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PREVIEW: Twelvetrees wants ruthless edge

Tuesday 14th April 2015

12:00 am (GMT)

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Même sur leur pelouse

Même sur leur pelouse

Gloucester Rugby captain Billy Twelvetrees has challenged his side to find a ruthless edge and reach their second European Rugby Challenge Cup final by beating Exeter Chiefs.

The Cherry and Whites are the top seeds in the tournament having won all their pool games before defeating Irish province Connacht in the quarter-finals. But their European hopes will face a stern test against an Exeter side lying five places above them in the Aviva Premiership table, and who have already won at Kingsholm this season.

While David Humphreys’ men were defeated by Harlequins last weekend, Rob Baxter’s Chiefs picked up an impressive victory over defending English champions Northampton. History suggests this weekend’s encounter will be a tense affair as eight of the last nine meetings between the two teams has been decided by a score or less.

Which means a clinical edge could be key in deciding the outcome, and England centre Twelvetrees wants his side to capitalise on any scoring opportunities they can create.

“We have got to keep believing, we are a very good team and we were not very far away from performing very well on a week in and week out basis. But we have to capitalise when the momentum is with us and be ruthless. When it is not we have t control the game and weather the storm,” said Twelvetrees.

“There could be no bigger game for us this weekend, at home in a European semi-final, and we are in a good place physically and mentally. We have gone well in Europe, we have enjoyed the tournament and we will be raring to go, I cannot wait for it.”

The Chiefs edged to a 25-22 victory when they last made the trip to Kingsholm, but prop Ben Moon knows an even greater challenge lies ahead this time in the white-hot atmosphere of a semi-final as the visitors look to reach their first European final.

“These are the games we all want to be playing in, these big knock-out games come the end of the season and if we can keep playing as we are good things may happen,” he said. “It is a massive carrot for us.

“Reaching a European final is something we have never done and of course we are striving to get there. It will be a tough place to go with ‘The Shed’ in full voice but we are looking forward to it.”

Match Facts

  • Gloucester have reached the semi-final of the Challenge Cup on two occasions, winning one and losing one; both games were against English opposition.
  • Meanwhile, Exeter are competing in their first ever European semi-final; their quarter-final victory was their first European knockout win.
  • This will be just the fourth time the Chiefs have faced English opposition in Europe, with their previous three encounters all coming against Newcastle Falcons (W2 L1).
  • Exeter top the charts so far this season for average metres gained (554), defenders beaten (25) and clean breaks (11).
  • The Chiefs have also had the best scrum success in the tournament this year, securing the ball on 90% of the time.
  • No player has kicked more successful goals than Greig Laidlaw, who has made 22/26 of his shots at goal for a success rate of 85%.
  • Charlie Sharples has scored five tries in five appearances in this year’s competition, a tally which is bettered only by one player.
  • Matt Kvesic has played all 560 minutes of Gloucester’s campaign this year, and is the only player from either of these sides to do so. Kvesic has also won 13 turnovers in the competition in 2014/15, at least four more than any other player, and has made the most tackles too (80/92).
  • Richard Hibbard has made 54 successful throws this season, the most of any player in the competition (54/61 – 89%).
  • Gloucester have conceded just one first half try in the tournament this season, no other side has conceded fewer than three.

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REPORT: Gloucester seal final spot

Saturday 18th April 2015

12:00 am (GMT)

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Devant toute la partie

Devant toute la partie

Gloucester Rugby will do battle with Edinburgh Rugby in the European Rugby Challenge Cup final after a ruthless 30-19 triumph over Exeter Chiefs.

The Kingsholm triumph books their place in the Twickenham Stoop showcase on 1 May. Bill Meakes pounced to bag the opening try in the first-half before Tom Savage and Jonny May crashed over for the triumph.

Exeter mounted a brave comeback with 14 points from Henry Slade’s boot and an Elvis Taione try, but it was not enough to out-muscle the David Humphrey’s men.

Both sides made a lightning fast start to the all-Anglo affair but Gloucester struck first through Scotland skipper Greig Laidlaw. The visitors bowed to a spell of Cherry and White pressure and went offside deep in their own territory, and the ever-reliable boot of Laidlaw was on-hand to slot over after 17 minutes.

But the Chiefs were not behind for long as the visitors roared back from kick-off. The Gloucester defence failed to roll away at a ruck which gave Henry Slade the chance to level. His 40 metre shot grazed paint off the cross-bar as it dipped just over.

But the Kigsholm club snatched the initiative in their bid to book a spot at the Twickenham Stoop next month when James Hook’s kick caused chaos on the Chiefs’ line. Matt Jess and Will Chudley collided as they went to field the stab through and Bill Meakes pounced to secure the first try of the contest.

Hook then landed a long-range penalty by a matter of millimetres to give his side a 10-point lead, but Slade matched it to cut their half-time lead to 13-6.

Try-scorer Meakes was the man to make an error in the opening exchanges after the break after Henry Slade stole a turnover and gave Matt Jess the ball to fire downfield. The Australian centre knocked on for a Chiefs scrum and the hosts eventually gave away a penalty. And Slade slotted from out-wide to cut the gap to four points.

The usually reliable boot of Laidlaw was off target and Slade took full advantage down the other end to cut the gap to a single point.

But birthday boy Savage was not about to let the Chiefs ruin his big day. Gloucester drove a short-range lineout towards the line but were foiled just short. However, Savage splintered off to dart over for the decisive score, which Laidlaw converted.

And the Scottish scrum-half sealed their place against Edinburgh Rugby with a tricky penalty shot with just eight minutes remaining. Taoine had Gloucester fans sweating with a late score, but May sealed the spoils with a late interception score which Laidlaw converted.

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