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PREVIEW: Zebre chasing history

Friday 22nd January 2016

12:00 am (GMT)

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I padroni di casa vincono la terza partita e si confermano in testa alla pool 5

I padroni di casa vincono la terza partita e si confermano in testa alla pool 5

Reigning champions Gloucester Rugby may have won their last 14 fixtures in the European Challenge Cup, but director of rug by David Humphreys is expecting his toughest game of the season in their final pool outing.

It will be the fourth time in the last two seasons that the west country side have faced Zebre Rugby and they know exactly how tough a task they face at Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi in round six. They won the home game 23-10 in the first round, but failed to get a bonus point.

Even so, Gloucester tied up a home quarter-final draw in the quarter-finals by making it five out of five in the last round. Zebre completed the double over Worcester Warriors in the last round and are unbeaten at home in the tournament this season.

Their three wins to date is the best return from an Italian side in Europe since Petrarca Rugby did the double over Bourgoin and beat Bucuresti Oaks at home in the Challenge Cup in 2008/09. If they could squeeze out a fourth then they could become the first Italian side to qualify for the quarter-finals in either the Champions Cup or Challenge Cup.

“It will be our toughest game in the pool stages. Zebre have won four games in the Pro 12 and have been very competitive in Europe this season – they also have 13 players in the Italian Six Nations squad,” said Humphreys.

“They have become much more competitive at home over the past 12 months and they have a lot of experience and a lot of quality. For us, it’s nice to be going in to the final round of the pool stages without that pressure of qualification, and with a home quarter-final achieved, but we want to keep our run going.”

Worcester Warriors were beaten 27-8 when they travelled to Italy and La Rochelle fell 25-5. The last time Gloucester were beaten in the Challenge Cup was in the 2014 quarter-final at Wasps, 36-24.

Zebre can reach a maximum of 17 points in second place in Pool 4 if they secure a winning bonus point. There are two of the three best runners-up places left after Newport Gwent Dragons secured one of them with their 20 point haul in Pool 2 behind Sale Sharks.

Last season's beaten finalists, Edinburgh Rugby, currently have 17 points in second place in Pool 5, one behind Grenoble, who they travel to faced in round six. In Pool 1, Brive lead the way with 15 points head of their trip to Newcastle, who can reach 16 points.

Secnd placed Connacht Rugby, who host Russian qualifiers Enisei-STM, have 14 points in second place, while in Pool 3, Cardiff Blues will reach 17 points if they can bag a bonus point win at home over Rugby Calvisano, while the unbeaten Pool leaders Harlequins head to Montpellier, who are 10 points behind them in second place with 15. 

Match Facts

  • Gloucester have won each of their three Challenge Cup meetings with Zebre by an average margin of 18 points.
  • Zebre have won their last three home games in the Challenge Cup, conceding just nine points per game on average in those three games.
  • Zebre have won their last two matches against English opponents in the Challenge Cup though they lost all three before that, all of which were against Gloucester.
  • Gloucester have won their last five matches away from home in the Challenge Cup, a sixth win in a row would equal their longest winning streak away from home in the tournament.

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REPORT: Gloucester make it 15 on the trot

Saturday 23rd January 2016

12:00 am (GMT)

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Déjà qualifiés pour les quarts de finale d'European Rugby Challenge Cup

Déjà qualifiés pour les quarts de finale d'European Rugby Challenge Cup

Gloucester made it 15 straight tournament victories with a 14-11 European Rugby Challenge Cup win over Zebre Rugby – but they were made to sweat and fight all the way for their narrow Pool 4 success at Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi.

Zebre led for over 50 minutes and levelled matters with just minutes to go only for Billy Burns to land his third penalty and edge the reigning champions home in a grandstand finish.
It was just enough for Gloucester to make it six from six and with their 25 points they had already been ensured they will be at home at Kingsholm in the quarter-finals in early April.
The last time they were beaten in the tournament was 36-24 by Wasps in the 2014 quarter-finals but this was a close run affair as Zebre made a strong start with outside half Edoardo Padovani on target with two penalty goals in the opening five minutes.
It took Gloucester fully 28 minutes to open their account with a Burns penalty – and then they were let off the hook just moments before the break when Padovani failed with a third penalty goal chance in a half that struggle to reach any great heights.
The only real early second half action saw Zebre lock Federico Ruzza sent to the sin bin by Irish referee Gary Conway – and while down to 14 men Zebre were punished with centre Mark Atkinson belatedly getting the first try of the game after 51 minutes.
That put Gloucester ahead for the first time and, though Burns failed to convert, he was on target with a 69th minute penalty after Zebre were penalised at a set scrum to open up a five-points advantage.
But then a missed tackle on Jacopo Sarto enabled the winger to put No 8 Dries Van Schalwyck in for a try that levelled matters at 11-11.
Kelly Haimona failed with the conversion attempt and with just four minutes left on the clock Burns kicked his third penalty to edge the champions back in front.
Ulrich Beyers had a long range chance to level matters up yet again but dragged his attempt wide and Gloucester held on for that record 15th straight tournament win.

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