Aplon aces Grenoble into play-offs

SARugbymag.co.za looks back at the past weekend's European Champions Cup, European Challenge Cup and Japanese Top League matches, involving South African players.


Pool 1

– Ulster, with captain Rob Herring, lock Franco van der Merwe and flank Robbie Diack in their ranks, smashed Oyonnax 56-3 at Kingspan Stadium. But the eight-try romp, which included a five-pointer by Herring, wasn't enough to secure them a spot in the quarter-finals. No 8 Pedrie Wannenburg started for Oyonnax, who finished third in the pool behind their conquerors and Saracens, and above Toulouse.

– Saracens maintained their perfect record in the competition with hard-fought 28-17 away win against Toulouse. Centre Brad Barritt, scrumhalf Neil de Kock, flank Michael Rhodes and prop Petrus du Plessis did service for Sarries, who are the only team from this pool to qualify for the knockout stage. Front rowers Gurthrö Steenkamp and Gert Muller represented Toulouse.

Pool 2

– Flank Don Armand's Exeter Chiefs registered a stunning 33-17 bonus-point victory against the Ospreys to book a place in the quarters. The Ospreys just needed a losing bonus point to go through, but were stunned by the Chiefs. Wing Hanno Dirksen scored one of the Ospreys' two tries.

– Clermont, featuring fullback Scott Spedding and prop Dan Kotzé, pressed the self-destruct button in their 37-28 defeat to Bordeaux. Level on log points with both Exeter and the Ospreys, who played at the same time, Clermont needed just a losing bonus point to top the pool and progress to the quarter-finals ahead of Exeter. But when a kickable penalty in the final minute presented itself, they took a quick tap instead of the three on offer for the bonus point. Starting No 4 lock Berend Botha scored a try for Bordeaux, while Steven Kitshoff and Heini Adams played off the bench.

Pool 3

– The Scarlets slumped to 22-10 defeat at home to the Northampton Saints. Wing DTH van der Merwe was on duty for the Scarlets, who finished the group stage at the foot of the pool log after failing to win a single match.

– The Glasgow Warriors surprised Racing, one of the competition's in-form teams, 22-5 at Rugby Park. But the Warriors still needed the Scarlets to beat Northampton in order to advance to the play-offs. Locks Francois van der Merwe and Juandré Kruger and flank Bernard le Roux turned out for Racing, who had already qualified for the knockout stage a week earlier.

Pool 4

– Needing a bonus point win to reach the quarter-finals for the first time since 2010, Stade Français did just that with a 36-21 lashing of the Leicester Tigers, who had progressed prior to the start of the match. Former Bulls duo Jono Ross and Morné Steyn represented Stade, while lock Sebastian de Chaves played for the Tigers.

– In the only dead rubber of the week, Munster finished with a flourish by beating Treviso 28-5. Both sides were eliminated from the tournament prematurely, but Munster, under the leadership of CJ Stander, ran in four tries for the victory. Wing Gerhard van den Heever was used as an impact player by the winners, while Braam Steyn started at the back of Treviso's scrum.

Pool 5

– Wasps handed Leinster a 51-10 drubbing at the Ricoh Arena to finish as the top-ranked team in the Pool of Death and thus earn the right to host a quarter-final. Wasps held a slender 15-10 lead at the break, but a devastating five-try second half, including one by replacement hooker Ashley Johnson, sunk Leinster. Zane Kirchner started on the wing for Leinster and went over for the opening score in the second minute. Hooker Richardt Strauss was benched by Leinster, who ended at the bottom of the table.

– Three-time defending champions Toulon scraped past Bath 19-14 to book a place in the quarter-finals. Needing a win to stay in the competition and a bonus-point triumph to top the pool and earn a home play-off game, Toulon were made to fight hard for the result. Bryan Habana, Duane Vermeulen and Juan Smith turned out for Toulon, with Habana scoring a vital intercept try in the 57th minute. But Toulon's failure to secure the bonus point means they will play the quarter-final away against Racing.

Champions Cup quarter-finals:

Saracens vs Northampton Saints
Wasps vs Exeter Chiefs
Racing 92 vs Toulon
Lecester Tigers vs Stade Français


Pool 1

– Connacht claimed a 47-5 bonus victory over Enisei-STM to move up to the top of the pool standings and advance to the play-offs. Wing Danie Poolman started for the winners and scored the crucial fourth try in the 38th minute.

– The Newcastle Falcons eliminated Brive with 27-23 come-from-behind win at Kingston Park. Lock Mouritz Botha played for the winners, who ended in second spot on the log. Lock Wilhelm Steenkamp and Petrus Hauman featured for Brive.

Pool 2

– In a direct shootout for a place in the final eight, the Sale Sharks beat the Newport Gwent Dragons 38-5 at the AJ Bell Stadium. Prop Brian Mujati was handed a rare start for Sale and capitalised by scoring the opening try in the 13th minute. Scrumhalf Sarel Pretorius, lock Ligtoring Landman and prop Brok Harris played for the Dragons, who made the cut as quarter-finalists despite the loss.

– Castres ousted Pau 24-7 in their French derby, but the victory wasn't enough to secure them a place in the last eight. Pau, with lock Claude Dry in their ranks, finished their inaugural European campaign winless.

Pool 3

– Needing a bonus-point victory to avoid elimination, Montpellier scored five tries to beat Harlequins 42-9. Quins were confirmed as quarter-finalists last week and fielded a weakened side against their hosts, which included a rare appearance for flyhalf Tim Swiel. Backs Demetri Catrakilis and Robert Ebersohn and forwards Wiaan Liebenberg, Paul Willemse, Jannie and Bismarck du Plessis turned out for the winners, with Liebenberg scoring a try and Catrakilis slotting two conversions and three penalties. Pat Cilliers and Jacques du Plessis warmed Montpellier's bench.

– Wing Ben de Jager was part of the Calvisano outfit that suffered a humiliating 74-6 defeat against the Cardiff Blues at Arms Park. Both sides played for pride as they were out of the running for a place in the last eight.

Pool 4

– Defending champions Gloucester ground out a 14-11 win against Zebre to keep their 100% record intact. Kayle van Zyl, Dries van Schalkwyk, Jean Cook, Ulrich Beyers and Gideon Koegelenberg featured for Zebre, who failed to progress to the knockout stage.

– Former Bok scrumhalf Ricky Januarie played for La Rochelle, who beat the Worcester Warriors 35-11. This contest was another dead rubber, with both sides knowing they couldn't qualify for the next round. Eighthman GJ van Velze captained the Warriors and was joined in the starting lineup by tighthead prop Nick Schonert.

Pool 5

– Gio Aplon scored a brace in the final 10 minutes of the match to help Grenoble beat Edinburgh 34-23. The result sees Grenoble advance to the play-offs, while Edinburgh are knocked out of the tournament. Scrumhalf Charl McLeod and prop Rossouw de Klerk featured alongside Aplon for the winners, while WP Nel, Anton Bresler, Cornell du Preez and Andries Strauss represented Edinburgh, whose downfall paved the way for London Irish to snap up the final spot in the last eight.

Challenge Cup quarter-finals:

Gloucester vs Newport Gwent Dragons
Grenoble vs Connacht
Harlequins vs London Irish
Sale Sharks vs Montpellier


– The Panasonic Wild Knights beat the Toshiba Brae Lupus 27-26 to clinch their third successive title and fourth overall. JP Pietersen featured prominently for the winners and crossed for a try in the 62nd minute. His former Sharks teammate Frans Steyn played for Brave Lupus and set up their last try, but then missed the touchline conversion in stoppage-time, which would have won the game for his side. 

Compiled by Mariette Adams

Photo: Ben Hoskins/Getty Images

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