Wayne Pivac’s coaching stocks continue to rise.
Having taken Welsh region Scarlets to the Guinness PRO14 title last season, the 2003 New Zealand Rugby coach of the year has guided his side to the European Champions Cup semifinals after a 29-17 victory against La Rochelle over the weekend.
The Scarlets, second in Conference B of the PRO14, reached the top four in Europe for the first time since 2007.
No 12 Hadleigh Parkes was again worth his weight in gold, setting up Rhys Patchell for a decisive try with a fine break. La Rochelle’s Kiwis were prop Uini Atonio and replacements Hikairo Forbes and Tawera Kerr-Barlow.
In other quarter-final action, Dan Carter showed there is life yet in those 36-year- old legs, making two late, key plays off the pine to set up tries for Racing-Metro, who won 28-17 at Clermont. His teammates included Ben Tameifuna, Ole Avei and Joe Rokocoko.
Clermont fielded Fritz Lee and Loni Uhila.
James Lowe scored a try for Leinster in the 30-19 defeat of defending champs Saracens. Isa Nacewa played at second five for the Irish province. Sean Maitland started for Sarries, while kilted Kiwi Blair Cowan scored a try off the bench.
In the April 21-22 semifinals, Leinster face Scarlets, while Racing-Metro play Munster in Bordeaux.
In the Challenge Cup quarters, tries to Jason Woodward, Tom Marshall and John Afoa helped Gloucester to a 33-28 win over Connacht.
Willi Heinz, Jeremy Thrush, Motu Matu’u and Josh Hohneck rounded out the seven Gloucester Kiwis. Tom McCartney and Bundee Aki, who scored a try, appeared for Connacht.
Cardiff Blues, with Gareth Anscombe, Rey Lee-Lo, Willis Halaholo and Nick Williams in the ranks, beat Edinburgh 20-6. The Scottish club fielded Jordan Lay, John Hardie, Simon Berghan and Phil Burleigh.
Six goals from Tom Taylor and a Benson Stanley try saw Pau home 35-32 over Stade Francais. Frank Halai and Daniel Ramsay also featured for Pau.
The semifinals in three weeks’ time see Cardiff host Pau and Gloucester welcome Newcastle.
In the Anglo-Welsh Cup final, which had been postponed due to bad weather, the Exeter Chiefs beat Bath 28-11. Cooper Vuna scored a try for the vanquished, while James Wilson and Paul Grant also featured for Todd Blackadder’s men.
This weekend sees the resumption of the French Top 14, Aviva Premiership and Guinness PRO14.
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