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European Rugby Challenge Cup round-up: Humphreys eyes Gloucester Rugby improvement

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Gloucester Rugby’s defence of the European Rugby Challenge Cup got off to a solid start but director of rugby David Humphreys admits it was not the complete performance as they left Kingsholm without a try-bonus point.

The Cherry & Whites thundered into a big half-time lead as Henry Purdy, Ross Moriarty and Steve McColl piled on the punishment against Zebre.

But, to their credit, the Italians persevered and frustrated the hosts while grabbing a penalty try in the second half.

Gloucester, who have won two, last two so far in Aviva Premiership Rugby, eventually cantered to a 23-10 victory but Humphreys was looking for more.

"The starting point is always to win the game and we did that pretty much by half-time.

"In Europe bonus-points are key, whether that to win the pool, qualify from the pool, get a home quarter-final – it's not something too much now but hopefully we won't look back and regret it too much.

"The first-half was really good, the second-half disappointing and that sums up the last six or seven weeks for us.

"Certain parts were very pleasing but for some reason we just don't manage to take it through 80 minutes. The conditions definitely had a factor, they deteriorated in the second-half, the wind picked up and the rain came in.

Jeremy Thrush gave Kingsholm a taste of what was to come as the All Blacks lock took to life at Gloucester smoothly on debut.

He added: "For someone who has been here for a week, came in, called the lineouts – we had 100 per cent lineout success – he carried the ball and made a huge impression.”

On Sunday it was disappointment for a much-changed Sale Sharks as they fell to a 30-12 loss at the hands of Newport Gwent Dragons.

Sale enjoyed much of the possession in the first half but somehow went in 17 points behind as the Dragons piled on three tries.

There was a response after the break, James Mitchell and captain Jonathan Mills scoring two quickfire tries, but the Welsh side weathered the storm and added a bonus-point try through Matthew Screech.

Back to Gloucester’s group and Worcester Warriors also laid down a marker by beating La Rochelle 19-3 amid tricky conditions at Sixways.

Ryan Lamb kept the score ticking over with four penalties and a Ben Howard try wrapped up the game in the latter stages – keep an eye out for the match against Gloucester on December 10.

London Irish made it three Aviva Premiership Rugby teams out of three to win in the Challenge Cup on Saturday, and it quite a way for Tom Coventry to clinch his first victory at the club – an eight-try thumping of Agen.

The try-bonus point was secured before half-time after Gerard Ellis (2), Joe Trayfoot and Johnny Williams efforts.

They never looked like slowing down after the break either – Alex Lewington grabbing a try-double while Rob McCusker and British & Irish Lions winger Sean Maitland also dotted down in the 48-10 win.

“It's a bit better feeling than the last two or three weeks for sure,” said the Exiles assistant coach Clark Laidlaw.

"There's large aspects of our game that we need to get better at, but we moved the ball a lot better. We got through a lot more content in our attack and got a bit more flow and rhythm to our game.”

Newcastle Falcons lost 13-9 at Brive on Friday but they did not come away empty-handed after grinding out a losing bonus point.

The home side took in a ten-point lead at half-time but Tom Catterick’s two penalties got Falcons right back into the contest.

Try as they might Newcastle could not find the try-line in the latter stages, but a heavily rotated side came away with something to build on.

Harlequins had kicked off the European schedule on Thursday with a bang, racking up a 41-18 victory on Montpellier.

Conor O’Shea’s men scooted over the try-line six times, including scores for England internationals Chris Robshaw, Danny Care and Nick Easter, leaving lock Charlie Matthews reflecting on a job well done.

"We always play every game like a cup final and we get licence from the coaches to throw the ball about.,” he said. “We are all now massively looking forward to going to Cardiff to play the Blues next week on their plastic pitch."

SUNDAY

Newport Gwent Dragons 30 Sale Sharks 12

Dragons

Tries: Griffiths, Landman, Hughes, Screech

Conversions: Jones 2

Penalties: Jones 2

Sale

Tries: Mitchell, Mills

Conversions: Macleod

SATURDAY

Gloucester Rugby 23 Zebre 10

Gloucester
Tries: Purdy, Moriarty, McColl
Conversions: Burns
Penalties: Burns 2

Zebre
Tries: Penalty
Conversions: Padovani
Penalties: Padovani

Referee: Andy Brace
Attendance: 9,973

London Irish 48 Agen 10

London Irish
Tries: Williams, Ellis 2, Trayfoot, Lewington 2, McCusker, Maitland
Conversions: Noakes 4

Agen
Tries: Vergnon
Conversions: Darbo
Penalties: Bouvier

Referee: Gary Conway
Attendance: 4,216

Worcester Warriors 19 La Rochelle 3

Worcester
Tries: Howard
Conversions: Lamb
Penalties: Lamb 4

La Rochelle
Penalties: Bouldoire

Referee: Dudley Phillips
Attendance: 5,124

FRIDAY

Brive 13 Newcastle Falcons 9

Brive
Tries: Bakaniceva
Conversions: Bezy
Penalties: Bezy 2

Newcastle
Penalties: Catterick 3

Attendance: 5,000
Referee: Leighton Hodges (Wales)

THURSDAY

Harlequins 41 Montpellier 18

Harlequins
Tries: Wallace, Easter, Clifford, Care, Lindsay-Hague, Robshaw
Conversions: Evans 3, Botica
Penalties: Evans

Montpellier
Penalties: Paillaugue 6

Attendance: 7,136
Referee: Ian Davie

To see all of the 2015-16 Aviva Premiership Rugby season fixtures, please click here #AvivaPrem

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