Premiership dominates semi-final line-up
February 6, 2011
The Dragons' Martyn Smith dives in to score one of his two tries against the Scarlets at Rodney Parade © Getty Images
English clubs will fill three of the four places in this season's Anglo-Welsh Cup semi-finals with Harlequins set to face Newcastle and Gloucester slated to tackle the Dragons.
The semi-finalists for the cross-border competition were decided after a frantic final round of pool action that saw Harlequins finish top of Pool 4 and secure top seeding and Gloucester edge out Northampton to claim Pool 3. The Dragons beat Welsh rivals Scarlets to top Pool 2 and Newcastle upset the odds to progress from Pool 1.
Nick Evans inspired a young Harlequins side to a 23-7 victory over Cardiff Blues at the Twickenham Stoop. The former All Blacks fly-half contributed 18 points with a try, two conversions and three penalties as Quins maintained their unbeaten run and overhauled pool rivals Bath who had claimed top spot thanks to a victory over Leicester on Saturday.
Gloucester secured their place in the final four with a comfortable 41-8 victory over London Irish at Kingsholm on Saturday. The Cherry and Whites were 29-3 up by half-time after tries from Tim Molenaar, Charlie Sharples, Jim Hamilton, Olly Morgan and a penalty try. Nicky Robinson landed just two of the five conversions.
The Dragons reached the semi-finals with a 26-9 victory over the Scarlets at Rodney Parade on Sunday. Dragons fly-half Matthew Jones and Scarlets fullback Dan Evans both kicked two penalties in the first half but it was a different story after the break with the hosts running in three tries - one from lock Luke Charteris and a brace from fullback Martyn Thomas.
Newcastle scrambled into the knock-out stages two late tries inspired a 17-3 victory over Exeter at Kingston Park. Both sides made plenty of mistakes in a stop-start match played in miserable conditions, and much of the play was confined to midfield until the closing 10 minutes when tries from Alex Tait and Luke Eves swung the contest in the Falcons' favour.
Saracens saw their semi-final hopes dashed despite an emphatic 50-7 bonus-point win over Sale. Chris Wyles was the star for Saracens with a hat-trick of tries, but te Dragons' win over the Scarlets ended their chances of advancing. The game also saw Matt Stevens make his first senior start since completing a two-year drug ban on January 19.
Elsewhere, Northampton Saints bowed out of this year's tournament with a 38-24 victory over struggling Leeds Carnegie at Franklin's Gardens. Bath beat rivals Leicester 26-12 at Welford Road on Friday evening to go top of Pool 4 but were to be denied by Harlequins. In the weekend's other games, Ospreys ended their campaign with a hard-fought 18-13 victory over London Wasps in an uninspiring game at the Brewery Field.
Anglo-Welsh Cup Semi-Finals:
The semi finals will be played on Friday, March 11 and Sunday, March 13.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Firdose Moonda looks at the moves towards greater integration within South African rugby ... and what the future holds
Martin Gillingham looks ahead to what he believes is the most remarkable ever climax to the league phase of the Top 14
With just two rounds left in the regular season, we look at the prospects of the teams taking part in the Championship play-offs
Joe Simpson talks to Charlie Morgan about loss, Wasps and being England's game-breaker