Ricoh Arena. Wasps, who welcomed Kurtley Beale to the starting fifteen for the first time didn’t have to wait long to see their world class signing make an impact, his early try giving the home side the advantage. Kieran Marmion started to cause problems as Connacht grew into the game and as the Wasps penalty count started to rise, the Irish province took advantage levelling the scores before a Jimmy Gopperth penalty ensured that Dai Young’s team would have a 13-10 lead at half time. Nathan Hughes put Wasps further ahead with his try as Rory Parata ensured the PRO12 outfit made it a contest with a try just a few minutes later. Pat Lam would have been happy with his team’s effort with twenty minutes to go, but it was Wasps who seized the initiative as tries from Joe Launchbury and Josh Bassett ensured a bonus point victory.

Bristol 41-14 Pau (Sun):

Bristol grabbed a first European win of the season as they ran in seven tries against Top14 outfit Pau at Ashton Gate. In a first victory for acting head coach Mark Tainton, Bristol led 22-7 at half time scoring early tries through Jack Wallace and Tom Varndell, however Pau got one back through Watisoni Vuti. Fly half Billy Searle added a third try before Bristol impressively wrapped up a try scoring bonus point before the interval thanks to Luke Arscott. Bris substitute Chris Brooker added two tries of his own in the second half along with centre Thretton Palermo, with the only scant consolation for Pau coming from a Thibault Daubagna score as the Premiership’s whipping boys romped home to victory.

Exeter 7-13 Bordeaux-Begles (Sun):

Exeter are all but out of the Champions Cup as they suffered a third straight loss after being ousted by Bordeaux Begles at Sandy Park. Needing a win to keep their hopes alive, Rob Baxter’s side led 7-3 at the break in a tight affair thanks to a Jack Maunder score, with the only reply from the visitors a penalty via the boot of Baptiste Serin. But the Chiefs would go on to register nothing for the rest of the game as a Serin himself went over and fomer Leinster man Ian Madigan added the extras. Exeter battled but the fatal blow was struck when Lionel Beauxis became the third kicker of the evening, with his three points being the decisive factor. 

THE WINNERS: 

Bristol – A huge win for Bristol as they took victory in Europe for the first time in eight years whilst also grabbing what was just their second win of the season in all competitions (the other in the Anglo-Welsh Cup). Many believe today would be a chance for Bristol to get a positive result and they certainly delivered. Potentially the kick start that they need as they start to fall further behind in the Premiership each week.
Worcester – A poor run of results in the Premiership over the last few rounds, so a much-needed win for the Warriors in Europe, deserving of their place in the winner’s column this weekend. Not the toughest opposition in the Newport Gwent Dragons, however you can only beat what is in front of you and that’s exactly what they did.
Saracens – A twelfth consecutive win for Saracens in Europe after the demolition of Sale in High Barnet. Sarries are still the team to beat in Europe and whilst many don’t like the way they have went about things (myself included), Mark McCall and the team deserve enormous credit for what they have achieved over the last few seasons.

THE LOSERS:

Leicester – Pretty simple why Leicester are in the loser’s column this week. A hapless performance coupled with great rugby from Munster saw them totally embarrassed in Limerick. To be beaten by thirty plus points is bad, but to do it and be nilled and suffer your worst ever European defeat in the process is utterly abject. A bad week for Tigers fans.
Bath – You’d expect a lot more from Bath in Europe, especially against a team like the Cardiff Blues who have hardly been at the top of their game over the last few years, but it was very poor showing from Blackadder’s lot this time out. The Challenge Cup possibly presents the best chance of silverware for Bath this season and now the question must be asked: are they taking it seriously?
Northampton – What a week for Northampton. Not in a good way either, after the George North concussion shambles last week, Leinster came to town and delivered. Another defeat at home for the Saints and not to mention Dylan Hartley getting sent off with Eddie Jones in the crowd, watching on. Probably one to forget, but now they must go to the Aviva Stadium next week and try and enact revenge.

@Kristian7Ross - 22, Geordie, part time journalist and Irish Rugby fan.

*****

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