There have been some impressive performances so far in the Challenge Cup but who are the early contenders? Robert Rees has your Challenge Cup round one summary to help guide you through all the weekend’s action.
Pool One Standings
- Dragons – 5 points
- Clermont – 5 points
- Northampton – 0 points
- Timisoara Sarcens – 0 points
Timisoara Saracens 17 Dragons 54
Despite Jack Umaga’s early try for the hosts it wasn’t to be their day as the Dragons romped home to a bonus point victory in Romania. The Dragons fought back well after an early struggle to register an eight try haul in a dominating performance.
For the first time this season they looked the dominant side and played for the full 80 minutes.
Northampton Saints 20 Clermont Auvergne 41
Dan Biggar’s boot kept Saints in the game early doors but the heavy French pressure finally told, with the Saints falling to a six try defeat. Clermont ran riot after a tense early quarter with two tries each from Betham and Yato sealing the bonus point. They’ve set the early pool one pace and only two late consolation scores flattered the Northampton scoreline.
Pool Two Standings
- Ospreys – 5 points
- Worcester Warriors – 5 points
- Stade Francais – 0 points
- Pau – 0 points
Ospreys 27 Pau 0
Ospreys continued their good form through to their opening Challenge cup game against last year’s semi-finalists. A great defensive effort kept the large and physical Pau side off the score sheet as tries from Luke Morgan, Harri Morgan, James Hook and George North claimed the bonus point.
Pau held strong for large periods of the game but never looked like troubling an Ospreys side which demonstrated some excellent running rugby. Pau look like a side who are aiming to avoid relegation as they currently lie in 10th place in the Top14.
Stade Francais 27 Worcester Warriors 37
In a game that saw Worcester make 15 changes to the side that thrashed Bristol last week, it was a Stade team with fewer alterations who looked out of sorts. Poor defensive qualities on show allowed Worcester to score five tries in what could prove to be a big away win.
Stade; who currently lie 2nd in the Top14, looked a shadow of what they’ve shown domestically this season.
Pool Three Standings
- Sale Sharks – 5 points
- Connacht – 4 points
- Bordeaux – 0 points
- Perpignan – 0 points
Perpignan 24 Sale 41
A Byron McGuigan hat-trick sealed a big opening victory for Sale, who may look at utilising Europe as their way of recovering poor league form. The return of their messiah like scrum half has clearly made the difference as Faf De Klerk orchestrated a comfortable win.
An early red card for Perpiganan flanker Manu Leiataua left them in trouble as Sale started to dominate possession from thereon in. Sale may well be favourites to top the group if this form continues.
Connacht 22 Bordeaux 10
Connacht ran out comfortable winners in the end despite the dreadful conditions in Galway. A late rally from Connacht got them off the mark following a close encounter during the first hour.
A significantly changed home side to the won that defeated Ulster in last week’s Pro14, the changes didn’t seem to matter too much as a brace from Kyle Godwin saw them over the line. Only seven points separated the sides after 52 minutes following a good try from Afa Amosa but they couldn’t back it up with anything and Connacht resisted any further attacks.
Pool Four Standings
- La Rochelle – 5 points
- Bristol Bears – 5 points
- Zebre – 0 points
- Enisei – 0 points
Enisei 21 La Rochelle 82
In a game where defensive duties were entirely relieved, it was the visitors who made the most of it. 12 tries in a clinical victory for the Top14 outfit leaves them in a good position at the top of pool four on points difference.
The result will have reduced the fear of travelling to Russia for other teams in the group and you can expect a few more one-side score sheets down the line. Perhaps it’s slightly perplexing as to how Enisei were able to score three tries themselves?
Bristol 43 Zebre 22
Bristol marked their first European game for two years with a dominant display over Italian team Zebre. Seven tries and some lovely rugby was the perfect way to bounce back and forget the memories of the Worcester massacre.
36-10 up at half time, the Bears slightly lifted the foot off the pedal in the second half but Zebre were never in a position to capitalise and close the gap. Zebre showed good spirit to score three tries but they’ll need to tighten up their defence if they want to progress through the group.
Pool Five Standings
- Harlequins – 5 points
- Benetton – 5 points
- Grenoble – 0 points
- Agen – 0 points
Benetton Treviso 40 Grenoble 14
Treviso continued their promising start to the season with a big win over Grenoble. Six tries came as their cutting attack and strong defensive shape held together to make a good combination for European success.
Grenoble; who currently sit 11th in the Top14 seem rather more interested in staying in top flight domestic rugby than competing in Europe.
Harlequins 54 Agen 22
Harlequins wrapped up their bonus point victory shortly into the second half as a dominating display saw them pick apart Agen with ease. Eight tries scattered either side of the half ensured there was no way into the game for the Top14 outfit.
Agen, continuing the French disinterest theme, seem rather reluctant to commit to a European road trip rather than surviving the big money drop from the French top flight. They looked out of shape and never really pressurised Quins.
Hostilities resume in the 2018/19 Challenge Cup next weekend, and LWOR will bring you all the action, analysis and opinion.
Main image credit: Embed from Getty Images