Challenge Cup Quarter-Finals: Wrap Up and Team of the Week

Challenge Cup Quarter-Finals: Wrap Up and Team of the Week

The Challenge Cup round of 16 saw the likes of Bath, Leicester Tigers, Montpellier and Ulster all claim victories to move them ever closer to the title.

We take a look back at the weekend's action as well as the top performers.


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Bath 26-13 London Irish


Bath Rugby cruised into semi-finals with a 26-13 win over London Irish on Friday night at The Rec. Tighthead prop Will Stuart scored a brace while Josh McNally also dotted down for Stuart Hooper's men with Man of the Match Zach Mercer also edging his name of the scoresheet in the convincing victory. It was the Exiles who started brighter of the two sides as they took a 7-0 lead through hooker Agustin Creevy who forced his way over the line, with Jackson making the conversion.

Josh McNally quickly got Bath back in the back as he muscled his way over the line with Ben Spencer converting to level the scores just four minutes later. The next 20 minutes was a bit of an arm-wrestle before the hosts scored on the 27-minute mark and moved into a lead they wouldn’t surrender. The try came from some stunning Taulupe Faletau footwork where he also chipped the ball off his left peg, having collected a slick offload from Mercer, into the Irish 22 where Jackson would knock-on. Bath collected possession and worked over the line with Stuart coming up with his first try. Stuart doubled up as the Bath pick-and-drive proved too powerful for London Irish with Jackson trimming the gap just before the break to 19-10.


The Exiles were the first to score in a slow start to the second half as Jackson slotted another penalty after the hour mark but any hopes of an Irish comeback were soon extinguished as Mercer peeled away from a dominant scrum and powered over from close range in the 68th minute. 

Man of the match: Zach Mercer

Leicester Tigers 39-15 Newcastle Falcons

Leicester Tigers ran in five tries in a dominant display over fellow Premiership club Newcastle Falcons on Saturday.

The Tigers' pack dominated proceedings grabbing two penalty tries in the 39-15 victory. Harry Potter got the Tigers off to a bright start with a great finish in the corner after an excellent kick in behind from Johnny McPhillips.

 
Newcastle pivot Brett Connon clawed back three points for his side but Leicester would rack up the next 10 points, scoring a penalty try and three points from the tee soon after as Newcastle spent 10 minutes without captain Mark Wilson. 
 
 
The Falcons did manage to halt the Tigers' momentum in the first half as trailing but just seven after George Wacokecoke dotted down in the corner but the Tigers took control after the break, with Matias Moroni who dived over in the corner.
 
 
Tom Penny got one back for Newcastle but Leicester ran riot in the final 10 minutes, scoring another penalty try before Harry Potter grabbed his second of the afternoon and secured his side’s spot in the Challenge Cup semi-final.
 
 
 
Montpellier 31-25 Benetton Rugby
 

Montpellier scrumhalf Benoit Paillaugue tallied up 23 points for his club as they marched onto the final four with in a hard-fought 31-25 victory over Benetton Rugby. Paolo Garbisi scored but three of Benetton’s points as he and Paillaugue exchanged early penalties in what would be a running theme over the course of the first half.

Garbisi slotted his first two shots at goal to give Benetton a 3-6 lead before Paillaugue found a gap in the Benetton defence close to the line to score the opening try. The two kickers traded blows once again over the next 15 minutes before Anthony Bouthier got three points himself with an opportunistic drop-kick. Again the two kickers traded penalties with Garbisi slotting two to make it 14-15 before Paul Willemse made amends for his yellow card as he scored Benetton's second of the game as Montpellier led 21-15 at half time.

Early in the second half Garbisi came up with a seven-point play scoring in the corner and converting to edge his side ahead but Paillaugue crossed for his second score of the evening ten minutes later. Paillaugue added another three on the hour mark as Montpellier took a nine-point advantage into the final quarter. Tommaso Allan came off the bench to trim the lead to six points but Montpellier held on for the victory despite a yellow card in the final five minutes. 

Northampton Saints 27-35 Ulster

Dan McFarland's Ulster comeback from eight points down to defeat Chris Boyd's Northampton Saints 35-27 in a thrilling Champions Cup quarter-final at Franklin's Gardens on Saturday. Irish Internationals John Cooney and Jacob Stockdale both scored for the visitors in the final quarter of the game to secure a place in the semi-finals as Saints were punished for ill-discipline.

Saints scrumhalf Alex Mitchell crossed for the hosts inside seven minutes, but the likes of Nick Isiekwe, Sam Matavesi and Dave Ribbans all headed for the sin bin in the first half with Ulster claiming a penalty try for Matavesi's infringement. Ulster took advantage of their extra men with Rob Herring crossing from the driving maul but Saints responded wonderfully with debutant Tommy Freeman scoring two tries in three minutes. Saints led by eight at the break.

Marty Moore powered over as Ulster flexed their muscles up front but Northampton would again move into a six-point lead. Ahsee Tuala dragged in two Ulster defenders before offloading to Ollie Sleightholme who dotted down in the corner. Trailing in the final quarter, Ulster clicked surged to seal the victory with the first of two tries coming from a quick line-out with Cooney later picking a gap in the defence and running through to score. He converted his try too. 

Billy Burns dummied a kick in the 74th minute before sending the ball out to Jacob Stockdale who split the Northampton defence and dived over to send Ulster into the semi-finals.

Ultimate Rugby's Team of the Week:

1. Luan de Bruin - Leicester Tigers

2. Rob Herring - Ulster

3. Will Stuart - Bath

4. Bastien Chalureau - Montpellier

5. Charlie Ewels - Bath Rugby

6. George Martin - Leicester Tigers

7. Jordi Murphy - Ulster Rugby

8. Zach Mercer - Bath Rugby

9. Benoit Paillaugue - Montpellier

10. Paolo Garbisi - Benetton Rugby

11. Jacob Stockdale - Ulster Rugby

12. Cameron Redpath - Bath Rugby

13. James Hume - Ulster Rugby

14. Harry Potter - Leicester Tigers

15. Tommy Freeman - Northampton Saints\

Honourable mentions: Teimana Harrison, Lewis Ludlam, Dan Biggar, Enzo Forletta, Anthony Bouthier, Caleb Timu, Michele Lamaro, Charlie Clare, Joe Heyes, Tommy Refell, Kini Murimurivalu, Freddie Steward, John Cooney, Tom Penny, Beno Obano, Agustin Creevy, Taulupe Faletau and Jonathan Joseph. 

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