Saturday, January 24, 2015

European Rugby Challenge Cup: Americas Players Review Round 6


Photo: Chonicle Live
The final eight teams in contention to win the Europea Rugby Challenge Cup were confirmed this weekend. Represented are England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Gloucester, Exeter, Newport and London Irish are to host Connacht, Newcastle, the Cardiff Blues and Edinburgh respectively. The lack of French teams is due to a lack of interest in the competition while other nationalities lacked the required strength of a player roster to be a threat. As in all earlier rounds there was a notable number of players involved from the Americas. Argentina's desire to host Rugby World Cup 2023 would mean the region would host a first ever Rugby World Cup. England will host for a third time later on this year and Wales will do so for a fourth time.  

Grenoble 3-28 Cardiff Blues
As is the case with all French teams in the European Rugby Challenge Cup the threat of relegation and the struggle to get into and remain in the barrage zone results in Top 14 clubs not fielding their top lineups. Grenoble's decision to do this saw the team lose at home against a Cardiff Blues lineup packed with Welsh internationals. The Blues' two Pumas Lucas González Amorosino and Joaquín Tuculet have not been playing in Europe rather only in the Pro 12.

Rovigo 6-34 London Irish
A vastly improved performance from Rovigo on Saturday to that from round five was not enough to see the Italian side winning a match. London Irish's bonus point victory sees the team top Pool 1 ahead o the Cardiff Blues on points scored for and against. Uncapped Argentine flyhalf Luciano Rodríguez played for Rovigo while Guillermo Roan played loosehead prop. Canadian Jebb Sinclair played second-row for London Irish.

Pool 1
London Irish  24
Cardiff Blues 24
Grenoble 12
Rovigo 01

Exeter Chiefs 45-3 Bayonne
The Exeter Chiefs won Group 2 on Saturday with a comprehensive home victory at Rugby World Cup 2015 venue Sandy Park. Exeter fielded a team full of notable players including English internationals past and present. Bayonne's team, on the other hand, was very much made up of wider squad members. Martín Bustos Moyano was involved. The former Puma started at fullback and kicked the only points of the match for the visitos.

La Rochelle 20-30 Connacht
Western Irish province Connacht finished second in the pool and confirmed a place in the Quarter Finals with an away victory over La Rochelle on Saturday. The bonus point win included members of Ireland's Six Nations squad. La Rochelle, in contract, continued the pattern of French teams in the Challenge Cup by resting leading players. Starting in the second-row was Argentine second-rower Leandro Cedaro who is capped by Italy.

Pool 2
Exeter Chiefs 25
Connacht  20
Bayonne 9
La Rochelle 4 

Bucharest 10-52 Newcastle Falcons
An away win for the Newcastle Falcons in Romania sees the Northern most Aviva Premiership club finish the group stages of the European Rugby Challenge Cup in second position. Uncapped Puma Juan Pablo Socino played inside centre and impressed by scoring two tries. Also involved was USA prop Eric Fry who was on the bench.

Newport-Gwent Dragons 30-19 Stade Français Paris
The weakest of the four Welsh regions is set to host a European Challenge Cup Quarter Final now that it has topped Pool 3. While the win over Stade Français deserves credit the visiting Parisians were fielding wider squad members as the club is firmly focused on the Top 14. After seventeen rounds the Goznalo Quesada coached Stade Français lead the French competition. Involved was Puma Juan Cruz Guillemaín who played second-row.

Pool 3 
Dragons 25
Newcastle 21
Paris 15
Bucharest 01

London Welsh 12-17 Lyon
In the final match of the round and the only one played on Sunday Lyon did enough to win on the road and keep London Welsh winless in the 2014-2015 season. Involved in the match for London Welsh was Canadian capped back-rower Richard Thorpe. Argentine players from Lyon were rested.

Edinburgh 38-20 Bordeaux-Begles
The Scottish capital side secured a place in the Quarter Finals with a home win over Bordeaux-Begles on Friday. Former Puma Francisco Goméz Kodela played  tighthead prop for Bordeaux but neither Tomás Leonardí nor Joaquín Domínguez were present for Edinburgh. Bordeaux had been rotating players throughout the competition to focus instead on the Top 14.

Pool 4 
Edinburgh 22
Lyon 18
Bordeaux 16
London Welsh 0 

Oyonnax 20-3 Zebre
Oyonnax claimed second position in Pool 5 with a home win over Italian side Zebre on Thursday. The win came without Oyonnax fielding its first choice players which meant Benjamín Urdapilleta and Agustín Figuerola were rested. The pair will have a lot asked of them when the Top 14 returns. Argentine Luciano Orquera played fly half for Zebre. He is capped by Italy as is Matías Aguero who played loosehead prop and is in Italy's Six Nations squad. 

Brive 20-31 Gloucester
Gloucester completed a near-flawless campaign by defeating Top 14 side Brive on Thursday evening in France. The bonus point victory sees Gloucester secure a home Quarter Final with the team having earned a total of 29 out of a possible total of 30 competition points. Brive's position in the Top 14 is such that the club had no interested in the European Rugby Challenge Cup. 

Pool 5 
Gloucester 29
Oyonnax 16
Zebre 08
Brive 02

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