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Match Report: La Rochelle 14 Gloucester Rugby 16

22 Apr 2017
Match Report: La Rochelle 14 Gloucester Rugby 16

Billy Burns scored all of Gloucester Rugby’s points and the Cherry & Whites produced an impressive defensive display to down La Rochelle in the European Challenge Cup semi-finals.

Burns kicked two early penalties for the Aviva Premiership Rugby side before Brock James levelled up proceedings for the Top 14 league leaders.

The French side had won 14 of their last 15 games and are ten points clear at the summit of the French league but their hopes of a domestic and European double are now over after their first defeat of the season at home.

Burns’ intercept score in the second half proved decisive for the Cherry and Whites who will head to BT Murrayfield next month for the third final appearance in this competition.

Damian Lagrange went over for the French side late on but Gloucester withstood incredible pressure throughout and were not to be denied, the wayward place kicking of James also proving pivotal.

Gloucester were making their fourth semi-final appearance in the Challenge Cup, and had won their last two matches at this stage.

La Rochelle meanwhile were in the last four for the first time and the Cherry & Whites started the brighter of the two sides.

Jonny May was heavily involved for the Aviva Premiership Rugby outfit while Levani Botia was making some crunching hits for the Top 14 table toppers.

But Burns booted the hosts into an early 6-0 lead, either side of a yellow card for Jone Qovu, before La Rochelle gradually began to turn the screw up front.

James had levelled up proceedings just before the interval with two penalties of his own, Tom Savage also seeing yellow for Gloucester.

And the French forward onslaught continued at the start of the second half, Burns slotting a third penalty in a rare foray for the English side out of their own territory.

Last-ditch defence in their own 22 was repelling La Rochelle at close quarters – led by the impressive Ross Moriarty and Ben Morgan – and just before the hour mark the game’s decisive moment occurred.

The French side were battling hard at the try line after an initial break from Kevin Gourdon had taken them close. But when they spun it wide Burns picked off James’ errant pass and raced the length of the field for an intercept score.

With the conversion they were 16-6 in front, but James soon reduced arrears with his third penalty of the game.

But he was wayward with another long-range effort before La Rochelle finally got the try they deserved, replacement Lagrange barrelling over from close range.

But May chased down James’ conversion attempt and did enough to put him off and when the fly-half also pulled a drop goal attempt wide in the final stages it was clear that it was going to be Gloucester’s day.

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