- Premiership clubs play in round four of European rugby
- Wasps beat Bath with record score
European rugby has finished for 2015 and there was plenty of action and drama to tee up the final two rounds of group stage fixtures in the New Year. Here's what happened to the English clubs involved.
European Champions Cup
Bath Rugby 10-36 Wasps
Wasps visited The Rec on the back of a disappointing defeat to Bath last weekend and showed their true European ambitions with a record win this time round. The home side opened the scoring through Rokundguni out wide but poor discipline allowed Wasps back into the game before Joe Simpson and Eliot Daly combined to score for Wasps. Jimmy Goperth finished off a driving maul just before half time to give the visitors a strong lead. George Ford will still be dusting himself down after receiving a colossal hit from Nathan Hughes. Alapati Leiua finished a lovely Wasps move to strike the killer blow and keep Wasps firmly in control of Pool 5.
Saracens 55-13 Oyonnax Rugby
A hat-trick from Chris Ashton helped English champions Saracens batter Oyonnax at home to guarantee their progression to the knockout stages. Ashton looked clinical as ever on the ball and Owen Farrell demonstrated his flowing passing game to free up space for their wings. Saracens will have time to focus on their critical Premiership matches over the festive period with no pressure on their remaining pool fixtures.
Clermont Auvergne 42-10 Exeter Chiefs
Clermont Auvergne took revenge on an Exeter side who beat last season’s finalists at home in the previous round. The French team took no prisoners at their European fortress with five unanswered tries inside 60 minutes. Clermont played with ferocious physicality and pace that cut apart Exeter. One English highlight was a stunning try from David Strettle who is clearly enjoying his time in France. The Chiefs managed to gain a consolation try through Tom Johnson when Clermont received two yellow cards for collapsing the maul. Exeter have now been pushed down to third in Pool 2.
Northampton Saints 9-9 Racing 92
Northampton welcomed Racing 92 to Franklins Gardens on Friday night to compete for the top spot in Pool 3. Every inch of grass was veraciously fought for. The game soon became a battle of territory and kicking between Stephen Myler and Overseas Sports Personality of the Year winner Dan Carter. There were few try scoring opportunities in the match until Carter was charged down behind his own try line in the final 10 minutes, but Northampton failed to capitalise. The match finished level which was a good result for both teams who remain joint top of the pool.
Leicester Tigers 17-6 Munster
Leicester followed tradition with a tight game plan and functional set piece. They battered through the Munster defence via captain Ed Slater in the first half and Munster centre Francis Saili capitalised from a mix up in midfield to run 75 meters down the pitch until some heroic defence from Telusa Veainu prevented the Irish visitors from scoring. Niki Goneva confirmed a Tigers victory with a simple run in over the line late on and the home side now sit top of Pool 4.
European Challenge Cup
Gloucester Rugby 27-13 Worcester Warriors
Last season’s champions Gloucester qualified for the knockout stages of the competition with a comfortable win over a struggling Warriors side. Gloucester were shocked early on by the blistering pace of Ben Howard who scored the first try of the match out wide, but the home side responded minutes later. The reply came through Jonny May who broke the defensive line on the wing before chasing his own kick, winning the ball back and producing a lovely pass to set Greg Laidlaw up for the try of the match. The Cherry and Whites have taken full control of Pool 4.
Sale Sharks 31-10 Castres Olympique
Sale secured a vital home win against Castres at the AJ Bell Stadium to establish their second place spot in Pool 2. The home side played an organised kicking game through Danny Cipriani in the first half until number eight Viliami Fihaki scored their first try of the match. The remaining half an hour became a formality for Sale and they ran in a further two tries to secure the important home win.
Newcastle Falcons 29-5 Connacht Rugby
Newcastle were the other English team to cruise to victory after a bonus point thumping of Connacht at Kingston Park. Marcus Watson added to his impressive European try tally with a further two and the home side closed the game out in the wet and windy conditions up north. This home win leaves them two points off top spot in Pool 1 and with two games remaining, every single point could be critical.
Harlequins 59-7 Calvisano
Harlequins brushed aside Italian hopefuls Calvisano who struggled to deal with Quins’ ball movement and pressure in defence. Twickenham Stoop has enjoyed watching Harlequins dominate Pool 3 with four bonus point wins from four and their qualification to the knockout rounds is inevitable. Jamie Roberts impressed on his debut for the club with a try after overcoming a dead leg in the Varsity match earlier this month.
Enjoyed the debut this eve! Great atmosphere at The Stoop! Good win for the lads. Loved it https://t.co/DEcGcUcPaI— Jamie Roberts (@Jamiehuwroberts) December 19, 2015
Edinburgh 18-15 London Irish
London Irish suffered a killer blow through a late John Hardie try in the 71st minute leaving their European campaign hanging in the balance. It was a tightly contested match which demanded physicality from both sides and the Exiles looked set to record their second win over Edinburgh in two weeks until Hardie peeled off the back of a driving maul to score the decisive try. Tom Coventry has a big job on his hands to pull the exiles through a hectic Christmas period until their vital remaining European rounds in January.