Ospreys and Cardiff Blues through to Challenge Cup Knock-Out stages

By James Lloyd

Ospreys and Cardiff Blues are through to the knock-out stages of the European Rugby Challenge Cup after both sides made it out of the Pool Stages.

Newport Gwent Dragons, though, narrowly missed out after their final round loss to Brive, whilst Scarlets were sent crashing out of the Champions Cup at the penultimate round following a 23-23 draw with reigning champions Saracens.

But it was the record breaking Ospreys who stole the show in the Challenge Cup after they made history with six bonus-point wins from six – the first time that feat has been achieved on the European stage.

Steve Tandy’s men were in rampant form through the Pool stages, after they dismantled Newcastle Falcons, Lyon and Grenoble.

The Swansea based side racked up 279 points and conceded just 51 – making them the most feared team in the Challenge Cup.

Sergio Parisse’s Stade Francais will travel to the Liberty Stadium on the weekend of March 31 after they scraped their way through from Pool 5.

Should Ospreys win, they could meet regional rivals Cardiff in Europe if they can overcome Gloucester at Kingsholm.

Danny Wilson’s side finished runners-up to Bath in Pool 4 after a strong campaign that saw them thump Todd Blackadder’s team 29-3 in December.

Gloucester, the 2015 Challenge Cup champions, could prove a tricky test for the Blues. The Cherry and Whites stormed to Pool 1 glory after overcoming La Rochelle at the top end.

Kingsley Jones’ Dragons gave themselves a mountain to climb following losses to Enisei-STM and Worcester Warriors in rounds two and three. They overturned those disappointments with two home wins at Rodney Parade but needed a bonus-point victory away in Brive in the final round of Pool matches to have any hope – eventually losing 36-19.

A valiant effort from Scarlets came without reward after they were sent tumbling out of the Champions Cup.

A tricky Pool group which had Saracens, the current European champions, Toulon winners in 2013, 2014 and 2015 and Sale Sharks.

Wayne Pivac’s side ran Toulon close at the Stade Felix Meyol before overturning that result at Parc y Scarlets. Leigh Halfpenny had skewed a number of chances at goal for the visitors which gifted the hosts a 22-21victory.

And the West-Walians were all set to take things to a final round decider, but Chris Ashton’s 83rd minute try in the penultimate round sent them out.

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