Quins make it six from six
Harlequins kept their European Cup unbeaten streak intact as they secured a 16-9 victory over Biarritz on Friday.
Harlequins kept their European Cup unbeaten streak intact as they secured a 16-9 victory over Biarritz in dreadful conditions at Parc des Sports Aguiléra on Friday.
Meanwhile, Connacht left it late but were able to seal a 25-20 win over Zebre at the Sportsground.
We look at Friday's action!
Biarritz 9-16 Harlequins
Former All Black Nick Evans put in a perfect kicking performance in treacherous, driving rain as Harlequins defeated Biarritz 16-9 to complete their European Cup group stage with a sixth win in six games.
Quins, who had already made sure of their place in the quarterfinals, failed to gain a winning bonus point, but their Pool Three tally of 28 points could still make them the top seeds in the knockout phase.
Evans kicked three penalties and converted the game's only try which left Biarritz without a hope of squeezing into the last eight as a best runner-up.
Dimitri Yachvili, the third highest points scorer in the European Cup history, missed an early penalty but was bang on target with a second attempt as the French side edged ahead at a drenched Stade Aguilera.
Evans levelled at the other end before the English champions grabbed the only try of the game.
Hooker Joe Gray threw long at a line-out where No.8 Tom Guest gathered before barging over for a well-worked try which Evans converted.
Both sides ended the half with 14 men after Biarritz lock Wenceslas Lauret and Quins prop Joe Marler were sin-binned for coming to blows as their packs struggled to keep their feet on the swampy, chewed-up surface.
Yachvili dragged the French side back into contention with two early penalties in the second period before Evans kicked a 45-metre penalty which bounced kindly off the crossbar and over for a 13-9 lead just before the hour mark.
Yachvili again went wide with another penalty as the game became an exhausting battle of attrition.
Evans showed him how to do it with another penalty seven minutes from time to seal a well-earned Harlequins win.
Pens: Yachvili 3
Pens: Evans 3
Yellow cards: Wenceslas Lauret (Biarritz, 36), Joe Marler (Harlequins, 36)
Biarritz: 15 Iain Balshaw, 14 Taku Ngwenya, 13 Benoît Baby, 12 Damien Traille, 11 Aled Brew, 10 Jean-Pascal Barraque, 9 Dimitri Yachvili, 8 Imanol Harinordoquy, 7 Raphael Lakafia, 6 Wenceslas Lauret, 5 Pelu Taele, 4 Thibault Dubarry, 3 Ben Broster, 2 Arnaud Heguy, 1 Fabien Barcella
Replacements: 16 Jean-Philippe Genevois, 17 Thomas Synaeghel, 18 Eugène Van Staden, 19 Erik Lund, 20 Talalelei Gray, 21 Yann Lesgourgues, 22 Julien Peyrelongue, 23 Seremaïa Burotu,
Harlequins: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Tom Williams, 13 George Lowe, 12 Jordan Turner-Hall, 11 Ugo Monye, 10 Nick Evans, 9 Danny Care, 8 Tom Guest, 7 Chris Robshaw (captain), 6 Maurie Fa'asavalu, 5 George Robson, 4 Olly Kohn, 3 James Johnston, 2 Joe Gray, 1 Joe Marler.
Replacements: 16 Rob Buchanan, 17 Mark Lambert, 18 Will Collier, 19 Charlie Matthews, 20 Luke Wallace, 21 Karl Dickson, 22 Ben Botica, 23 Ollie Lindsay-Hague.
Referee: John Lacey (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Paul Haycock (Ireland), Michael Black (Ireland)
TMO: Seamus Flannery (Ireland)
Connacht 25-20 Zebre
Connacht finished their European Cup campaign with a third win but Zebre could so easily have been celebrating an historic first victory at The Sportsground.
The Irish province ensured their second season in Europe's top competition finished with as many victories as defeats as they edged home 25-20.
Zebre gave as good as they got in Galway and overturned a 13-point deficit to lead 20-19 with 12 minutes remaining but Connacht kept their composure to stop the debutants from registering a maiden triumph in 18 domestic and European fixtures.
The first half was all about the boot, with a quartet of three pointers from Dan Parks handing the hosts a 12-6 lead at the interval.
The former Scotland playmaker struck successful penalties after 10 minutes, 15 minutes and 33 minutes, with a 25th-minute drop goal from the veteran the other scoring method in an opening half that failed to really fire.
Zebre's points also came from the tee, as former Waratahs No.10 Daniel Halangahu slotted penalties after 12 and 27 minutes to keep his side in touch.
A penalty try five minutes after the restart gave Connacht clear water at 19-6 but Zebre refused to give up the fight and Halangahu cut the gap to 10 with his third penalty six minutes later.
Zebre battered away at the Connacht line with 56 minutes gone but Luca Martinelli's indecisive show and go at the base of a close-range ruck led to turnover ball as the replacement scrumhalf let the hosts off the hook.
But it didn't take long for Zebre to gain the reward their hard work deserved as Giovanbattista Venditti's brilliant break from halfway saw them claim the try they looked like registering moments earlier.
Kieran Marmion's decision to shoot out of the defensive line too quickly left Connacht exposed in midfield and Venditti burst through before offloading to create a two-on-one which Ruggero Trevisan finished off in the left-hand corner with 59 minutes gone.
The TMO was called into action to check whether Tiernan O'Halloran's last-gasp tackle had forced his opposite man into touch but the decision rightly went in Zebre's favour as the gap was cut to just two points.
Halangahu missed the chance to level affairs as he sent his touchline conversion wide of the near post but Parks was also off target with a penalty attempt four minutes later.
Zebre took the lead after 68 minutes when Halangahu kept his nerve from 10 metres to the left of the posts and 30 metres out but their one-point advantage was short-lived as a 40-metre effort from Parks pushed Connacht back in front three minutes later.
A second drop goal from Parks sealed the win - and took his tally to 20 - with six minutes left to ensure Connacht finished just three points shy of second-placed Biarritz in Pool Three.
Try: Penalty try
Pens: Parks 4
DGs: Parks 2
Pens: Halangahu 5
Connacht: 15 Robbie Henshaw, 14 Tiernan O'Halloran, 13 Eoin Griffin, 12 Dave McSharry, 11 Fetu'u Vainikolo, 10 Dan Parks, 9 Kieran Marmion, 8 Andrew Browne, 7 Johnny O'Connor, 6 Mick Kearney, 5 Mike McCarthy, 4 Michael Swift, 3 Nathan White, 2 Jason Harris Wright,1 Brett Wilkinson.
Replacements: 16 Ethienne Reynecke, 17 JP Cooney, 18 Ronan Loughney, 19 Dave Gannon, 20 Eoghan Grace, 21 Paul O'Donohoe, 22 Miah Nikora, 23 Danie Poolman
Zebre: 15 Tito Tebaldi, 14 Giovanbattista Venditti, 13 Roberto Quartaroli, 12 Matteo Pratichetti, 11 Ruggero Trevisan, 10 Daniel Halangahu, 9 Alberto Chillon, 8 Filippo Ferrarini, 7 Mauro Bergamasco, 6 Emiliano Caffini, 5 Josh Sole, 4 Mike Van Vuren, 3 Luca Redolfini, 2 Davide Giazzon, 1 Salvatore Perugini.
Replacements: 16 Carlo Festuccia, 17 Matias Aguero, 18 David Ryan, 19 Nicola Belardo, 20 Andrea Manici, 21 Luca Martinelli, 22 Alberto Chiesa, 23 Samuele Pace.
Referee: Pascal Gauzere (France)
Assistant referees: Jean-Luc Rebollal (France), Cyril Lafon (France)
TMO: Daniel Irazoqui (France)