Ahead of the return of EPCR competitions next weekend, we take you through the best of Saturday’s domestic action involving EPCR Challenge Cup clubs, with Pool B leaders Scarlets reigning supreme in a United Rugby Championship (URC) clash with Pool A frontrunners Cardiff Rugby.
Halfpenny points seal Scarlets win
Scarlets and Cardiff have set the pace so far in the EPCR Challenge Cup, and their domestic encounter was as enthralling as expected, with the former snatching a 28-22 win at Cardiff Arms Park.
A thrilling first half saw Scarlets 19-10 up as Dane Blacker, Johnny McNicholl and Jonathan Davies all went over and Taulupe Faletau replied for Cardiff.
Cardiff rallied after the restart and crossed through Rhys Carre and Josh Adams, but Scarlets full-back Leigh Halfpenny, who had nudged two conversions in the first half, slotted three penalties to end with a personal tally of 13 points and seal his side’s victory.
Forde brace for Cell C Sharks slayers Connacht
Connacht Rugby, another side with a 100%-win record so far in the EPCR Challenge Cup, saw off Heineken Champions Cup opponents in the URC as they beat Cell C Sharks 24-12 at The Sportsground.
Centre Cathal Forde dotted down twice, with Conor Oliver and Tiernan O’Halloran also notching as the Irish province bounced back from successive domestic defeats to head into their EPCR Challenge Cup Pool A clash with CA Brive on Saturday in good form.
2️⃣9️⃣@scarlets_rugby's Sam Costelow is the #ChallengeCupRugby top points scorer after two rounds 💪
How many more will he rack up this season? pic.twitter.com/cdV0n5gVSw
— EPCR Challenge Cup (@ChallengeCup_) December 27, 2022
Benetton stun Ulster
Elsewhere in the URC, Benetton Rugby prepared for their important EPCR Challenge Cup clash with Aviron Bayonnais on Saturday by shocking Ulster Rugby 31-29 at Stadio Comunale di Monigo.
Full-back Rhyno Smith’s late penalty stole victory for the Italian outfit after 12 points from fly-half Tomas Albornoz had helped them control much of the contest.
Onisi Ratave and Juan Ignacio Brex both dotted down, as did Albornoz, but Benetton looked to have squandered a 13-point lead and the win until Smith stepped up to slot from the tee in the dying seconds.
Carreras hat-trick for Newcastle
In the Gallagher Premiership, Newcastle Falcons also stunned Heineken Champions Cup opponents as wing Mateo Carreras’ hat-trick of tries helped them thrash Leicester Tigers 45-26 at Kingston Park.
Carreras’ scores all came in the first half, including a phenomenal length-of-the-field finish, with Callum Chick, Jamie Blamire and Matias Moroni also going over for the hosts.
Brett Connon added all six conversions and kicked a second-half penalty for a match haul of 15 points, and left Newcastle with a sense of optimism as they continue their search for a first win in EPCR Challenge Cup Pool A when they visit Cardiff next Sunday.
Brive shock Toulon
In the TOP 14, there was another surprise result as CA Brive overcame EPCR heavyweights RC Toulon 26-17 at Stade Amédée-Domenech.
Seven Enzo Herve penalties and a Vano Karkadze try provided the points for Brive, who are without a win so far in the EPCR Challenge Cup, while Toulon, who are second in Pool A after two wins from two, notched through four Dan Biggar penalties and a Thomas Salles try.