Round 5 of the 2010-2011 Amlin Challenge Cup took place last weekend and, like Round 5 of the Heineken Cup, it confirmed a number of Quarter Finalists as well as some surprizes. With one round left to play the general state of the Championship is French sides are doing well. This is not true in all groups, however, as Irish province, Connacht were certainly surprize winners in knocking over French side Bayonne in France on Saturday. Their 35-21 away victory in Group 1 did nothing for Connacht´s play-off´s chances as they are already out of the running but it did help fellow Group 1 side, the Harlequins who moved ahead of Bayonne to lead the group after notching up an impressive 48-16 away victory vs Italian side Cavalieri also on Saturday. Non-capped Argentine secondrower Tomás Vallejos Cinalli played for the London based side as did Pumas international winger Gonzalo Camacho. The Italian club had two Argentine players of their own in Martín Murgier and Gabriel Bocca.
French Top 14 strugglers, Brive have confirmed themselves a place in the play-offs after dismantling Spanish side El Salvador with a 52-3 home victory in Group 2. Argentine international scrumhalf, Agustín Figuerola fine form contuned for the French side and he was joined in the starting XV by former Pumas prop Pablo Henn. Also on Friday, the groups other match saw an England vs Italy contest with a similar result to that of France vs Spain as the Sale Sharks tried their best to book themselves a play-off´s spot with a 54-0 win over Petrarca. Their impressive win counted for little as Brive´s win guaranteed them first place in the group and thus qualification for the knockout stage. Petrarca had four Argentine players in their side - Juan Pablo Sánchez, Agustín Costa Repetto, Santiago Sodini and Agustín Cavalieri.
The surprize package in this seasons Aviva Premiership, the Exeter Chiefs hosted French Top 14 wooden spooners, Bourgoin and played well to win 17-6 on Saturday to keep up the pressure on Group 3 leaders Montpellier. Uncapped Argentine prop Ignacio Elosu played for Exeter off the bench while Argentine flyhalf Alberto de Bernardo was surprizingly selected for Bourgoin at fullback and Argentine centre Matias Viazzo was also surprizingly selected at flyhalf.
Newcastle hosted Montpellier on Friday with the French side selecting what was a second string lineup which included resting all three Argentine players - Santiago Fernández, Juan Figallo and Martín Bustos Moyano and USA international centre, Seta Tuilevuka who played off the bench for Montpellier as they pulled off a 6-0 win. the victory maintains Montpellier´s place at the top of the table in Group 3. Montpellier will host Exeter on Saturday with the winner advances to the Quarter Finals.
Group 4 was all wrapped up by Stade Français as they defeated English side Leeds Carnegie 39-10 in Paris on Sunday. It was a match to underline the contribution of the Americas to global rugby as all four starting props are international players from the Americas. The Argentine pair of Rodrigo Roncero and Pedro Ledesma packed down against a United States-Argentina combination of Mike Macdonald and Juan Gomez. All four remain in contention for places at this years Rugby World Cup. Roncero scored a second half try for the Parisians who also had Pumas international backrower Juan Manuel Leguizamón and centre Gonzalo Tiesi in the starting XV. Tiesi was replaced by Pumas fullback Martín Rodríguez Gurruchaga in the 57th minute. Meanwhile, the battle for third place in the pool saw Italian side Crociati defeating Romanian side Bucuresti 16-12 on Saturday.
Perhaps the most competitive group of all is Group 5 and an important match took place in Agen on Thursday as Agen hosted fellow former second division side La Rochelle. Both sides remain in contention for relegation from the Top 14 back into the Pro d2 but both continue to surprize seasoned opposition in the French league. Their Amlin Challenge Cup match was a competitive affair with Agen taking a 17-13 halftime lead as they scored two tries to one in the first 40. After the break, however, they failed to score a again as La Rochelle had a fine 40 minutes which led to a 28-17 victory. Argentine international centre Miguel Avramovic played most of the match for Agen and the Argentine frontrow duo of Andres Bordoy and Franco Pani both featured for La Rochelle. The win virtually guarantees La Rochelle a place in the Quarter Finals but they still need to win their final match which is a home fixture vs Femi-CZ Rugby Rovigo tonight. Rovigo are winless in this seasons Amlin Challenge Cup and were well beaten by Aviva Premiership side Gloucester on Saturday as the English club defeated the Italians 55-7. Rovigo had three Argentine players in their lineup with former Pumas flyhalf Germán Bustos teaming up with Agustín Guzmán and Pablo Calanchini. Gloucester are to host Agen also tonight with the winner certainly finishing higher than the loser but in order to top the group they both need Rovigo to defeat La Rochelle.
Round Six Fixtures
Gloucester vs Agen, Kingsholm, Gloucester
La Rochelle vs Rovigo, Stade Marcel Deflandre, La Rochelle
El Salvador vs Sale Sharks, Campo de Pepe Rojo, Valladolid
Petrarca vs Brive, Stadio Plebiscito, Padova
Connacht vs Cavalieri, Galway Sportsground
Harlequins vs Bayonne, The Stoop, London
Bourgoin vs Newcastle Falcons, Stade Pierre Rajon, Bourgoin-Jallieu
Montpellier vs Exeter Chiefs, Stade Yves-du-Manoir, Montpellier
Crociati Rugby vs Stade Français, Stadio XXV Aprile
Leeds Carnegie vs Bucureşti, Headingley Rugby Stadium, Leeds