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European rugby round three: England player watch

09 December 2013

  • Harlequins record excellent away win in Nantes
  • Jonny May sees Gloucester Rugby past Edinburgh
Chris Robshaw

Photo: Getty Images

This weekend saw an action-packed set of European fixtures across two competitions – the Heineken Cup and the Amlin Challenge Cup – and plenty of England players impressed amid some high-scoring games.

Raiding Nantes to clinch a 32-8 bonus-point away win over Racing Metro, Harlequins produced perhaps the performance of the round – 47-cap No.8 Nick Easter and former Under 20 wing Charlie Walker among the tries.

Saxons lock George Robson was also influential in a robust display from Conor O’Shea’s forwards, while Chris Robshaw made seven tackles and 16 carries.

Though Exeter Chiefs went down 14-9 to Heineken Cup champions Toulon at Sandy Park, there were encouraging signs for the Devon men. Junior World Championship-winning wing Jack Nowell beat seven defenders and ran for 90 metres, while Henry Slade – another member of the team that triumphed in Vannes this summer – looked assured in a 60-minute shift at fly half.

Jack Nowell 

Photo: Getty Images

Over in Parma, Saracens made light work of Italian RaboDirect Pro12 strugglers Zebre with a five-pointer of their own. Chris Ashton starred, grabbing a brace of tries, while Alex Goode was influential too, making two clean breaks as well as an assist for his England colleague on the way to a 39-10 victory.

London Wasps were the third Aviva Premiership side to record a heavy away triumph, brushing Grenoble aside 47-7 in the Challenge Cup. Seven scores punctuated the afternoon, but it was the industrious work of Matt Mullan, Joe Launchbury and the effervescent James Haskell that laid the foundations for the win.

In the same tournament, Kyle Eastmond dotted down for one of nine tries, Mogliano the recipients of a 55-8 hammering.

Franklin’s Gardens was the scene for the evening game on Saturday, and Northampton Saints capitulated in the face of a vintage Leinster showing led by the peerless Brian O’Driscoll.

Despite a 40-7 reverse, Lee Dickson was typically sparky. He scored Saints’ only try and made 10 tackles as the East Midlands outfit were faced with wave after wave of Leinster attacks. Dylan Hartley, Courtney Lawes and Tom Wood gave their all in the repeat of the 2011 final, but they were overwhelmed by the visitors.

Conversely, Gloucester’s forwards – buoyed by Matt Kvesic and Ben Morgan – fronted up to Edinburgh at Murrayfield, which gave Freddie Burns a decent platform to carve out a 23-13 win. He kicked two penalties and also converted one of the Cherry and Whites’ three tries.

Matt Kvesic on the charge

Photo: Getty Images

Full back Rob Cook bagged the first of these and Martyn Thomas snared a brace of his own – the second set up by a scintillating run by Jonny May on the stroke of half time.

Former England Saxon Andy Saull was named man-of-the match in Newcastle’s comfortable 37-15 success over Calvisano before Leicester Tigers rounded off the weekend by prevailing in a topsy-turvy clash with Montpellier.

Inside centre Dan Bowden – who now qualifies for England on residency grounds – sparkled throughout the hosts’ 42-31 victory at Welford Road, while there were two assists for Ben Youngs and 18 points from halfback partner Toby Flood.

Saxon Graham Kitchener was outstanding in the second row and Jamie Gibson – a tourist to South Africa in June 2012 – shunted over for a short-range try to complement Miles Benjamin’s double.