Planet Rugby

Connacht flying high with Falcons

15th January 2010 21:51

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Newcastle v Leeds Josh Afu

Key crossing: Josh Afu

Newcastle have one foot in the Amlin Challenge Cup quarter-finals after a 16-14 come-from-behind win at Albi.

Fly-half Jimmy Gopperth completed the Falcons' impressive second-half comeback by converting Josh Afu's try seven minutes from time to snatch a crucial away victory at Stade Municipal.

The result stretches Newcastle's lead at the top of Pool Five to seven points over Montauban, who play on Saturday, before the final group matches next week.

Newcastle know victory over Italian minnows Petrarca at home next week will guarantee their place in the last eight of the Challenge Cup for the fifth year in a row.

However, they were made to work hard for the victory against Albi, who occupy a lowly position in France's Top 14.

Penalties from Gopperth and Albi's Blair Stewart, a last-minute replacement at fly-half before kick-off, saw the teams level 6-6 at half-time.

However, a try swiftly after the break by replacement Yogane Correa handed Albi a lead they would hold onto until late on.

Stewart cancelled out Gopperth's third penalty before flanker Afu finished a blistering Falcons attack to level the scores 14-14 ahead of Gopperth's conversion.

Elsewhere, Connacht qualified for the quarter-finals of the Challenge Cup for the second year in succession after beating nearest rivals Montpellier 20-10 at the Sportsground.

Only two points separated the teams in Pool Two before the tie but the Irish province maintained their unbeaten record thanks to second-half tries from Liam Bibo and Fionn Carr.

A brace of penalties from the boot of fly-half Ian Keatley handed Connacht a 6-3 lead at half-time.

But Bibo burst through after 57 minutes before wing Carr followed nine minutes later to settle the tie.

Keatley converted both before Mamuka Gorgodze touched down in the final minute for the French team.

However, their failure to gain a losing bonus point meant Connacht cannot now be passed for top spot in the group.

Connacht travel to Madrid next week bidding to clinch top seeding and with it a guaranteed home draw in the last eight.

In France, Castres fly-half Thomas Bouquie scored one of his team's seven tries in an easy 47-0 victory over Roma at Stade Jean Pierre-Antoine.

Bouquie added six conversions to finish with seventeen points though Castres cannot catch Saracens to qualify from Pool Three.

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