Robbie Henshaw handed Ireland a Six Nations fitness boost as Connacht thrashed Enisei-STM 47-5 to qualify for the European Challenge Cup quarter-finals.
Fit-again centre Henshaw claimed one of Connacht’s eight tries as Pat Lam’s side made the last-eight courtesy of their bonus-point victory – but also Newcastle Falcons’ 27-23 win over Brive.
Battering-ram midfielder Henshaw had not featured since suffering a broken hand in November, but his timely return will boost Ireland boss Joe Schmidt’s Six Nations resources.
Matt Healy crossed twice, with Henshaw, Tiernan O’Halloran, Denis Buckley, Danie Poolman, Tom McCartney and Caolin Blade also on the scoresheet.
Vitalii Orlov claimed the Siberian visitors’ solitary score, with Jurijs Baranovs’ 14th-minute yellow card sparking Connacht’s victory march.
Simon Hammersley’s late second try secured Newcastle’s slender win over Brive, but was not enough to send the Falcons into the knock-out stages.
Instead Dean Richards’ side stopped Brive progressing, in a stubborn performance at Kingston Park. Hammersley’s two tries bookended a gritty Newcastle showing, his second score securing the spoils but his third-minute opener helping the Falcons onto the front foot from the off.
Tries from Alex Tait and Micky Young had Newcastle 23-3 to the good at the break, Craig Willis slotting a penalty and two conversions.
Thomas Laranjeira’s penalty proved Brive’s only score of the half, but the Frenchmen hurtled back into the contest after the break.
Nicolas Bezy and Poutasi Luafutu both crossed for Brive in the second half, with Laranjeira converting both and adding two penalties.
Brive’s resistance forced Newcastle to raise the level again, only for Hammersley to provide the match-winning riposte.
Gloucester extended their record string of Challenge Cup victories to 15 by edging out Zebre 14-11 in Italy, booking a home quarter-final against Newport Gwent Dragons.
Mark Atkinson could have been forgiven for expecting his second-half try to open the floodgates, but Gloucester needed fit-again Italy playmaker Kelly Haimona to miss a late penalty that would have secured a draw.
Haimona also failed with a conversion shot after Dries van Schalkwyk’s late score had dragged Zebre back into the contest.
In the end two second-half penalties from Billy Burns proved sufficient for Gloucester to complete a perfect pool-stage return.
London Irish sneaked past Edinburgh to secure a quarter-final at Harlequins despite an inferior win record in the competition’s pool stages.
A 31-17 bonus-point victory at Agen put Irish level on 17 points with Edinburgh in Pool 5, after the Scots lost out 34-23 at Grenoble.
Grenoble had already topped the pool standings ahead of the final fixtures on Saturday night, but Irish pulled the rug out from underneath Edinburgh in the final throes of group action.
Irish completed the round-robin stage with just three wins to Edinburgh’s four, but won out thanks to boasting the superior aggregate points haul in the two meetings between the teams in Pool 5.
Edinburgh were left to rue a defeat in France that cost them a knockout stage berth and inflicted yet more misery after losing last year’s final 19-13 to Gloucester.
Edinburgh led past the hour-mark, only for Gio Aplon’s late try brace to turn the tables. John Hardie and Will Helu claimed first-half tries for the Scots, with Sam Hidalgo-Clyne slotting two conversions and a penalty.
Jonathan Wisniewski posted two penalties and converted Arnaud Heguy’s try to leave Edinburgh leading 17-13 at the break.
Wisniewski and Hidalgo-Clyne slotted two penalties apiece in a tense third quarter, before Aplon’s two-try burst changed the entire qualification complexion.
Luke Narraway, Tom Fowlie, Tom Smallbone and Fergus Mulchrone claimed the tries that handed London Irish their vital try bonus-point in their win at Agen.
The visitors claimed a penalty try late on to seal their victory and safe passage to the last-eight, with Filipo Nakosi and Djalil Narjissi claiming scores for the hosts.
Sale Sharks will host Montpellier in the other quarter-final, with both sides having already completed their pool-stage matches on Friday night.
Source Article from http://espn.co.uk/rugby/story/_/id/14631660/robbie-henshaw-scores-connacht-book-quarterfinal-spot
Henshaw scores as Connacht book quarterfinal spot
ESPN.com – RUGBY