Challenge Cup round five review: What they said and best of social
Gallagher Premiership Rugby sides took three wins from their five matches as they battled to qualify for the knockout stages of the European Challenge Cup.
Worcester Warriors lead the way after securing their place in the quarter-finals, with the other four clubs still in contention going into the final weekend.
It was a record-breaking afternoon for Bristol Bears as they won on their travels in Russia while Harlequins won at the Stoop but Sale Sharks lost out on their travels.
Northampton Saints rounded off the action as they lost out in a thrilling match against Clermont Auvergne.
Here’s everything that happened on Saturday.
Enisei-STM 9-65 Bristol Bears
Bristol Bears racked up a record number of points in an away European victory as they beat Russia’s Enisei-STM, running in 11 tries for the bonus point win.
A hat-trick from Nick Fenton-Wells and two for Piers O’Conor led the way for Pat Lam’s men.
Joe Joyce, Nick Haining and Mat Protheroe all touched down before the break while Sam Graham, Tom Pincus and Jake Armstrong each grabbed themselves a try in the second period.
It leaves them second in Pool Four, four points behind leaders La Rochelle, with the return fixture against the Russian side next weekend.
The West Country side will be hopeful of another bonus point victory, leaving them with 21 points – which they will hope can see them through to the knockout phases as a best runner-up.
Bears No. 8 Jordan Crane said: “Great result in some tough conditions. Hopefully see you all at the gate next week to chase down that European Challenge Cup quarter.”
From Russia with love 💙
UP THE BEARS! 🐻 pic.twitter.com/dWgevFB6Cl
— Bristol Bears (@BristolBears) January 12, 2019
Ospreys 18-20 Worcester Warriors
Ryan Mills’ last-gasp drop goal helped Worcester sneak a victory over the border, as they secured qualification as winners of Pool Two.
Jonny Arr touched down for the opener for the visitors at the Liberty Stadium before Keelan Giles got a try of his own for the hosts.
Olly Cracknell’s score for Ospreys meant they led at the break but Ollie Lawrence crossed the try-line shortly after the start of the second period to bring Worcester within three points.
Dean Hammond then put the visitors ahead, shortly after George North was yellow-carded for the hosts, but Sam Davies’ penalty looked to have won it for the home side.
But Mills held his nerve to slot a late kick as the Warriors ensured they will make the quarter-finals for the first time in 10 years.
“We got a bit lucky there at the end but a win is a win, so we are pretty happy with it,” match-winner Mills said.
“It’s a massive positive for us to be stuck in those real tight games but come through with a win. It becomes a habit and that can only be a good thing.
“[I decided to take the drop goal] when everyone was screaming to kick in through the posts. I think everyone was waiting for it.
“We would have taken it earlier when there were some faster rucks but I had to go and clear one. You have got to take them at the end. It was relatively easy and straight in front so I had to take it.
“We are aiming for another good win next week to secure a home quarter final, that would be great to go back in front of the Sixways crowd and give them something to cheer about.”
— Ollie Lawrence (@OLawrence1) January 12, 2019
🎥 Rory Duncan gives his thoughts on a confidence building away win… pic.twitter.com/YQ7nSNQ6Nd
— Worcester Warriors ⚔️ (@WorcsWarriors) January 12, 2019
Connacht Rugby 20-18 Sale Sharks
Sale battled back from 17 points down to take the lead with 15 minutes to go before they were downed by a late David Horowitz penalty.
Kyle Godwin and James Mitchell scored before the break, along with eight points from the boot of Jack Carty.
But Steve Diamond’s men began their comeback just before the break as Chris Ashton touched down.
Scrum-half Faf de Klerk scored 11 points in the second half before Sale were downed by Horowitz’s kick.
It leaves it all to play for in Challenge Cup Pool Three, with Connacht and Sale on 17 points, meaning it will go to the final European round to decide who takes the automatic knockout spot.
“It’s a daunting task coming here. People underestimate it but we certainly didn’t,” said Diamond.
“We knew after 20 minutes what we were in store for. The elements were with Connacht in the first half. It was a game of two halves.”
— Sale Sharks🦈 (@SaleSharksRugby) January 12, 2019
Harlequins 38-20 Grenoble
After a shaky start, Harlequins ran in four tries before half-time as they cruised past Grenoble to take pole position in Pool Five.
Antonin Berruyer had given the visitors a first-minute lead before Danny Care, Mike Brown, Cadan Murley and Max Crumpton all touched down before the break.
It was a back and forth first half, with full-back Gervais Cordin also grabbing two tries in the opening period for the visitors.
The game died down in the second half, with Alex Dombrandt’s late try and five points from the boot of James Lang all the hosts could muster after their first-half surge.
Paul Gustard’s men have a one-point lead over second-placed Benetton Rugby, with both facing away fixtures next weekend to decide who takes top spot.
Quins lock Matt Symons said: “It was frustrating. Conceding 20 points at home, when we pride ourselves on our D now; it isn’t good enough.
“As forward as we were at the set-piece, we were off the pace. We need to work hard come Monday because Agen [next weekend] are going to be a massive challenge.
“We have got to set our own standards regardless of who is in front of us. Agen are going to be a really tough side.”
🗣 “Any type of silverware you want to win, so touch wood we’ll kick on in the rest of the competition”
— Harlequins 🃏 (@Harlequins) January 12, 2019
ASM Clermont Auvergne 48-40 Northampton Saints
Northampton battled hard in France as they lost out to Clermont in Pool One as the two sides ran in 13 tries between them.
Fraser Dingwall and Alex Mitchell did both touch down in the first seven minutes for Saints before the break but they were unable to stem the tide of the hosts at Stade Marcel Michelin.
The visitors came out stronger early in the second half and were rewarded with two Teimana Harrison tries.
Gallagher Premiership player of the month for December Cobus Reinach got in on the try scoring action just before the hour mark to bring his side within a point at 34-33.
Peceli Yato struck again for the hosts before Harrison completed his hat trick, to keep the gap at a solitary point.
But Remi Grosso had a late try to ensure the French side took the win.
Saints director of rugby Chris Boyd said: “We came here to make sure we got a bonus point, to make sure we secured our position if we get five points against Timișoara Saracens, then that keeps us in the hunt for the quarter finals.
“You never like to lose but I think it was quite an enjoyable game. Our objective we managed to achieve. You can only play how your opposition let you and I think we knew we would get some opportunities against Clermont and that came to bear.
“We knew if we didn’t get our defensive game right they could score tries from anywhere. We’ve been averaging high eighties and low nineties for successful tackles in England and we certainly did not get that today, which was part of the problem.”
Unlucky 13 for Saints, but we head home heads held high and with a richly deserved try bonus point. What a game. What spirit shown from both sides
Merci pour le jeu @ASMOfficiel 👏🏼
— Northampton Saints 😇 (@SaintsRugby) January 12, 2019