Ward helps Stade Francais beat Benetton, Bristol too good for Perpignan
CHALLENGE CUP FRIDAY WRAP: The 2017 EPCR Challenge Cup winners Stade Français Paris relied on a stunning second-half showing to overcome a resilient Benetton 24-14 at the Stade Jean-Bouin on Friday.
Trailing 9-3 at the interval, the hosts were spurred on by a sensational solo effort from wing Nadir Megdoud before Jeremy Ward and Lester Etien consolidated the victory.
Benetton had moments of their own, flyhalf Jacob Umaga notching three penalties from the tee before Siua Maile notched a second half try for the visitors, but the hosts proved too strong in the end.
In a turgid first period, it was the visitors who controlled the scoreboard with three penalties from the boot of Umaga, Léo Barré adding a solo penalty for the hosts.
The game turned ten minutes into the second half when a Benetton kick found the hands of Megdoud in his own half. The wing lofted the ball over the Italians’ defensive line, catching his own kick and dissecting two would-be tacklers to dot down under the posts.
Benetton re-took the lead on the hour mark on the back of a rolling maul from a well-won line-out, hooker Maile powering over from close range to put the visitors up 14-10.
But the lead lasted a mere three minutes as centre Ward broke down the right flank to touch down in the corner, Barré, for the second time, adding the extras.
Wing Etien punctuated the victory in the final minute of the contest, touching down in the left corner to complete the victory, Barré again perfect from the tee.
Stade Français face a trip to South Africa to take on Lions in the second round of action next Friday, while Benetton look to rebound when they visit Aviron Bayonnais next Saturday.
Meanwhile, 2020 EPCR Challenge Cup winners Bristol Bears started their 2022/23 campaign in strong fashion with a 19-5 win over Perpignan at the Stade Aimé Giral on Friday.
Fullback Charles Piutau, No.8 Fitz Harding and centre Joe Jenkins all ventured across the whitewash in a scintillating first half display – flyhalf AJ MacGinty adding two conversions from the tee.
A late first-half try from Perpignan lock Shahn Eru gave the hosts a glimmer of hope heading into the second period, but a stout Bristol defence held out to earn the visitors an opening day victory.
On a bitterly cold evening in Perpignan, Bristol opened the scoring after just two minutes when Piutau powered over from close range after Bristol ran through the phases, MacGinty adding the extras.
The English outfit doubled their try tally with 11 minutes on the clock, some quick hands in front of the posts opened space for Harding to dot down, MacGinty again aiming true from the tee to put Bristol up 14-0.
After dominating territory and possession, Bristol added a third try just after the half hour mark as Jenkins scampered down the right flank to cross over in the corner – again the quick-handedness of the visitors proving fruitful.
A spark for the hosts came in the form of an Eru try on the brink of the interval, the second row powering over on the back of a Perpignan line-out.
Perpignan commanded the early stages of the second period, but every time they got close to the Bristol try line they committed either a turnover or a penalty, letting their visitors off the hook on multiple occasions.
The hosts continued to press for a route back into the contest, but every time they neared the opposition posts they were repelled by a sturdy Bristol defence.
Perpignan travel to Scotland to take on Glasgow Warriors in Round 2 next Friday in the search of a first victory, while Bristol host Italian opposition in the form of Zebre Parma a week on Sunday.
Friday’s scores and scorers:
Stade Français 24-14 Benetton
For Stade Français:
Tries: Megdoud, Ward, Etien
Cons: Barre 3
Pens: Umaga 3
Perpignan 5-19 Bristol Bears
For Bristol Bears:
Tries: Piutau, Harding, Jenkins
Cons: MacGinty 2