State of play for Gallagher Premiership Rugby teams in Europe ahead of Round 5
The Gallagher Premiership Rugby takes a short break from league action as attention now turns back to their respective European competitions.
A host of Gallagher Premiership Rugby sides are set to battle it out to keep their Heineken Champions Cup hopes alive, while a number of clubs can book their place in the Challenge Cup quarter-finals.
This is what the European state of play is ahead of the fifth round of fixtures:
Saracens flying high in the Heineken Champions Cup:
Mark McCall’s Saracens are yet to taste defeat in the Heineken Champions Cup this campaign after earning four successive victories in the competition.
Saracens downed Cardiff Blues in style last time out and they look set to book their place in the next round of the competition when they travel to Lyon on Sunday.
Lyon haven’t won once in the competition so far but have shown their promise this season by battling to fifth spot in the Top 14 table.
When the two sides met earlier this season, the men in black clinched a 29-10 victory with tries from Maro Itoje, Sean Maitland, Alex Lewington and Brad Barritt claiming a bonus point.
There’s added incentive for the visitors after Saracens slipped to only their second defeat of the domestic season away at Sale Sharks on Friday night.
— Heineken Champions Cup (@ChampionsCup) January 4, 2019
Exeter Chiefs out to make the impossible possible
Many had written Exeter Chiefs off in Europe after failing to win any of their first three Heineken Champions Cup fixtures, but a rousing 29-17 victory away at Gloucester Rugby put their campaign back on track.
Rob Baxter’s side need to win both their remaining games and hope results go their way to stand a chance of progressing, but it’s not out the equation just yet.
The Chiefs host Castres Olympique at Sandy Park on Sunday, but they will be wary of their French opponents after losing by 29-25 to them earlier this campaign.
Castres were reduced to 14 men on that occasion and played for almost half the match without Maama Vaipulu, but Yohan Le Bourhis’ brace sealed the win for the hosts.
Meanwhile, Gloucester Rugby also have eight points in Pool 2, but they can keep their slim Heineken Champions Cup hopes alive when they host Munster.
The Irishmen put 36 points past Gloucester when they met earlier this campaign, but the Cherry and Whites can take pride from their wins over Exeter and Castres.
🗣 “Now the supporters can come and there is a glimmer for them.”
— Heineken Champions Cup (@ChampionsCup) December 20, 2018
Bath and Wasps playing for pride
It’s been a Heineken Champions Cup to forget for Bath Rugby and Wasps this season with both teams failing to notch up a win so far this season.
Bath will be ruing a case of what could have been after an error from Freddie Burns ought to have clinched them a win in their opener against Toulouse.
But four games without a win have left them out of the reckoning. They have the chance to resurrect some form when they take on Wasps.
It’s been a similar story for Wasps in Europe, with Dai Young’s men failing to recover from their opening night loss to reigning champions Leinster.
Both teams have the chance to build some mid-season momentum when they meet at the Rec – the reverse fixture at the Ricoh Arena finished as a thrilling draw.
God that felt good. Awesome win, awesome support. Great way to kick off 2019 🐝 pic.twitter.com/oR4FVUQY9v
— Dan Robson (@d_jrobson) January 6, 2019
Tigers aiming to set things straight
Leicester Tigers are not mathematically out of the reckoning in the Heineken Champions Cup but after earning one win from their first four outings their chances are all but over.
Geordan Murphy’s men have shown promise as of late in the league however, with the Tigers recording back-to-back home victories for the first time this season against Gloucester.
Jonny May was at the double against his old side and the wing could prove pivotal if they are to get anything out of their trip to Scarlets.
Their Welsh opponents haven’t found the competition easy themselves – losing all four matches including the 45-27 reverse to Tigers.
Wayne Pivac’s side also have injury worries to contend with after Ken Owens found himself starting at No.8 in the weekend’s victory over Welsh rivals Dragons.
Classic Jonny May who scores against his former side…
That try takes him to second in the Premiership try-scoring charts with 8⃣ pic.twitter.com/urT9rodZ7E
— Rugby on BT Sport (@btsportrugby) January 5, 2019
Falcons hoping to swoop
Newcastle Falcons have found more joy on the European circuit this campaign than in the Gallagher Premiership Rugby and they have the chance to keep their Heineken Cup hopes alive.
But Dean Richards’ men will have to do it the hard way when they travel to Pool 5 second-placed side Montpellier.
The Frenchmen have two wins to their name but have three points more than the Falcons. A best runners-up spot could be up for grabs if Newcastle Falcons can pull off wins against Montpellier and triple champions RC Toulon.
📸 Match action pic.twitter.com/xpQFLu3ywi
— Newcastle Falcons (@FalconsRugby) January 5, 2019
Challenge Cup quarter-final spots up for grabs
Three Gallagher Premiership Rugby sides are sitting pretty at the top of their respective European Challenge Cup pools after the opening four rounds.
Worcester Warriors travel to Ospreys with the chance to extend their grasp on Pool 2 against their nearest rivals in the group.
Meanwhile, table toppers Sale Sharks travel to second-placed Connacht following on from their first defeat in Europe against Bordeaux-Begles.
Harlequins top Pool 5 by just a point, but they could extend their lead when they do battle against Grenoble at the Stoop on Saturday.
Northampton Saints can count themselves unlucky not to be topping Pool 1 after clinching three wins from their opening four fixtures. They take on undefeated Clermont Auvergne in France in an epic Sunday showdown.
Lastly, Bristol Bears face off against Enisei-STM in Russia for the chance to keep their European hopes alive after earning two wins in the competition so far – including a rousing victory against La Rochelle last time out.