EPCR Challenge Cup Hopefulls Lay Down Early Markers


In a meeting of two EPCR Challenge Cup hopefuls, South African outfit Emirates Lions overcame Welsh region Scarlets 24-23 at Parc y Scarlets on Saturday in the United Rugby Championship.

Emirates Lions, who face ties against USAP, Newcastle Falcons, Montpellier Hérault Rugby and Ospreys in Pool 2, had a 76th-minute try from outside centre Henco van Wyk try to thank for the victory – fly-half Sanele Nohamba adding his third and final crucial conversion with just minutes remaining.

Scarlets, who open their Pool 3 campaign at Castres Olympique on December 9, led 23-14 heading into the final 10 minutes, hooker Ryan Elias and wing Tom Rogers dotting down for the host as fly-half Ioan Lloyd added 13 points from the tee.

Tries from hooker PJ Botha and inside centre Marius Louw – both converted by Nohamba – kept the visitors in the contest prior to the late Van Wyk score.

Meanwhile, Benetton Rugby, who reached the semi-finals of last season’s EPCR Challenge Cup, toppled Investec Champions Cup opposition in the form of DHL Stormers 20-17 at Stadio Monigo.

Inside centre, Marco Zanon and replacement Alessandro Izekor crossed for the Italian outfit, with fly-half Tomas Albornoz, full-back Rhyno Smith and replacement Jacob Umaga kicking a total of 10 points. Benetton take on Ospreys on December 9 in their Pool 2 opener.

Pool 3’s Edinburgh Rugby were another side to topple Investec Champions Cup opposition in a 25-22 win over Connacht Rugby at Hive Stadium. Fly-half Ben Healy kicked ten points, with outside centre Mark Bennett, wing Wes Goosen and replacement Ben Vellacott contributing tries.

Edinburgh face three-time EPCR Challenge Cup winners ASM Clermont Auvergne in their opening match of this season’s competition on December 8.

In other URC action, Ospreys fell to a 23-31 home defeat at the hands of Glasgow Warriors – fly-half Jack Walsh the standout player for the Welsh region with 13 points from the tee.

In the TOP 14, Section Paloise were another EPCR Challenge Cup side to upset Investec Champions Cup opposition as they defeated Union Bordeaux-Bègles 20-11 at the Stade du Hameau.

Former Exeter Chiefs fly-half Joe Simmonds kicked 10 points in addition to tries from hooker Youri Delhommel and replacement prop Facundo Gigena. Pau travel to Hollywoodbets Sharks in their Pool 1 opener on December 9.

Castres showcased their credentials with a 39-11 victory over Oyonnax Rugby at Stade Pierre Fabre – running in five tries in the process.

No.8 Tyler Ardron, scrum-half Santiago Arata, inside centre Adrea Cocagi, wing Josaia Raisuqe and Jeremy Fernandez crossed for the two-time Challenge Cup runners-up. Fly-half Pierre Popelin added nine points from the tee, with Arata also successful with a conversion.

Elsewhere, USAP put in an impressive performance in a 34-43 defeat at Stade Toulousain and Clermont won 20-17 at Montpellier Hérault Rugby.