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European Challenge Cup Round-Up: Battling London Irish knocked out

London Irish fell agonisingly short of a place in the European Challenge Cup semi-finals as they went down 23-18 to Edinburgh at the Madejski Stadium on Sunday.

Edinburgh raced into a 16-0 lead thanks to the boot of Sam Hidalgo-Clyne and a WP Nel try before Irish fought back with Conor Gilsenan and Scott Steele crossing the whitewash.

But the visitors responded through Fraser McKenzie before the TMO ruled that Exiles hooker David Paice was held up over the line as the clock went red.

That sealed the home side’s fate and Edinburgh boss Alan Solomons is adamant it was his side’s never-say-die attitude that saw them past the resilient Exiles.

“Our defence wasn't up to the mark, we made errors at crucial times but I was very proud of the effort at the end,” he explained.

“We really hung-in, stuck to our guns and came through for the victory. The important thing, in reference to Edinburgh sides in the past, was that we stuck to the task.

“We made sure we came home with the win which is a massive positive and we now have a home semi-final at Murrayfield which is fantastic.

“I think it's a wonderful thing for us to have a semi-final in the European Challenge Cup.”

Edinburgh will host Newport Gwent Dragons after they beat Welsh rivals Cardiff Blues on Saturday lunchtime.

Dragons had trailed 14-3 at Rodney Parade following scores from Lloyd Williams and Gareth Anscombe.

But Hallam Amos burst clear and crossed the whitewash to get the hosts back in touch before Nic Cudd followed up and a penalty try handed them the win, despite Josh Navidi’s late effort.

Exeter Chiefs ran in six tries to emphatically see off Newcastle Falcons 48-13 but director of rugby Rob Baxter says it was Chiefs’ defensive resilience that bodes well for the future.

Dave Ewers’ score and a penalty try helped Exeter into a 17-6 half-time lead at Sandy Park before Thomas Waldrom, Byron McGuigan, Sam Hill and Dean Mumm dotted down after the break.

Chris Harris’ 68th-minute try was as good as it got for the Falcons and the Chiefs now have an away semi-final against Gloucester Rugby – a prospect that excites Baxter.

“Things are there for us to play for now which makes things very exciting,” he said.

“If you look at where we are now, getting into the final of the LV=Cup, being around the top end of Aviva Premiership Rugby and now through to the semi-final of the European competition, it shows that over the course of the season that we have been consistent in the right way.

“The tries were great and were fantastic for everyone to watch but for me what was most pleasing was the defensive performance and the way that we managed to control the game.”

And Gloucester Rugby booked their place in the last four with a hard-fought 14-7 win over Connacht underneath the Friday night lights at Kingsholm.

Fly-half James Hook was in scintillating form as he created scores for Charlie Sharples and Billy Meakes but the Irish province refused to roll over and a penalty try prompted a nervous finish.

But the Cherry & Whites dug in to secure the victory and director of rugby David Humphreys believes his side’s tough tackling made all the difference.

“Ultimately our defence won us the game,” said Humphreys. “After a five-day turnaround, we were very good in the first half but we tightened up in the second half and made a few errors.

“It was very nervy at the end and it was a massive relief to win but that's what knock-out rugby is all about. It's a reward for the amount of hard work we've put in this season.

“When James (Hook) plays well, we play well. We are moving in the right direction and our results at Kingsholm have been improving since the New Year.”

SUNDAY
 
London Irish 18 Edinburgh 23
 
London Irish

Tries: Gilsenan, Steele
Conversion: Geraghty
Penalties: Geraghty 2
 
Edinburgh
Tries: Nel, McKenzie
Conversions: Hidalgo-Clyne 2
Penalties: Hidalgo-Clyne 3
 
Referee: Pascal Gauzere
Attendance: 4,783
 
SATURDAY
 
Newport Gwent Dragons 25 Cardiff Blues 21
 
Newport Gwent Dragons
Tries: Amos, Cudd, penalty
Conversions: Prydie 2
Penalties: Prydie, D Jones
 
Cardiff Blues
Tries: L Williams, Anscombe, Navidi
Conversions: Anscombe 3
 
Referee: JP Doyle
Attendance: 8,119
 
Exeter Chiefs 48 Newcastle Falcons 13

 
Exeter Chiefs
Tries: Ewers, penalty, Waldrom, McGuigan, Hill, Mumm
Conversions: Slade 4, Steenson 2
Penalties: Slade 2
 
Newcastle Falcons
Try: Harris
Conversion: Catterick
Penalties: Catterick 2
 
Referee: Marius Mitrea
Attendance: 10,022
 
FRIDAY
 
Gloucester 14 Connacht 7
 
Gloucester

Tries: Sharples, Meakes
Conversions: Laidlaw 2

Connacht
Tries: penalty
Conversions: Carty

Referee: Mathieu Rayna
Attendance: 14,236

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