As with the Champions Cup there will be a new name on the trophy in the ‘second tier’ competition, as the away sides cause upsets in the European Challenge Cup Quarter-Finals, the most surprising being Newport Gwent Dragons defeating the current holders Gloucester at Kingsholm.
Over the years of European Quarter Finals, we normally expect one away victory out of the four games; home advantage in knockout games certainly does seem to offer an edge as well as the financial gains made from hosting an extra game. However, this season we were close to seeing a clean sweep of away victories. Is this therefore a successful demonstration of the value of new rules meaning winning away quarter finalists are rewarded with a home semi-final?
Away Sides Cause Upsets in Challenge Cup Quarter-Finals
First on Friday night in-form Montpellier became the first team to win at the AJ Bell stadium this season. Even despite the French side’s excellent form in the Top 14, where they currently sit second, a home win may have been predicted by many. There is a cliché in football concerning a ‘cold wet and windy Tuesday evening in Stoke’, which could easily read ‘cold wet and windy Friday evening in Manchester’, an environment in which the stereotypical French club side would not expected to be up for. However the men from the south of France certainly were up for it and will be in warmer climes for the semi-final, where they will face Newport Gwent Dragons.
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