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The regions claimed vital points in the European Rugby Champions Cup and European Rugby Challenge Cup this weekend with two excellent wins and a thrilling draw.

Strengthened by the return of their internationals the regions produced some great performances, with Cardiff Blues and Newport Gwent Dragons both registering excellent wins, whilst the Ospreys kept their hopes in Europe alive with a breathtaking draw.

The weekend’s results mean that each region is still in contention to qualify for this season’s European knockout stages, although with decisive fixtures to play next weekend it is crucial they all secure more precious points to keep up the massive effort to make it out of their groups.

Cardiff Blues

Cardiff Blues maintained a 100% winning start to their European Rugby Challenge Cup campaign with a convincing 24–14 win against London Irish at BT Sport Cardiff Arms Park on Saturday.

The score was evenly poised at 7-7 after the first quarter, Cardiff Blues having cancelled out London Irish’s early try when Richard Smith gathered a sublime Gareth Anscombe chip ahead to use his strength and great foot work to finish in the corner.

Next, despite having Matthew Rees sent to the sin bin the Blues not only prevented Irish adding to the scoreboard but were unlucky not to land a try of their own in an end to end period of the game as they failed to capitalise on the pressure they exerted on the visitors’ defence.

The Blues continued turning the screw in the second half and Lloyd Williams grabbed the decisive try on 58 minutes, with hooker Christian Dacey adding another in the dying stages to underline the home team’s dominance.

After this great win the Blues are four points clear of London Irish at the top of Pool 1 and will look to virtually guarantee their place in the European Rugby Challenge Cup quarter-finals next Saturday when they play the reverse fixture of this head-to-head away against the Exiles.

Newport Gwent Dragons

The Dragons ran out comfortable 37-10 winners away against Bucharest Wolves in the European Rugby Challenge Cup on Saturday to claim a bonus point win that keeps their hopes of reaching the quarter-finals firmly alive.

The game was moved at short notice from the home team’s familiar surroundings of Stadium Arcul to Ghencea Stadium because of a waterlogged pitch and Bucharest coped well with the late switch of venue and made a hot start.

They caught the Dragons cold early on in the freezing Bucharest temperatures as a series of driving mauls resulted in a try for the home team. But the Dragons soon started breathing some fire of their own and replied through an Ashley Smith try, and Geraint Rhys Jones kicked eight points to leave the scores at 13-10 to the Dragons at half time.

Second half tries from T Rhys Thomas, James Thomas and Ashley Coombs (two) secured a valuable bonus point for the men of Gwent as they eased to victory and strengthen their hold on second place in Pool 3.

Dragons now go into the return fixture at Rodney Parade on Friday knowing that another bonus point win against the Romanian’s will see them remain firmly in contention to top Pool 3 if results in their games against Newcastle Falcons and Stade Francais go their way later in the tournament.

Ospreys

A late Josh Matavesi try saw the Ospreys claim a draw against Racing Metro in the European Rugby Challenge Cup at the Liberty Stadium on Saturday to maintain their chances of qualifying for the knockout stages of the competition.

The home team had their wings clipped in the first half as the powerful French pack imposed themselves, with Racing Metro flying into a 16-6 half time lead thanks to a Francois van der Merwe try and the kicking of Johan Goosen.

However, the Ospreys don’t give up without a fight and after half time they began to soar back into contention, putting width on the ball and troubling Racing’s defence with wave after wave of strong ball carrying attacks in their opponents’ half.

As the pressure mounted the ever-reliable Dan Biggar added two more penalties to the couple he slotted in the first half to keep the Ospreys in contention and they scored a well-deserved try late on when Fijian international Matavesi finished off a smart Justin Tipuric break. Biggar added the conversion to tie the scores but the Ospreys ran out of time as they scrambled for a late win.

The Ospreys make the trip to Paris for the return fixture next Saturday three points off the top of Pool 5 and they will now hope to produce their best result of the season to date in order to try and climb out of the tough qualifying group.

Scarlets

Scarlets endured a tough night at the Kingspan Stadium against Ulster on Saturday as they lost 24-9 in their European Rugby Champions Cup Round 3 fixture.

The key period of the match came in the first half when Scarlets had James Davies sent to the sin bin for a late tackle. Ulster took full advantage and scored two tries to build a lead they would not relinquish despite Scarlets’ best efforts with ball in hand. The Scarlets added two penalties in return through Rhys Priestland and threatened with good running, looking to attack with pace at every opportunity but the abrasive home defence stood firm all evening.

In the second period the Scarlets made a number of line breaks and bursts into their host’s half but for all their attacking endeavour with ball in hand they could only manage one more Rhys Priestland penalty as their hosts ran in two more tries.

With a back line brimming with panache and pace, a solid set piece game and strong defence Scarlets will hope to click into top gear against Ulster next Sunday and draw on their vocal home support to maintain their formidable form at Parc y Scarlets in 2014.