Sunday, October 19, 2014

European Rugby Challenge Cup: Americas Players Review Round 1

The opening round of the second-string European professional club competition game to a place this afternoon. It completed the start of the first ever European Rugby Challenge Cup which has replaced the former Amlin Challenge Cup but remains a twenty team competition with there being five pools of four teams. As it is a second Tier competition in professional terms many clubs do not take it seriously which was clear in the opening round as many leading players did not take to the field. 

Pool 1
Cardiff Blues 37-14 Grenoble 
A strong opening performance for the Welsh region places it in a strong position to push for a place in the play-offs. The bonus point victory came without Puma Lucas González Amorosino who has joined the club since completing international duty in the Rugby Championship. 

London Irish 70-14 Rovigo
The pool's second fixture was the final game of the round and the only fixture played on Sunday. London Irish proved to be far too strong in completing a bonus point victory and barely being challenged whatsoever. London Irish's team roster for the match was understrength and, as such, Jebb Sinclair was given the match off. 

London Irish 5
Cardiff Blues 5
Rovigo 0
Grenoble 0

Pool 2
Connacht 48-12 La Rochelle
With Connacht having started the Guinness Pro 12 so strongly the team this season is arguably as good as any team ever to have played in Connacht colors. The opposition team in round one, La Rochelle, is back in the Top 14 from the Pro d2 but with one of the weakest player rosters it cannot afford to miss competition points on the offering n France. As such the team is not going to be taking the European Rugby Challenge Cup very seriously this season and this was evident in selection against Connacht. Argentina second-rower, Leandro Cedaro who plays for Italy was on the bench.

Bayonne 30-24 Exeter Chiefs
Bayonne has had an up-and-down start to the Top 14 but certainly has an eye on avoiding relegation. Exeter, meanwhile, has impressed in the Aviva Premiership and is very well placed, in third position, after six rounds. Bayonne's team was very much a second-string side and had three players yellow carded yet the team managed to win at home on Saturday. Both Santiago Fernández and Benjamín Macome were not involved while another Puma, Martín Bustos Moyano was on the bench. 

Connacht 5
Bayonne 4
Exeter Chiefs 1
La Rochelle 0

Pool 3
Newcastle Falcons 43-19 Bucharest
Hot on the heels of winning two in a row in the Aviva Premiership the Newcastle Falcons traveled to Romania to play a match against Bucharest on Friday evening. Despite the team being understrength it was, nonetheless, too good for the Romanians and collected a winning bonus point. Missing was former Puma Gonzalo Tiesi and uncapped Argentine play-maker Juan Pablo Socino. Both were given the match off as were many other first choice Falcons.

Paris 22-38 Dragons
The Gonzalo Quesada coached Stade Français Paris showed little interest in fielding a team close to matching that which defeated Racing Métro last weekend. Welsh region the Newport Gwent Dragons were more than happy to go to Paris and face an understrength side and collect the maximum five competition points. But with both Newcastle and Bucharest in the pool the French capital side is by no means out of the running. 

Newcastle 5
Dragons 5
Paris 0
Bucharest 0

Pool 4 
Bordeaux-Begles 13-15 Edinburgh
An understrength Bordeaux-Begles hosted Scottish side Edinburgh on Friday and did so at the much smaller alternative home venue than the Stade Chaban Delmas which hosts Top 14 fixtures. Many players were rested including former Puma Francisco Goméz Kodela. Edinburgh, though, took the match much more seriously in selecting many international players. Former Puma Tomás Leonardí played at blindside flanker. In winning away Edinburgh is well placed to qualify for the play-offs.

Lyon 28-18 London Welsh
London Welsh has failed to compete at all in the Aviva Premiership so far this season. The extent of the team's struggles has seen officials justifying London Welsh as meriting its place in the Premiership. With the club being bottom of the table and winless it needs to urgently find a way to collect competition points and win games. Lyon is mid-table in the Top 14 and proving to be strong at home. The club's two Pumas, Juan Manuel Leguizamón and Francisco Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro were not involved v London Welsh. Former Puma, Pablo Henn missed out for the visitors. 

Lyon OU 5
Edinburgh 4
Bordeaux 1
London Welsh 0

Pool 5
Gloucester 55-0 Brive
Another French side chowing a lack of interest in the European Rugby Challenge Cup is Brive. The relegation threatened Top 14 side fielded a notably weak side at Kingsholm on Thursday which enabled the home side to complete a dominate win to go top of the table with a bonus point home win. Puma Earlier in the week Mariano Galarza was ruled out of rugby for several months after undergoing shoulder surgery. The date of his debut for Gloucester remains unknown. 

Zebre 24-33 Oyonnax
Playing at home Italian side Zebre selected a strong side but not one at full strength. Oyonnax, in contrast, rested notable players including former Pumas Benjamín Urdapilleta and Agustín Figuerola. With the club being based bottom of the table in the Top 14 Oyonnax will continue the trend of French teams in the former Amlin Challenge Cup by giving priority to the French championship. Involved for Zebre were Matias Aguero and Luciano Orquera. Both players are from Argentina but play their international rugby for Italy.

Gloucester 5
Oyonnax 4
Zebre 0 
Brive 0

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