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Heineken Champions Cup holders Stade Rochelais, unbeaten in the competition since their 2021 final loss to Stade Toulousain, look to extend that sequence to 14 matches when they host Gloucester Rugby in the Round of 16 on Saturday evening.
The TOP 14 club headed Pool B by winning all four matches and earning two try bonus points. They were also the leading points-scorers in their pool with 120, while also having one of the best defences, conceding just 57 points.
Gloucester had the misfortune of having four-time winners Leinster Rugby in their pool, but although they were comfortably beaten by the Irish province in both matches, two hard-fought victories against Union Bordeaux-Bègles earned them a place in the Round of 16.
The match at Stade Marcel Deflandre in La Rochelle kicks off at 5.30pm UK time and can be watched on SuperSport, BT Sport, beIN SPORTS, France TV and FloRugby.
- Fly-half Antoine Hastoy has scored more points in the Heineken Championship Cup so far than any other player (50). He has attempted more kicks at goal than any other player (24) and missed just five.
- Greg Aldritt has made more metres in contact than any other player (85). He also topped the competition for post-contact metres last season.
- Stade Rochelais have the highest rate of tackle success in the tournament (91.3%).
- Lewis Ludlow has stolen more opposition lineouts than any other player (four). Ludlow made two of those steals in Round 4.
- Steve Varney made a Round 4 high of 23 kicks in play, amounting to 650 metres.
- Gloucester have the best scrum success in the Heineken Champions Cup, winning 96% of their put-ins, but have the lowest rate of conversion success in the competition (50%).
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Gloucester Rugby were minutes away from the Heineken Champions Cup quarter-finals before Stade Rochelais wing Teddy Thomas’ 78th-minute try broke English hearts in a 29-26 defeat at the Stade Marcel Deflandre on Saturday.
Chris Harris, Freddie Clarke and Louis Rees-Zammit crossed the whitewash for Gloucester, who were close to securing one of the biggest upsets in the competition’s history.
But Thomas (2), Pierre Bourgarit and Tawera Kerr-Barlow did just enough for the French side on home soil to secure their last eight berth.
Antoine Hastoy opened the scoring for the afternoon with a fifth-minute penalty in what many expected to be a one-sided affair given the hosts’ dominance in the pool stage.
But Gloucester were up for the fight and scored the first try of the contest with 11 minutes played. A delightfully worked lineout allowed Seb Atkinson to time a perfect offload for centre Harris who scampered over for the score.
Billy Twelvetrees added a penalty two minutes later as Gloucester extended their lead to seven points.
The holders stay afloat!
— Heineken Champions Cup (@ChampionsCup) April 1, 2023
The hosts then took command of the contest with two tries in five minutes. Firstly, hooker Bourgarit burrowed over from close range before Thomas crossed for his first of the afternoon. The wing produced a stunning kick-chase down the right flank, recovering his own punt to give the hosts a 15-10 lead.
However, the visiting English side showed backbone before the interval. A wonderful attacking move, first flowing from right to left, allowed Ollie Thorley to break the lines and gain territory.
The Cherry and Whites then swiftly move the ball in the other direction, floating the ball out to lock Clarke, who produced a sensational diving finish that any back would have been proud of.
In the early stage of the second half, Gloucester were reduced to 14 men when Lewis Ludlow brought down a maul illegally close to his own line.
The hosts took full advantage of the extra man to burrow over from close range, scrum-half Kerr-Barlow crossing the whitewash to put the defending champions ahead once more.
The 14 men would not give up, however, and they scored a short-handed try. A cross-field kick from the boot of fly-half Twelvetrees nestled in the hands of wing Rees-Zammit who dived over for the score.
As Gloucester returned to full strength, they took the lead once again through another Twelvetrees penalty. He then slotted another to open a four-point lead, moments after La Rochelle’s Georges-Henri Colombe who was sent to the sin bin for a nasty clear-out on Ruan Ackermann.
However, Gloucester were to be dealt the fatal blow with two minutes remaining, Thomas crossing for his second of the afternoon after some heroic last-ditch defending.