Sunday, December 14, 2014

European Rugby Challenge Cup: Americas Players Review Round 4

The fourth round of Europe's second level competition, the European Rugby Challenge Cup was completed earlier today. With two rounds remaining in the group phase it is appearing likely that English, Scottish and Welsh sides will be those in the Quarter Finals. Italian and Romanian sides are out of the running but there could be changes seeing French sides advance. Those from France in the competition have demonstrated a lack of interest in playing in the competition which explains the table positions of a number of Top 14 sides. Involved in Round 4 were a number of players from the Americas who are international players past or present. Some of those playing will feature in Rugby World Cup 2015.

Rovigo 17-20 Grenoble
History was very nearly made in Italy on Saturday afternoon as Rovigo was leading Grenoble for the majority of the match. Grenoble's lack of interest in the European competition has been well documented. Playing fly half for the Italian side was uncapped Argentine Luciano Rodríguez. 

London Irish 34-23 Cardiff Blues
Two teams chasing a place in the play-offs met in Pool 1's second fixture in Reading. With the Cardiff Blues having won the same fixture last weekend London Irish needed to win this to possibly remain in the competition. The exiles impressed in winning by three tries to two. Starting for London Irish was Canadian Jebb Sinclair who played in the back-row. Cardiff's Pumas were not involved in the fixture. 

Pool 1
London Irish 14
Cardiff Blues 14
Grenoble 10
Rovigo 1 

Exeter Chiefs 41-17 La Rochelle
One of the best Aviva Premiership clubs so far this season hosted the bottom seed in the Top 14 and, predictably won the match. La Rochelle is back in the Top 14 from the Pro d2 and is aiming to avoid relegation. With the bottom two being automotically relegated it is not interested in advancing in Europe. Argentina's Leandro Cedaro was on the bench for La Rochelle. The second-rower is capped by Italy. 

Bayonne 27-29 Connacht
Connacht remain in touch with the Exeter Chiefs and the only team that can stop the Aviva Premiership side from winning the pool. The Western Irish province did well to win in France on Saturday but the side was, nonetheless, outscored by three tries to two. Bayonne, like others, is focused on the Top 14 and, for this reason, did not field regular players which meant none of the club's Pumas faced Connacht.

Pool 2
Exeter Chiefs 16
Connacht 14
Bayonne 5
La Rochelle 4

Paris 31-24 Newcastle Falcons
The opening match of the round saw Stade Français winning at home and scoring a bonus point against Northern English side the Newcastle Falcons on Thursday. The uncapped Argentine fly half / centre Juan Pablo Socino scored the game's first try and was joined in the starting lineup by USA prop Eric Fry. 

Dragons 69-17 Bucharest
The Newport Gwent Dragons produced a memorable home performance against Romanian side Bucharest on Friday. The win sees the Welsh region leading Pool 3 and in with a strong chance of reaching the play-offs. Having already defeated Stade Français once the team will enter the final two rounds with confidence.

Pool 3 
Dragons 16
Newcastle 15
Paris 10
Bucharest 1

Lyon 37-28 Bordeaux-Begles
The reserves from Lyon defeated the reserves from Bordeaux-Begles on Friday in a match that will require Edinburgh to have a series of poor results in the remaining rounds if it is to carry any significance. Lyon has been in and out of the relegation zone this season while Bordeaux-Begles is marching towards a history making appearance in the Top 14 play-offs. Lyon's Pumas were given the match off while former Puma tighthead prop Francisco Goméz Kodela made an appearance from the bench for the visitors.

London Welsh 6-24 Edinburgh
The final match of the round was that of London Welsh v Edinburgh which was the only European Challenge Cup fixture played on Sunday. Edinburgh's win keeps London Welsh winless in both the Aviva Premiership and European Rugby Challenge Cup this season.  Former Puma Tomás Leonardí started in the back-row for Edinburgh.

Pool 4 
Edinburgh 16
Bordeaux 11
Lyon 10
London Welsh 0

Oyonnax 22-17 Brive
Despite having stated that the team wants to lose its European matches Oyonnax has won two in a row against Top 14 rivals Brive. It is now a clear second to Gloucester but seven points behind. Missing in both matches against Brive were the Argentina halves pairing of Agustín Figuerola and Benjamín Urdapilleta. Both are contenders to play at the World Cup and the later of the two has been linked to a move to Castres next season.

Zebre 16-32 Gloucester
Gloucester remains undefeated in Pool 5 and highly likely to remain so with neither Oyonnax nor Brive interested in Europe due to the competitiveness of the Top 14 and the extent of the fight they face to avoid relegation. Zebre has no danger of relegation due to it not existing in the Guinness Pro 12. The team could have done much better had David Odiete not been red carded just three minutes after entering from the bench in the first half. Italy's Argentine fly half Luciano Orquera started and scored six points while uncapped Argentine prop Luciano Leibson was on the bench. 

Pool 5 
Gloucester 19
Oyonnax 12
Zebre 4
Brive 2

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