Friday 23 June 2017

Stade Francais overpower Gloucester to claim European Challenge Cup

Stade Francais 25 Gloucester 17

Stade Francais players celebrate after the final whistle during the European Challenge Cup Final at BT Murrayfield, Edinburgh. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday May 12, 2017. See PA story RUGBYU Final. Photo credit should read: Mike Egerton/PA Wire
Stade Francais players celebrate after the final whistle during the European Challenge Cup Final at BT Murrayfield, Edinburgh. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday May 12, 2017. See PA story RUGBYU Final. Photo credit should read: Mike Egerton/PA Wire

Gavin McCafferty

Gloucester let an early 10-point lead slip to go down to Stade Francais at BT Murrayfield as they failed to impose themselves in the European Challenge Cup final.

The French side ran out 25-17 winners to claim their first European cup final success at the fifth time of asking.

Jonny May had opened the scoring against the run of play following an interception but Sergio Parisse's try helped Stade level in the 32nd minute.

Gloucester survived a yellow card for scrum-half Willi Heinz but the French side increased their domination in the second half and tries from centres Jonathan Danty and Geoffrey Doumayrou earned them victory, with Ross Moriarty's late reply only a consolation.

Gloucester's defeat also ended their hopes of Champions Cup qualification as Northampton retain their place in the play-offs.

Stade were the only team to show signs of invention in a nervous opening spell but Charlie Sharples initially stopped their most promising break with an excellent tackle and the French side soon knocked on 10 metres out as a constant Edinburgh drizzle made its mark.

But Gloucester stunned their opponents in the 14th minute when May intercepted a move down the Parisians' right side and ran almost 70 metres to go over.

Billy Burns added a conversion and soon another three points after some brilliant footwork from Tom Marshall had put the Top 14 side on the back foot.

May stopped a promising break but the Top 14 side kept up the pressure and Jules Plisson got them off the mark with a 45-metre penalty.

Plisson then set up their first try with a dink towards the line. Hugh Pyle managed to palm the ball back into the path of Parisse and the Italian touched down.

Plisson levelled the scores before being knocked to the ground a minute later by Heinz as he kicked into touch deep inside his 22.

The officials took a good look on the big screens and there was no surprise when John Lacey issued a yellow card after watching Heinz catch his opponent in the face with an outstretched arm.

Ben Morgan relieved the pressure on the 14 men with a 25-metre burst before a prolonged mass melee near the halfway line spilled over on to the track as several players rolled around on the ground.

The outcome was a penalty for Stade Francais for Lewis Ludlow's full-on off-the-ball tackle on scrum-half Will Genia. The French side kicked the penalty into touch but Gloucester stopped the maul to prompt the half-time whistle.

Scotland captain Greig Laidlaw came on instead of Heinz after the sin-bin period finished as Gloucester were camped in their own half.

They struggled to get out even after Plisson missed a long-range penalty, but they escaped again when Djibril Camara mishandled in a good position on the left wing.

When Gloucester did break out, they almost scored but Marshall was inches away from touching down before the dead-ball line after Laidlaw's kick had caught out Hugo Bonneval.

Marshall might have got there just in time had the French full-back not pulled him back but Lacey ruled there was nothing in it.

Gloucester were guilty of over-playing moments later inside their own half and Camara intercepted before Bonneval fed Danty to go over the line.

Plisson could not convert but Stade continued to spend the game in the Gloucester half and Doumayrou side-stepped and shimmied his way through the Gloucester defence to score before Morne Steyn added five more points with the boot.

It was painful viewing for the Gloucester fans but there was some respite when Moriarty burst through to cross in the 79th minute on a rare attack.

Press Association

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