2017–18 European Rugby Challenge Cup

The 2017–18 European Rugby Challenge Cup was the fourth edition of the European Rugby Challenge Cup, an annual second-tier rugby union competition for professional clubs. It was also the 22nd season of the Challenge Cup competition in all forms, following on from the now defunct European Challenge Cup. Clubs from six European nations plus two Russian club will competed for the title.

2017–18 European Rugby Challenge Cup
Tournament details
Countries England
 France
 Italy
 Ireland
 Russia
 Scotland
 Wales
 Romania
Tournament format(s)Round-robin and Knockout
Date12 October 2017 – 11 May 2018
Tournament statistics
Teams20
Matches played67
Attendance438,380 (6,543 per match)
Highest attendance32,543
Cardiff Blues v Gloucester
(11 May 2018)
Lowest attendance500
Enisei-STM v Newcastle Falcons
(20 October 2017)
Krasny Yar v London Irish
(20 January 2018)
Tries scored457 (6.82 per match)
Top point scorer(s)Jack Carty (Connacht)
Jarrod Evans (Cardiff Blues)
(56 points)
Top try scorer(s)Adam Radwan (Newcastle Falcons)
(10 tries)
Final
VenueSan Mamés Stadium, Bilbao
ChampionsWales Cardiff Blues (2nd title)
Runners-upEngland Gloucester
← 2016–17 (Previous)
(Next) 2018–19 →

The first round of the group stage began on the weekend of 12/13/14/15 October 2017, and the competition ended with the final on 11 May 2018 in Bilbao, Spain.[1][2] This was the first time the final has been held outside one of the Six Nations countries.

French side Stade Français were the reigning champions but failed to progress past the quarter-finals after losing to Newcastle Falcons. Gloucester returned to the final having lost to Stade Français last season, where they faced Cardiff Blues, who made it their first final of any competition since their 2010 European Challenge Cup Final victory. Like then, Cardiff Blues were victorious, defeating Gloucester 31–30 with a 78th-minute penalty by Gareth Anscombe to clinch the title.

TeamsEdit

20 teams qualified for the 2017–18 European Rugby Challenge Cup; a total of 18 qualified from across the Premiership, Pro14 and Top 14, as a direct result of their domestic league performance, with two coming through a play-off. The expected distribution of teams is:

The following clubs qualified for the Challenge Cup.

Aviva Premiership Top 14 Pro12 Qualifying Competition
  England   France   Ireland   Italy   Scotland   Wales   Russia

20th team play-offEdit

Four clubs competed in a play-off to decide the final team in the Champions Cup.[3][4] The play-off comprised three matches, contested by one team from the Premiership, one from the Top 14, and two from the Pro14.

The two Pro12 teams each played one of the Premiership or Top 14 sides in a single-leg semi-final, held at the home ground of the non-Pro12 side. The winners of these matches then contested a play-off final, with the winner of this match competing in the 2017–18 European Rugby Champions Cup. The three losing teams were all entered in the Challenge Cup.

The following teams took part:[4]

Aviva Premiership Top 14 Pro 12
  England   France   Ireland   Wales
Northampton Saints Stade Français Connacht Cardiff Blues

MatchesEdit

A draw was held on 15 March 2017 to determine the two semi-final matches, and which semi-final's winner would have home advantage in the final.[3]

Semi-finals

19 May 2017
18:00 CEST
Stade Français   46 – 21   Cardiff Blues
Report
Stade Jean-Bouin
Attendance: 4,767
Referee: Greg Garner (RFU)
20 May 2017
16:00 BST
Northampton Saints   21 – 15   Connacht
Report
Franklin's Gardens
Attendance: 9,561
Referee: Mathieu Raynal (FFR)

Play-off final

26 May 2017
19:45 BST
Northampton Saints   23 – 22   Stade Français
Report
Franklin's Gardens
Attendance: 10,273
Referee: John Lacey (IRFU)

Continental ShieldEdit

Eight teams were split into two pools of four to compete in the re-branded European Rugby Continental Shield. Each team played the four teams in the other pool once. The winner of each pool then played a two-legged final against last year's qualifying sides, and the winners, on aggregate, will take the two remaining places in the Challenge Cup.

Play-offsEdit

22 April 2017
Enisey-STM   51 – 7   Mogliano
Slava Stadium, Moscow

1 April 2017
Krasny Yar   12 – 17   Timișoara Saracens
Rustavi Arena, Georgia

Team detailsEdit

Below is the list of coaches, captain and stadiums with their method of qualification for each team.

Note: Placing shown in brackets, denotes standing at the end of the regular season for their respective leagues, with their end of season positioning shown through CH for Champions, RU for Runner-up, SF for losing Semi-finalist and QF for losing Quarter-finalist.

Team Coach /
Director of Rugby
Captain Stadium Capacity Method of Qualification
  Agen   Philippe Sella   Antoine Miquel Stade Armandie 14,000 Pro D2 play-off winner
  Brive   Nicolas Godignon   Saïd Hirèche Stade Amédée-Domenech
Stade Alexandre-Cueille[a]
13,979
3,000
Top 14 8th-12th (8th)
  Bordeaux Bègles   Rory Teague (For
  Jacques Brunel)
[b]
  Clément Maynadier Stade Chaban-Delmas 34,694 Top 14 8th-12th (11th)
  Cardiff Blues   Danny Wilson   Gethin Jenkins BT Cardiff Arms Park 12,125 Champions Cup play-off loser
  Connacht   Kieran Keane   John Muldoon Galway Sportsgrounds 8,100 Champions Cup play-off loser
  Dragons   Bernard Jackman   Cory Hill Rodney Parade 8,500 Pro12 bottom 4 (11th)
  Edinburgh   Richard Cockerill   Fraser McKenzie Murrayfield
Myreside Stadium [c]
67,144[d]
5,500
Pro12 bottom 4 (9th)
  Enisey-STM   Alexander Pervukhin   Uldis Saulite Krasny Yar Stadium
Slava Stadium (Moscow)
Avchala Stadium (Tbilisi)
3,600
2,500
2,500
Qualification play-off winner
  Gloucester   David Humphreys   Willi Heinz Kingsholm Stadium 16,115 Premiership 8th-11th (9th)
  Krasny Yar   Igor Nikolaychuk   Vasily Artemyev Krasny Yar Stadium
Fili Stadium (Moscow)
Avchala Stadium (Tbilisi)
3,600
1,000
2,500
Qualification play-off winner
  London Irish   Nick Kennedy   David Paice Madejski Stadium 24,161 RFU Championship Champion
  Lyon   Pierre Mignoni   Julien Puricelli Stade de Gerland 25,000 Top 14 8th-12th (10th)
  Newcastle Falcons   Dean Richards   Will Welch Kingston Park 10,200 Premiership 8th-11th (8th)
  Oyonnax   Adrien Buononato   Roimata Hansell-Pune Stade Charles-Mathon
Stade de Genève [e]
11,400
30,084
Pro D2 Champion
  Pau   Simon Mannix   Julien Tomas Stade du Hameau 18,324 Top 14 8th-12th (9th)
  Sale Sharks   Steve Diamond   Will Addison AJ Bell Stadium 12,000 Premiership 8th-11th (10th)
  Stade Français   Greg Cooper   Sergio Parisse Stade Jean-Bouin 20,000 Champions Cup play-off runner-up
  Toulouse   Ugo Mola   Joe Tekori Stade Ernest-Wallon 19,500 Top 14 8th-12th (12th)
  Worcester Warriors   Alan Solomons (For
  Gary Gold)
[f]
  Donncha O'Callaghan Sixways Stadium 12,024 Premiership 8th-11th (11th)
  Zebre   Michael Bradley   George Biagi Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi 5,000 Pro12 bottom 4 (12th)

SeedingEdit

The 20 competing teams were seeded and split into four tiers; seeding was based on performance in their respective domestic leagues. Where promotion and relegation is in effect in a league, the promoted team was seeded last, or (if multiple teams are promoted) by performance in the lower competition.[8]

Rank Top 14 Premiership Pro 12 Continental Shield
1   Stade Français   Newcastle Falcons   Cardiff Blues   Enisey-STM
2   Brive   Gloucester   Connacht   Krasny Yar
3   Pau   Sale Sharks   Edinburgh
4   Lyon   Worcester Warriors   Dragons
5   Bordeaux   London Irish   Zebre
6   Toulouse
7   Oyonnax
8   Agen

Teams will be taken from a league in order of rank and put into a tier. A draw was used to allocate two second seeds to Tier 1; the remaining team went into Tier 2. This allocation indirectly determined which fourth-seeded team entered Tier 2, while the others entered Tier 3.

Given the nature of the Continental Shield, a competition including developing rugby nations and Italian clubs not competing in the Pro12, qualifying teams are automatically included in Tier 4, and are, in effect, seeded equally despite officially being ranked 1/2 from that competition.

The brackets show each team's seeding and their league (for example, 1 Top 14 indicates the team was seeded 1st from the Top 14).

Tier 1   Newcastle Falcons (1 AP)   Cardiff Blues (1 Pro12)   Stade Français (1 Top 14)   Gloucester Rugby (2 AP)   Brive (2 Top 14)
Tier 2   Connacht (2 Pro12)   Sale Sharks (3 AP)   Edinburgh (3 Pro12)   Pau (3 Top 14)   Dragons (4 Pro12)
Tier 3   Worcester Warriors (4 AP)   Lyon (4 Top 14)   London Irish (5 AP)   Bordeaux (5 Top 14)   Zebre (5 Pro 12)
Tier 4   Toulouse (6 Top 14)   Oyonnax (7 Top 14)   Agen (8 Top 14)   Enisey-STM (CS 1)   Krasny Yar (CS 2)

Pool stageEdit

The draw took place on 8 June 2017, in Neuchâtel, Switzerland.[4]

Teams in the same pool play each other twice, both at home and away in the group stage, beginning on the weekend of 12/13/14 October 2017, and continuing through to 19/20 January 2018, before the pool winners and three best runners-up progressed to the quarter finals.

Teams are awarded competition points, based on match result. Teams receive 4 points for a win, 2 points for a draw, 1 attacking bonus point for scoring four or more tries in a match and 1 defensive bonus point for losing a match by seven points or fewer.[9]

In the event of a tie between two or more teams, the following tie-breakers will be used, as directed by EPCR:

  1. Where teams have played each other
    1. The club with the greater number of competition points from only matches involving tied teams.
    2. If equal, the club with the best aggregate points difference from those matches.
    3. If equal, the club that scored the most tries in those matches.
  2. Where teams remain tied and/or have not played each other in the competition (i.e. are from different pools)
    1. The club with the best aggregate points difference from the pool stage.
    2. If equal, the club that scored the most tries in the pool stage.
    3. If equal, the club with the fewest players suspended in the pool stage.
    4. If equal, the drawing of lots will determine a club's ranking.
Key to colours
     Winner of each pool, advance to quarter-finals.
     Three highest-scoring second-place teams advance to quarter-finals.

Pool 1Edit

Team
P W D L PF PA Diff TF TA TB LB Pts
  Newcastle Falcons (2) 6 6 0 0 229 122 +107 33 15 4 0 28
  Dragons 6 3 0 3 156 133 +23 21 17 2 2 16
  Bordeaux Bègles 6 3 0 3 190 178 +12 26 24 3 1 16
  Enisei-STM 6 0 0 6 91 233 –142 12 36 0 1 1

Pool 2Edit

Team
P W D L PF PA Diff TF TA TB LB Pts
  Cardiff Blues (5) 6 5 0 1 99 95 +4 12 10 1 0 21
  Toulouse 6 2 1 3 117 120 −3 14 13 2 2 14
  Sale Sharks 6 2 1 3 110 102 +8 12 11 0 2 12
  Lyon 6 2 0 4 121 130 −9 13 17 0 3 11

Pool 3Edit

Team
P W D L PF PA Diff TF TA TB LB Pts
  Pau (1) 6 6 0 0 207 125 +82 28 16 5 0 29
  Gloucester (6) 6 4 0 2 253 139 +114 37 18 4 1 21
  Zebre 6 1 0 5 133 257 −124 16 37 2 2 8
  Agen 6 1 0 5 148 220 −72 20 30 2 0 6

Pool 4Edit

Team
P W D L PF PA Diff TF TA TB LB Pts
  Edinburgh (4) 6 5 0 1 282 98 +184 40 12 4 1 25
  Stade Français (8) 6 3 0 3 151 166 –15 21 21 3 2 17
  London Irish 6 3 0 3 169 154 +15 24 22 3 1 16
  Krasny Yar 6 1 0 5 106 290 –184 13 43 1 1 6

Pool 5Edit

Team
P W D L PF PA Diff TF TA TB LB Pts
  Connacht (3) 6 5 1 0 225 102 +123 29 15 4 0 26
  Brive (7) 6 3 0 3 161 162 −1 23 19 4 1 17
  Worcester Warriors 6 2 1 3 124 133 –9 16 17 3 2 15
  Oyonnax 6 1 0 5 102 215 −113 11 28 0 0 4

Ranking of pool leaders and runners-upEdit

Rank Pool Leaders Pts Diff TF
1   Pau 29 +82 28
2   Newcastle Falcons 28 +107 33
3   Connacht 26 +123 29
4   Edinburgh 25 +184 40
5   Cardiff Blues 21 +4 12
Rank Pool Runners–up Pts Diff TF
6   Gloucester 21 +114 37
7   Brive 17 –1 23
8   Stade Français 17 –15 21
9   Dragons 16 +23 21
10   Toulouse 14 –3 14

Knock-out stageEdit

FormatEdit

The eight qualifiers are ranked according to their performance in the pool stage and compete in the quarter-finals which will be held on the weekend of 30/31 March 2018. The four top teams will host the quarter-finals against the four lower teams in a 1v8, 2v7, 3v6 and 4v5 format.

The semi-finals will played on the weekend of 20/21/22 April 2018. In lieu of the draw that used to determine the semi-final pairing, EPCR announced that a fixed semi-final bracket would be set in advance, and that the home team would be designated based on "performances by clubs during the pool stages as well as the achievement of a winning a quarter-final match away from home".

Home advantage will be awarded as follows:[9]

BracketEdit

Quarter-finals Semi-finals Final
         
4   Edinburgh 6
5   Cardiff Blues 20
5   Cardiff Blues 16
1   Pau 10
1   Pau 35
8   Stade Français 32
5   Cardiff Blues 31
6   Gloucester 30
3   Connacht 28
6   Gloucester 33
6   Gloucester 33
2   Newcastle Falcons 12
2   Newcastle Falcons 25
7   Brive 10

Quarter-finalsEdit

30 March 2018
20:00
Newcastle Falcons   (2) 25–10 (7)   Brive
Try: S. Wilson 17' c
Kibirige 23' m
Tait (2) 58' m, 67' m
Con: Flood (1/4) 18'
Pen: Hodgson (1/1) 80'
Report Try: Herjean 27' c
Con: Bézy (1/1) 28'
Pen: Bézy (1/1) 22'
Kingston Park
Attendance: 4,053
Referee: John Lacey (IRFU)
30 March 2018
21:00
Pau   (1) 35–32 (8)   Stade Français
Try: Vatubua 4' c
Stanley 22' c
Daubagna 37' c
Lespiaucq-Brettes 52' m
Con: Taylor (3/4) 5', 23', 38'
Pen: Taylor (3/4) 16', 31', 74'
Report Try: Daguin 6' c
Francoz 40' c
Camara 43' c
O'Connor 78' m
Con: Plisson (3/4) 6', 40', 44'
Pen: Plisson (2/2) 42', 59'
Stade du Hameau
Attendance: 10,064
Referee: JP Doyle (RFU)
31 March 2018
13:00
Connacht   (3) 28–33 (6)   Gloucester
Try: Marmion 7' m
Aki 19' m
Adeolokun 45' m
Healy 70' c
Con: Ronaldson (1/1) 71'
Pen: J. Carty (1/1) 49'
Ronaldson (1/1) 67'
Report Try: Hanson 3' m
Marshall 26' m
Trinder 37' m
Afoa 55' c
Con: Williams (2/4) 38', 57'
Pen: Williams (2/2) 42', 63'
Twelvetrees (1/1) 77'
Galway Sportsgrounds
Attendance: 8,129
Referee: Romain Poite (FFR)
31 March 2018
17:45
Edinburgh   (4) 6–20 (5)   Cardiff Blues
Pen: Van der Walt (2/2) 18', 48'
Report Try: E. Jenkins 21' c
Scully 29' c
Con: Evans (2/2) 22', 31'
Pen: Evans (2/4) 50', 65'
Murrayfield
Attendance: 7,065
Referee: Mathieu Raynal (FFR)

Semi-finalsEdit

20 April 2018
19:45
Gloucester   (6) 33–12 (2)   Newcastle Falcons
Try: Matu'u 40' c
Burns 46' m
Vellacott 74' c
Con: Twelvetrees (2/3) 40', 75'
Pen: Twelvetrees (2/2) 58', 68'
Report Try: Lawson (2) 8' m 53' c
Con: Hodgson (1/2) 54'
Kingsholm
Attendance: 10,857
Referee: Pascal Gaüzère (FFR)
21 April 2018
13:00
Cardiff Blues   (5) 16–10 (1)   Pau
Try: Anscombe 5' c
Con: Evans (1/1) 6'
Pen: Evans (3/3) 23', 38', 73'
Report Try: Smith 19' c
Con: Taylor (1/1) 20'
Pen: Taylor (1/2) 34'
Cardiff Arms Park
Attendance: 11,723
Referee: John Lacey (IRFU)

FinalEdit

11 May 2018
21:00
Cardiff Blues   31–30   Gloucester
Try: T. Williams 41' c
Smith 54' c
Scully 75' m
Con: Evans (2/2) 41', 55'
Pen: Evans (3/3) 4', 15', 50'
Anscombe (1/1) 78'
Report Try: Trinder 8' c
Atkinson 37' c
Hanson 58' c
Con: Twelvetrees (3/3) 9', 38', 59'
Pen: Twelvetrees (3/3) 26', 40', 62'
San Mamés Stadium, Bilbao
Attendance: 32,543
Referee: Jérôme Garcès (FFR)

AttendancesEdit

  • Does not include the attendance at the final as it takes place at a neutral venue.
Club Home
Games
Total Average Highest Lowest % Capacity
  Agen 3 9,904 3,301 4,547 2,487 24%
  Brive 3 8,300 2,767 4,500 800 27%
  Bordeaux Bègles 3 47,909 15,970 17,211 14,232 46%
  Cardiff Blues 4 29,540 7,385 11,723 4,974 61%
  Connacht 4 22,597 5,649 8,129 3,879 70%
  Dragons 3 11,383 3,794 4,017 3,417 45%
  Edinburgh 4 17,866 4,467 7,065 2,773 7%
  Enisey-ETM 3 4,900 1,633 3,600 500 51%
  Gloucester 4 41,762 10,441 12,489 8,927 63%
  Krasny Yar 3 5,100 1,700 3,600 500 73%
  London Irish 3 14,645 4,882 5,800 4,099 20%
  Lyon 3 34,485 11,495 12,863 9,218 46%
  Newcastle Falcons 4 15,615 3,904 4,053 3,653 38%
  Oyonnax 3 10,500 3,500 3,500 3,500 24%
  Pau 4 34,493 8,623 10,064 7,700 47%
  Sale Sharks 3 14,227 4,742 5,494 3,259 40%
  Stade Francais 3 22,682 7,561 8,562 5,666 38%
  Toulouse 3 30,811 10,270 12,245 9,104 53%
  Worcester Warriors 3 19,918 6,639 6,728 6,520 55%
  Zebre 3 6,200 2,067 2,500 1,700 41%

See alsoEdit

NotesEdit

  1. ^ Brive had to play their last pool game at the Stade Alexandre-Cueille in Tulle after the pitch at their home ground Stade Amédée-Domenech was deemed unplayable and the match was rescheduled for a later kick off at the rearranged venue.
  2. ^ Jacques Brunel began the tournament as Bordeaux Bègles' head coach, but was appointed as the head coach of the French national team in late 2017. Rory Teague was brought in as Brunel's replacement.[5]
  3. ^ Myreside Stadium was listed as the venue for all of Edinburgh's pool stage matches. However, all games were relocated at separate times leading up to the weekend's fixtures due worries over an unplayable pitch. Games were later played at Murrayfield.
  4. ^ Although Murrayfield's full capacity is 67,144, only the lower section of the West Stand, with a capacity of 12,464, is generally opened for Edinburgh fixtures.
  5. ^ Oyonnax opening game against Connacht will be played at Stade de Genève in Switzerland.[6]
  6. ^ Gary Gold began the tournament as Worcester Warriors head coach, but was granted an early release to take up his new role as head coach of the United States. Alan Solomons was Gold's replacement.[7]

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ "European club rugby finals to break new ground in 2018 and 2019". epcrugby.com.
  2. ^ "Edinburgh 2017 finals kick-off times and key 2017/18 dates". epcrugby.com.
  3. ^ a b "Champions Cup play-offs". epcrugby.com.
  4. ^ a b c "Champions Cup qualification 2017/18 and play-offs". epcrugby.com.
  5. ^ "Former England coach Rory Teague appointed at Bordeaux-Begles". ESPN Scrum. 5 January 2018. Retrieved 10 January 2018.
  6. ^ "2017/18 Champions Cup and Challenge Cup fixtures announced". EPC Rugby. 22 August 2017. Retrieved 24 August 2017.
  7. ^ "Warriors appoint Solomons as Director of Rugby". Worcester Warriors. 23 December 2017. Retrieved 23 December 2017.
  8. ^ "Watch the Champions Cup and Challenge Cup Pool Draws live : News | ERC | Official Website". ERCRugby.com. 7 June 2014. Archived from the original on 2014-10-31. Retrieved 8 June 2014.
  9. ^ a b "Champions Cup Rules". epcrugby.com. Archived from the original on 2015-05-04. Retrieved 2017-05-09.