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Repeat or revenge in Champions Cup playoff

Friday 22nd May 2015

12:00 am (GMT)

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Résumé du Quart de finale de l'European Rugby Challenge Cup : Gloucester Rugby 14 - Connacht Rugby 7 - 03/04/2015 21:34

Résumé du Quart de finale de l'European Rugby Challenge Cup : Gloucester Rugby 14 - Connacht Rugby 7 - 03/04/2015 21:34

RC Toulon lifted the European Rugby Champions Cup just three weeks ago, but the battle is already on for Gloucester Rugby and Connacht Rugby to reach next season’s pool stage.

The French heavyweights were not the only side to claim European silverware this season. David Humphreys’ Gloucester took the Challenge Cup back to Kingsholm after a 19-13 triumph over Edinburgh.

The Cherry and Whites edged out Connacht 14-7 in the quarter-final on their way to Twickenham Stoop glory. But the Irish province will be relishing their shot at redemption and a place in amongst the continent’s elite next season.

The winner of the Kingsholm clash will take home advantage into the final play-off round against the seventh placed side in France’s Top14, which could be one of four teams.

Welsh prospect Dan Thomas will start his first European match for Gloucester at openside flanker after scoring four times in his six European appearances to date – he starts in the absence of the banned Matt Kvesic.

Centre Bill Meakes and no.8 Ross Moriarty both return having served suspensions picked up in the club's successful Challenge Cup Final victory. Billy Twelvetrees captains the side from centre outside half-backs James Hook and Greig Laidlaw.

Connacht Head Coach Pat Lam has made two personnel changes to his side to face Gloucester from the side beaten by the Ospreys last time out. John Cooney fills the scrum-half void left by injured Kieran Marmion. George Naoupu is the only change to the pack and he is named in the second row alongside Aly Muldowney.

Tight head prop Rodney Ah You will run out for his 100th appearance for the province, packing down in a front row with Tom McCartney and Connacht Rugby Forward of the Year Denis Buckley who was also named in the Emerging Ireland squad this week.

Ireland centre Robbie Henshaw starts at centre alongside Bundee Aki and John Muldoon captains the side from blindside flanker.

Lam said: “Our season goal was to finish in the top 6 so we could qualify automatically for Champions Cup rugby next season. While seventh is a record finish for Connacht rugby in the PRO12, we still have this opportunity to secure that final place so there’s huge motivation. Win this weekend against Gloucester and we’ll be at home the following Sunday in front of our home crowd. Connacht has never been in this position before. It’s knock out rugby; we may be battered and bruised but we’re massively excited by it.”

Humphreys said: “We played both Connacht and Edinburgh, both games were tight but the big thing is being at home. We're fully conscious of what a challenge it will be but with the team we have, if we play to the level we have shown I'm confident we will win. We have already beaten them and another thing is Kingsholm where we are unbeaten in 2015.”

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Gloucester advance after Kingsholm classic

Sunday 24th May 2015

12:00 am (GMT)

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Il aura manqué dix minutes aux Rochelais

Il aura manqué dix minutes aux Rochelais

Gloucester Rugby will play Bordeaux-Begles for a place in the European Rugby Champions Cup after they sealed a 40-32 extra-time triumph over Connacht in a titanic Kingsholm clash.

Ross Moriarty’s early score was cancelled out by John Cooney before Charlie Sharples raced home. But Jack Carty was on-hand to claim the advantage at the conclusion of a thrilling first-half. Matt Healy looked to have sealed their place at Europe’s top table, but Bill Meakes’ converted try sent the play-off to extra time.

Connacht had the advantage again in extra-time with Healy’s second, but Darren Dawiduik was shunted over and the lead changed hands once more. And the tie was finally settled when Johnny May raced over to send his side into a Sixways play-off with Bordeaux-Begles on Sunday, May 31.

Moriarty helped Gloucester take their first step towards the Champions Cup pool stage when he was driven over the try-line in the second minute. James Hook’s chip forced Connacht to hastily clear for a five-metre lineout. Lock Tom Savage took the ball and smuggled it to Moriarty, who was shunted over the line. Greig Laidlaw added the extras from out-wide for an early 7-0 lead.

But the early shock sparked Connacht into life. Jack Carty narrowed the gap with a penalty before they pounced to take advantage of a Gloucester error in attack. Bill Meakes threw a risky pass to Charlie Sharples who was closed down and forced to knock-on. Cooney swept the ball up and had a free run to the line from 50 metres out, Carty converted to put the tie in Connacht’s favour.

Laidlaw levelled with a penalty before they cut Connacht open to score after 27 minutes. Hook latched onto Meakes’ pass to burst clear before finding the onrushing Sharples who raced in at the corner. But Connacht marched back once more through outside-half Carty. Fionn Carr was fed by Carty, who took a return pass to sneak over under the uprights. He converted his own try to give the Irish province  two-point advantage.

Laidlaw retook the lead with a penalty after the interval before Eoghan Masterson was sin-binned for failing to roll away. But the 14-men of Connacht refused to lie down and the pendulum swung back their way when Carty kicked across field and into the hands of Healy, who waltzed into score.

Carty’s boot looked to have sealed the triumph in the 79th minute after Gloucester took a botched quick lineout and held onto the ball at a ruck. But there was enough time for David Humphreys side to storm upfield and score through Meakes with the game’s final play. Laidlaw converted to send the tie to extra-time.

Hook then gave Gloucester the advantage in extra-time with a penalty from the half-way line. But Connacht, as they had done so many times before, came back stronger and scored through Matt Healy after Robbie Henshaw fumbled. Carty converted but Gloucester were not finished.

Dave Heffernan was yellow-carded for a ruck infringement and the hosts put the ball into the corner. Dawiduik was driven over to give Gloucester a 33-32 lead. The Kingsholm classic was finally decided when May broke through. He fed Billy Twelvetrees who returned the favour to send Gloucester into a Sixways play-off to decide the 20th place in next season's tournament.

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