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Pool winners clash in opening Challenge Cup semi-final

Wednesday 23rd September 2020

12:07 pm (GMT)

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Pool winners clash in opening Challenge Cup semi-final

Bristol Bears back-row forward Ben Earl

Bristol Bears will again kick off a European weekend at Ashton Gate when they face fellow pool stage winners Bordeaux-Begles in the European Rugby Challenge Cup semi-final on Friday night at 19:45 (UK and Irish time), live on BT Sport and beIN SPORTS.

The Pool 4 winners continued their excellent European form last week with a comfortable 56-17 quarter-final win over Dragons last weekend whilst Bordeaux ran out 23-14 winners over Edinburgh Rugby on Saturday at Stade Chaban-Delmas.

The two sides have racked up 64 tries between them in the Challenge Cup this season so expect plenty of scoring in what is sure to be a gripping Challenge Cup Anglo-French semi-final.

Pool positions

Bristol Bears: 1st, Pool 4, 26 points.

Bordeaux-Begles: 1st, Pool 3, 26 points.

QF results

Bristol Bears 56 Dragons 17

Bordeaux-Begles 23 Edinburgh Rugby 14

Head-to-head record

Bristol Bears wins: 1

Draws: 0

Bordeaux-Begles wins: 1

Leading 2019/20 points-scorers

Bristol Bears: Callum Sheedy (61), Ioan Lloyd (26), Will Capon (20)

Bordeaux-Begles: Matthieu Jalibert (72), Ben Botica (22), Geoffrey Cros, Santiago Cordero and Seta Tamanivalu (15)

Team news

  • Bristol head coach Pat Lam has made five changes to the side that beat Dragons last weekend. Siale Piutau returns to the centre position while Ed Holmes comes into the second row in place of Dave Attwood. Harry Randall starts in place of Andy Uren, Max Malins is named at full back in place of Charles Piutau (achilles) and Alapati Leiua comes in for Henry Purdy (hamstring).
  • Bordeuax have introduced prop Ben Tameifuna for his first start while Vadim Cobilas will take his place on the bench. Cameron Woki will start in the back row while Alexandre Roumat is back in the squad. Scrum-half Maxime Lucu is the only change in the backs.

Key quotes

  • Harry Thacker (Bristol): “We’re clicking at times, but we’ve still got loads to work on. The more we progress in this competition, moments like that first 10 or 15 minutes could cost us against other sides. So, there’s still plenty to work on, but when it clicks, we play some nice stuff. A home semi is huge, we don’t underestimate playing here. It’s nice to have a full week turnaround but we’ll recover and come in on Monday ready to go again.” 
  • Christophe Urios (Bordeaux): “We’re in the semis and we want to go as far as possible. Our heads and hearts took over from our legs against Edinburgh, and that’s what I like about my team.”

Match facts

  • Bristol Bears and Bordeaux-Bègles have met twice before in the Challenge Cup, the two matches coming in the pool stage in 1999/2000 with each tie being won by the home side.
  • Bristol have reached the Challenge Cup semi-final for just the second time, and their only previous appearance at this stage was a 51-27 defeat by Pau in 1999/2000. Bordeaux will be playing in their first Challenge Cup semi-final.
  • Bristol and Bordeaux come into Friday night’s match with the same record in the Challenge Cup this season, each having won six matches and drawn once. Both clubs’ current streak of seven games unbeaten represents their best run in the competition.
  • Bordeaux have scored nine tries in the Challenge Cup this season from turnovers, and no other club has scored as many in that way. Bristol have scored the most tries after receiving a kick-off or restart (4).
  • Bordeaux have lost just one of 47 scrums on their own put-in this season and as a result have the joint best scrum success rate in the competition (98%, level with Edinburgh), while Bristol have the third best rate (95%, 39/41).
  • Bordeaux have stolen 13 opposition lineouts, more than any other club.
  • Bristol’s Luke Morahan (17) has made the most clean breaks this season while teammate Matt Protheroe (12) has made the second most. Protheroe has also beaten the second most defenders (26, behind Edinburgh’s Duhan van der Merwe – 28).
  • Bristol’s Harry Thacker made the most carries of any forward in the quarter-finals (13), while Bordeaux full back Nans Ducuing made the most of any back (12).
  • Ben Lam made his Challenge Cup debut for Bordeaux in their quarter-final victory over Edinburgh, beating eight defenders in the process, the most of any player last weekend.
  • Semi Radradra made 96 metres for Bristol against the Dragons last weekend, the most by any player in the quarter-finals. The Fijian centre also crossed for his third try in his last four Challenge Cup games – two of those tries were scored for Bordeaux during the pool stage.

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Bristol Bears deny Bordeaux-Begles in extra time to reach Challenge Cup final

Friday 25th September 2020

10:35 pm (GMT)

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Bristol Bears deny Bordeaux-Begles in extra time to reach Challenge Cup final

Max Malins scores in the Heineken Champions Cup

Bristol Bears needed extra time to defeat Bordeaux-Begles 37-20 in a dramatic European Rugby Challenge Cup semi-final at Ashton Gate.

The match was locked at 20-20 after normal time following two tries apiece, with Steven Luatua and Max Malins dotting down for the hosts and Matthieu Jalibert and Joseph Dweba scoring for the visitors.

But the West Country side dominated the extra time period, scoring two tries through Piers O’Conor and Malins as well as a late penalty kick from Callum Sheedy.

Bordeaux got off to an ideal start through Jalibert who collected from the ruck and he left Max Malins for pace and managed to get over in the corner.

The fly-half would then add a further two three-pointers before Bristol managed to secure a crucial try just before the break.

They went from side-to-side as Radradra put the gas on, pulling apart the Bordeaux line before finding captain Steven Luatua who ambled over the line.

After the break, it was more Bristol pressure as Randall kicked in behind from the breakdown, and with Malins just onside, he was able to collect in the air, sprint clear and dot down at the posts.

Two Sheedy penalty kicks gave Bristol the initiative and they led 20-13 at that point, but Bordeaux came roaring back into the match.

It was a string of powerful forward phases from the visitors, with Joseph Dweba skipping through a gap in the line to score and level things up.

In extra time, it was Bristol who took over immediately as Radradra forced Bordeaux back before Malins found O’Conor who cut back inside and dotted down.

And Bristol’s Challenge Cup final spot was secured when Radradra again turned provider, finding Malins who sprinted clear to score, with Sheedy converting as well as kicking a late penalty to help the hosts run out 17 point winners.

They will now face either the winner of the second semi-final between RC Toulon or Leicester Tigers in the Challenge Cup final

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