European Challenge Cup - Round 1 Review
Sarries ease past Rovigo
October 11, 2009

Guinness Premiership leaders Saracens got their European Challenge Cup Pool 3 campaign underway with a 36-12 victory over Rovigo at Vicarage Road on Sunday. The home side scored tries through Kevin Sorrell, Don Barrell, Michael Horak and Rodd Penney to see off their Italian opponents.

Sarries boss Brendan Venter handed debuts to fly-half Jake Sharp, fullback Horak, wing Michael Tagicakibau and scrum half Kevin Barrett as they kept up their 100% start to the season.

A small crowd saw Sarries slog to a 19-9 half-time lead thanks to Sorrell's try, with the Italians very much in the game thanks to three penalties from fly-half German Bustos.

The conservative Premiership side cut loose after the break however, with Barrell setting them on their way before Horak and Penney crossed within minutes of each other just after the hour mark to seal a bonus-point ahead of their meeting with Toulon on Thursday.

In Pool 3's other fixture, Toulon did not need the boot of England's Jonny Wilkinson to get the better of French rivals Castres Olympique, as Luke Rooney scored in either half and Matt Henjak added a third try in a 33-17 win.

In Pool 4, Dave Walder kicked Wasps to an 18-13 victory over Racing Metro at Adams Park. Click Here for our Game of the Week. Also in Pool 4, former Australia fly-half Manny Edmonds, playing at scrum-half for Bayonne, scored 17 points including one of his team's eight tries in an emphatic 61-3 win against Roma.

Newcastle battled to a nervy 29-27 win over Petrarca Padova in their European Challenge Cup Pool 5 opener on Saturday.

The Falcons were looking for their first victory of the season following a disappointing start to their Guinness Premiership campaign - but they made hard work of their assignment in north-eastern Italy.

They trailed 17-10 at the break and 27-24 with a little more than a quarter-of-an-hour remaining before a late Micky Young try sealed a bonus-point victory. Ed Williamson, Danny Williams and Lawrence Ovens all joined Young in crossing the Petrarca line, but the overall performance was far from convincing.

Former Gloucester fly-half Ludovic Mercier controlled proceedings for the hosts until he limped off injured just past the hour-mark. Although Newcastle conceded their third try shortly after Mercier's departure, Petrarca looked a far weaker side without the 32-year-old's commanding presence at the Stadio Plebiscito.

Defeat looked like a distinct possibility when they conceded a penalty 35 metres out with less than two minutes to play. But Stefano Ambrosio slipped on contact, and the Falcons survived. In the other Pool 5 game, Montauban beat Albi 17-7.

Premiership strugglers Leeds Carnegie's early season woes were carried over to the European Challenge Cup with a 29-19 defeat at Bourgoin in their Pool 1 clash at Stade Pierre Rajon.

Rudi Coetzee's early score was followed by David Janin while fly-half Alberto Di Bernardo landed six kicks to leave Leeds trailing 23-6 by half-time. Leeds briefly hinted at what would have been a remarkable comeback when Samoan back-row Alfie Vaeluaga To'oala barged over six minutes into the second half.

Veteran fly-half Jason Strange converted and added two more penalties to his first half strikes to haul Leeds to within a try at 23-19. But replacement and France international Benjamin Boyet stepped off the bench to land two more penalties, including a last-minute effort which denied Leeds a losing bonus point.

To round off the opening weekend in Pool 1, Parma, currently second in the Italian Super 10, slumped to a 21-9 defeat away to Romanian side Bucuresti Oaks. The Oaks ran otu winners with tries from Csaba Gal Minya and lock Cosmin Ratiu. Fullback Florin Vlaicu slotted two penalties and a conversion, with the final points coming courtesy of a Ionut Dimofte drop-goal.

Montpellier kicked off this season's competition with a hard-fought 22-17 Pool 2 victory over Worcester on Thursday night.

The French side lie 13th in the Top 14 but they belied that lowly league position with victory in their Pool Two clash at Sixways. Federico Todeschini kicked 12 points for the visitors, whose victory was sealed by Florian Nicot's second-half interception try, while tries from captain Pat Sanderson and Tom Wood proved to be in vain for the hosts.

Meanwhile, Connacht took an early lead in Pool 2 with a comfortable 46-6 victory over Olympus Madrid.

The Spanish minnows were only able to field an 18-man squad after being struck by a stomach bug before arriving in Galway and rarely troubled the Irish province. Second-row Michael Swift and wing Fion Carr both crossed twice as Connacht ran in eight tries. Adrian Flavin, Mike McCarthy, Tiernan O'Halloran and Niva Ta'auso grabbed the others.


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