Duhan van der Merwe produced another dazzling display for Edinburgh against Bordeaux in the penultimate round of pool fixtures in the European Challenge Cup this weekend.
– Castres continued their strong start in the competition with a 42-14 drubbing of the Dragons. The French side, boasting scrumhalf Rory Kockott and hooker Jody Jenneker, ran in six converted tries, while conceding just two, to consolidate their place at the summit of the pool standings with one round of regular campaign fixtures remaining. The Dragons are third on the table.
– In an even more one-sided clash, the Worcester Warriors thumped Russian side Enisei-STM 66-10 to keep alive their hopes of qualifying for the knockout stage. Scott van Breda inside played centre for the Warriors and scored the opening try. No 8 Gerrit-Jan van Velze and prop Richard Palframan featured alongside Van Breda in the starting lineup, but Palframan was replaced by compatriot Nic Schonert on the hour mark. Fullback Earll Douwrie started and scored for Enisei, with wing Bjorn Basson and eighthman Jeremy Jordaan also featuring in the run-on XV. Loosehead prop Ewald van der Westhuizen was a second-half substitute for the Enisei.
– In the blue-ribbon fixture of the round, Toulon underlined their galacticos status with a come-from-behind 27-15 win over the Scarlets to book their place in the quarter-finals. Toulon, with Eben Etzebeth at No 4, fought back from an early 8-0 deficit by scoring 27 points straight. Scarlets, with No 8 Uzair Cassiem and prop Werner Kruger in their ranks, crossed for a late consolation try to improve their chance of qualifying for the knockouts as one of the best runners-up.
– Bayonne beat London Irish in a meaningless bottom-of-the-table clash. Wing Sean Robinson scored one of Bayonne’s four tries. Neither one of the two sides can qualify for the playoffs, so their final pool matches will effectively be dead rubbers.
– Wing Duhan van der Merwe and flyhalf Jaco van der Walt’s superb individual performances were in vain as Edinburgh slumped to a 32-17 defeat by Bordeaux. Scrumhalf Nic Groom, hooker Mike Willemse and prop Pierre Schoeman were also on duty for Edinburgh. The result advances Bordeaux to the playoffs, with Edinburgh in second position and likely to go through as one of the best-ranked runners-up. Van der Merwe made 141 metres (30 more than any other player in the game) and three clean breaks from eight carries and scored a try. Van der Walt nailed a conversion and a penalty. Lock Jandre Marais played for Bordeaux from the 50th minute.
– Wasps kept their slender hopes of progressing to the next round alive when they hammered Agen 52-24 in a high-octane match. Former Springbok duo Juan de Jongh and Ashley Johnson were starters for Wasps, with the latter barging over for one of eight tries.
– The Bristol Bears’ impressive season in all competitions continued with a 52-3 lashing of Brive at Ashton Gate Stadium. The hosts blew Brive off the park by scoring seven unanswered tries to secure a quarter-final spot. Replacement lock Jan Uys was brought on in the 57th minute but had little impact.
– Zebre stunned Stade Français 29-24 in an epic encounter in Paris. Stade, featuring ex-Lions and Springbok pair Ruan Combrinck and Lionel Mapoe, were chasing the game from the outset and could never pull it back completely.
– Wing Kyle van Zyl and locks Adam Wessels and Michael van Vuuren turned out for Calvisano, who lost 47-19 to a second-string Pau side. Van Zyl bagged a second-half try and Wessels copped a yellow card. Pau is still in the running for a spot in the playoffs.
– The Leicester Tigers claimed a riveting 30-20 triumph over the Cardiff Blues to seal their place in the quarter-finals. The Cardiff Blues are currently third in the pool standings, but still have a chance to qualify for the knockouts. There were no South African-born players in this clash.
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