Newcastle work hard for victory
A review of the weekend's action in the Amlin Challenge Cup.
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Newcastle Falcons narrowly escaped a humiliating defeat on their return to European competition as they came from behind to beat Bucharest Wolves 13-12 in Pool Three of the Amlin Challenge Cup.
Dean Richards made 10 changes for the trip to the Romanian capital, and the alterations took their toll.
Bucharest had never beaten English opposition, but led 12-10 at half-time thanks to four Vali Calafeteanu penalties and it was not until full-back Tom Catterick kicked a winning penalty four minutes from the end that Richards could breathe easy.
The visitors had made the perfect start with a penalty from Joel Hodgson inside two minutes, but it was the home side who had the best of the first half.
Newcastle's cause was not helped when they lost captain Alex Crockett to injury, but they clawed their way back into the game through Adam Powell before the interval.
The expected second-half fightback never materialised and it was Newcastle who were holding on.
Hodgson missed the chance to put Newcastle ahead when he struck the post with a penalty.
But, after the Romanian side were reduced to 14 men with a yellow card, Catterick kicked the decisive penalty.
It was far more comfortable for London Wasps in Pool Four as they racked up a club record 90-17 victory in Europe against Viadana.
Wasps showed their ruthless streak with a staggering 14 tries at Stadio Pierluigi Zaffanella that included hat-tricks for both William Helu and Guy Thompson.
Joe Carlisle converted 10 as Wasps enjoyed their biggest win.
Wasps led 56-3 at half-time, Helu kicking off the rout in the 10th minute after Viadana's Daniel Yakopo was binned.
The visitors' scrum then claimed a penalty try followed by a Kearnan Myall score three minutes later.
Thompson notched his first on 23 minutes and Thomas Bell followed before Helu crossed twice in the space of three minutes.
Simon McIntyre touched down for Wasps' eighth try of the half, while Viadana mustered a response through Andrea Barbieri before half-time.
Flanker Thompson then completed his hat-trick seven minutes into the second half, while a brace of tries by Jack Winter-Moates saw Wasps surpass their previous highest tally in Europe - 77 points against Toulouse back in 1997.
Charlie Hayter and Joe Simpson then rounded off an historic win with further tries in the final 13 minutes.
Bath bounced back from defeat at Sale to begin their Amlin Challenge Cup campaign with a dogged 15-6 win over French outfit Bordeaux-Begles.
George Ford was the key man yet again as his five penalties secured an impressive away victory at the Stade Chaban Delmas.
Ford kicked Bath into a 6-0 lead with penalties before Bordeaux hit back with three points from scrum-half Manu Saubusse when second row Will Spencer was yellow carded seven minutes before the break.
A third penalty from Ford handed Bath a 9-3 advantage on the stroke of half-time and the young fly-half made it 12-3 with another 10 minutes after the interval.
Paul James became the second Bath player to see yellow after 64 minutes and Saubusse cut the gap with his second strike with seven minutes left to play.
But Bath held firm and Ford secured the win with his fifth success moments before the final whistle.
Worcester avoided defeat for the first time this term but they could not claim a maiden win as they were held to a 9-9 draw at Oyonnax in Pool One.
The Warriors headed to France on the back of five successive league defeats under Dean Ryan but they looked like finally tasting victory before being pegged back late on.
Conrad Barnard kicked an 80th minute penalty for the Top 14 newcomers, who fought back after a hat-trick of penalties from Paul Warwick had given Worcester a 9-3 lead at the break.
Former European Champions Brive were held to a 20-20 draw at Italian outfit Calvisano in Pool Three.
Brive needed a late converted try from Lucas Lyons to avoid defeat.
On Friday night, London Irish kicked off their campaign with a comfortable 60-11 victory over Italian minnows Cavalieri Prato at the Madejski Stadium.
Fergus Mulchrone scored twice in the second half as the Exiles cantered to a nine-try win in Pool 5.
It was not completely plain sailing for the Exiles who saw prop Leo Halavatau sin-binned and conceded a late try to the part-timers.
Myles Dorian, who ended the game with 20 points, kicked the opening penalty after five minutes.
Hooker Jimmy Stevens was at the heart of a devastating driving lineout to claim the opening try after 11 minutes. Dorian missed the conversion but skipped over for a try himself, which he converted, following a delightful pass from lock Bryn Evans.
Andrew Fenby and Sailsi Tagicakibau then crossed to secure a bonus point before half-time.
Mulchrone crossed twice early in the second half, either side of a score by man of match Alex Lewignton before Darren Allinson and Leo Halavatau completed the rout.
Newport Gwent Dragons enjoyed a predictably easy start to their Pool Two campaign as they hammered Italian part-timers Mogliano 50-8 at Rodney Parade.
Ross Wardle, Francisco Chaparro, Jonathan Evans, Will Harries (two), Ieaun Evans and Adam Hughes all crossed in a seven-try tally, with Kris Burton kicking a further 15 points.
The Dragons, who made a host of changes from last week's win over Zebre but still started Lions star Toby Faletau at No8, had the bonus point locked down just past the half hour as they raced into a 31-3 lead.
Centre Wardle danced over after seven minutes and prop Chaparro and scrum-half Evans crossed in a four-minute spell halfway through the opening period.
Nicolo Fadalti put Mogliano on the board with a penalty after 28 minutes but wing Harries dotted down for the bonus-point try, with Burton converting all four scores and kicking an early penalty for a 28-point lead at the interval.
Harries, Ieaun Evans and Hughes added further tries after the break as the Welsh side warmed up for next week's clash with Bath in some style but Moglaino did claim a consolation try through centre Tommaso Boni.
On Thursday night, Sale started their search for a third Challenge Cup crown with a comfortable win over 2012 champions Biarritz in Salford.
The Sharks eased to a 33-10 success thanks to two penalty tries and a solo effort from Andrei Ostrikov, plus 16 points from the boot of Joe Ford and a conversion from replacement Danny Cipriani.
A much-changed Sale side had the Pool One game as good as won with half an hour remaining but they failed to kick on and pick up a try-scoring bonus point.
The Sharks moved into a 9-3 lead by the 20-minute mark thanks to an early drop goal and a brace of penalties from Ford, with Julien Peyrelongue initially having levelled the scores with his first success after 10 minutes.
The opening try followed after 25 minutes as a powerful five-metre scrum saw referee Ian Davies point to the posts. Ford added the straightforward extras and Sale were 16-3 to the good.
The score remained the same until five minutes after half-time when Ford added a third penalty before Sale surged further ahead with a second try four minutes later.
Russian lock Ostrikov showed superb skills to dummy his way through two defenders before racing fully 40 metres for his first try in Sale colours.
Ford's conversion from out wide put the game to bed with Sale 26-3 clear but Biarritz hit back with a converted try of their own when Eugene Van Staden rumbled over from a driven lineout after 55 minutes.
Cipriani entered the action after an hour but, even with Biarritz prop Francisco Gomez Kodela being yellow carded, Sale were unable to add to their tally until their second penalty try - again for a scrum offence - arrived with five minutes left.
In Pool Four, Bayonne left it until the final minute to claim what could be a vital bonus point in their 37-6 victory over French rivals Grenoble.
Bayonne, who brought on British & Irish Lions scrum-half Mike Phillips as a second-half replacement, are at the wrong end of the Top 14 but have now lost just one of their last nine games in the Amlin Challenge Cup.
Stade Francais eased past European competition newcomers Lusitanos of Portugal 61-3 at Stade Jean Bouin.
Julian Arias took his tally to 29 tries in Europe while full-back Jerome Porical scored 22 points, including two tries in the space of six minutes of a one-side Pool Five tie.