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Falcons swoop into last eight

Newcastle Falcons claimed their place in the quarter-finals of the European Challenge Cup after thrashing Bucharest Wolves 52-10 in Romania.

After suffering back-to-back defeats to Stade Francais and Newport Gwent Dragons in their previous two Pool Three matches, Newcastle needed a bonus-point victory at the Cluj Arena to guarantee themselves qualification.

And the Aviva Premiership side had the extra point sewn up by half-time as they ran in four of their eight tries in the first period.

In the end, Rob Vickers, Alex Tait and Jean Socino all picked up two tries apiece for the Falcons, with an Andy Davies score, a penalty try and six conversions from Tom Catterick completing the scoring for the visitors as Newcastle earned themselves one of the best runners-up spots.

Newport finished top of Pool Three and secured a home quarter-final after beating Top 14 side Stade Francais 30-19 at Rodney Parade.

James Thomas' try plus 17 points from the boot of Tom Prydie (five penalties and a conversion) gave the Dragons a 22-7 half-time lead, and the hosts added a second try from Thomas Rhys Thomas and a late penalty form Rhys Jones in the second half.

Stade Francais actually outscored their hosts three tries to two, Krisnan Inu, Zurabi Zhvania and Remi Bonfils the men on the scoresheet, but Prydie's efforts in the first half - when he slotted over six out of seven shots - proved decisive.

In Pool One, f lanker Ofisa Treviranus scored a hat-trick of tries as London Irish downed Rovigo 34-6 to claim top spot ahead of Cardiff Blues.

Both Irish and Cardiff saw their berths in the last eight secured courtesy of Edinburgh's win over Bordeaux on Friday night but were still battling for first place heading into Saturday's final round of fixtures.

Irish and Cardiff each picked up comfortable wins, but it was the Exiles who came out on top after comfortably seeing off group whipping boys Rovigo.

Somoa international Treviranus led the way with a try treble, while wingers James Short and Topsy Ojo also crossed as Irish - who thrashed Rovigo 70-14 in round one - picked up a bonus-point win at the Stadio Mario Battaglini.

The remainder of Irish's nine points came from Shane Geraghty (three conversions and a penalty) with Rovigo responding with two penalties from full-back Stefan Basson.

The bonus point proved crucial in the end as Irish only narrowly edged out Cardiff for first place, with both clubs finishing level on 24 points after t he Welsh outfit recorded a 28-3 bonus-point win over Grenoble in testing conditions in France.

After Lloyd Williams' try gave them a 7-3 half-time lead, Cardiff eased clear in the second half though a brace of penalty tries before Josh Navidi crossed for their fourth try two minutes from the end.

All four tries were converted with Gareth Anscombe successfully notching three efforts before replacement Gareth Davies slotted over from Navidi's score as Cardiff ensured they avoided a showdown with top seeds Gloucester in the knock-out stages. Grenoble's solitary score came from James Hart's first-half penalty.

Already-qualified Exeter Chiefs will head into the quarter-finals as second seeds - and a clash with Newcastle - after rounding off their group campaign with a 45-3 drubbing of Bayonne.

Exeter only led 11-0 at the break through England international Jack Nowell's unconverted try and a brace of penalties, but the Chiefs ran amok in the second half with five more tries as they made it eight home wins in a row in the Challenge Cup.

Matt Jess, David Ewers, Carl Rimmer, Kai Horstmann and Dean Mumm all crossed the line after the interval, with the rest of Exeter's points coming from three Gareth Steenson conversions and a trio of Henry Slade penalties. Martin Bustos Moyano notched Bayonne's points from a 46th-minute penalty.

Connacht, meanwhile, sealed the eighth and last quarter-final berth after overcoming a nine-point half-time deficit to beat La Rochelle 30-20 and earn second spot behind Exeter in Pool Two.

Connacht looked in serious trouble as they trailed 20-11 at the break at Stade Marcel Deflandre but they rallied to set up a showdown with Gloucester in the next round.

Tries from Kieran Marmion, Eoin McKeon, Niyi Adeolokun and Matt Healy earned the Irish side their bonus point, with Jack Carty slotting over two conversions and two penalties.

Albain Meron's score, plus a penalty try and 10 points from Jean-Pascal Barraque had put La Rochelle in charge.

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