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European Rugby Challenge Cup round-up: Sale Sharks surge past Castres

Steve Diamond is looking forward to attacking Aviva Premiership Rugby afresh with Sale Sharks after his side completed a brilliant European double over Castres in the Challenge Cup.

Having ground out a 17-10 victory in Castres last week, Joe Ford kept things ticking early over on from the tee at the AJ Bell Stadium.

But the second half was where Sale well and truly turned on the style, Viliami Fihaki first rumbling over before Neil Briggs and Johnny Leota wrapped up the 31-10 win.

It is some response to their opening European defeat to the Newport Gwent Dragons, and the three victories in a row leave them just two points behind the Welsh region in Pool 2.

But Diamond now has his sights lined up on a return to form in Aviva Premiership Rugby – aiming to snap a three-game winless streak in the competition at Exeter Chiefs on Boxing Day.

"We’re in a good position in the group and we can now put Europe to bed for a few weeks,” he said.

“We know we have a few tough weeks coming up so there will be no Christmas for us but if we play like we did today and last weekend it will be a good side that beats us.

“We have a good set of lads who care about the shirt. We’ve played well in the last three games in Europe and we’ve been playing well in the league too but we just haven’t quite got the results we have deserved.

“That’s the difference as to why we are not a top four side at the moment but if we can keep churning out displays like today's we can put pressure on any side that comes here.”

Newcastle Falcons made no mistake against an injury-stricken Connacht on Sunday after a scintillating second-half saw them score four tries and record a 29-5 win.

Danie Poolman had responded to Marcus Watson’s opening Falcons try but Connacht, who had some 20 players missing through injury, could not keep pace in the second half.

Their scrum yielded two penalty tries, while Watson added his second – his sixth try in this year’s Challenge Cup – and Belisario Agulla grabbed another.

It sees Newcastle cut the gap down to two points on leaders Connacht in Pool 1.

Elsewhere Wales centre Jamie Roberts crowned his Harlequins debut with a try, as Conor O’Shea’s men stormed past Rugby Calvisano 59-7.

Harlequins are the only team to have a perfect record in Europe after four games – a maximum 20 points – and nine different try-scorers piled the pain on the Italians.

But London Irish have some work to do in order to reach the knockout stages after a closely-fought battle at BT Murrayfield ended up in an 18-15 defeat to Edinburgh.

Gerard Ellis had drawn first blood for the Exiles but back came Edinburgh, aided by a Tom Brown try and eight points from the boot of Sam Hidalgo-Clyne.

Tom Smallbone’s converted effort and a Shane Geraghty penalty had Irish two points ahead entering the final ten minutes, but Scotland flanker John Hardie powered over the line to rescue the hosts.

On Thursday, Gloucester Rugby retained the bragging rights over local rivals Worcester Warriors with a comfortable 27-13 victory at Kingsholm – thanks to Greig Laidlaw’s masterclass.

Despite an early Worcester flourish from Ben Howard allied to five points kicked by Ryan Lamb, Scotland skipper Laidlaw soon took control.

He notched an astonishing 22 points before Matt Kvesic added the gloss by joining him on the scoresheet in the 67th minute.

The result maintained defending champions Gloucester’s perfect record this year in Europe, and most importantly for director David Humphreys, reinforced their supreme record at Kingsholm.

Humphreys said: "That's a calendar year at Kingsholm and we've won 14 games and only lost once. We talked about re-establishing Kingsholm as a tough place for the opposition and I think we've done that.

"The crowd have also played a big role in that but the players take the credit for winning that number of games.

"Another small piece of history is winning 13 consecutive games in the Challenge Cup but ultimately this year is about being the first team to retain that cup.”
 
SUNDAY

Newcastle Falcons 29 Connacht 5
 
Newcastle
Tries: Watson 2, Penalty 2, Agulla
Conversions: Willis 2

Connacht
Tries: Poolman
 
SATURDAY

Sale Sharks 31 Castres 10

Sale Sharks
Tries: Fihaki, Briggs, Leota
Conversions: Ford, Cipriani
Penalties: Ford 3, Cipriani

Castres
Tries: Beattie
Conversions: Palis
Penalties: Dumora
 
Attendance: 4,525
Referee: Dudley Phillips

Harlequins 59 Rugby Calvisano 7

Harlequins
Tries: Yarde, Sinckler, Clifford, Chisholm, Roberts, Walker, Botica, Swiel, Dickson
Conversions: Botica 7

Calvisano
Tries: Susio
Conversions: Vlaicu
 
Attendance: 11,230
Referee: Tual Trainini
 
FRIDAY
 
Edinburgh 18 London Irish 15
 
Edinburgh
Tries: Brown, Hardie
Conversions: Hidalgo-Clyne
Penalties: Hidalgo-Clyne 2
 
London Irish
Tries: Ellis, Smallbone
Conversions: Geraghty
Penalties: Geraghty
 
Attendance: 3,551
Referee: David Wilkinson
 
THURSDAY

Gloucester Rugby 27 Worcester Warriors 13

Gloucester Rugby
Tries: Laidlaw, Kvesic
Conversions: Laidlaw
Penalties: Laidlaw 5

Worcester Warriors
Try: Howard
Conversion: Lamb
Penalties: Lamb 2

Attendance: 10,942
Referee: Ian Davies

Click here to see the rest of the 2015-16 Aviva Premiership Rugby fixtures #AvivaPrem
 

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