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European rugby round four: England player watch

16 December 2013

  • Saracens cut loose against Zebre
  • Leicester Tigers land smash-and-grab in Montpellier
Danny Cipriani celebrates

Photo: Getty Images

Danny Cipriani got the weekend up and running on Friday evening by inspiring Sale Sharks to a 53-14 thrashing of Oyonnax. The seven-cap fly half scored 28 points including a brace of tries to foreshadow a mixed round of Amlin Challenge Cup fixtures for Aviva Premiership sides.

England Saxon George Ford grabbed 13 points of his own in Bath Rugby’s comprehensive win over Mogliano at The Rec, Matt Banahan crossing four times.

Elsewhere, London Wasps dispatched Grenoble for the second successive time on Sunday, James Haskell and Tom Varndell dotting down in a 32-12 victory. Elliot Daly smashed over a long-range penalty as well.

Former Saxon and Under 20 star Andy Saull was impressive again as Newcastle overturned Calvisano 25-10 in Italy, but London Irish and Worcester were ousted by Stade Francais and Biarritz respectively.

The result of the Heineken Cup weekend was undoubtedly registered by Northampton Saints, who travelled to Dublin and avenged their capitulation seven days previously.

An 18-9 triumph was built on immense physicality and intensity up front, where Dylan Hartley and Tom Wood excelled. Flanker Calum Clark topped the tackle count with 14, while Luther Burrell worked well in midfield alongside George North, skilfully setting up with Wales international for an early try.

Earlier in the day, Exeter Chiefs made life uncomfortable for champions Toulon at times. Jack Nowell again impressed in making 60 running metres from 10 carries, and though Rob Baxter’s charges eventually lost 32-20, Henry Slade was mature and assured from fly half.

A home tie against Zebre allowed Saracens to cut loose at Allianz Park, and a 64-3 win owed a great deal to Owen Farrell’s decision-making and distribution.

David Strettle, Richard Wigglesworth, Billy Vunipola and Chris Ashton got among the nine tries, Farrell converting eight of them and adding a penalty for good measure.

Sunday saw a trademark Leicester Tigers smash-and-grab in the south of France, the East Midlands outfit overturning Montpellier 15-14 thanks to Niki Goneva’s last-minute try.

Ben Morgan carries

Photo: Getty Images

Tom Youngs was the star in a first win across The Channel since December 2006 for Richard Cockerill’s men. He latched on to a pass from brother Ben to score from close range, but also made 11 tackles and 13 carries.

Dan Cole joined him in a hugely hard-working 80-minute performance at the breakdown and in the scrum, with Jamie Gibson and Thomas Waldrom catching the eye in the back row too.

Harlequins were easier winners, brushing aside a rather apathetic Racing Metro at the Twickenham Stoop. Poor conditions restricted the scoreline to 17-3, a fine try from wing Charlie Walker demonstrating his burgeoning potential.

Luke Wallace was spritely at blindside flanker, complementing Chris Robshaw and Nick Easter very well.

Gloucester endured an afternoon to forget at Kingsholm, going down 16-10 to Edinburgh. Ben Morgan notched up 65 carrying metres in an effective showing from the base of the scrum, but it wasn’t enough to avoid defeat.