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European Round-Up: Vunipola on song for Saracens


Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall singled out Billy Vunipola for special praise after the No.8 proved he is back to his barnstorming best in a 33-10 win over Munster in the European Rugby Champions Cup.

Victory for Saracens keeps their hopes alive of qualifying for the knockout stages of the competition with one round of pool games to go, as Chris Ashton crossed twice while Chris Wyles also dotted down.

Denis Hurley did pull one back for the Irish province, whose hopes of making the knockout stages are now all but over, but it was more than they deserved.

Sarries dominated from start to finish at Allianz Park and the only disappointment for McCall was that his charges could not seal a bonus point with a fourth try.

"Billy Vunipola was phenomenal today,” he said. 

“He was a force of nature in attack and defence, but I thought we had outstanding performances right through the group.

"There is a small sense of frustration that we didn't get the fourth try, but I thought it was a really good performance.

"We are in a position where we go to Clermont, and if we win the match, we win the pool. That is what our intention is going to be."

There was less good news in that same pool for fellow Aviva Premiership Rugby side Sale Sharks as they slipped to a 13-22 defeat at home to Clermont.

The French side led 6-3 at the break as Camille Lopez kicked two penalties to a solitary reply from Danny Cipriani.

But a converted penalty try put the hosts in front before two Lopez penalties saw Clermont regain the advantage.

The lead changed hands twice more as Cipriani and then Lopez landed penalties, before Fritz Lee's try saw the French side home.

And Wasps kept their quarter-final hopes alive with an impressive 23-3 victory at fellow Aviva Premiership Rugby outfit Harlequins.

Christian Wade and Joe Simpson both streaked clear inside the opening 20 minutes, putting the visitors firmly in control, while Andy Goode and Elliot Daly each added a second-half penalty.

Determined rearguard action ensured Quins could manage just one Ben Botica penalty and Wasps will now complete the pool by hosting Leinster, knowing victory will send them through.

In the European Rugby Challenge Cup London Irish overcame Grenoble to win their first match since boss Brian Smith's departure, despite playing more than 20 minutes with 14 men.

They led through Alex Lewington and a penalty try but Laurent Bouchet's double then put Grenoble ahead.

Tom Guest's try for the Exiles cut the margin to 27-20 at the break and then Geoff Cross went over following David Paice's red card.

Grenoble came back again but late scores from Andrew Fenby and Myles Dorrian helped seal a dramatic win.

Gloucester booked their place in the quarter-finals with a comfortable 30-3 victory over Oyonnax at Kingsholm.

The hosts scored three tries in the first ten minutes through Billy Burns, Jonny May and Mark Atkinson, Regis Lespinas replying with a penalty.

A penalty try just before the break secured Gloucester a bonus point and while Oyonnax dominated proceedings after the interval it was the Cherry & Whites who scored the only try through Dan Robson.

“I thought we took every opportunity in the first half that came along,” said Gloucester director of rugby David Humphreys. “We played some really good rugby with a little bit of variety.

"We are delighted with that, it has now given us a really, really good chance to achieve the second part of what we wanted to do, which is to get a home quarter-final.”

Elsewhere Newcastle Falcons came out on the losing end of a remarkable game with Newport Gwent Dragons at Kingston Park.

The visitors raced into a 35-3 lead at half-time with tries from Tyler Morgan, Andrew Coombs, Hallam Amos, Rynard Landman and a penalty try.

Juan Pablo Socino, Chris Harris, Will Welch and Andy Saull crossed for Falcons after the restart, but a second Amos score helped Dragons move five points clear in Pool Three after a 40-29 win.
European Rugby Champions Cup
Saracens 33 Munster 10

Tries: Wyles, Ashton 2
Conversions: Farrell 3
Penalties: Farrell 4
Tries: Hurley
Conversion: Keatley
Penalty: Keatley
Referee: Romain Poite
Attendance: 9,999
Sale 13 Clermont 22

Try: Penalty
Conversion: Cipriani
Penalties: Cipriani 2
Try: Lee
Conversion: Lopez
Penalties: Lopez 5
Referee: Ian Davies
Attendance: 6,108
Harlequins 3 Wasps 23

Penalty: Botica

Tries: Wade, Simpson
Conversions: Goode 2
Penalties: Goode 2, Daly
Referee: Nigel Owens
Attendance:  14,132
European Rugby Challenge Cup
London Irish 43 Grenoble 41
London Irish

Tries: Lewington, Penalty, Guest, Cross, Fenby, Dorrian
Conversions: Geraghty, Homer
Penaltiess: Geraghty 3
Tries: Bouchet 2, Caminati, Marrou
Conversions: Hart 3
Penaltiess: Caminati 2 Hart 2
Drop Goal: Caminati
Referee: Dudley Phillips
Attendance:  4,030
Newcastle Falcons 29 Newport Gwent Dragons 40

Tries: Socino, Harris, Welch, Saull
Conversions: Catterick 2, Clegg
Penalty: Catterick
Newport Gwent Dragons
Tries: Morgan, Penalty try, Coombs, Amos 2, Landman,
Conversions: Prydie 5
Referee: John Lacey
Attendance: 3,280
Gloucester 33 Oyonnax 3

Tries: Burns, May, Atkinson, Penalty, Robson
Conversions: Laidlaw 4
Penalty: Lespinas
Attendance: 9,381
Referee: Andrew McMenemy
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