Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Amlin Challenge Cup Round 2: Argentine and USA players in action

The second round of the 2011-2012 Amlin Challenge Cup was played from Thursday-Sunday with all twenty teams in action. Despite only having played two matches it is already very clear as to which teams are likely to be in the play-off´. For some teams there is little or even no chance of making it past the group stage. The most underperformaing side mayw ell be French 2009 Champions, Perpignan who are third in thier group and not looking like being able to advance after losing 23-13 vs the Newport-Gwent Dragons in Newport on Thursday. It was James Hook´s return to his homeland after recently moving to France but it was a forgettable night. Also on Friday a battle of two sides in danger of relegation to France´s second division took place in Bayonne with Bordeaux-Begles trying to notch up a win after being well beaten by the London Wasps in round one. Bayonne proved to be too strong as they completed a 20-3 victory. Nicolás Sánchez, who went to Rugby World Cup 2011 in place of the injured Juan Martín Hernández played the final 22 minutes for Bordeaux-Begles.

Former French giants and last seasons Amlin Challenge Cup runners-up, Stade Français took on Romanian side, Bucaresti in one of two matches on Friday. The Parisians fielded a significantly weakened side which featured many players who struggle to get game time in the Top 14. It mattered not, however, as Stade Français demolished the Romanian team 49-3. None of the clubs five Argentine players featured but USA international secondrower, Scott LaValla was on the bench. In Friday´s other match, English side the Sale Sharks played host to Spanish side La Vila and scored an even bigger win. The 59-6 victory was still not eough to top the table, however, as both Brive and Agen are ahead of Sale after two matches. Joaquín Tuculet did not play for Sale but is expected to return soon, possibly this coming weekend. Tuculet is uncapped but is a potential wing or full back option for Argentina and had an impressive Vodacom Cup campaign in early 2011 with Los Pampas XV.

Of the four matches played on Saturday the clash between Lyon and Toulon had people in Argentina talking the most as Los Pumas World Cup backrower, Leonardo Senatore was making his debut as a professional player. Senatore had to leave the field twice in the match after he had hit his nose hard. In total he played 59 minutes for Toulon as his team enjoyed a 26-12 victory. Senatore´s Pumas backrow colleague, Juan Manuel Leguizamón played the full match for Lyon. Senatore had been singled out as a possible recruit by English side the Newcastle Falcons but the move never eventuated. The Falcons were also in action on Saturday as they faced Italian side Petrarca Padova and had few problems in completing a 34-3 win. The Falcons´ win puts them in equal first place with Toulon. Three Argentine players featured for Petrarca Padova with Juan Pablo Sánchez, Agustín Costa Repetto and Agustín Cavalieri all getting game time. The Exeter Chiefs remain in contention for a place in the play-off´s following the English sides 68-0 thrashing of Italy´s Cavalieri Prato in Exeter. Exeter won the match with ease and were not at full strenght. Los Pumas right winger, Gonzalo Camacho was rested for the match. Uncapped Argentine flyhalf, Ignacio Mieres kicked four conversions and two penalties. Fellow Italian side, Banca Monte Crociati were also well defeated as the Worcester Warriors knocked them over 34-3.

Of Sunday´s two matches the most interesting was the all French clash of Agen vs Brive. The winner was guaranteed top spot of the group. Brive´s big 29-8 victory means the side is now a full victory ahead of Agen and the Sale Sharks on the ladder and still has to face Spanish side La Vila twice. Two Argentine players who were not selected for Rugby World Cup 2011 started for Brive with Agustín Figuerola playing scrumhalf and Pablo Henn playing loosehead prop. Both players started as did former Argentine international outside centre, Miguel Avramovic and young winger Belisario Agulla. The Argentine pair were joined in the starting XV by USA Eagles winger Kevin Swiryn while the four time World Cup Puma, Martín Scelzo featured from the bench for Agen. The London Wasps 38-7 victory over Italian side, Rovigo puts the English side in first place of Group 3. Former Pumas flyhalf, Germán Bustos played for the Italian side.

Group 1
1 Stade Français 9
2 Worcester Warriors 5
3 Bucaresti 5
4 Banca Monte Crociati 0

Group 2
1 Newcastle Falcons 9 
2 RC Toulon 9
3 Lyon OU 0
4 Petrarca Padova 0

Group 3
1 London Wasps 10
2 Bayonne 9 
3 Bordeaux-Begles 0
4 Rovigo 0
Group 4
1 Newport-Gwent Dragons 9 
2 Exeter Chiefs 6
3 US Perpignan 4 
4 I Cavalieri Prato 0
Group 5
1 Brive 8
2 Agen 5
3 Sale Sharks 5
4 La Vila 0

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