The group stage of the 2010-2011 Amlin Challenge Cup was completed over the weekend and with it the Quarter Finals places have all been confirmed. There is a very French look to it with four of the five pools being won by French sides with Brive, Stade Français, La Rochelle and Montpellier winning their groups and the remaining spot going to English side Harlequins. The three remaining Quarter Finals places all go to the third, fourth and fifth best teams who finished second in their Group from the Heineken Cup. The places went to French side Clermont, Irish side Munster and English club London Wasps.
The Harlequins finished top of Group 1 after pulling of a big 39-17 win vs French side Bayonne in London on Saturday. Bayonne, like most French sides fielded a weakened side to give preference to the French Top with Round 17 of the French League taking place on Wednesday and Thursday this week. Uncapped Argentine secondrower, Tomás Vallejos Cinalli came off the bench as did Argentine international winger Gonzalo Camacho. The groups other match saw Irish province Connacht notch up a massive win as they defeated Italian side Cavalieri Prato to both ahead of Bayonne and claim second spot. The 85-7 victory included 12 tries. The Italian side included three Argentine players in Stefano Canale, Poloni and Gabriel Bocca.
Another Italian side were much more competitive as Petrarca Padova hosted French side Brive in Group 2 on Saturday. Brive won 24-20 with former Pumas prop Pablo Cardinali starting and Argentina´s Italian international flyhalf Luciano Orquera coming on after 4 minutes. Petrarca Padova had four Argentine players in their side with Martín Acuña, Agustín Costa Repetto, Santiago Sodini and Juan Pablo Sánchez all playing. Sánchez scored eight points as he slotted one concersion and two penalities. Spanish side El Salvador hosted English side the Sale Sharks in what was a dead rubber as Brive had already guaranteed themselves first place in the group. Sale were simply much better as they won the match 50-5.
Montpellier had a tough home fixture vs English side the Exeter Chiefs in Group 3. The French side came out on top, winning a thriller 32-30 but this is more a reflection of Montpellier resting its first choice players for their Top 14 clash vs Toulouse on Thursday. None of the teams French or Argentine internationals featured but USA Eagles centre Seta Tuilevuka played 13. The groups other match between Top 14 side Bourgoin and Aviva Premiership side the Newcastle Falcons was cancelled on Saturday due to a frozen pitch. It was postponed and set to be played on Sunday but the field continued to be unplayable.
Another French side will be entering the Quarter Finals after SF Paris scored a 34-17 win over Italian side Crociati in Group 4. The Parisian team was packed with Argentine players with Pumas fullback Martín Rodríguez Gurruchaga, props Pedro Ledesma and Rodrigo Roncero, centre Gonzalo Tiesi and backrower Juan Manuel Leguizamón all playing. There was also an Argentine playing for Crociati as Sebastián Damiani started for the Italians. Meanwhile, Leeds Carnegie secured second place in the group with an impresside 26-6 victory vs Romanian side Bucharest Oaks at home. The English side featured two Argentine props in Miguel Alonso and Juan Gómez. their presence is a tournament of this magnitude is a tesitment to Argentine rugby as neither player will be considered for the squad to compete at New Zealand 2011.
Group 5´s two matches both took place on Thursday evening with La Rochelle winning the group after defeating Italian side Rugby Rovigo 71-17 at home. Two uncapped Argentine players featured for the Top 14 side in frontrowers Andrés Bordoy and Franco Pani. Former Pumas flyhalf Germán Bustos kicked one dropgoal and two penalties for Rugby Rovigo and Agustín Guzmán was also in the starting lineup for the Italian side. Aviva Premiership side, Gloucester saved their best for last in humiliating French Top 14 Agen with a massive 60-7 victory that counted for nothing as La Rochelle had already won the group. Agen fieled a vastly weak side which lacked all of the clubs big names including USA Eagles winger Kevin Swiryn, Argentine centre Miguel Avramovic and backrower Alejandro Campos.
Amlin Challenge Cup Quarter Finals
Stade Francais v Montpellier, Paris
Brive v Munster, Brive
La Rochelle v Clermont Auvergne, La Rochelle
Harlequins v London Wasps, London
The Quarter Finals will take place over the weekend of April 08-10.