Round-Up: English clubs up to the Challenge

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The Independent Online

English clubs sit proudly on top of all five pools in the European Challenge Cup after another series of strong results yesterday. Leading the way were Worcester in Pool Five after a 44-8 demolition of Catania, featuring tries by Andy Gomarsall, Jon Hylton, Mark Tucker, Drew Hickey, Johnny Tuamoheloa and Dale Rasmussen, and 14 points from the boot of Shane Drahm.

But they still head Connacht by only one point with one round of games remaining following the Irish side's 43-10 eclipse of Montpellier in Galway. Connacht's six tries included a brace apiece for Matt Lacey and Keith Matthews.

London Irish opened up an invincible lead in Pool Two when they eked out a modest 19-11 win in Parma. Their tries came from Phil Murphy, Declan Danaher and Ross Laidlaw.

Gloucester leapfrogged over Bayonne to return to the top of Pool Three by doing just enough for a 27-13 success in Bucharest. Their four touchdowns came via a penalty try, Robert Elloway, Jake Boer and Peter Richards.

In Pool Four Newcastle, despite the continued absence of Jonny Wilkinson and Brive's 47-19 win away to L'Aquila, are guaranteed quarter-final status if they beat the Borders at Kingston Park this afternoon.

Brian O'Driscoll showed his form is returning in advance of the Six Nations' Championship with a try double for Leinster in their 46-22 defeat of Glasgow in Pool Five of the Heineken Cup. Cameron Jowitt also bagged two tries and the scoring was completed by Girvan Dempsey, Shane Horgan, Denis Hickie and Felipe Contepomi, who also landed a penalty and three conversions. Rory Lamont, Mike Roberts and John Barclay crossed for the visitors.

In Pool Six, Llanelli nearly overhauled Edinburgh in the dying seconds of a thriller at Murrayfield, only to go down 33-32. Francisco Leonelli, Hugo Southwell, Mike Blair, Andrew Kelly and Matt Mustchin went over for the Gunners while Lee Byrne, Barry Davies, Tal Selley and Alix Popham replied in kind for the Scarlets.

Leicester have drafted Will Johnson into their back row for today's must-win Heineken Cup Pool Three encounter with Stade Français at Welford Road, but Pool One leaders Sale should have few problems cementing their quarter-final spot against the Newport-Gwent Dragons at Edgeley Park.

Meanwhile, Saracens will be on the bonus-point trail in today's Pool Four meeting with Benetton Treviso at Vicarage Road - a contest which should set the north London side up for a winner-takes-all visit to the group leaders Biarritz on Saturday.

Leeds, whose hopes of advancing from Pool Two have been dashed by Perpignan's success in Cardiff, spent last night in Italy after yesterday's game at Calvisano was called off because of a frozen pitch. The teams will try again today.

Harlequins extended their lead at the top of National League One to nine points after thrashing Otley 43-3 at The Stoop to make it 15 wins in 15 League outings this season.

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