Challenge Cup: Edinburgh and Gloucester into the quarter-finals

Gloucester and Edinburgh became the first teams to secure their spots in the
European Challenge Cup quarter-finals after contrasting wins over French sides
on Friday night.

Edinburgh 34-33 Stade Francais

Edinburgh Rugby sealed a home quarter-final in the European Rugby Challenge Cup win a exciting 34-33 win over Stade Francais on Friday.

Edinburgh only led 12-6 at half-time – four Sam Hidalgo-Clyne penalties cancelling out two from Jules Plisson – but the game exploded into life in the second period with the two teams scoring six tries between them.

Stade Francais looked to have clinched victory when Giorgi Melikidze’s try saw them leading 33-27 heading into the final three minutes, but Junior Rasolea latched on to Damien Hoyland’s kick to touch down and give Edinburgh a lifeline and Blair Kinghorn’s subsequent conversion earned the hosts a dramatic one-point win.

Hamish Watson and Jaco van der Walt had earlier crossed for Richard Cockerill’s men with Sekou Macalou and Waisea Vuidarvuwalu notching for Stade.

Agen 24-45 Gloucester

The Premiership side ran in six tries en route to a 45-24 win at Stade Armandie as they moved ahead of Pau at the top of Pool Three.

Pau will reclaim first place if, as expected, they beat rock-bottom Zebre on Saturday and then it will be a showdown between them and Gloucester for top spot at Kingsholm next Friday.

However, Gloucester will now go into that match with a knock-out berth already assured, thanks to Edinburgh’s thrilling win over Stade Francais.

The Cherry and Whites, with 10 changes to the side that started last weekend’s defeat to Northampton, were quickly in charge against Agen as Henry Purdy crossed twice in the opening 10 minutes to help put the visitors 14-0 up.

Further converted tries from Callum Braley and Jason Woodward saw Gloucester extend their lead to 28-5 by half-time and wrap up a bonus point in the process.

Mark Atkinson’s try immediately after the restart further emphasised Gloucester’s dominance and, although Agen rallied through scores from Johann Sadie and Akapusi Qera to add to Marco Kotze’s first-half effort, the English side never looked in serious danger of letting the match slip away.

And they finished off Agen’s slim hopes with a 68th-minute try from captain Ed Slater – influential Wales fly-half Owen Williams again adding the extras with his sixth conversion – before Jessy Jegerlhener earned Agen a bonus point of their own with his side’s fourth try.