European Challenge Cup - Round 4 Review
Saracens scrape past Castres
December 20, 2009

The latest round of European Challenge Cup action kicked off on Friday night as teams scrapped for a place in the last eight. A number of games were affected by the cold snap but Saracens, Montpellier, Connacht and Montauban found reasons to celebrate. Check out our Pool by Pool round-up of the latest action:

Pool 1

Leeds Carnegie upped the stakes from their hard-fought 10-6 away win over Bucuresti last weekend, scoring seven tries on their way to a 47-0 victory over the Romanians at Headingley.

Veteran centre Henry Paul led the way with a try and was backed up by his fellow centre, bruising Fijian Seru Rabeni. Wingers Richard Welding and Lee Blackett also crossed in a productive afternoon for the wide men and their efforts were repeated up-front.

Prop Mike MacDonald, flanker Hendre Fourie and skipper Marco Wentzel all crashed over, with replacement Jason Strange landing four conversions.

Thursday night saw Bourgoin keep their campaign going in the right direction by beating Overmach Parma 31-10. The French side scored five tries to secure a bonus-point, with Mael Moinot, Matias Viazzo, Jean-Francois Coux, Sylvain Charlet and Coenie Basson breaching the Italian line.

Pool 2

Connacht took a huge step towards the quarter-finals by following up their victory over Worcester at Sixways last weekend with a hard-fought 19-7 win over the Warriors at the Sportsground in Galway on Friday night.

After a scoreless opening quarter, Connacht fell behind when Chris Pennell touched down on 24 minutes for a try which was converted by Matthew Jones. However, the hosts were ahead inside ten minutes after a penalty from Ian Keatley and a unconverted try from John Muldoon.

Connacht pulled further clear nine minutes into the second half when Gavin Duffy crossed to put six points between the sides and Keatley sealed victory for the Irish province when he knocked over his second penalty of the evening with just over ten minutes to go before adding a drop goal in the dying seconds.

The Westerners are now seven points clear of Montpellier at the top of Pool 2, having played a game more than the French side. Worcester remain third and are now ten points adrift of Connacht with two rounds remaining.

Montpellier kept the pressure on Connacht with a bonus-point 42-6 victory over Olympus Madrid on Saturday. Centre Geoffrey Doumayrou and No.8 Giorgi Chkhaidze set the Top 14 side up for the win with braces, with centre Florian Nicot and replacement Sakiusa Matadigo rounding off a comprehensive result. The five-point haul moves Montpellier to within two points of the leaders ahead of what will be a make or break meeting at the Sportsground in Galway.

Pool 3

Saracens had 18 points from the boot of fly-half Glen Jackson to thank for an 18-14 victory over Castres at Vicarage Road. Castres scored the game's only tries, excellent efforts rounded off by wing Paul Bonnefond and replacement Yohan Audrin.

Jackson opened the scoring with a penalty after Mouritz Botha had been denied a try by the TMO but Castres hit back powerfully. Former England centre Phil Christophers carved his way through the home defence and Bonnefond was put in at the corner, the TMO taking his time to award the try.

A quick-fire burst of three penalties from Jackson gave Sarries a handy five-point lead heading into the break. After the resumption both sides probed but were unable to fashion any opportunities, with only a brilliant break from Rodd Penney lighting up a freezing evening before Audrin followed up his own well-judged kick to score in the corner.

Saracens regained the lead as time ran out, with Jackson's fifth penalty being accompanied by a yellow-card for Christophers after the centre had thwarted a try-scoring opportunity illegally. Jackson finished the game as he had begun it, slotting his sixth penalty to secure victory.

Toulon braved to cold in Italy to defeat Rovigo 30-7 in their rearranged fixture at the Stadio Mario Battaglini. The Top 14 side remain in charge of the Pool after coming from behind to defeat their Italian hosts.

Andrea Pratichetti scored early for Rovigo but Toulon's giant wing Christian Loamanu continued his recent try-scoring form with a prompt reply and Philippe Saint-Andre's men scored another before the break through flanker Olivier Missoup. The bonus point was wrapped up soon after the restart as former Munster tight-head Timmy Ryan and Pumas lock Esteban Lozada crashed over.

Pool 4

On Thursday, Wasps took control of their Pool with a 12-3 victory over Bayonne in our Game of the Week. The Pool's other game came on Saturday as Racing Metro racked up a 53-3 victory over Italian minnows Rugby Roma. The home side opened the scoring with a penalty from fly-half Max Freschi but that was the sole high-point for the Super 10 team, who proceeded to leak eight tries.

Back-row duo Jone Qovu Nailiko and Jacques Cronje were joined on the score-sheet by hooker Carlo Festuccia while wing Sereli Bobo and scrum-half Jerome Fillol chipped in from the backs. Springbok Francois Steyn came off the bench to score a try on the final whistle after his fellow replacement Remi Vaquiin had shown the way.

Pool 5

Montauban closed the gap to Newcastle at the top of Pool 5 to just three points by defeating the Falcons 24-19 at the Stade Sapiac.

Montauban had opened up a six-point lead by the end of the first quarter thanks to the boot of Julien Audy and although Jimmy Gopperth got the Falcons off the mark with a penalty in the 21st minute, the hosts responded with a try from Gregory Arganese almost right from the restart. Audy converted and then exchanged penalties with Gopperth as Montauban went in 16-6 ahead at the interval.

Gopperth reduced Newcastle's arrears with a penalty only to see Montauban post another swift riposte, this time through Adrien Figueiredo, who dived over in the 48th minute. Gcobani Bobo's converted try just after the hour brought the Falcons right back into but Mathieu Belie's late penalty clinched victory for Montauban. However, Newcastle kept coming forward and Gopperth's 77th-minute penalty ensured that the visitors did not leave France empty-handed after a tense climax which saw Belie and Danny Williams sin-binned.

Albi won their rematch with Petrarca Padova 38-16 after the game was switched from the Stade Municipal to the nearby Stade Mazicou due to the weather. The Top 14's bottom side racked up another bonus-point with centre John Stewart leading the way with two tries. Anthony Poujol and blindside Clément Maynadier rounded off the game with tries as Frédéric Manca, Kevin Boulogne and Blair Stewart shared the remaining points from the kicking tee.


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