English teams have dominated in the Champions Cup for the past few years, with Saracens winning the tournament on the last two occasions. However Champions Cup Round 3 was a weekend to forget for the Premiership as the French and Pro14 teams were dominant.
Champions Cup Round 3 Wrap
Glasgow Warriors 22 29 Montpellier
Glasgow suffered their third successive defeat in the tournament, with a bonus point loss to Montpellier at Scotstoun. The home side got on the board first with a Finn Russell penalty but Montpellier replied with a try when Aaron Cruden broke through and found Kélian Galletier with a looping pass to power over. The Warriors then took the ascendancy through a Leonardo Sarto try, before Finn Russell’s audacious flick pass sent George Turner over to make it 17-5.
Montpellier clawed themselves back in the game and went into half-time ahead, when Galletier sneaked around the ruck to race clear and grab his second. Then the French side were awarded a penalty try after a strong lineout drive was brought down illegally. They then continued their momentum into the second half and were awarded the bonus point try when Jacques du Plessis wrestled over the line to extend the lead to nine points. Glasgow weren’t done there however and Huw Jones and Sarto linked up after Russell’s chip, before the Italian grabbed his second try. The game was then wrapped up with a late Francois Steyn penalty to secure the win and all but end Glasgow’s hopes of qualifying.
Scarlets 33 28 Benetton
Scarlets were looking for their first win in pool 5 and it they got the best possible start with two Gareth Davies tries within the first six minutes. Benetton replied minutes later with a try from number eight Robert Barbieri. But then the game was turned on its head later in the half. Francesco Minto was sent off for a dangerous tackle and the home side made the extra man pay when Tadhg Beirne dived over from the back of a lineout drive.
The Italians refused to go down without a fight however and tries from Hayward, Esposito and Ruzza meant they took a seven point lead going into the final ten minutes. But Scarlets’ spared their blushes when Steff Evans scored before setting up Paul Asquith with a perfectly weighted kick to snatch the win.
Toulon 24 20 Bath
The top two teams in Pool 5 clashed at the Stade Mayol, as Bath took on Toulon. Bath got the first try when Welshman Aled Brew powered down the left wing before finding Anthony Watson on the inside. The England international dotted down to give Bath a shock 10-0 lead, after Priestland’s early penalty. Bath kept Toulon scoreless until the 33rd minute when a Mathieu Bastareaud flicked on to send Ma’a Nonu over.
Toulon then took the lead when Alby Mathewson sniped over after Chris Cook was sent to the bin. The visitors were gifted a try ten minutes later when Chris Ashton sliced a clearance kick straight to Jonathan Joseph on the try line. But young replacement fly-half Anthony Belleau saved his side late on when he gathered his own chip through to snatch the win and secure top spot in the group.
Castres 16 13 Racing 92
Both sides were looking to put the pressure on pool leaders Munster in this all-French encounter. Racing thought they had the perfect start when winger Teddy Thomas went over, however Saimone Taumoepeau knocked from his grasp to keep the scores locked at 0-0. Castres also fluffed a chance of their own to score the first try after David Smith knocked on over the line. The sides went into half time at 6-6 and it was the visitors who drew first blood in the second half when Edwin Maka crawled to the line to score. Castres left it late but drew level with seven minutes left through Maama Vaipulu. It looked like the home side were going to draw their second game of the tournament as the clock ticked down, but Benjamin Urdapilleta’s penalty secured their first win in pool 4.
Northampton 32 43 Ospreys
Both sides looking to recapture some form as Ospreys welcomed back a number of internationals to the side. It was the Welsh side who started the better as tries from Dan Evans and Tom Habberfield gave them a 17-3 lead going into the break. They then grabbed another two tries with Jeff Hassler and Kieron Fonotia scoring to seal the bonus point. Saints hit back through skipper Dylan Hartley, before Dan Evans grabbed his second when he danced over from short range to take the lead to 38-8. Hassler then also secured his brace just four minutes later. This sparked a reaction from the Saints and tries from Groom, Horne, Tuala and Mallinder made the defeat look a lot less embarrassing than it was.
Munster 33 10 Leicester Tigers
Leicester went into this game seeking revenge after their 38-0 humiliation in the same game last year, with both teams looked to take control of pool 4. However, it appeared to be a repeat of last year as Leicester were dominated at the breakdown. They were made to pay for their sloppy errors when Rhys Marshall juggled Conor Murray’s pass to dive over. Then Simon Zebo extended the lead when he gathered Ian Keatley’s chip through to take the lead to 20-0.
Much of the talk pre-match involved the future of captain Peter O’Mahony, and he showed how valuable he was to this team with an fierce defensive display. He also grabbed a try when he dived over in the corner. Leicester pulled one back when substitute Harry Thacker dived over. Munster responded immediately to secure the bonus point through flanker Chris Cloete, bringing an end to another humiliating night at Thomond Park for Leicester.
Harlequins 5 17 Ulster
Ulster travelled to The Stoop in snowy conditions with the home side looking for their first win. In a tight first half a solitary Jacob Stockdale try and a John Cooney penalty gave Ulster an 8-0 lead at the break. Quins made the brighter start to the second half and were rewarded when Lions prop Kyle Sinckler forced his way over from short range. Yet the Irish side managed the game better and three more penalties form Cooney secured them their second win. This ensured Quins didn’t gain a losing bonus point from this game and were elimated from the pool.
La Rochelle 49 29 Wasps
This game promised tries as two attack-minded teams clashed in Pool 1 at Stade Marcel Deflandre. La Rochelle have averaged 34 points per game at home this season and took the lead early on through a Brock James penalty. This offence saw Thomas Young of Wasps sent to the bin. However, it was the 14 men visitors who scored the first try when Rob Miller went over after a well executed set play. The home side then made use of the extra man with tries from Pierre Aguillon and 20-year-old hooker Pierre Bourgarit gave them control of the game. Young made amends for his earlier discretion when he went over in the corner, but his opposite number Levani Botia replied five minutes later to extend their lead to 24-12.
La Rochelle scored their fourth at the start of the second half when Victor Vito sent Vincent Rattez over in the corner. Elliot Daly pulled one back for Wasps before Rattez got his second thanks to a pinpoint cross-kick from Ryan Lamb. Joe Simpson and young tighthead Will Stuart scored as Wasps chased a losing bonus point to add to their try bonus point. All hopes were ended when Botia grabbed his second, catching Wasps napping at the breakdown. He raced clear to top off an emphatic win for the French side.
Exeter 8 18 Leinster
Exeter were the last team to play on Sunday as they aimed to be the only English team to win this weekend and defend their unbeaten home record. Leinster showed how tough it would be for the home side as they put them under pressure in the early stages and even had two tries controversially ruled out by the TMO. They eventually scored when Jonathan Sexton scored in the corner to break the deadlock.
A penalty to either side meant the half-time score was 8-3. The visitors were down to 14 early in the second half. Sean Cronin’s high tackle on Jack Nowell happened close enough to the line for many to call for a penalty try. The home side hit back when Olly Woodburn set up his opposite winger James Short to level the scores. Isa Nacewa took over the kicking duties and converted a penalty in the 61st minute to take the lead, before Jack Conan crossed late on to secure the win for the Irish side.
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