Gloucester Rugby crowned Premiership Rugby 7s Plate champions for third consecutive year
A dramatic Stephen Varney try with the clock in the red ensured Gloucester Rugby came out on top in the Premiership Rugby 7s Plate final for a third consecutive year.
The Cherry and Whites trailed 29-17 with four minutes left but tries from Reece Dunn, Tom Stanton and Varney saw the defending champions pull off an unlikely comeback to win 34-29.
Gloucester had opened the scoring inside the first minute when Joe Howard found a gap in the Sale defence and darted over the whitewash to put his side 5-0 ahead.
The response was almost immediate from Sale as captain Luke James levelled the scores, before his opposite number Alex Morgan restored Gloucester’s lead with an electrifying break.
Sale were in no mood to lie down, though, and two quickfire tries from Raffie Quirke and Tom Roebuck ensured Sharks went into the half-time interval with a 17-12 advantage.
Corey Howells raced over soon after the restart to give Gloucester parity, but it only last briefly as Tom Curtis showcased his speed to score two tries in as many minutes for Sale.
A yellow card for Roebuck then gave Gloucester a glimmer of hope, which was captialised on immediately when Dunn touched down to close the deficit to within a converted try.
Stanton’s score then pulled Gloucester within two points before Varney raced over from the kick off as the Cherry and Whites completed a stunning fightback to retain the Plate trophy.
Earlier, Gloucester’s defence of their Plate crown almost fell at the first hurdle before they staged a dramatic late comeback to beat Northampton Saints 31-28 in their semi-final.
A Jake Morris brace following Howells’ opening score had put Gloucester 19-7 ahead before Saints made the most of their home advantage to storm in front for the first time.
Tommy Freeman’s stunning solo try followed earlier scores from Conor Tupai and Tui Uru, while Josh Gillespie also crossed to seemingly put Saints on course for a place in the final.
But Gloucester captain Morgan took the game by the scruff of the neck in the closing stages and his late double was enough to see his side keep their silverware ambitions alive.
There was also little to choose between the two sides in the second Plate semi-final, where Sale Sharks overcame a first-half deficit to defeat Bath Rugby 29-22 in another thriller.
Levi Davis and Myles Bean were both on scoresheet for the Blue, Black and Whites in the first half, edging Bath into a 12-10 lead after Quirke and Curtis had scored for Sale.
The West Country side increased their advantage after the restart through Nacanieli Kinikinilau, but Warriors pulled ahead again through tries from James and Curtis Langdon.
Ollie Fox then grabbed Bath’s fourth try to level things up with 20 seconds left on the clock, only for Quirke to dot down his second of the game to send Sale through to the final.