Heineken Cup round-up: Davies operation adds to Welsh woe


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The Independent Online

They're going down like flies. Interim coach Rob Howley has seen Wales's injury list grow and grow and now his problems have reached crisis proportions. Bradley Davies needs an operation on his ankle injury, bringing the number of locks on the absentee list to four.

The 26-year-old's ligament injury needs intervention but his club, Cardiff Blues, cannot yet say how long the 6ft 6in, 19st forward will be out of action. The odds are that with Davies, Alun Wyn Jones, Ian Evans and Luke Charteris out of action, Ryan Jones and Lou Reed will be asked to take a walk on the wild side against Ireland in the opening match of Wales's Six Nations' Championship defence on Cardiff on 2 February.

Without Davies, Blues suffered a heroic 45-25 defeat in Toulon in their ill-fated Heineken Cup campaign to leave the French side still looking at the quarter-finals. There was at least good news for Howley in the form of Leigh Halfpenny, who salvaged a bonus point for Blues with a 60-metre run to claim his second try of the match.

The conversion brought his tally to 15 points, with Alex Cuthbert and Dafydd Hewitt also going over. Jonny Wilkinson converted four of Toulon's seven tries.

Bottom of Pool Six, Blues face losing their European top-six ranking and have to beat Sale on Saturday if they are to drag themselves up to third place.

Leinster are still hoping to complete a hat-trick of Heineken Cup triumphs after the champions kept alive their hopes of reaching the last eight by securing the first of two bonus-point victories they need to have any hope.

They trounced Scarlets 33-14 in Pool Five with tries from Healy, Jennings, Fitzgerald, Kearney and Madigan. Jonathan Sexton converted three of those tries and Ian Madigan added the extras on his own one.

Clermont Auvergne continued their charge through the pool with a six-try, 46-3 trouncing of Exeter that left them with an unblemished record and 23 points after David Skrela's try secured the bonus point.

In Pool Three, the top side, Harlequins, play their final game on Friday at Biarritz, who scored a predictably comfortable 32-6 victory at Zebre..

Tom Varndell, omitted by England, scored the fastest hat-trick in Amlin Challenge Cup history as Wasps qualified for the quarter-finals. Varndell completed his treble after only 13 minutes as Wasps beat Italy's Mogliano 71-7 at Adams Park.