Gloucester are the 2006 European Challenge Cup holders after a thrilling extra-time final against London Irish at the Twicenham Stoop.

The teams were locked at 31-all at the end of the regulation 80 minutes thanks to two late pushover tries from the never-say-die London Irish side and a rare missed goal from Exiles fly-half Barry Everitt in the final minute. 

Gloucester No 8 James Forrester scored a stunning solo try in the second half of extra time, and another two misses from Everitt handed the trophy to the Cherry and Whites.

The match was played in constant showers throughout, but both sides showed a willingness to chance their arm on attack. Flankers Andy Hazell (Gloucester) and Olivier Magne had a battle royale in the loose, and goal-kickers Ryan Lamb, Ludovic Mercier and Everitt were in superb touch in the slippery conditions.

Everitt opened the scoring with a brace of penalty goals, but Gloucester hit back through the pace of winger Mark Foster. England centre
Mike Tindall chipped the ball through on the blindside of a ruck and Foster out-sprinted the defence for the first try.

Lamb’s well-struck conversion took Gloucester into the lead, and the promising young fly-half extended it with a penalty goal on the 15-minute mark.

Argentinian No 8 Juan Leguizamon made several surging runs to get his side back on to the front foot, but the Exiles could not turn possession into points and Gloucester made them pay. A suberb touch-finder from Lamb allowed the Cherry and Whites to make a rare excursion into enemy territory in the 27th minute, and Hazell powered over for a second Gloucester try.

The Exiles hit straight back through full-back Delon Armitage, who latched on to a huge Everitt up-and-under to dot down for his eighth try in he Challenge Cup this season.

The conversion by Everitt was cancelled out by Lamb’s second penalty goal, and Gloucester took a deserved 18-13 lead into the halftime break.

The Exiles had a slight wind at their backs in the second spell, and Everitt narrowed the margin with a snap dropped goal only three minutes into it, but his side were soon a man down as Leguizamon trudged off to the sin-bin for not retreating 10 metres.

With Lamb in the blood-bin, his replacement Mercier took over the kicking battle with Everitt, and the Frenchman slotted two penalty goals from point-blank range. Everitt replied with one of his own, but the game was smashed wide open in the 65th minute when jet-heeled Gloucester winger James Simpson-Daniel intercepted a speculative Bob Casey pass to run 50 metres and give his side a 12-point lead.

The Exiles pounded the Gloucester try-line for more than a dozen phases as they tried to batter their way back into the game, and they were rewarded when referee Nigel Whitehouse decided replacement prop David Paice had grounded the ball at the bottom of a pile of 16 forwards.

London Irish adopted the same tactics in the dying minutes, and their fans leapt to their feet when television referee Gareth Simmonds awarded hooker Robbie Russell a five-pointer. With the scores level at 31-all and Everitt with a 100 percent kicking record, Gloucester fans were resigned to defeat.

But it was not to be as the conversion attempt from Everitt went well wide, and fans settled in for another 20 engrossing minutes.

An Everitt penalty goal gave London Irish the lead at the end of the first 10 minutes of extra time, but Forrester had the crucial say as he toed ahead the ball and dotted down inches inside the dead-ball line.

Everitt had a chance to winning it with a long-range dropped-goal attempt, and again with a penalty goal from a similar range, but both went on the wrong side of the uprights as Gloucester fans celebrated the final whistle.