Lewis-Pratt steers Leeds to victory over Romanians

Bucuresti 9 Leeds 23
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The Independent Online

Christian Lewis-Pratt inspired Leeds to their first win of the season, in Pool Four of the Amlin Challenge Cup. The 19-year-old fly-half steered the Yorkshire side in the rain-sodden Romanian capital, kicking eight points before Henry Fa'afili put the game beyond doubt with an injury-time try.

The hard-working Leeds pack also played their part in the victoryand were rewarded for their domin-ance with a second-half penalty try.

It was the third time in the past 12 months that the two sides had met, having been drawn together in the pool stage last season. Leeds won on both occasions then, first with a narrow 10-6 victory in Romania followed by a resounding 47-0 triumph at Headingley in the December return.

The Romanians made the brighter start to this game and they opened the scoring after six minutes with a well-struck penalty from the winger Florin Vlaicu. Vlaicu and Lewis-Pratt exchanged further penalties to bring the score to 6-3 to Bucuresti at the interval.

Leeds, no doubt given a talking- to in the changing room by their coach, Neil Back, came out fired up for the second half and after 60 minutes they were awarded their penalty try, after a succession of scrum collapses near the Bucuresti line. Lewis-Pratt converted the try, and he soon kicked his second penalty to give Back's men a 13-6 lead.

Bucuresti never gave up, and they continued to chip away at Leeds's lead, but a fine try, finished by the Samoa international and former rugby league star Fa'afili, secured the victory.

In Pool One, I Cavalieri Estra picked up the first Italian win on the first weekend of European action as they beat Connacht, who last season reached the semi-finals, 23-21 in a thrilling game.

A long-range try from the South Africa-born lock Wouter Moore proved the difference between the two sides, although the Irish province's fly-half, Ian Keatley, hit the post with a last-gasp drop-goal that would have regained the lead.

The Italian club were 10 points adrift at the interval but they hit back to dominate the second half and get off to a great start in the competition. The only points that Cavalieri could muster in the first half came from the boot of the New Zealand-born former Italy fly-half Rima Wakarua. Keatley scored all 13 of his side's first-half points, with two penalties, a try and a conversion.

The Irish team stretched their advantage within three minutes of the restart when the Kiwi lock Bernie Upton crashed over for a second try. But the hosts hit back with 13 unanswered points. The wing Niccolo Tempestini scored the first home try and Wakarua kicked the conversion and two penalties. That cut the gap to two points before Keatley steadied Connacht's ship with a third penalty.

Then came Moore's charge for glory and a conversion from Wakarua that took his match-winning points tally to 13.

Montpellier got off to a perfect start in Pool Three with a 20-13 win over Exeter at Sandy Park. An early converted try from Dimitri Pelo put the visitors in the driving seat as Exeter struggled to get a hold on the game.

The Montpellier fly-half, Raphaël Lagarde, kept the scoreboard ticking to give his team a 13-6 half-time lead, the Chiefs' only points coming from the boot of their fly-half, Ryan Davis.

Seta Tuilevuka struck with a devastating try shortly after the interval, but Exeter came back and scored a try of their own, through Chad Slade, in the final minutes. Davis kept his cool and converted the score to snatch an unlikely losing bonus point for the Premiership side.

La Rochelle recorded a 38-3 victory over Rovigo in Pool Five. The visitors also picked up a bonus point after scoring five tries inthe game.