Battle Between Champions Cup Contenders Intensify


Pool 2 contenders Harlequins came out on top in an all-Investec Champions Cup clash with Pool 4’s Leicester Tigers 29-25 in a thrilling Gallagher Premiership contest at Mattioli Woods Welford Road on Saturday.

The teams shared eight tries, with Quins, the four-time quarter-finalists in EPCR’s premier club competition, coming out on top 5-3 as they climbed to the summit of the Premiership.

Lock Dino Lamb was the star for the visitors, notching a brace, including the match-winning 69th-minute try, while No.8 Alex Dombrandt, wing Tyrone Green and scrum-half Will Porter also crossed, with fly-half Marcus Smith landing two conversions.

Harlequins begin their 2023-24 campaign with a trip to the Paris La Defense Arena on December 10 against Racing 92.

Leicester, who face defending champions Stade Rochelais and four-time winners Leinster Rugby in a tough Pool 4, responded with a try from lock Hanro Liebenberg and a double from England full-back Freddie Steward. World Cup-winning South Africa fly-half Handré Pollard added a further ten points from the tee.

Another Gallagher Premiership outfit to be drawn in the dreaded Pool 4 is Sale Sharks, who enjoyed a 27-13 win over Pool 1’s Bristol Bears at Ashton Gate to move into second place.

Sale, who like Harlequins have never reached the last four of EPCR’s elite club competition with three quarter-final appearances to their name, notched a quartet of tries against fellow Investec Champions Cup opposition.

Wing Arron Reed, outside centre Robert du Preez, full-back Sam James and replacement back Joe Carpenter ensured a fruitful afternoon for the Sharks’ backs, with England fly-half George Ford adding seven points via two conversions and a drop goal.

Sale host Stade Français Paris on December 10 at Salford Stadium in their Pool 4 opener, before tests against Leinster, DHL Stormers and La Rochelle, while Bristol face Lyon on December 9 at Ashton Gate.

In the United Rugby Championship (URC), Glasgow Warriors maintained their strong start to the season with a 31-23 win over Ospreys at the Stadium.

Hooker Johnny Matthews contributed two tries in addition to one apiece from flanker Sione Vailanu and replacement forward Allan Dell, while ex-Scotland fly-half Duncan Weir converted all four and kicked a penalty.

Glasgow opens their 2023-24 Investec Champions Cup season at home to Northampton Saints at Scotstoun Stadium on December 9.

Connacht Rugby fell to a 22-25 defeat at Edinburgh Rugby in the URC’s night-time match. Flanker Cian Prendergast, full-back Tiernan O'Halloran and replacement Joe Joyce crossed for the Irish province, with Jack Carty and JJ Hanrahan kicking a conversion each and Carty adding a penalty.

Connacht welcomes Union Bordeaux-Bègles in the opening round of this season’s competition on December 8.

In the TOP 14, Lyon and Stade Français shared 68 points in a thriller at the Stade de Gerland, where the Parisian visitors triumphed 36-32 in the encounter between two all-Investec Champions Cup teams.

It was an afternoon for the goalkickers as Lyon fly-half Paddy Jackson (22 points) and Stade Français counterpart Zack Henry (21 points) exchanged 11 penalties and five conversions.

The front row duo of Sergo Abramishvili and Mickael Ivaldi crossed for the visitors, as did inside centre Jeremy Ward. In response, Romain Taofifenua and Yanis Charcosset dotted down for Lyon.

Stade Français travel to Sale in Round One on December 10, a day after Lyon travel to Bristol Bears.

Elsewhere in the TOP 14, Stade Toulousain ran in six tries against USAP in a 43-34 home victory, Bordeaux fell to an 11-20 reverse at Section Paloise and La Rochelle squeezed past Aviron Bayonnais 18-15 at home.