European rugby: Six Champions & Challenge Cup stories

  • Nine Premiership clubs qualify for the knockout stages
  • Saracens continue unbeaten European run with six out of six

1) SARACENS HAVE SIX APPEAL

Saracens' 28-17 victory over Toulouse saw the sublime as well as the ridiculous but most impressively the win meant the Premiership leaders maintained their 100% record in the Champions Cup. 

Ben Spencer’s superb try was the highlight of their victory over the French side, while England fly-half Owen Farrell had a moment to forget, dropping the ball in the in-goal area as he went to touch down for a try. Their reward for gaining six out of six is a home quarter-final tie against Northampton Saints.

2) A GIFT FOR NAN

Harry Mallinder will soon run out of family members the rate he is going. 

Last week the young Northampton centre revealed to englandrugby.com how his previous man-of-the-match award - a crystal vase - was given to his mother.

Mallinder, 19, replicated the antics on Saturday with another star performance, which included a try and an assist as Saints earned a bonus-point 22-10 victory to sneak into the last eight.

“My mum got it last week so this one will have to go to my nan,” Mallinder told Sky Sports.

“We knew we had to come out here and put in a big performance and we are really pleased.”

3) A TOWERING PRESENCE

Wasps’ seven-try 51-10 thumping of Leinster would have made pleasant viewing for England Head Coach Eddie Jones. 

It saw a stunning try from England squad member Elliot Daly, a typically rampaging display from James Haskell and a stand out performance from lock Joe Launchbury.

“He has been a towering presence in the line-out, “ former England number 8 Lawrence Dallaglio told BT Sport.

“He got himself on the scoresheet, offered himself as a ball carrier and had the dexterity in his hands to shift the ball on. He’s put in a real solid performance.”

4) TIGERS TAMED ON A LANDMARK DAY

Leicester Tigers had a day to forget in Paris, losing 36-21 to Stade Francais, but the Premiership side still advanced as Pool leaders. 

The game saw a welcome try for Leicester’s England centre Manu Tuilagi who played 50 minutes as he continues his return from injury with the Six Nations less than two weeks away. The occasion was also a landmark match for prop Dan Cole and flanker Tom Croft who celebrated 150 appearances for the Tigers.

5) DELAYING THE INEVITABLE

Gloucester’s trip to Parma to face Zebre may have got off to a frustrating start with a delayed flight, but their encounter in Italy went the same way as all their others in the tournament - victory

It maintained their 100% record in the competition and was also their 15th straight victory in the Challenge Cup.

Their reward is a quarter-final clash against Newport Gwent Dragons at Kingsholm. 

6) THE HISTORY BOYS

Exeter’s 33-17 victory over Ospreys sealed their first ever Champions Cup quarter-final and was the icing on the cake after a stunning weekend for the Premiership with nine clubs qualifying for the knockout stages of both competitions. 

Exeter join Saracens, Leicester, Wasps and Northampton in the last eight of the Champions Cup while Gloucester, Sale, Harlequins, London Irish all make the quarters for the Challenge Cup.

 


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