RUGBY UNION; Viars strikes to fell Treviso

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The Independent Online
TREVISO HAD high hopes of achieving a Heineken European Cup upset halfway through yesterday's Pool E encounter against Montferrand only for the French visitors to rally after the interval and overcome the Italians' brave challenge.

A dour first half at the Stadio Communale di Monigo was controlled by the Italian champions and two penalties from their full-back, Corrado Pilat, gave them a 6-3 lead at the break. Montferrand, last season's European Shield winners, had defended well and a penalty from their centre Gerald Merceron kept them in touch.

The second half was a more open affair and Montferrand stepped up a gear to seal a 21-15 victory which, though not exactly a runaway success, was ultimately fairly comfortable.

Pilat landed three more penalties but Treviso never managed to pierce the resolute Montferrand defence and they paid for their lack of penetration when the visitors started to move the ball amongst their backs. The full- back Nicolas Nadau was the first to cross for a try before Sebastien Viars gave Montferrand some breathing space with another touchdown.

Merceron, who also landed two further penalties, missed one of his conversion attempts but Montferrand were able to defend their six-point lead easily and finish as worthy victors.

In a bid to put their World Cup disappointment behind them, Italy have named the former All Blacks' prop Brad Johnstone to replace Massimo Mascioletti as their coach for their debut in the Six Nations' Championship. The 49- year-old New Zealander, who coached the Italian club Aquila from 1989 to 1991, will step down as the coach of Fiji in a month's time to take up the new job on a two-year-contract.

London Irish swept aside the 1997 European Cup winners Brive 37-21 in Pool G of the European Shield at The Stoop and Bedford continued their recent recovery from the brink of financial collapse with an impressive 28-18 victory over newly wealthy Newport in Pool B. Gloucester, currently riding high in the Allied Dunbar Premiership One table, made it a hat- trick of prized scalps for English clubs with their 22-13 Pool E success over Biarritz at Kingsholm, but Sale failed to follow suit, going down 28-16 at home to Perpignan.

Worcester made it nine wins out of nine games when they thrashed Waterloo 78-10 with James Jenner running in three of their 12 tries. But they only lead Premiership Two by two points from Leeds, who won 25-12 at Coventry. Rotherham, for whom Mike Umaga kicked 21 points, moved up to third with a 36-15 home success over fourth-placed Exeter.

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