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European rugby round six: England player watch

20 January 2014

  • Saracens thump sorry Connacht
  • Tigers overturned by Ulster
Anthony Watson carries

Photo: Getty Images

A lively performance from Bath Rugby started the European weekend on Thursday night, newly-called up England Saxon Semesa Rokoduguni and Anthony Watson starring at The Rec as Bordeaux-Begles were brushed 54-13 aside in the Amlin Challenge Cup.

Rokoduguni crossed for a second-half brace in his first appearance since returning from a knee injury, while there were also tries from George Ford, Jonathan Joseph and Kyle Eastmond as the West Country side secured a quarter-final spot.

Northampton Saints negotiated a scrappy affair against Castres at Franklin's Gardens on Friday evening, Tom Wood, Dylan Hartley, Courtney Lawes and Alex Waller all featuring in a 13-3 win. 

Elsewhere, Newcastle Falcons put aside last week’s disappointment to beat Bucuresti 28-0. Former Saxon Andy Saull was extremely influential, notching up 13 tackles.

In the same competition on Saturday, Worcester Warriors overturned Top 14 outfit Oyonnax 20-13 for their first home win since March 1, while London Irish recorded a thumping 49-0 success away to Cavalieri Prato. Finally, Mark Cueto and replacement Danny Cipriani contributed to Sale Sharks’ impressive 9-7 result in Biarritz.

Leicester Tigers were denied draw in the last eight of the Heineken Cup as Ulster conquered Welford Road, prevailing 22-19 thanks to a Ruan Pienaar masterclass.

Graham Kitchener and Mathew Tait had looked in fine form during the first half, but both men departed early due to injury. Jamie Gibson will face the O2 Ireland Wolfhounds this Saturday and warmed up with another strong club showing, making 10 tackles and six carries.

Tom Youngs got through 11 tackles himself alongside some trademark trundles and also conducted a 100 per cent return from 13 lineouts.

Alex Goode

Photo: Getty Images

Earlier, Saracens dispatched an abject Connacht effort to win 64-6 at Allianz Park. Chris Ashton (with a double), Alex Goode and George Kruis were among their 11 tries, while 14-cap wing David Strettle bagged a hat-trick.

Brothers Billy and Mako Vunipola proved typically destructive, causing havoc among the visitors’ ranks with 21 carries for almost 60 metres between them.

Junior World Championship-winners Sam Hill and Henry Slade – both of whom will feature for the Saxons at Kingsholm this weekend – formed Exeter Chiefs' midfield partnership at Cardiff Arms Park where Rob Baxter’s men beat the Blues 19-13. Luke Cowan-Dickie and Tom Johnson came off the bench and Dave Ewers was typically brawny from blindside.

Two superb away wins for Aviva Premiership teams were the highlight of Sunday’s action, Gloucester Rugby hi-jacking Perpignan for a comprehensive 36-18 victory before Harlequins squeezed out Scarlets 22-20.

Jonny May was to the fore in the first of these, scorching away for a 60-metre try within the opening quarter-hour. Charlie Sharples and Ben Morgan followed him over the whitewash, and Freddie Burns gave an assured performance that included a drop-goal.

Hooker Dave Ward – another Saxon – collected his second consecutive man-of-the-match gong as Conor O’Shea’s men qualified for the Amlin quarters. Mike Brown, Karl Dickson and former England Sevens star Ollie Lindsay-Hague scored Harlequins’ tries, while captain Chris Robshaw had a titanic breakdown tussle with Scotland international John Barclay and topped the tackle charts with 14.

Finally, London Wasps handsomely overcame Arix Viadana 64-17, Elliot Daly snaring a treble and Tom Varndell a brace.