Castrogiovanni retires and Beale's Wasps fall in European Cup

by AFP

Veteran Italian international prop Martin Castrogiovanni retired on Saturday after a career which brought him 119 caps and two European Cups.

The 35-year-old Argentina-born forward arrived in Italy in 2001 and made his debut with Calvisano.

He went on to play for Leicester, Toulon, with whom he won the 2014 and 2015 European Cup, before moving to Racing 92.

In other European Cup news, Connacht grabbed a dramatic 20-18 win over Kurtley Beale's Wasps with the last kick of the game Saturday to stay on course for the European Cup quarter-finals while Leicester also needed a final-minute penalty to beat Munster.

Connacht avenged last week's 32-17 loss to Wasps when backrow forward Naulia Dawai barrelled over for the try with 81 minutes on the clock.
That made it 18-18 with fly-half Jack Carty holding his nerve to kick the winning conversion from tight on the line as the Galway Sportsgrounds crowd held their breath.

Wasps took a losing bonus point and still head Pool 2. But they are locked on 13 points along with four-time champions Toulouse and Connacht with only the group winners guaranteed a quarter-final spot.

The English side, who have now lost their unbeaten record, were ahead at 7-3 early in the first half thanks to a try from scrum-half Joe Simpson after Nathan Hughes had been held up short of the line.

But a Carty penalty followed by a converted try from Danie Poolman, after a scrum against the head, gave Connacht a 13-7 lead at the interval.

Wasps clawed back to 13-13 before winger Josh Bassett sprinted over for his team's second try for an 18-13 lead with just seven minutes left.

However, Connacht weren't finished and Carty's decision to kick for the corner allowed the home side to set-up a line-out drive which carried Dawai over for the score.

Pool 2 rivals Toulouse ran in eight tries in a 54-15 rout of Italian whipping boys Zebre, who have conceded 224 points in four games.

English fly-half Toby Flood finished with a 19-point haul for the French giants with a try and seven conversions.

Leicester needed a last-minute, long-distance penalty to defeat Munster 18-16.

Leicester, the 2001 and 2002 winners, were 16-15 down with one minute left after hooker Niall Scannell had grabbed the game's only try for Munster, the 2006 and 2008 champions.

But with the clock ticking down, Munster flanker CJ Stander was penalised and Welsh fly-half Owen Williams coolly slotted the winning penalty from 52 metres.
Williams kicked all of Leicester's points with a perfect six from six as the Tigers avenged last weekend's 38-0 mauling by Munster at Thomond Park.

The win allowed the Tigers to close the gap on Munster to three points in Pool 1 with Glasgow, who defeated French champions Racing 23-7 on Friday, leading the way on 13 points.

Glasgow are two ahead of Munster, who at least gathered a losing bonus point on Saturday.

"The result shows we are a proper club and we work hard at what we do, and last week wasn't acceptable," said Leicester director of rugby Richard Cockerill, who was reported to be under the threat of the axe if his side lost again on Saturday.

"We went into a meeting on Monday and I asked the players to write down one word to describe last week's performance and most of it was 'embarrassing'."

In Pool 5, Exeter won their first match in four attempts thanks to a 20-12 victory at Bordeaux, whose hopes evaporated when winger Nans Ducuing was sent off. Pool leaders Clermont face Ulster on Sunday.

Also on Sunday, defending champions Saracens can match the European Cup tournament record of 13 consecutive victories, a mark held by Munster since 2007, when they face Sale.

Saracens crushed Sale 50-3 at home last weekend and meet their English rivals again at the AJ Bell Stadium.

Second-placed Toulon will seek to make it two from two over the Scarlets following their 31-20 home victory.

An away win will be Ulster's goal as well as they look to back up their scintillating 39-32 home victory over previously unbeaten Clermont in Pool 5.