Challenge Cup Round Six: What they said and best of social media
It was a perfect weekend for the five Gallagher Premiership Rugby sides in the Challenge Cup as they all secured quarter-final berths in the competition.
Worcester Warriors, Sale Sharks and Harlequins all topped their individual pools, while Northampton Saints and Bristol Bears ran riot to qualify as best placed runners-up.
Here’s a look back at a stunning action-packed weekend for our Gallagher Premiership Rugby clubs in Europe:
Agen 17-33 Harlequins
Paul Gustard’s men needed a bonus-point victory to assure themselves top spot in Pool 5 and they duly delivered with a blitz against the French Top 14 side.
Jack Clifford put them ahead inside five minutes and they continued the first-half rout through Max Crumpton and Gabriel Ibitoye.
Nathan Earle brought up the try bonus point after Danny Care’s sumptuous chip and he again turned provider to set Joe Marchant away for try number five as Quins progressed in style.
“The result was the most important thing tonight and for the most part we played really well. Our attack was efficient in the first-half despite us losing our way with our kicking game,” said head coach Gustard.
“I thought Jack Clifford was outstanding, he was celebrating being called up to the England squad and he has been in great form since he has come back from his injury.
“Nathan Earle had a really strong game and Gabriel Ibitoye played well on the opposite wing. It shows we have got some competition for places.”
🗣 “Having a crowd like that coming over really brings some energy to us, which we needed in the second half. All I can say is thanks for coming”
— Harlequins 🃏 (@Harlequins) January 18, 2019
Northampton Saints 111-3 Timisoara Saracens
Chris Boyd’s Northampton set a new Challenge Cup record by running in a stunning 17 tries to down their Romanian rivals on Friday night.
The hosts had secured a bonus point inside 23 minutes in a match where Ollie Sleightholme scored four, Alex Mitchell notched a hat-trick and Mitch Eadie went over twice.
Victory ensured Saints finished the pool stage on 21 points to guarantee themselves a spot in the last eight regardless of results elsewhere. They face Clermont Auvergne again in the next round.
Reflecting on a night to remember at Franklin’s Gardens, forwards coach Matt Ferguson said: “We judge our performance against our own standards and that doesn’t matter whether the score is 97-3, or 7-3.
“We still have to be honest with ourselves there that we weren’t as accurate as we should be.
“We have to make sure that we retain the ball, exit, set-piece, scoring passes and we have to get those right if we are to continue to maintain our success in three competitions.”
🎶 “Ollie, Ollie, Ollie, Ollieeee” 🎶
— Northampton Saints 😇 (@SaintsRugby) January 20, 2019
Worcester Warriors 36-33 Stade Francais Paris
Worcester Warriors left it late to seal a win to remember with an overtime try to clinch the win against their French rivals.
Alan Solomons’ side were already through but capped off the pool stage with a near perfect record as they fought back from a 14-point deficit 15 minutes from time.
Ollie Lawrence and Tom Howe both went over before Dean Hammond dived over to complete the comeback and set up a quarter-final clash against Harlequins.
Head coach Rory Duncan said: “The guys are really fit at the moment so to be able to close three games on the trot in the dying minutes of the game it shows some great character.
“It’s exciting for us as coaching staff to work with a group of players that have that mindset and we’re fortunate to work with some really good players.”
✔️ Pool Stage complete 🙂
👣 Ready for the next step in our European adventure! pic.twitter.com/2IiX3UGqkz
— Worcester Warriors ⚔️ (@WorcsWarriors) January 19, 2019
Bristol Bears 107-19 Enisei-STM
It proved to be nothing more than a procession as Pat Lam’s men secured second spot in Pool 4 with a riotous display at Ashton Gate.
When Maxim Gargalic was sent off for the visitors inside three minutes, Bears rallied with Jordan Crane, Tom Pincus, Ryan Edwards, Andy Uren and Tom Lindsay all going over in the first-half.
By the end Uren had notched up five tries, Edwards a hat-trick and two each for Crane and Pincus in the encounter to secure the Bears a spot in the final eight where they will face La Rochelle again.
“The boys stuck at it and played really well,” said Uren. “That’s the most I’ve scored since I’ve been at Bristol and I’m very happy with it.
“I was on the end of a lot of tries, they were made for me by someone else. We’re disappointed to concede three tries, but we put on over 100 points against a good side.”
Welcome to the 1⃣0⃣0⃣ club. 🏏
UP THE BEARS! 🐻 pic.twitter.com/AnihmxWYiH
— Bristol Bears (@BristolBears) January 19, 2019
🏉| Hat-trick for @ryanlukeedwards with fine finish in the corner.
— Bristol Bears (@BristolBears) January 19, 2019
Sale Sharks 39-10 Perpignan
The Sharks progressed through to a home quarter-final against Connacht with a rousing victory against winless Perpignan.
Despite falling behind, big gun Chris Ashton and youngster Aaron Reed turned the tide in the first-half.
Jono Ross added another before Kieran Wilkinson sealed the try bonus point that saw them edge out Connacht to top the standings in Pool 5.
“I think after the last two or three months, we’ve come from a slow start to having a side which is pretty dominant in what it’s doing,” said head coach Steve Diamond.
“I think we played particularly well in the second-half – we’ll embrace the quarter-final and then, as always, will go wherever we’re taken.”
— Sale Sharks🦈 (@SaleSharksRugby) January 20, 2019