Challenge Cup: Benetton, Toulon and Glasgow Warriors join Scarlets in the semi-finals as home sides rule the quarters

Jared Wright
All the hosts of the Challenge Cup quarter-finals emerged victorious this weekend, with Toulon, Benetton and Glasgow Warriors defeating Lyon, Cardiff and the Lions on Saturday to join Scarlets in the semi-finals.

All the hosts of the Challenge Cup quarter-finals emerged victorious this weekend, with Toulon, Benetton and Glasgow Warriors defeating Lyon, Cardiff and the Lions on Saturday to join Scarlets in the semi-finals.

Toulon defeated Lyon 48-23 in the all-Top 14 quarter-final on Saturday. That was followed by Benetton Treviso making history, becoming the first Italian team to reach the semi-finals of a European tournament defeating Cardiff 27-23. And in Saturday’s final game, Glasgow Warriors defeated the Lions 31-21.

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In a replay of last season’s Challenge Cup final, Toulon avenged their defeat by claiming a resounding 48-23 win over Lyon.

Jiuta Wainiqolo’s brace and further tries from Teddy Baubigny, Dany Priso, Waisea Vuidravuwalu, Charles Ollivon and Aymeric Luc steered Toulon to victory with Ihaia West kicking 11 points.

Baptiste Couilloud and Toby Arnold scored late tries for the defending champions, but by that stage, the game was far out of their reach.

Baptiste Serin was in fine form for Toulon, setting up Wainiqolo with a quickly taken penalty and kicking the ball on for the winger to chase. He won the race for the ball to put the host’s 8-6 up after West and Lima Sopoaga traded penalties, with the latter slotting two.

The scrumhalf set the platform for his side’s second score after breaking through Lyon’s defence near his own try line before executing a magnificent 50:22. From the resulting lineout, Toulon produced a stunning rolling maul gaining over 20 metres before Baubigny barged over.

Toulon flexed their dominance in this area of the game, with Priso also crashing over from the back of a maul as they took a 20-9 lead into halftime.

Vuidravuwalu’s try extended Toulon’s lead to 27-9 early in the second half with Ollivon crossing from short-range to take his side into the 30s.

Couilloud darted over after the hour mark for Lyon’s first try, but it was too late by that stage as Toulon still had a 34-16 lead after Leo Berdeu’s conversion.

Toby Arnold grabbed a consolation try for his efforts on the day, but his score was cancelled after Thibaut Regard’s blunder.

Regard tried to volley a kick through into touch but got his kick horribly wrong and set up Luc for an easy score.

Benetton become the first Italian team to make European semi-finals

Benetton came from behind to create history, becoming the first Italian team to reach the semi-finals of a European tournament, defeating two-time EPCR Challenge Cup champions Cardiff 27-23 at Stadio Monigo.

Having built up a 10-point lead in the first half, the home side found themselves trailing by 10 after a bad start to the second period but hit back to clinch the win, and a semi-final trip to Toulon, with a juggling corner, try from Marcus Watson with 10 minutes to go.

Cardiff director of rugby Dai Young had asked for the same intensity as his team had shown a week earlier when they dumped Sale Sharks out of the competition and his players certainly came out of the blocks right from the kick-off.

Leading by example, skipper Josh Turnbull turned over a ruck on the home 22 to set up Rhys Priestland for his first shot at goal with 38 seconds showing on the clock.

Back in his favoured number 10 role after a starring performance at full-back against Sale, the former Wales international gave his side an immediate lead.

It did not take long for Jacob Umaga to level things up for the home side, and it was the Italians who were on the front foot for much of the rest of the first half.

A second Umaga penalty gave them the lead in the 11th minute before South African full back Rhyno Smith galloped over in the right corner for the first try of the match midway through the opening period.

Umaga’s conversion made it a 10-point gap, but Cardiff cut that to three by the break after Thomas Young pounced following a piece of good fortune in the home 22.

Tomos Williams ran up the blindside from a scrum near halfway, and his chip ahead allowed Owen Lane to chase it down and try to regather.

He stumbled as he tried to catch the ball but somehow rolled it backwards. Young was on hand to pick up and race over. Referee Luke Pearce declared a try, and the TMO confirmed it after a review.

Second half

Priestland’s touchline conversion made it a one-score game and then turned the scoreboard on its head at the start of the second half. Within three minutes of the restart, it was Priestland’s penalty that levelled the scores, and then he converted a great try by Wales centre Mason Grady off the left touchline.

All of a sudden, there was daylight for Cardiff at 20-13, and they seemed to be on their way to the final four. Back-to-back penalties allowed Benetton to kick their way into the corner, and from the lineout, they battered away at the Cardiff line until Italian national captain Michele Lamaro found a gap through which to score.

Umaga’s conversion made it 20-20, but five minutes later, Priestland banged over a 42-metre penalty to give his side the lead once again. But Benetton refused to be denied, and after kicking deep into the Cardiff 22 once again, they sent Watson racing in at the corner for a try which Tomas Albornoz converted off the touchline to force Cardiff to score more than a penalty to win.

Benetton then defended their line superbly at the death, winning a scrum after holding up a driving lineout before successfully holding out a final attack in their 22, which ended with Lopeti Timani being penalised for a neck roll.

Glasgow Warriors claim maiden semi-final

For the first time in their history, the Glasgow Warriors have reached an EPCR semi-final defeating the Lions 32-21.

Jack Dempsey, Jamie Dobie, Zander Fagerson and Tom Jordan all claimed tries in the historic win at Scotsoun Stadium, with George Horne contributing 11 points from the tee.

Lions, lost winger Rabz Maxwane to an early injury, were on top for large spells but failed to make the most of their advantage despite tries from Sanele Nohamba, Francke Horn and Morne Brandon.

Dempsey led the charge for the Warriors, scoring the opening try from a slick lineout move in the ninth minute, Horne converting to put the hosts 7-0 up.

Another well-worked try released winger Dobie down the left touchline after great handling from Huw Jones and Ollie Smith.

The Lions pressed for a score before halftime, but scrumhalf Nohamba had his try chalked off for double movement as Glasgow headed into the break with a 14-0 advantage.

Nohamba wasn’t going to be denied twice as he scored early in the second half and converted his own try to close the gap to seven points.

That was quickly cancelled out as Glasgow hit back through Fagerson, who forced his way over the line from close range.

Horn’s score in the 64th minute teased a thrilling finish but a penalty from Glasgow’s scrumhalf and try from replacement Jordan ended the Lions’ hopes.

Lions hooker Brandon scored with four minutes to play, but the game was out of the visitor’s reach by that stage, and Franco Smith’s charges sealed their place in the final four.

Challenge Cup Semi-Finals

Games to be played on the weekend of 28/29/30 April

RC Toulon v Benetton Rugby, Stade Félix Mayol
Scarlets v Glasgow Warriors, Parc y Scarlets

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