Amlin Challenge Cup - Round 4 Review
Slick Sale sweep Agen aside
December 17, 2011
Sale fullback Rob Miller makes a break during Sunday's crucial win over Agen © Getty Images
Sale Sharks remain in contention for a place in the knockout after collecting a bonus point in a 41-21 victory over Agen in Amlin Challenge Cup Pool 5.
After the two side's respective goal-kickers, Nick Macleod and Valentin Courrent, had both kicked two penalties apiece during the early exchanges, the game swung in the hosts' favour when Agen lock Damien Lagrange was sin-binned on 17 minutes. Sale capitalised ruthlessly on their temporary numerical advantage, sending Tom Brady and David Seymour over for tries.
Agen replied with a try just before the break but Sale put the game beyond their French foes with third-quarter tries from Brady and Cillian Willis. The visitors kept battling and Jamie Robinson and Opeti Fonua both crossed in the closing stages but Sale had the final say in a victory which drew them to within three points of Pool 5 leaders Brive when Scott Mathie dotted right at the death.
Brive had surged clear of Sale thanks to a bonus point-clinching 38-13 win over Spanish minnows La Vila at the Stade Amedee Domenech.
Tries from Benjamin Caminati, Scott Spedding, Louis Acosta and Mathias Atayi secured the bonus inside 22 minutes, with Alexandre Bias and Mathieu Belie adding further gloss to the scoreline. La Vila did produce a dogged display and took their chances with scores from fly-half Nick McCashin and Nathan Reid.
Exeter Chiefs made it back-to-back wins over the Newport Gwent Dragons in Pool 4 with a nail-biting 23-19 success at Rodney Parade in the final fixture of the weekend, on Sunday evening.
The Dragons looked on course to avenge their defeat at Sandy Park last weekend after reaching the break 16-6 to the good courtesy of a try from Wales No.8 Toby Faletau and nine points from the boot of Jason Tovey, with Exeter having registered just two penalties from Ignacio Mieres by way of a response.
However, the Chiefs came storming back with a try from Simon Alcott, who had earlier been sin-binned, ten minutes into the second half which was converted by Gareth Steenson. Tovey hit back with a penalty for the home side but Steenson did likewise moments later before then being on hand to add the extras once more after No.8 James Phillips had touched down with just four minutes to go.
Perpignan had temporarily leapfrogged Exeter at the top of Pool 4 the day before, though only after stuttering to a 30-13 victory at Cavalieri Prato. Last year's Heineken Cup semi-finalists were forced to rely on penalty tries from their their burgeoning pack to get the better of the Italians, before Henry Tuilagi claimed a bonus point late on.
Jonny Wilkinson kicked 11 points against his former club as Toulon avenged last weekend's defeat to Newcastle with a 36-10 win in France.
The former Falcons fly-half, who announced his retirement from international rugby last week, landed four conversions and a penalty at the Stade Felix Mayol. Toulon ran in five tries in total with Christian Loamanu touching down twice.
David Smith, Geoffroy Messina and Eifion Roberts also crossed the white wash for Toulon, who were 22-3 up by half time. Newcastle's only points came from a Jeremy Manning penalty in the first half and a converted try from Corne Uys late on. The victory puts Toulon two points ahead of Newcastle in Pool 2 after four matches.
Worcester kept their European hopes alive with an emphatic nine-try 57-13 victory over Bucharest Wolves at Sixways.
Marcel Garvey scored twice in the first half as the Warriors outclassed the Romanians, who played half the game with 14 men following four yellow cards. The bonus-point victory saw Worcester keep the pressure on Pool 1 leaders Stade Francais, who they meet in Paris in the final round.
Florin Vlaicu gave Bucuresti a shock lead but the visitors' lack of discipline hurt. The Worcester pack, anchored by Tevita Taumoepeau, earned a penalty try before Garvey and Nile Dacres effectively ended the tie as a contest before half-time.
Aleki Lutui, Chris Pennell, Josh Drauniniu, Miles Benjamin and Jake Abbott rounded off the rout amid more yellow cards for Bucharest who saw Valentine Popirlan score their solitary try.
Former England fullback Mark Van Gisbergen scored 13 points, including the last of his team's six tries, as Lyon beat Petrarca 43-3 in Pool 2.
Wasps bit back to beat Bayonne 25-11 at Adams Park on Thursday, giving the English side a one-point advantage at the summit of Pool 3 in the Amlin Challenge Cup.
The hosts - who became the third English club, behind Leicester and Bath, to play 100 European games - started quickly as Sam Jones crashed over for a close-range try on two minutes, with Nicky Robinson and Benjamin Boyet trading penalties before Wasps lost Riki Flutey to the bin for a ruck offence.
Bayonne used their one-man advantage to good effect and closed the gap to 13-11 just before the break thanks to a Sione Lauaki try from the base of a dominant scrum.
After the restart Wasps quickly moved further ahead, with Elliot Daly landing a stunning 60 metre kick and Robinson two further penalties - the second after David Roumieu saw yellow for persistent breakdown infringements. Bayonne's discipline deserted them in the latter stages and Wasps made the most of a scrappy closing session, with Robinson adding a final penalty on 71 minutes to ensure that the Top 14 side went home empty handed.
Also in Pool 3, Bordeaux completed a double over Rovigo with a hard-fought 15-10 win on their own track. Fly-half Nicolas Sanchez was the vital ingredient for the Top 14 newcomers, scoring 10 second-half points including a converted try.
Stade Francais had temporarily opened up a nine-point lead over Worcester at the top of Pool 1 thanks to a 45-3 victory over Crociati at the Stade Charlety.
France lock Pascal Pape led the way for Michael Cheika's side with a brace of tries, while they also relied on an injection of class from their southern hemisphere stars as former All Blacks hooker Aled de Malmanche and Wallabies No.8 David Lyons both crossed after the hour mark.
Winger Djibril Camara, hooker Laurent Sempere and openside Pierre Rabadan completed the try-scoring in a bonus point win, with Jerome Fillol and Jules Plisson sharing five conversions.
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