European Challenge Cup - Round 6
Bourgoin seal last quarter-final spot
January 24, 2010
Leeds Carnegie's Mike McDonald is hit hard by Bourgoin's Julien Frier during their clash at Headingly, Leeds, January 24, 2010
Mike McDonald is hit hard by Julien Frier during Leeds' defeat to Bourgoin © Getty Images

The final round of the European Challenge Cup pool stages saw Connacht qualify as top seeds after a brilliant unbeaten campaign. Michael Bradley's side have been joined in the last eight by Wasps, Newcastle, Toulon and Bourgoin, who eliminated Leeds Carnegie with a win at Headingly in the weekend's final game.

Those sides are joined by Cardiff Blues, Gloucester and Scarlets who qualify via this season's Heineken Cup to complete the quarter-final picture. Bourgoin face a tough trip to play Connacht in Galway in the last eight while Toulon will be at home to Scarlets. In the other two fixtures, Wasps will host Gloucester in an all-English affair and Cardiff Blues will travel to Newcastle to face the Falcons.

Pool 3

Toulon booked their place in the quarter-finals after thrashing Castres 42-10 at the Stade Mayol, meaning that Saracens missed out on a place in the last eight despite routing Rovigo. Philippe Saint-Andre's men lost out to Sarries at Vicarage Road in the last round but were clinical in seeing off the challenge of their Top 14 rivals to ensure that their European campaign would continue. Castres were out of contention before kick-off and shipped a bonus-point to concede a whitewash to their opponents.

Powerful Japanese international wing Christian Loamanu was joined in bagging a brace of tries by centre Mafi Kefu. Flying wing Sinoti Sinoti rounded off the scoring while Jonny Wilkison converted all six tries. Castres' resistance came in the form of a try and penalty from Thomas Bouquié and a conversion from Matthieu Bourret.

Andy Saull bagged a hat-trick as Saracens did all they could in Pool 3 by thrashing Rovigo 56-8 at the Via Alfieri on Saturday afternoon. Brendan Venter's men simply overwhelmed their hosts, scoring eight tries in total, with Saull's treble being complement by a brace of tries from Michael Tagicakibau and one apiece from Rodd Penney, Mouritz Botha and Kevin Barrett.

Saracens enjoyed a dream start in Italy, racking up a try after just over 60 seconds of action with Saull sauntering over under the posts after a superb break from Justin Melck. They were over again ten minutes later, when Penny touched down after winning the race to Richard Haughton's kick forward.

German Bustos got the home side off the mark moments later with a penalty only to see Sarries reply with another try right on the midway point of the half. Penney turned provider this time around, taking a pass from Ernest Joubert before putting Saull in for his second try of the afternoon.

Sarries secured the bonus point in the 23rd minute, with Botha grounding the ball after a charge down from Steve Borthwick. Remarkably, the visitors failed to score again before the interval but they started the second half as brightly as they had the first, and racked up another two tries by the 53rd minute. Tagicakibau crossed just after the restart following a superb counter-attack, before Saull streaked away to complete his hat-trick after being released by Schalk Brits.

Sarries were over again on the hour mark, with Goode putting Tagicakibau in for his second touchdown, and even though Jacobus Immelman notched a consolation try for Rovigo, Barrett had the final say for the visitors when he dived over in the dying seconds. Saracens now lead the pool by four points from Toulon, who host Castres on Saturday evening.

Pool 5

Newcastle qualified for the quarter-finals with a 20-3 victory over Petraca Padova in their Pool Five clash at Kingston Park. A first half penalty try and a late solo effort by Gcobani Bobo clinched the victory which sends the Falcons into the quarter-finalsfor the fifth successive year. Jimmy Gopperth extended his lead as the tournament's top scorer with a further eight points.

But the result was also mixed with disappointment after they failed to score the four tries which would have guaranteed a home tie in the knockout stages. The Falcons had to win to top the pool with Montauban breathing down their necks and welcomed back club captain Carl Hayman for the crucial tie. And the tight-head prop spearheaded the Falcons scrum which earned a penalty try on 16 minutes that looked to have set them on their way.

Gopperth added the conversion to an earlier penalty and kicked another on the stroke of half-time, after Ludovic Mercier got Petrarca off the mark, for a 13-3 lead at the break. But the Falcons were also chasing a bonus point which would guarantee a home tie in the first knockout stage and frustration grew as time ticked away. Bobo beat three defenders to score 13 minutes from time but it was too late to secure maximum points for the Falcons.

Montauban beat Albi 27-20 in the Pool's other tie but also missed out on a bonus point despite tries by Jean Philippe Viard, Abdellatif Boutaty and Félix Le Bourhis.

Pool 2

Connacht made it six wins from six in Pool 2 by annihilating Olympus Madrid 66-0 at the Estadio Universidad Complutense on Saturday afternoon. The Westerners arrived in Spain with their place in the quarter-finals already assured after last weekend's victory over Montpellier at the Sportsground but were intent on securing the number one seeding for the knockout stages and, consequently, were in no mood to take their foot off the gas.

The province racked up ten tries in total. Adrian Flavin, George Naopu and Keith Matthews all scored two apiece, while Fionn Carr, Niva Ta'auso, John Muldoon and Mike McComish also crossed during a horribly one-sided affair.

Meanwhile, in the group's other game, Worcester had all three back-row players sent to the sin-bin in their 8-3 loss at Montpellier. James Collins, Tom Wood and Matt Cox all saw the yellow cards in separate incidents at Stade Yves du Manoir. Worcester led 3-0 at the end of a tense first half thanks to Matthew Jones' 11th-minute penalty. But Marc Giraud went over in the 62nd minute before Jaques Schutte added a late penalty to condemn Worcester to a third setback in Pool 2.

Pool 4

Racing Metro ended their campaign on a high with a 19-17 victory over London Wasps in their clash in Colombes on Thursday night. However, the Top 14 side were only playing for pride having been pipped to the Pool 4 title by their Premiership rivals last weekend. A losing bonus point for Wasps boosted their chances of securing the top seeding in the last eight - and in doing to avoid one of the three Heineken Cup sides that will join the competition for the knock-out stages - but they face an anxious wait ahead of the remaining pool matches.

Wing Tom Varndell struck in either half - as he did in the reverse fixture last weekend - while Danny Cipriani added seven points to leave the English side on the verge of victory in Paris. But a last-minute penalty from Racing fly-half Jonathan Wisniewski steered the home side to a morale-boosting win.

As expected, Bayonne ended up finishing second in Pool 4 thanks to an unsurprisingly straightforward 55-6 demolition of Rugby Roma in the Italian capital. Max Freschi opened the scoring for the hosts with a penalty seven minutes in but David Roumieu responded for Bayonne with two quickfire tries by the midway point of the first half. Jean-Baptiste Peyras followed Roumieu over moments later and although Freschi landed another shot on goal on 34 minutes to keep Roma in touch, Bayonne wre out of sight by the hour mark after touchdowns from Thibault Lacroix and Julien Puricelli.

Roma's resitance had been well and truly broken and Bayonne cut loose in the closing stages, adding further tries through Sam Gerber, Arnaud Heguy and Guillaume Bernad.

Pool 1

Bourgoin secured victory over Leeds at Headingley on Sunday to set up a visit to Galway to face Connacht in the quarter-final. Both sides knew going into the game that victory would secure a group win, and tries from Jean-Francois Coux and Albert Vulivuli helped them to an 18-9 win.

Overmach Parma consigned Bucuresti Oaks to last place in Pool 1 by defeating their fellow also-rans 16-9 at the Stadio del Rugby. Parma began the game bottom of the group, two points behind their visitors, and they looked to be heading for their fifth defeat in six games when Florin Vlaicu kicked Bucuresti into a six-point half-time lead, courtesy of a penalty and a drop goal.

However, the home side made a stirring start to the second half and Edd Thrower crossed for a converted try just five minutes after the interval. Vlaicu reclaimed the lead for Bucuresti with his second penalty of the game, just after the hour, but Irving responded with three penalties in the space of six minutes to seal a morale-boosting win for Parma.

European Challenge Cup quarter-final seeding:
1. Connacht - Pool 2 winners, 26 points
2. Toulon - Pool 3 winners, 23
3. London Wasps - Pool 4 winners, 23
4. Newcastle Falcons - Pool 5 winners, 23
5. Cardiff Blues - (Heineken Cup)
6. Gloucester - (Heineken Cup)
7. Scarlets - (Heineken Cup)
8. Bourgoin - Pool 1 winners, 23

Draw: (Ties to be played April 9/10/11)
Connacht v Bourgoin
Toulon v Scarlets
London Wasps v Gloucester
Newcastle Falcons v Cardiff Blues


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